TRIBAL COUNCIL MINUTES ON FLOWAGE RIGHTS 1916 November, 17
Tribal Council – Lac Courte Oreilles Indians
Held at Reserve, Wisconsin
November 17, 1916
Superintendent McQuigg: I am very glad to visit you today and see as many of you as possible who were able to be here on this matter which concerns you very much. You are here now sitting in council on some important reservation affairs and all of you have a right to say want you want on this matter. The first thing I want to speak about is the ‘flowage rights’ on the reservation at the Post, which a big development company wants to get. I am here for your protection and your interest and I am paid so much to look after your business. I am your friend and I want to give you my best advise and help. I may say that I like a fight once in a while and believe that fights are all right the same as storms are, which must come up to clear the atmosphere and make the skies shine like they are today. However, I do not like to get into a fight unless I think I would come out on top. I want to do all I can to help you and what is best for you I will recommend. This company that is coming here has lots of money behind them and can do anything they say. I have looked for a way to stop this flowage right on your reservation, as I know some of you men do not like to see this done, but I find no way to get around it in the end. I think that in planning to stop this flowage project, we are butting our heads against a stone wall. I think the best way is to settle among ourselves and find something that we will want to do and all go around this stone wall together in one way. It is best to settle among ourselves than to have a court come in and condemn the land for public benefit. Mr. McPherson, the agent for this company, is here now, with maps and he can tell you what the company wants to do.
Mr. McPherson: We propose putting in a dam near Lasard’s farm raising the water twenty-five feet at Post and fifteen feet at Chief Lake. We will buy the wild land, as many acres as they have, where ever they may select it. We will also build a house as good as they have and if any land has been cleared, we will clear it or pay for doing it. We will build new churches and remove the cemetery. If we can’t make the land exempt from taxes, we will pay the taxes forever. We will buy the town site at Reserve and place the tribal land at the Post. The Indian land is worth more to us than to them and we are willing to pay more than it is worth and will pay more if they meet us than if we have to condemn it. (The Council now adjourned until 6:45 to meet at the Farmer’s Office.)
Mr. McQuigg – We will resume our council about what is best to do in connection with this flowage project. This company has millions of dollars behind them and furnishes electricity to Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls, and several other large cities, as well as electric power to drive different machines. This power and light is becoming necessary to take the place of gasoline and wood, which are becoming more scarce year by year, to run engines and for light. We must not think that the white people do not go ahead and improve the land and settle. They are coming in more each year, taking our game, wild rice and cranberries and now they want to take electric power on the Pokwawong lakes. We know how the laws have been changed since you signed your treaty, because we know that the Indians are not allowed to hunt now on ceded land. Laws have been passed whereby railroad companies can come through a reservation and condemn the land if necessary, so that the Indians cannot prevent the building of this public improvement. White people what railroads so they can travel from place to place quickly and cheaply. They also want electric light and power so that they can do their work, cheaper and quicker. I do not think it would be the best thing for us to try to stop this company for it looks to me too much like butting our heads against a stone wall. (The speaker was here interrupted by Mrs. Ira Isham, who wanted to know that the law said about these people coming into the reservation. She was told that the speaker would come to this and Superintendent McQuigg asked her if she did not have better manners and etiquette than to interrupt a person when they are talking.) The laws say that this company can come in and treat for tribal lands and allotted lands that belong to each individual, whether they want to give it up or not. The company prefers to deal with the Indians individually and give them a fair price, which will be approved by myself and the President of the United States, rather than going to the expense of hiring lawyers to condemn it before the courts. They went to the legislature and got laws passed whereby this company could condemn lands belonging to white people in this state and they went to the Congress last year and got a law passed, which said that they could come and talk to the Indians on the reservation. I think that it is better for us to come to some agreement among ourselves as to what is the best thing to do in this matter and to see what is a good price for us to get and settle with the company before it goes to court. Mr. McPherson is here and he will tell you what the proposition is and what he will do and I want you Indians to make a proposition which will cover your marsh fields, rice beds and properties which you own.
Mr. McPherson: You may tell them that I am their friend and that I promise neither to lie or steal from them. The Indians are called together to see about trading tribal lands. The tribe cannot sell nor trade each owner must make their own trade. Until Congress met last year, there was no way the Indians or Congress could trade land. On the 18th of May, 1916, the President of the United States signed this law, a copy of which I have in my hand, giving the right to sell or trade tribal land. I have come to see if we cannot make a trade on tribal lands and be approved by the President of the United States and I will make this proposition, but if it does not suit you, I will glad to have you make another proposition and if the proposition I have to offer you is not better than you have now, I would not accept it. We will trade to the tribe for its tribal lands at the Post the lands at Huss Point, about 100 acres. On these lands we will build for Father Oderic a new church instead of the one at Post and we will pay Mr. Boller, for a church at Post as one is not needed here. We will build every Indian that moves to new land a new house as good as the one at Post. We will have the land that we trade to the Indians made exempt from taxes, for every Indian living on allotments affected by flowage, land within the reservation or lands selected by the Indians. If the lands cannot be obtained in the reservation we will get them as near the reservation as possible. We will have the Indian Cemetery at Post moved here or to high ground, as the Indians wish and a high fence placed around it. The Indians will still own lands at the Post and will be permitted to use the high ground and hunt and fish the same as now. All of these things I said will be done by us before the Indian has to move from the land he now occupies. That is what we offer to do and we would be glad to know if you would rather have something else done.
(Mr. Steve Grover advises the Indians to answer the proposition as everything is being taken down on paper.)
Mr. Ira Isham: Now you are to understand, as he owns the point he now owns, 100 acres as town site and Mr. McPherson says, this is the land he proposes to buy and he wants to know what you think of the proposition.
Mr. Mike Wolf: Was there not a bill passed in February saying that they could buy from Indians in open council? Under the circumstances you could not overflow one eighty without overflowing tribal land.
Mr. McPherson: That is the way the law reads, that the Commissioner of Indian Affairs said we could obtain consent but if not could remove, as they had in other reservations, whether they wanted to or not.
Mr. Mike Wolfe: Mr. McQuigg and Mr. McPherson it is the sentiment that we will not consent to make this right.
Mr. McPherson: Have they any other proposition to make or will they not move under any condition.
Mr. Mike Wolfe: They have no proposition to make as they would rather have the reservation.
Mr. Kekek: When our father went to Washington and what the Indian Office told them concerning the reservation, you coming here my child, you taking back what you love here for that my child, what you have kept, what you have left, to cut that up now. You going to take the land now, each one of you will have and this time we are through. When we take a spike and drive it, no one can take it away. What will be the strength of what you are taking have that what our fathers were told at Washington, and that surprised me when that the land given our fathers, would be cut in such a manner. Truly it is true that law is a strange thing.
Mr. McPherson: The young Indians must be educated. There is no school at the Post. Settlement is spreading in around the reservation. Will spoil hunting. For two years no wild rice will grow on the land. What I have offered the Indians is worth more than they now have. The Indians will not be able to prevent the building of this dam. It will serve and benefit 1,000 people down the river. Another session of Congress in two months and there is no question but what a law will be passed giving us the Indian village. I am your friend and will continue to be your friend, but the dam will be build.
Mr. Kekek: The reason the Indian wants to hold tribal land, land where the warehouse in that warehouse in need of industrial in that warehouse. That is the way the Indian looks at it, as he gets deer, fish, wild rice, muskrats and cranberries and this makes money as we value it.
Mr. McPherson: We are willing to give in money as much as you lose.
Mr. Steve Grover: This man says that if the Indian does not consent that the land will be overflowed anyway, and that if he overflows we will own that. This man says he will not spoil anything but all hunting, fishing and cranberries will be lost.
Mr. McPherson: That we expect to pay for, that all they lose or to the benefit of the tribe.
Mr. Steve Grover: Indians have already said ‘no’ but I say this to see what he would say.
Mr. McPherson: Ask what we should do.
Mr. Steve Grover: Do nothing. Why is this the use to put us to all this trouble.