LETTER ABOUT GENERAL COUNCIL MEETING 1919 May, 16
Hayward Indian School
May 16, 1919
TO: Commissioner of Indian Affairs
Reference is made to Office letter dated February 20th, 1919, concerning the desire of Wisconsin-Minnesota Light & Power Company, to acquire flowage rights on certain tribal lands on the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation, in accordance with the Act of May 18th, 1916 (39 Stats, 123-157).
Pursuant to instructions contained in Office letter, I have made it a point to talk the matter with every Indian who has visited this office, and also with those Indians with whom I have met on several occasions when I have visited the Reservation. I formed the opinion from these several conversations that the Indians were now ready to come to some definite conclusion to this matter, and on April 22nd, 1919, I issued a call for a general council to be held at Reserve on May 6th, 1919.
There are enclosed a copy of the notice calling them to council and the original minutes of the meeting as written and kept of Louis Dennis, one of the secretaries. It is evident from these minutes that Mr. Dennis tried to take down in long hand all that transpired, including the talks by myself and the Indians, and the result is that his result is so badly garbled that it is a difficult matter to make any sense of any part of it. I therefore submit the following synopsis of the proceeding of the council:
The council was called to order by me at 3:00 PM,
May 6, 1919, with William Obern of the Bad River Reservation acting as
interpreter, and Jasper Cross, the Farmer and Louis Dennis, an Indian of
this reservation, acting as secretaries. I made a short talk to the council
explaining the Act of May 18, 1916, and told them that they would be asked
during the meeting to talk and vote upon 3 questions, viz:
1. Shall the Indians of Lac Courte Oreilles grant flowage rights on their lands, to Wisconsin-Minnesota Light & Power Company.
2. Shall Land or Money be accepted as payment for this privilege.
3. How much Land or how much Money will the tribe accept in payment for these flowage rights.
Reverend Philip Gordon, the local Catholic Missionary, then read a prepared speech to the council, the original of which is made a part of the minutes enclosed. After this speech I informed the Indians that the council had been called for the purpose of talking over the flowage matter and that talks on other matters should not be made; that each person present was invited to express his view, but he should confine his remarks to the question then under consideration and he could talk but once on each question, and that his time was limited to ten minutes.
Question number 1 was taken under consideration. The discussion was very short and when put to a vote, resulted in 45 affirmative votes, 32 negative votes and 13 present not voting. It will be noticed that there were 90 people present at this council entitled to participate in and vote on this question, an excellent representation of the adult members of the Reservation. The affirmative vote on this question clearly indicates that the tribe is willing to grant its consent to this company for flowage rights.
The second question was taken up and after a short discussion a vote was taken resulting in 43 in favor of granting the rights for money consideration, and 33 for land.
The council having decided to grant flowage rights for a cash consideration, Mr. McPherson, representative for the power company, was called upon to place before council the best offer his company was willing to make for the privilege. In his talk Mr. McPherson showed the council that only 310 acres of tribal land would be submerged on account of the construction of this Reservoir and that his company is willing to pay the tribe $20,000.00 for the privilege of flooding that amount of land. The offer was rejected by a vote of 45 to 17.
Mr. McPherson and the other persons interested in the company, who were present, were then requested to leave the room, and after they had withdrawn, the Indians were instructed to get together and agree among themselves as to the amount of the consideration they demanded for granting the flowage rights. After deliberating for some 5 to 10 minutes, the Indians advised me that they were ready to submit their proposition and Mr. McPherson was recalled. Charles Oshogay, acting as spokesman for the Indians, told Mr. McPherson that the tribe wanted $100 per capita or $127,600.00 based on the enrollment as shown by census of June 30, 1918. This proposition was immediately and definitely rejected by Mr. McPherson. An effort was then made by me to effect a compromise, but without success, Mr. McPherson refused to increase his offer, and the Indians flatly refused to reduce theirs. The council was then adjourned.
It is my opinion that the Indians are unreasonable in their demands and that the entire matter, so far as the tribal lands are concerned appear hopeless of settlement under existing laws. This is not a new question to these people. They have been discussing it individually and in council for more than two years and while they appear willing to grant flowage rights as contemplated by the Act of May 18, 1916, they are demanding a consideration at such a high figure that neither the Wisconsin-Minnesota Light & Power Company nor any other company would care to consider it. It is my opinion that the tribe would be much better off, if it accepted the land in exchange for granting flowage rights, rather than money, as there are between 400 or 500 Indians on the Reservation who have not yet received allotments and who are entitled to the same, with very little land to give them. I have been informed informally, that the Company would be willing to give 2,000 acres for the rights to submerge 310 acres of tribal land, land much better in quality than that to be overflowed, and it is undoubtedly pure selfishness on the part of those that already received allotments that they insist on a money consideration rather than land. Many of the Indians have told me very frankly that they have already received all the land they can get and that they care nothing for those who have not yet received allotments.