MINUTES OF GENERAL COUNCIL MEETING 1920 October, 16
Minutes of a General Council of the Lac Courte Oreilles Indians held at Reserve, Wisconsin, October 16, 1920.
Council called to order at 1:30 PM by R.C. Craige, Superintendent, with William A. Obern acting as interpreter.
The Superintendent explained to the Council that this was a continuation of a Council called for September 30, 1920, to consider a proposition from the Wisconsin-Minnesota Light & Power Company to obtain flowage rights to certain tribal lands within the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation; that the Council of September 30th had been adjourned on carried motion for the reason that the numbers of people present did not warrant a definite action on so important a matter. He explained the Act of May 18, 1916 (39 Stat. L., 123-157), advising that the tribal land could not be overflowed under that Act without the consent of the Indians, and he also explained that portion of the Act of June 10, 1920 (Public 280), advising that flowage rights under a long term lease could be obtained from the Commission created by the Act without the consent of the Indians.
Mr. Charles McPherson, representative of the Wisconsin-Minnesota Light & Power Company, then presented to the Council the proposition of his Company to secure perpetual flowage rights, on approximately 300 acres of tribal land within the reservation. A copy of this proposition is attached hereto (missing from set), and made a part of these minutes.
Mr. McPherson is interrupted by John Goslin who questioned the interpretation of Mr. Obern, after a short discussion upon a motion made by Ira Isham and seconded by John Goslin, Louis Dennis was elected as additional interpreter.
Mr. McPherson then continued his talk and was again interrupted by John Goslin who desired to ask certain questions concerning the Act of June 10, 1920 (Public 280) and then he proceeded to give his interpretation to the Council.
Peter Wolf stated that the tribe refused to deal in any manner with this Company or accept any lease.
Charles Oshogay said that the reply of the tribe was ‘NO’, to any proposition the Company had to offer, that the Indians were opposed to the flowage. He called upon the Indians to show their will saying “Get up and say NO.” These remarks apparently kindled a flame against the flowage proposition and a stampede occurred. Practically all of the 252 Indians present led by Charles Oshogay and John Goslin and two or three others, jumped to their feet and cried loudly “No, No, No, Gaween, Gaween, we don’t want the dam.”
The Superintendent then asked if this action was final on their part and they said it was.
Joe Kingfisher called the attention of the Superintendent to the attitude of the Indians towards the flowage project as shown by their vote and hoped that a report would be made to Washington.
The Superintendent stated that a report would be made to the Department. He expressed the opinion that the Company could build their dam and obtain flowage rights from the Water Power Commissioner under the Act of June 10, 1920 (Public 280) without the consent of the Indians; the Company had gone so far with this project that it was practically compelled to carry it through to completion, and he was sorry that the Indians had refused to deal with the Company, because they had been given several opportunities to name a consideration that would be acceptable; that the present offer of the Company appeared to be a fair one, and that since it had been refused, the tribe would now have to accept whatever award in the way of rental might be made by the Water Power Commission. He also stated that Congress had the power to dispose of tribal lands on reservations in such manner as it (Congress) thought best and the Indians would have no recourse if the Company were successful in obtaining a long term lease from the Water Power Commission.
Charles Oshogay stated that the Indians objected to this project because one of their chiefs had been told by the President, many years ago that the Indians had all the rights to their lands, that he was their guardian and would look after their interests. Having faith in the word of the President, the Indians voted against the Flowage Project.
Mr. McPherson compared Congress to the Indian Council, said that there were Indians sitting in that Council (Congress), that the members of the present council had help elect members of the great Council (Congress), and that the Acts explained were passed by the Council (Congress) that those Indians present helped to elect. He state he was sorry of the action taken; that the Company tried to be fair with the Indians, that they had done everything within reason to obtain from the Indians the flowage rights desired, that the Indians had been offered much more than were the white people affected, that they had followed an unwise leader, that their lands would be overflowed, and the funds paid into the Washington Office, that the action taken did not hurt the Company as much as it would hurt the Indians, that the Indians would not be given another chance to name the consideration for the flowage privilege; that he had made his last visit among them, and that the dam would be built.
Mrs. Sarah Grover spoke in English, saying that the action taken was doubtless a mistake, that it had been brought about by the Indians being aggravated; that in the very beginning, four or five years ago, the Indians had been led to believe that they would receive $100 a head for the flowage rights; that instead of being offered $100 a head as they thought, they were offered about $15.00 a head and that the Indians would have accepted $100 a head.
Mr. McPherson stated that the Indians must have been laboring under a misunderstanding; that he never made or intended to make any such offer as $100 per head for each of the nearly 1,300 Indians enrolled with the Lac Courte Oreilles Band for flowage rights of about 300 acres of land, and that land could be taken for public purposes whether that land belonged to an Indian or to a white man.
Mrs. Mayme Perkins (nee Setter) spoke at some length in English on various matter affecting the Indians, such as the issuance of certificates of competency, the low price for which many Indians who received certificates of competency had disposed of their lands. The Indians being thereby responsible for the low offer the Company had made them; the making of loans by Indians after receiving their certificates, placing mortgages on their land to receive these loans, being later unable to pay off the mortgages and thus being forced to dispose of their lands at considerable sacrifice because of the mortgages, stating that she was sorry that she was sorry that the matter of the flowage project came to such a sudden close, that the reservoir would undoubtedly be a great improvement to the State and help in its development; that she also believed the Indians should have made some kind of deal that would have been satisfactory to both parties, and expressed the opinion that, because the matter was of such great importance, to the Indians, that the Commissioner should have visited the reservation and advised with the people.
Thomas Bracklin concurred with Mrs. Perkins. He believed that the vote taken was haste and neither just nor fair, and asked that a secret ballot be taken.
John Goslin addressed the Council on matter in general stating that the agency and Government employees were not to be depended upon; that the Indians had assisted the Government in the Great War by going into the Army and Navy, purchasing bonds, supporting the Red Cross and other organizations and that they were within their right voting down this flowage project.
Steve Grover expressed the opinion that the white man usually accomplishes what he sets out to accomplish; that the flowage would probably be built regardless of the wishes of the Indians, and that he voted against it because he could not differ with his old acquaintances and believe that all Indians should stick together.
Mrs. Sarah Grover requested that Mrs. Perkins speech be interpreted for the benefit of those Indians who did not understand English. This was done by Mr. Obern.
William Wolf asked whether or not the land received from the Company in case a trade were made could be allotted.
The Superintendent replied that land so received would be tribal land, since it would be received in trade for tribal land, and subject to allotment the same as other tribal land on the reservation. He also stated that the stampede vote was unusual, but that it was final so far as he was concerned. He then asked the Council if it had finished with the discussion on the flowage project, and a unanimous answer in the affirmative was given.
Steve Grover then presented a resolution to engage and authorize Mr. Dennison Wheelock to investigate and to secure necessary evidence to establish the claim of the Lac Courte Oreilles Indians for trespass committed on their reservation many years ago by lumber companies. Resolution attached and made a part of these minutes (not present with minutes). After a short discussion a motion that the resolution be adopted was made by Prosper Guibord and seconded by John Quarderer. Motion carried by a vote of 107 to nothing.
The Superintendent then stated that he had been trying for several months to establish the identity of the allottee known as ‘Oquagon 6th’ and asked the Council to determine the matter. Council after a short discussion decided that Oquagon 6th is John Dandy.
Prosper Guibord asked for the enrollment of Mary Amanda Zirk, born in 1880 and her son Irvin Robert Zirk, born December 1, 1898, with the Lac Courte Oreilles Indians, stating that she was his sister, now a widow with only one child; that both he and his mother are enrolled members with these Indians and that in his opinion his sister and her son are entitled to be enrolled with them. A short discussion followed. Moved by Louis J. Corbine and seconded by George Careful that Mary Amanda Zirk and Irving Robert Zirk be enrolled with the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Chippewa Indians. Carried unanimously.
No further business coming before the Council, the Superintendent made a few closing remarks and adjourned the Council.
C. B. Berkness