In previous blog posts, we have examined the events leading up to the 1840 Myaamia Removal treaty and the circumstances that led the Miami National Council to agree to Removal. We also noted that the 1838 and 1840 treaties provided for three families to continue to receive their share of the annuities at Fort Wayne, Indiana, essentially exempting those families from Removal. In this post, we will look at each of those exemptions and attempts to gain other exemptions. We will explore the background and possible reasons for the exemptions from the treaties and for exemptions that were received after the Treaty of 1840.
As we saw in the article on the Treaty of 1838, for the first time, the Miami National Council agreed to consider the possibility of a future Removal. The treaty also provided that if Removal occurred, 77-year-old Principal Chief Pinšiwa ‘John B. Richardville’ and his family would continue to receive their share of the annuities at Fort Wayne, Indiana. Article XIV of that treaty reads:
“And whereas John B. Richardville, the principal chief of said tribe, is very old and infirm, and not well able to endure the fatigue of a long journey, it is agreed that the United States will pay to him and his family the proportion of the annuity of said tribe which their number shall indicate to be due to them, at Fort Wayne whenever the said tribe shall emigrate to the country to be assigned them west, as a future residence.”
We wonder why Pinšiwa would consider the Removal of his people and at the same time ask to be exempted from Removal. Who was Pinšiwa? What kind of a man was he? Descriptions indicate that he was a quiet man who seemed not to enjoy speaking in public. In the previous blog posts regarding the negotiations for earlier treaties, we saw that he usually spoke only briefly. Often, he introduced another Myaamia leader, such as Chappene, who would speak at length, presenting the Myaamia position. Pinšiwa may not have even been comfortable in more social situations. An article in the Indiana Journal reporting on the 1838 annuity payments commented on their observations of Pinšiwa and other National Council members: “The Chiefs Francis Godfroy and Ma-jin-i-ka [Majenica*] (both noble looking men) are seen daily mingling with the whites and Indians. The principal Chief Richardville keeps himself more retired from public view.”
Yet, we saw in the treaty negotiations that working through and with the other National Council members, Pinšiwa was a skilled diplomat at treaty negotiations, gaining many concessions from the Americans, such as individual reserves for Myaamiaki. He was highly respected by the Americans who sat across the treaty table from him. For example, from the 1838 Treaty negotiations at the Forks of the Wabash, Indian agent Abel Pepper wrote to Commissioner of Indian Affairs William Crawford:
“...the principal Chief of this tribe is remarkable over all other Indians with whom I have ever been acquainted in sagacity, skill and wisdom. [Add] to those properties of his character, a large fund of general intelligence and a thorough and minute knowledge of the interests of his tribe, and you have outlines of this remarkable man who in politer courts would have commanded the admiration due to high diplomatic talents. His influence with his people is commensurate with his superior skill and wisdom. His opinions are so authoritative that an attempt at negotiation with the tribe without securing his concurrence would prove fruitless.”
Of course, we see immediately that Pepper viewed the Miami National Council as lower than the “politer courts” of the United States and, presumably, European nations. However, he clearly viewed Pinšiwa as a highly-skilled diplomat and negotiator.
Unfortunately, we have no Myaamia sources to confirm or deny Pepper’s assessment of Pinšiwa’s authority and influence among his own people. We do know, however, that in more than 20 years, Myaamiaki and their National Council members had not removed him from his position as Principal Chief. They apparently had stood behind him as he had refused to agree to Myaamia Removal until 1838. There is no indication that the other National Council members opposed him in considering Removal as a possibility. All the National Council members signed the 1838 Treaty, agreeing that Pinšiwa would be exempted even if the rest of them were removed. No record exists of the views of Myaamiaki, who were not on the National Council. Still, none of the villages replaced their leaders who signed the treaty, which indicates at least some level of consent to the treaty.
In the previous blog post, we discussed the reasons Pinšiwa and the National Council agreed to Removal. Here we will examine possible reasons that Pinšiwa sought to be exempted from Removal.
The 1838 Treaty itself provides reasons for the exemption in saying that Pinšiwa “is very old and infirm, and not well able to endure the fatigue of a long journey….” American government agents and others had frequently referred to him as “the old chief” since at least 1827. By 1838, he was, in fact, quite old for that time. Life expectancy tables for Americans in Massachusetts in 1850 show that a 20-year-old man might expect to live to age 60, and a 70-year-old man might have a life expectancy of 80. The statistics go no farther than 80 years old. Pinšiwa was already 77 years old in 1838. He could not expect to live many more years.
We do not know the ages of most Myaamia people at the time, particularly not Myaamia women. We know that Mahkoonsihkwa ‘Frances Slocum’ was born in 1773, and Waapimaankwa ‘White Loon’ was born in 1776. In 1838, they would have been considered old at about 65 and 62 years old, respectively. Waapimaankwa was likely among the oldest men on Removal, and Pinšiwa, 15 years older, would very likely have been one of the oldest Myaamia facing the possibility of Removal.
We also know that he was “infirm,” even sick, around the time of the 1838 treaty. Allen Hamilton wrote on December 5, 1838, “the old Chief has been quite unwell since he left the treaty ground.” At his age and the state of his health, he was considered “not well able to endure the fatigue of a long journey.” In other words, he thought he would probably die en route if he were forced to go on Removal.
Yet we know that many Myaamiaki, younger and previously healthier than Pinšiwa, died as a result of Removal. Was he simply focused on himself and uncaring about his people? It seems unlikely after 30 years of seeking the best for his nation.
We might speculate that Pinšiwa’s religious faith played a part in his asking for an exemption. Unlike most other Myaamiaki of that time, he was a devout and faithful Catholic. He correctly anticipated that he would not be able to attend a Catholic Mass during or after Removal if he lived that long. Even more significantly, if he died on Removal, there would most likely not be a Catholic priest to give him Last Rites (today called the Anointing of the Sick), which faithful Catholics consider crucial to their future salvation. He would not have wanted to die without that Sacrament. He likely could not bear to spend the rest of his life without the Church or to die without the Last Rites. It is not a matter written in any known source, and yet we know enough about Pinšiwa’s faith to imagine it might have been at least part of his thought process.
At the time of Removal, 43 members of Pinšiwa’s family were exempted.
The Removal Treaty of 1840 provided exemptions for two more families. As with the exemption for the Richardville family, the term “exemption” does not appear in the treaty. Instead, the treaty explicitly allows these families to be paid their portion of the Miami annual annuities in Fort Wayne, Indiana, rather than at the new reservation in what became Kansas. The assumption was that the families would have to remain in Indiana to be paid in Fort Wayne.
As discussed in the previous blog posts, Palaanswa ‘Francois/Francis Godfroy’ died on May 1, 1840, probably prompting Pinšiwa at that time to seek the 1840 Removal Treaty, which included an exemption from Removal for Palaanswa’s family.
The Godfroy family is exempted in Article V:
“And whereas the late war chief, (Francis Godfroy,) bequeathed to his children a large estate, to remain unsold until the youngest of said children shall arrive at the age of twenty-one years. It is therefore stipulated, that the United States shall pay to the family of said deceased chief their just proportion of the annuities of said tribe, at Fort Wayne, from and after the time the tribe shall emigrate to the country assigned to them west of the Mississippi.”
As noted in Article V, the reason for exempting the Godfroy family was a concern about Palaanswa’s estate. Many Myaamia leaders owned land, which would likely have to be sold upon Removal. The Godfroy family estate had some unique factors that caused particular concern for Pinšiwa and presumably for others. The Godfroy property was very extensive. Only Pinšiwa had larger personal landholdings than Palaanswa. As the treaty notes, Palaanswa’s will stipulated that no part of the estate could be sold until his youngest child, who was five years old in 1840, turned twenty-one. If the family was removed with the other Myaamiaki, the land would be unattended. The fear was that they might then lose the land and, therefore, their inheritance.
Personal property ownership had become a significant concern for Palaanswa. Indiana State Representative and Palaanswa’s personal friend James Rariden addressed this concern in a January 24, 1839 letter to him, advising that if “you have bought Indian land get a Deed for it immediately before others know you have bought it & have the Deed acknowledged before a Justice do this Immediately and when you get your Deed, hold on to them.” Palaanswa knew to be careful about managing his property. The deed was vital because it showed ownership of specific property, which the American legal system would recognize. Whether he deliberately wrote his will in early 1840 in a way that would protect his children’s property interests and protect them from Removal is unclear. In any case, the National Council used his will to protect his family from Removal.
His will also protected his children from unduly losing their land as a result of Removal. An event involving John Godfroy and Waapinaakihšinka, Palaanswa’s grandsons, illustrates the consequence of being distanced from the land they owned. Because their parents were divorced and their mother was therefore not exempted, these two Godfroys were forcibly removed as minors living with their mother. In 1851, they were living on the Miami reservation in what would later become Kansas when they learned that someone had made a fraudulent deed selling their property in Indiana. They were not present to protect their inheritance or even be aware that the land was sold until the Indian Agent happened to investigate the sale.
Myaamia leaders recognized the very real possibility that if Palaanswa’s descendants, particularly his minor children and grandchildren, were removed from their lands, they could potentially lose their inherited landholdings or be cheated out of them. John and Waapinaakihšinka Godfroy’s experience, only a decade after the Treaty of 1840 was signed, confirmed their concerns.
At the time of Removal, 28 members of Palaanswa’s family were exempted.
Mihšiinkweemiša and His Brothers
The other family exempted in the Removal Treaty of 1840 was identified as the Mihtohseenia band under the leadership of Mihtohseenia’s oldest son Mihšiinkweemiša.
Article VII of the 1840 treaty states:
“It is further stipulated, that the United States convey by patent, to [Mihšiinkweemiša], son of [Mihtohseenia], the tract of land reserved by the 2d article of the treaty of the 6th of November 1838, to the band of [Mihtohseenia] to be held by the said [Mihšiinkweemiša], for his band…. And the same provision made in favour of John B. Richardville and family, in the 14th article of the treaty of the 6th of November 1838, is hereby granted and extended to the above named [Mihšiinkweemiša], and to his brothers.”
Unlike the treaty articles exempting Pinšiwa’s and Palaanswa’s families, Article VII does not specify the reasons for exempting Mihšiinkweemiša and his brothers. However, in their report to Commissioner Crawford from the treaty grounds at the Forks of the Wabash, Samuel Milroy and Allen Hamilton explained:
“…as [Mihšiinkweemiša] and his brothers never involved the tribe in debts, as has been done by most other individuals belonging to the tribe. It is possible that a portion of this band may remain on this reservation when the body of their people will have emigrated; hence the necessity for the provision, that they could receive their proportion of the annuities with the Richardville and Godfroy families, should they remain.”
Interestingly, the treaty did not exempt the entire Mihšinkweemiša band, but only the descendants of Mihšinkweemiša and his brothers. Their sister and her family, for example, were not explicitly exempted. In January 1845, Allen Hamilton wrote that Principal Chief Toohpia ‘Francis LaFontaine’ was afraid that the members of Mihšiinkweemiša’s band who were not exempted from Removal might “cause some difficulty with [Mihšiinkweemiša] and his Brothers who remain under [treaty] provisions” and may seek to sell the reserve. Consequently, the following June, Toohpia and other leaders asked for exemptions for the entire Mihšiinkweemiša band, requesting that
“By treaty, the entire [Mihšiinkweemiša] band are permitted to remain on their ten sections — receive and draw their annuities. Will our great father see that all the band are enrolled among those permitted to remain, and not merely the families of the three brothers?”
While it is not clear if the exemption was granted, some of Mihšiinkweemiša’s extended relatives remained on their communal reservation and were not removed.
At the time of Removal, 55 members of Mihšiinkweemiša’s family were exempted.
The story of Mahkoonsihkwa ‘Frances Slocum’ is well known today in North Central Indiana and beyond. As a small Quaker child in Pennsylvania, she was taken by a band of Delaware and raised as a Delaware child. In the 1780s, she and her Delaware relatives established a village near Kiihkayonki as part of migrations to the region during the Mihši-Maalhsa Wars (Northwest Indian Wars). In the 1810s, she married a Myaamia man from Kiihkayonki named Šiipaakana and stayed with him and the Myaamia community as Delaware relatives emigrated westward. From the time of her marriage to Šiipaakana and onward, she spoke Myaamiaataweenki ‘the Miami Language,’ lived as a myaamiihkwia ‘Miami woman,’ and raised Myaamia children. In 1837, after over twenty years living as a myaamiihkwia, Mahkoonsihkwa was contacted by her white relatives from Pennsylvania after George Ewing, a local trader, published her life story in the newspaper. Her biological brothers, Joseph and Isaac Slocum, came to her in the hopes of taking her back to Pennsylvania and away from Myaamia society. However, she refused, reportedly telling them: “No, I cannot…I have always lived with the Indians; they have always used me very kindly; I am used to them. The Great Spirit has always allowed me to live with them, and I wish to live and die with them.”
In 1845, Mahkoonsihkwa was about 72 years old, and just as she had not wanted to be removed from her Myaamia family by her white relatives, she also did not want to be removed from her Myaamia homeland by the U.S. government. Through her lawyer, A.A. Cole, she petitioned Congress for an exemption, giving three main reasons. First, she emphasized her identity as a Myaamia woman that “can only enjoy the society of her adopted people, with whom she intermarried, and became the mother of a family, and with whose manners and customs she has assimilated.” She then argued that “she is too old to endure the fatigue of removing; and that, under any circumstances, she would deplore the necessity of being placed beyond the reach of her white relatives, who visit her frequently, and have extended their kindness towards her since she was discovered by them.” And finally, that her daughters owned their own reservation where she and her family could continue to live.
In summary, she argued that she was a Myaamia woman, who would be forced to remove with the Miami Nation, but that she had white American relatives who would be hurt by her removal; and finally, that if they granted her an exemption, she and her family would be able to provide for themselves where they currently lived. At the same time, her family and former neighbors, all “citizens of Wyoming valley, Pennsylvania,” sent a petition to Congress “praying the passage of the joint resolution for the relief of Frances Slocum, of the Miami tribe of Indians.”
Her petition was careful to name every person in her family that was to be exempted as the “children and grandchildren of your memorialist, as also your memorialist, and such children as they may receive their annuities at Fort Wayne.…” The petition listed not only Mahkoonsihkwa and her lineal descendants but also adoptees and some relatives of her deceased husband Šiipaakana: Kiihkinehkiišwa ‘Nancy Brouilette,’ Naweehkamihkwa, Oonsaahšinihkwa ‘Jane Bundy,’ Coch-e-no-qua*, Teekwaakia ‘Jean B. Brouilette,’ Pakantamwa, Iihkipakinamohkwa ‘Eliza Godfroy,’ Tah-ki-qua*, Waapinaakihšinohkwa ‘Frances Godfroy,’ Ki-ki-o-qua* ‘Susan Pimyotamah,’ Kinoosaahkwa ‘Elizabeth Wapshing,’ Teekwaakia ‘George W. Miller,’ Ceenkohšinka ‘Lavina,’ Saakacaahkwa ‘Sarah Miller,’ Pe-tu-loc-a-to-qua*, Pimweeyotamwa ‘Peter Pimyotamah,’ Sho-quang-gaw* ‘William Cass,’ Soowilencihsia ‘John B. Pimyotamah-Walker,’ Waapapita ‘Peter Bundy,’ Pankihšinohkwa ‘Martha Pimyotamah,’ and Soowilencihsia ‘Samuel Bundy.’
On March 3, 1845, Congress passed a joint resolution exempting the family of Frances Slocum from Removal.
Mahkoonsihkwa died on March 9, 1847, only five months after the Myaamia Forced Removal. Although her personal benefit from her exemption was minimal, the exemption greatly impacted her children and future descendants.
At the time of Removal, 27 members of Mahkoonsihkwa’s family were exempted.
Lobbying for More Exemptions
In November 1845, the five years allotted for us to remove west had passed, and we had continued to delay Removal. Earlier, we had considered moving everyone onto the lands owned by the families of Pinšiwa, Palaanswa, and Mihšinkweemiša. It was thought that they owned enough land that other Myaamiaki could join their bands, move to their land, and avoid Removal. They never carried out this plan, probably because it was not legally enforceable.
After our provided time to remove had expired, our sense of urgency to find ways to avoid Removal must have increased. Having seen Mahkoonsihkwa’s family obtain an exemption through Congress, a legal option opened for other Myaamiaki to be exempted.
As Pinšiwa’s son-in-law, Principal Chief Toohpia ‘Francis LaFontaine’ was exempt from Removal, as were his wife Pakankihkwa ‘Catherine Richardville’ and their children. His maternal relatives from Waapeehsipana’s ‘White Raccoon’ band, including relatives he would have seen as his siblings, however, were not exempt. On November 29, Toohpia wrote to Indian Agent Joseph Sinclair to request an exemption for the rest of his family. “…you would confer on me a great favor, if you would earnestly request the President of the United States to permit that my relations should be allowed to stay with me and not to go to the country set apart for our Tribe west of the Mississippi.” Unfortunately, Toohpia’s request was either ignored or rejected, and many of his relatives were forced to remove.
Other Myaamiaki also sought exemption from Removal that likely seemed quite imminent to them. For some inexplicable reason, they found support from many members of Congress from Indiana. For example, on January 27, 1846, Indiana Representative John Pettit presented a petition to Congress from “[Šaapontohsia] and nine other Miami Indians, on behalf of themselves and their families, and of David Foster and one hundred other white men, residing in the Miami reservation in the State of Indiana, praying that said Indians may be permitted to remain in the country, and be allowed to purchase lands, &c., instead of removing west of the Mississippi river.” The petition was sent to the House Committee on Indian Affairs, but the bill died in committee due to Commissioner of Indian Affairs William Medill’s opposition to it.
By 1845, most Miami National Council leaders, who owned reservation land but were not exempted, also sought legal remedy to avoid Removal and protect their homes. They wrote to Commissioner of Indian Affairs Medill, petitioned Congress, and hired Dr. Graham Fitch to lobby for them in Congress.
U.S. Senator E. A. Hannegan of Indiana supported these Myaamia leaders and Dr. Fitch by requesting that Medill not oppose any legislation granting further exemptions.
Continuing to pressure Medill and Congress, in June 1846, Toohpia and Myaamia leaders went to Washington themselves to meet with Medill to discuss exemptions. Their letter following the visit showed them taking a new tactic to avoid Removal for Myaamia landowners, reflecting the reasons for the exemption of the Godfroy family and citing Indiana state law as the impediment to their Removal.
“Certain individuals of our nation, who are not permitted by treaty or by law of Congress to remain in Indiana and draw their annuities there, hold individual reservations of land by treaty, which they have improved, and upon which they are now living, and have paid taxes. A law of the State of Indiana forbids them making private sale of these lands, declaring all contracts with our people null and void. If such of our people emigrate, their farms will be ruined or sold for taxes, and their personal property, stock, &c., sacrificed. Will not our great father permit such of our people to remain upon their lands, and draw their annuities in Indiana, in the same manner as is specified in a similar permission, by treaty and by law of Congress, to a few other of our people? Such permission to be extended to those land owners (not now having it) until the legal inability to sell their lands is removed, or the U. S. buys them….”
They pointed out the hypocrisy that the federal government could force them from their homes on lands they owned as private property, a most sacred American tradition, while at the same time, the state of Indiana refused to allow them to legally sell their property. If they were removed, Myaamia leaders and their families would likely be swindled out of their lands, if their property was not outright stolen from them, as we saw in the case of John and Waapinaakihšinka Godfroy.
The requests were in vain, as on July 1, Medill responded,
“… you are correctly informed that the department has no power to permit any of the class of persons to remain to whom you refer. The treaty and the joint resolution of Congress, of March 3d, 1845, stipulate who are to remain; the rest, the treaty imperatively requires, shall remove. The department has no discretion in the matter. The Indians have had more than five years to prepare for removal, and the persons referred to have thus already had ample time to apply to the legislature of Indiana for authority to dispose of their lands, or for the passage of such a law on the subject as, under the circumstances, might be deemed just and requisite. The time for removal has arrived; the contractors are prepared and on the ground, and no further delay can be sanctioned. It is believed that it would be much better if every member of the tribe would remove, than it would be to authorize an increase in the numbers of those stipulated to remain.”
Medill did not, in fact, have the power to grant further exemptions, but as we saw, he did have the influence to prevent them. He deliberately opposed Congressional effort to grant them and also conveniently chose to blame the Myaamiaki for not successfully petitioning the Indiana Legislature to change the law.
Dr. Graham Fitch, as a lobbyist for the National Council, sent a list to Medill of Myaamiaki who owned reservation land and wished to stay in Indiana, specifically the families of Misihkwa, Pinšiwa ‘Wild Cat,’ Mahkateehsipana ‘Cotesipin,’ Mihtekia ‘Coesse,’ Amehkoonsa ‘Seek,’ Meehkwaahkonanka ‘Benjamin,’ Meesancihkwa, Šowaapinamwa ‘Antoine Revarre,’ Waapimaankohkwa, and Waapimaankwa ‘White Loon,’ and the heirs of Sha-co-mo* and Majenica*. The men on this list were all prominent national leaders.
Undaunted, Indiana Representative Charles Cathcart took further measures, presenting petitions, bills, and memorials to Congress. First, he brought forth a “petition of Francis La Fontain and others, chiefs and headmen of the Miami nation of Indians in the State of Indiana, praying permission to remain on their reserved lands in the State and draw their annuities as heretofore, until the legal inability to sell their lands be removed, or the United States should buy them.” It was referred to the Committee on Indian Affairs, where he proposed a bill to allow those on Dr. Fitch’s list, with the addition of Waapankihkwa and her family to “receive their annuities in said State….”
In further support of their cause, Cathcart presented a petition from “two hundred and ninety-one citizens of the State of Indiana, praying that certain members of the Miami tribe of Indians may be permitted to remain on their reserved lands in the State, and draw their annuities as heretofore, until the legal inability to sell their property be removed or be purchased by the United States government.” Cathcart likely assumed that Congress and Medill might respond to American citizens more readily than the National Council, leaders of a sovereign nation. The petition was also referred to the Committee on Indian Affairs. However, his efforts were in vain, as the House of Representatives never voted on his bill.
In August, a Myaamia delegation again traveled to Washington. Afterward, Sinclair wrote that he met the Myaamiaki and explained that it was the decision of both the Commission on Indian Affairs and the President that it was
“their obligation to remove and the requirements of the Department in that respect and called upon them to decide now whether they would submit to the Treaty of 1840 and quietly remove without any further delay or not, that it was no longer a question of time, they must now either commence the emigration in good faith, or refuse to keep their faith with the government, and subject themselves to the risk of being removed by force….”
The next day they met again, and Toohpia, referring to Dr. Fitch, who remained in Washington, “said they were unwilling to do anything about their removal until they heard more from Washington… and permission for some more of the tribe to remain in this country. He said he knew that the decision I read to them had been made, but that Col. Medill had treated them badly, that they were not babies, and would not submit to it, but were looking for better treatment from another quarter…. He said the Government had professed very great friendship for them when they had lands to sell, but now they found it otherwise….”
In upcoming blog posts, we will see that ultimately these men were on Removal, but Agent Sinclair allowed some of their family members to temporarily stay behind to harvest the fall crops and sell their reservation land on the assumption that Indiana would lift the ban on them. Eventually, those leaders and their families returned to Indiana, and in 1850, Congress granted official exemptions to Misihkwa, Pinšiwa ‘Wild Cat,’ Oonseentia ‘John Osandiah,’ Mahkateehsipana ‘Cotesipin,’ Amehkoonsa ‘Seek,’ Waapimaankwa ‘White Loon,’ Mihtekia ‘Coesse,’ Amehkoonsihkwa ‘wife of Benjamin,’ Mahkateemaankwa, Šowaapinamwa ‘Antoine Revarre,’ Kinooseensa ‘Peter Langlois,’ Elizabeth Langlois, and their descendants.
In this article, we have gained an understanding of the reasons for the exemptions from Removal of particular individuals and families. We have also seen the events related specifically to Removal exemptions. In the August 6 blog post, we will further examine the period between the Treaty of 1840 and the 1846 Myaamia Forced Removal.
* This name was poorly recorded, and as a result, we do not know what it means or how to spell it using the modern spelling system.
Post written by Diane Hunter, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma. Diane can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.