Indian Treaty of 1826 - Treaty Deliberations
Article by Historian, Carl Leiter
TREATY DELIBERATIONS - Most Hoosiers, settlers and politicians alike, were hopeful that the Indians would exchange the land they claimed in Indiana for equal acreage on the Missouri River, west of the Mississippi, leaving Indiana once and for all. Instructions from Washington considered this the commissioners' best option, due to the constant friction with early settlers. The wild nature of some Indians as demonstrated by the Pottawatomis during this 1826 treaty when they broke into the whiskey stores was an example of the lawlessness of some. The Miamis were not as lawless, according to contemporary witnesses, and this was often attributed to their familiarity with the early settlers and their settlements.
The treaty commissioners' secretary, James M. Ray, remembered a half century after the 1826 treaty that not all the Indians present at Treaty Grounds were lawless. He said the cabin next to the one he stayed in was occupied by the Baptist Missionary Isaac McCoy who had brought his school of Indian children from Carey Mission in Michigan, near the present city of Niles. McCoy had left his pastorate in Knox County several years earlier to become a missionary among the Indians, serving on Raccoon Creek north of Terre Haute and later Fort Wayne before going to Michigan. Commissioner Cass may have had a hand in his presence at Treaty Ground, for he had given McCoy substantial money gifts for clothing and food for his students. The most likely reason for McCoy appearing with his Indian scholars at Treaty Ground was to make an impression on the commissioners, hoping to be awarded a good reservation of land in the treaty.
According to Secretary Ray, McCoy's influence on his class was evident to everyone. The cabins were not chinked and anyone near the school cabin could see McCoy's students inside, "in their fixed attention to their books, while the wild natives of the tribe were yelling, grinning and laughing at them between the cracks of the cabin, but wholly failing to divert them..." If McCoy's strategy was to get favorable treatment in the present treaty, it worked. Secretary Ray said it "had the effect of securing the grant of a good reservation of land in the treaty for the support of the mission." The treaty was ratified in Congress the following January and the land grants made to Carey Mission came under heavy fire but it was the conduct of McCoy's scholars at Treaty Grounds that saved the day for his mission.
There were many influential Hoosiers who were reluctant for the Indians to leave Indiana. The Indian traders were especially anxious for them to stay, and the motive was purely economic. They saw trade with the Indian as sure profit, since the national government picked up the tab for the bills run up by the Indians, and the traders simply presented these frequently inflated bills to the Indian Agent for periodical reimbursement. Coupled to this was the tradition of annual money-gifts called annuities which the federal government pledged to each tribe by provisions in each tribal treaty. The Indian traders counted on this "pocket money" as they peddled their supplies in Indian country. Agent John Tipton's files were bulging with appeals from the traders and their friends to keep the tribes intact and living on their own land within the state, an idea Tipton himself found appealing.
The Mississinewa Treaty of 1826 was actually two treaties in one, signed separately between the Pottawatomis on October 16th, then the Miamis on October 23rd, a week later. Between them, these treaties accomplished significant goals government leaders of the state had in mind, as the tribes gave up tracts of land crucial for transportation routes in the state as well as providing for paying for their construction.
Secretary Ray remembered that when the treaty was finally agreed upon, it was announced "in general terms in the grand council, through the interpreters, during which most of the responses were favorable, or quietly assented to, the treaty being thus completed." The secretary said he then prepared three copies of the whole treaty on parchment which the commissioners signed, and "selected chiefs of the two tribes" came to Governor Ray's quarters a few nights later. Gov. Cass was considered their leader, but he and Tipton both agreed that since it was a Hoosier treaty, Governor Ray should sign the treaty first, something he readily agreed to. The secretary remembered that Governor Ray signed his name "with his favorite flourish" and Governor Cass then remarked to John Tipton, "We can sign our names in his flourishes!"
Before this Treaty of Mississinewa, the Indians claimed nearly all Indiana north of the Wabash River. The map Agent John Tipton had at the Fort Wayne Agency in 1824 showed the location of various Indian towns at that time, and his map showed the site selected for Indianapolis, something he knew much about since he was one of the locating commissioners a few years earlier.
Map of the Ft. Wayne Indian Agency:
When the treaty was signed, it showed both the government and the Indians had learned the value of their land and what it was worth at that time. The Miamis relinquished their claim to a strip of land north of the Wabash River from the Tippecanoe River on the west to throgh Fort Wayne and along the Maumee River to the Ohio State Line. Total acreage of the Miami Cession was estimated to have been as much as 700,000 acres, but nearly 100,000 of that acreage was excluded for special Indian groups or individual reserves. The Miamis agreed, however, to allow a strip of land six chains wide, 396 feet at the rate of 66 feet per chain, along the north bank of the Wabash River for the construction of either a road or a canal, much of it through the group reserves specified in the treaty.
Canal Land Grant north of the Wabash River:
The Pottawatomis also gave up considerable acreage in northern Indiana as well as a strip of land one hundred feet wide for the building of a road from Lake Michigan to the Wabash River. Coupled with this Michigan Road right-of- way was a section of land for each mile of roadway to pay for the road's construction costs. The Commissioners agreed to the payment of Indians' debts to white traders as well as their annual annuity to each tribe, together with a distribution of trader goods to be given to the Indians over the next two years. There was also a donation of large herds of cattle and hogs made, and a grist mill was built for the Pottawatomis as well as providing a miller, a blacksmith and eight laborers to work for the Indians, together with funds for the education of Isaac McCoy's Indian children.
That wasn't all. To get the signatures of Indian chiefs and head men on the treaty, each Miami chief was given a wagon, a yoke of oxen, and a house worth $600. These treaty provisions don't sound like either the Miami or Pottawatomi were planning to leave northern Indiana very soon, but, in fact, there were likely fewer than 3,000 Indians holding the northern third of the state in 1826. The Indians had little hope of holding out against the increasing avalanche of settlers crowding into Indiana.
The Mississinewa Treaty of 1826 paved the way for new arteries of trade in Wabash Country. Within ten years the Wabash-Erie Canal would be underway between Toledo, Ohio, on Lake Erie and Lafayette, Indiana; and the Michigan Road would be underway from the Ohio River to Michigan City. Not only would these new lines of commerce open Upper Wabash markets but settlers would enter by droves, leading to even greater pressures for Indian land and Indian removal west of the Mississippi. Also, with the opening to settlement of lands north of the Big Miami Reserve, the Miami Indian homeland was completely surrounded and isolated by pioneer settlement, and wiser leaders of the time, both White and Indian, realized pressure for Indian removal would only get worse.
Today we can visit the site of Treaty Grounds where the Indians of northern Indiana signed away their valuable property in 1826. Now called Paradise Springs Park, it is a city park at the east end of Market Street in Wabash, Indiana.
Regional map of Wabash County:
Here are replicas of the cabins Agent John Tipton had built for this treaty, and here citizens of Wabash County periodically re-enact this 1826 Mississinewa Treaty. Across the Wabash River a small stream named Treaty Creek flows into the river and a town named "Treaty" is a few miles south of the City of Wabash on state road 15, enroute to Marion.