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It will be perceived that all the advantages here stated by Col. B. are embraced, though in a different, yet I conceive in a better, shape, in the plan I have proposed at the close of this report.
The following important facts and information, were very obligingly furnished, by Maj. Irwin, Indian Factor at Green Bay, in a written communication.
“In compliance with your request, I proceed to give you such information in relation to the Indian Trade, at this place, as a period of nearly four years, has enabled me to become acquainted with. It must be observed, however, that my occupations are such, from being almost constantly engaged in the duties appertaining to the United States factory, that this information may not be so explicit, nor possess so much detail, as you, sir, could wish; such as it is, however, I convey it with cheerfulness, knowing well that your assiduous researches here, will enable you to confirm its correctness, or to detect incorrectness.
1st. With respect to any defects in the present system of Indian Trade.
The slightest observer could discover defects in the present manner of conducting the trade.
The Indian agents are not vested with authority to keep dishonest and unprincipled traders from entering the country, for the purpose of carrying on trade with the Indians. Hence the many impositions that are practiced upon the poor Indians, principally in selling whiskey to them. In many instances, from the thirst for that article, and the want of knowledge, as to its value, skins, worth from five to six dollars each, have been sold for a quart of whiskey. Nor does the evil stop here; as it is known that the Indians sell their kettles, guns, clothing, horses &c. for that article, the excessive use of which sometimes leading to the destruction of property, and the loss of lives.
2d. As to the "improvements" which might be made “in the present system of Indian Trade,” which would render the commercial intercourse “ with the Indians more conducive to the promotion of peace between them and us; and contribute more efficiently to improve their moral condition.”
I have always believed that authority should be given, for the purpose of allowing none but persons of good character, to carry on trade or intercourse with the Indians; and that no trader should be allowed to introduce whiskey into the Indian country. To prevent which, rigorous inspection to be made necessary; and all violations of the established regulations, to be noticed and punished. A question would here present itself, in the attempt to prevent those violations, as to the propriety of allowing the testimony of Indians. At present it is believed, that it would not be lawful to receive it in any legal proceeding. Few Indian traders complain against each other; hence the difficulty of procuring sufficient testimony to detect their mal-practices. Nevertheless, intelligent, active and determined agents, temperate in their habits, and friendly to the Indians, could do much in their favor; and probably prevent the existing abuses.
The British traders have held the most intercourse with the Winebagoes. This circumstance, with that of their receiving annually presents from Drummond's Island, will account for the preference given by the latter to the former.
Three years since, about two hundred and fifty of the Sacs and Foxes passed through Green Bay for Drummond's Island, whence they returned, abundantly supplied with goods.*
A short time before the execution of Pontiac's plan for taking all the British forts in the Indian country, the Menominees being friendly to the British garrison, then at this place, acquainted the officer in command of Pontiac's plan, and advised him to put himself and those in his command under their protection, with an assurance of being conducted to Montreal. This was acceded to and faithfully performed, notwithstanding Mackinaw had fallen into the hands of the Indians, and the attempt by the captors of that place, to molest and stop the Menominees and the officer and his
The garrison did not consist of more than from thirty to forty men. I have been well informed that this generoust act is
The Sacs and Foxes live on both sides of the Mississippi, west of Green Bay, more than six hundred miles from Drummond's island.
+ An instance of a like act occurred during the last war, in leading an American from this place to Mackinaw, whose life was in danger. The InHian chief who performed this act is called The Rubber.
the ground of a particular partiality, on the part of the British authorities in Canada, for the Menomine tribe.
This induces me to notice the practice of the Indian tribes in this quarter, of visiting Drummond's Island. The object, on their part, is to obtain presents; and these they always receive, in sufficient quantity to induce them to visit that place every summer. The British government, it is supposed, have their political views in making these presents; and when their generosity is combined with the refusal on the part of the American government, to give like presents, the effect on the minds of the Indians cannot be doubtful.
I do not wish to be understood, that it would be a proper measure, on the part of our government, to be equally liberal as the British are in making presents to the Indians. On the contrary, I know that it does great injury to them, making them idle, and causing them to neglect the cultivation of the soil, the chase, &c. and leading them to intemperance, by frequent intercourse with immoral white people. · The trade with the Indians in this quarter, is usually conducted at places on Fox, Ouisconsin, and Menomine rivers.
The custom has been, and still exists, for traders to winter at those places. The amount of business done, varies according to the favorableness or unfavorableness of the seasons for hunting. Property to the amount of five thousand dollars, has been brought here, in one season, from Menomine river. A company of British traders, usually do all, or nearly all, the business at those other places. Sometimes they have collected furs and skins to the amount of from eight to ten thousand dollars, during the winter and spring. The amount of business done in the settlement of Green Bay, may probably be about three thousand dollars annually. Whisky* forms a principal article in the traffic at those places.
The United States Factory at this place, (Green Bay,) does very little business with the Indians, notwithstanding the goods it contains can be sold on better terms, than the private traders sell theirs. I am well acquainted with the cause of this, and will ex
It is a practice with some traders, in order to deceive the Indians, to promise them a keg of whiskey, as a present after closing the bargain ; whereas the practice is, to make the Indians pay for this very whisky, in the goods they purchase.
plain it. The British traders have used every effort to prevent the Indians from trading at the Factory; by representing the goods as being of American manufacture, of bad quality, and high in price; beside the Indians know that no whiskey can be obtained at the Factory. In 1817, I sent an American citizen,(Mr. Rouse,) with goods from the factory to trade with the Indians at the Ouisconsin river, and two others to Menomine river. On their return, the spring following, they represented that they might have done a good deal of business, had not the British traders and their agents at these settlements, used exertions to prevent the Indians from doing business with them; and advised those that had done business with them, not to pay for the goods they purchased on credit. Those gentlemen, in consequence, lost a good deal of money; and would not be willing to trade with the Indians again.
The annual average of goods sold to the Indians, since the establishment of the Factory, does not amount to more than about sixteen hundred dollars. Those sold to white people, and to the people of mixed blood, to about three thousand five hundred dollars annually; and to the Indian agent five hundred dollars annu. ally. For cash, and to Fort Howard, two thousand four hundred and fifty dollars annually.
Under date of Dec. 5th, 1818, Mr. Varnum writes from Chicago to Maj. Irwin.
“ The indiscriminate admission of British subjects to trade with the Indians, is a matter of pretty general complaint, throughout this section of the country. There are five establishments now within the limits of this agency, headed by British subjects. These, with the large number of American traders, in every part of the country, will effectually check the progress of this Factory. I have hardly done a sufficiency of business this season to clear the wages of my interpreter.”
GREEN BAY, July 18th, 1820.
In conformity with your verbal request yesterday evening, I will here state to you some of the facts in relation to the extraordinary diminution of the Indian trade, at the United States Factory
at Chicago, which, by the factor there, is said to be owing to the introduction and sale of whisky, by private adventurers.
In one of his letters to me, about two years since, he stated that he had not done business enough with the Indians to pay pense of his interpreter. In another, dated Chicago, 230 May last, he says, “ The Indians have been induced to come here this season by the facility with which they are enabled to procure whiskey.” “ In fact,” he continues, “ the commerce with them (the Indians) this season has been almost exclusively confined to that article." He adds, “ I will venture to say, that out of two hundred barks* of sugar taken, not five have been purchased with any other commodity than whiskey. I have not been able to procure a pound (of sugar) from the Indians, but can get a supply from the traders at ten cents a pound.”
Independent of the known veracity of Mr. Varnum, the fact that private traders could afford to sell sugar at ten cents a pound, is pretty conclusive evidence of the manner in which they obtain it.
The copy of an account current, a sketch of it which follows, will show the amount of busines done, while I was factor there, from 1810 to 1812.
Amount of furs and peltries forwarded to the Superintendant of Indian trade, June 30th, 1810, and invoiced at $2,972,56
Amount of drafts on the Secretary of War, in favor of the Superintendant of Indian trade in that year, 1,740,01
Total amount of business done in 1810,
Amount of furs and peltries forwarded to the Superintendant of Indian trade, 25th, Sept. 1811,
5,280,50 Amount of drafts on the Secretary of War, transmitted in favor of the Superintendant of Indian trade, 775,39
Total amount of business done in 1811,
* Indian boxes to contain sugar, averaging about forty pounds each.