Rep. No. 244 House of Representatives - 25th Congress, 3d Session: Brothertown Indians - Wisconsin
February 6, 1839
Mr. Bronson, from the Committee on the Territories, made the following
The Committee on the Territories, to whom was referred the petition of the Brothertown Indians, in the Territory of Wisconsin, praying that their lands may be portioned and divided among them, and that the rights of citizenship may be extended to them, & c., report:
That they have had the said petition under consideration, a copy of which is hereto annexed, marked A, and that they have given to the subject that attentive and earnest concideration which it merits, importance, and novelty, seemed to require.
The tribe of Indians in question, known as the Brothertown Tribe, now consists of about 350 souls, residing on a reservation of 23,040 acres, on the east side of Winnebago Lake, in the Territory of Wisconsin. They are composed of remnants of various New England tribes of former days, who were, many years ago, induced to settle on lands belonging to the Oneida Indians, in the State of New York, where they kept up a separate organization as a tribe, and became known as the Brotherton or Brothertown Indians. They continued to reside on the lands of the Oneidas until some time in 1833 or 1834, after the ratification of the treaty hereinafter mentioned. On the 27th of October, 1832, a treaty was made at Green Bay, between the United States and the Menominee tribe of Indians, which was subsequently ratified on the 13th of March, 1833, (vide U.S. Laws, 8th vol., page 1, 170,) by which it was agreed (in pursuance of a proviso annexed to a treaty with the same tribe, made the year previous) that a township of land of 23,040 acres, on the east side of Winnebago Lake, should be reserved and set apart for the Brothertown Indians, and that they should give up the lands and improvements on the east side of the Fox River, which they then occupied, and for which improvements, the Government should pay them one thousand six hundred dollars. This treaty was carried into effect. The Government paid them for the improvements. The township of 23,040 acres, on the east side of Winnebago Lake, was surveyed and located, and the Brothertown Indians removed on to it, and have since occupied it; and all of the tribe now reside on that township or reservation.
Your committee are further informed that the said Brothertown Indians, having laid aside the habits and customs of their ancestors, have abandoned the chase, and have devoted themselves to the cultivation of the soil, and have become both civilized and Christianized, to a higher degree than perhaps any other tribe of Indians on this continent.
Your committee are informed by the Hon. J.D. Doty, the Delegate from that Territory, who is well acquainted with this community of Indians, (for tribe they ought no longer to be called, that they have, in all respects, abandoned the savage habits and customs of their forefathers; that they have adopted the religion, language, dress, manners, and mode of living, of their white neighbors; that they have allotted and parceled out their lands among themselves, and divided the same into farms or small plantations, which each possesses, in severalty, and on which they have erected buildings, and made other improvements beyond what are usually found in so new a settlement; that they have a church, in which religious worship is statedly performed by a clergyman of the Methodist Episcopal church, to which sect most of them have attached themselves; that they have schools for the education of their children, in which the ordinary branches of an English education are taught; and that most of the community can read and write the English language, which is the only language common among them.
In fact, your committee has come to the conclusion, not only from the statements of the honorable Delegate, above mentioned, but from other sources, that this band of Indians are not only civilized, by adopting the manners, customs, and habits, of civilized nations, but that their progress has been such as to render them an uncommonly well ordered and respectable agricultural community; and that their mode of living, the neatness which prevails in their dwellings, and their thrifty husbandry, as well as their quiet and orderly behavior, would contrast favorably with almost any community of the same number.
For a more particular account or history of these Indians, and of the inducements held out and protection promised to them by the Government of the United States, on their removal from New York to Wisconsin Territory, your committee would refer to the documents accompanying a treaty with the Menominee Indians, which were presented to the Senate on the 28th February, 1831, and then printed by order of the Senate, and which have been made public; and your committee would particularly refer to the memorial, remonstrance, and statement of the delegates of the Stockbridge, Brothertown, St. Regis, and Oneida Indians, at that time presented to the Senate, and printed with said document, and forming part thereof.
It seems that, up to this time, they have had no other or further grant or confirmation of their title than that contained in the treaty of the 27th October, 1832, above, alluded to, and in virtue of which the township which they occupy was surveyed and located for them; and that their lands are subject to all the usual rules and regulations appertaining to Indian reservations; and that, while they are, to all intents and purposes, civilized, they are treated as savages, and while they have no laws and government of their own, they are, in a measure, not of the protection and pale of our laws.
Under all these circumstances, it is with no ordinary feelings of benevolence and philanthropy that your committee have come to the consideration of their request to be admitted to the rights of citizenship, and to have their lands portioned and conveyed to them in fee simple; and, in considering this point, your committee are duly impressed with the importance of the right which they ask, and that, however freely it is given to the European or other foreigner arriving on our shores, still it is a right too inestimable to be trifled with, or bestowed without due consideration, and that care should be taken that it is conferred only upon those who will exercise it for the welfare of the republic.
The first point to which your committee directed their attention, in considering this matter, was the wishes and feelings of the people of Wisconsin Territory – of those living in the vicinity of the Brothertown Indians, and who are their neighbors, and whose rights will be more immediately affected by granting the prayer of the petitioners; and it was in view of this point, and from the supposition that the measure was one so immediately affecting the people of that Territory, that your committee were induced to entertain the petition, instead of moving to be discharged from the consideration of it, and referring it to another committee, to which it might, perhaps, more appropriately belong.
In reference to this point, your committee would state that a joint resolution has recently passed both branches of the Territorial Legislature, and as it is believed unanimously, recommending that the prayer of the petitioners shall be granted. This fact has been announced in the public papers, one of which has been shown to the committee, but the resolution itself has not yet been received here, though, as it is believed by the Delegate from the Territory, it is now on the way. This, perhaps, being the most authentic and formal expression of the people of that Territory, through their representatives, assembled in their legislative capacity, might be considered sufficient on this point; but your committee would add that, from the honorable Delegate, as well as from other gentlemen of that Territory, they are informed that there is no objection to the prayer of the petitioners.
In reference to the policy and propriety of the measure generally, and particularly as to the Brothertown Indians themselves, much might be said. In fact, it opens a wide field for the discussion of questions relaying to our duty as a nation to the Indian tribes, and our treatment of them; a field which has already been so much occupied by the statesman and philanthropist, that, perhaps, little could be said by your committee which has not already been better said before. But your committee cannot forbear to remark that they feel a deep interest in the success of the bill which is herewith reported, viewing it as they do as the only effectual means of civilizing the Indian – as the consummation of an effort in behalf of which such incalculable exertions, such unwearied zeal, have been expended, and so many millions of treasure lavished by our Government and individuals.
If this experiment shall succeed, (and that it will your committee entertains no doubt;) the hope is fondly cherished that it may lead to results equally beneficial to the civilized and the savage race.
Without in the slightest degree impeaching the wisdom or foresight of the statesman, and the philanthropists who have labored so ardently to civilize the Indian, your committee cannot forbear to remark that the usual efforts on this subject have stopped far short of the real point. The inducements held out have not been adequate to the great end in view. The high boon of citizenship has not been one to which the Indians could aspire. He has been taught the language, the manners, customs, and pursuits of civilized life. The church and the school house, the Bible and cross, have been made to occupy the places of the hunting lodge and wigwam, the tomahawk and the scalping knife; agriculture and its peaceful pursuits have been made to take the place of the chase, and, so far, the Indian has been civilized; but he is an Indian still. He is allowed to see and know, but not to enjoy, all the advantages of a civilized state. The last great and crowning inducement, the right of citizenship, has been denied, and, consequently, all efforts to civilize the Indian have, and, until this boon is granted, ever will, cease at a certain point, and the measure will be but half accomplished. Whether it is judicious to hold out this inducement to the Indian, even remotely, your committee will not now undertake to decide, neither do they think it necessary, in reference to the particular case under consideration. They are well aware of the deep seated hostility that such an idea would meet with by those more immediately in the vicinity of the Indian tribes, and that the first duty of our Government is to our own citizens; and they trust it will not be overlooked, that the first point which the committee took into consideration, in deciding upon this case, was the effect which the measure would have upon the people of Wisconsin, and to be well satisfied of their entire concurrence in the prayer of the petition.
That we, as a nation, owe a deep and lasting debt to the Indian tribes, and particularly to those who formerly inhabited the New England states, will hardly be denied; and now, when an opportunity occurs, wherein we can in some measure repair the countless wrongs which these tribes have suffered at our hands, by extending to this small remnant of their descendants those rights, for the enjoyment and exercise of which they seem to be well fitted as many of our own citizens; when we can, without injury to any one, confer a favor which may be most salutary in its influence, and, as your committee believe, equally advantageous to both parties, it is hoped that the measure which your committee propose will be adopted.
Under the influence of these considerations, your committee unanimously reports a bill, herewith, authorizing the Brothertown Indians to divide and partition their lands among themselves, to hold them in severalty, in fee simple, and conferring upon them the right to citizenship.
The Brothertown Indian tribe Petition:
To the honorable the president and the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled:
The inhabitants of Deansborough, being the tribe of Indians known by the name and style of the Brothertown Indians, who have emigrated from the State of New York to lands ceded and granted to them by the Government of the United States, at the treaty of his Excellency George H. Porter, held at Green Bay in the month of October, 1832, and having met in town meeting, pursuant to previous notice, on the 18th of October, 1838, did unanimously resolve to petition your honorable body for an act of Congress authorizing the Brothertown tribe to become citizens of the United States; and, also, to grant to them a good and sufficient title to the lands ceded to them, to be vested in individual, and not national, security, inasmuch as it was understood, at the time of the cession of said land, that the said tract of land containing 23,040 acres, situated on the east side of Winnebago lake, in the then county of Brown, and Territory of Wisconsin, that the Government promised to secure it to the Brothertown tribe, by giving them a good and sufficient title. That title has never been given. We now unanimously desire and implore the Government of the United States to grant us the privilege of citizenship, so as not to affect any previous engagement made by the Brothertown tribe, or by any person or State with the tribe, but that all such shall remain in full force and virtue, and they further state that they desire the privilege of making the division and partition of their lands among the tribe, so that they may be equally divided among said tribe. And as your petitioners have long since laid aside the ancient manners and customs of our forefathers, and have adopted those of our white neighbors, and have made considerable improvements in almost all the useful arts and sciences of a civilized people, and are still making valuable improvements by building mills, school houses, &c., and being fully sensible of the disadvantages they labor under by being placed in the midst of a dense population of white people, and without laws, government, or protection, and without a good and permanent title to the lands that were granted to them by most solemn treaty, the Government of the United States will perceive the fitness of this our most earnest request, by an attentive consideration of the facts above stated, for the truth of which, as well as any other information needed, we appeal to the honorable James D. Doty, the Representative of Wisconsin Territory. And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. Done in behalf of said meeting, and signed by the committee appointed for that purpose.
Daniel Dick, Town Clerk