Thursday, February 19, 2009

Munsee Removal and the Quinneys' Perspective

New York Indian Removal, Part XI:
Munsee Removal and the Quinneys' Perspective

This painting of Austin E. Quinney is owned by the Wisconsin State Historical Society. --->

To missionary Cutting Marsh, there was nothing wrong with the 1837 Tribal Constitution of the Stockbridge Mohicans (reprinted on pages 209-213 of James Oberly's
A Nation of Statesmen). So when members of the Hendricks and Konkapot faction - also known as the Disaffected party - opposed it, Marsh felt that they just weren't ready to adhere to the laws that "all civilized nations" had in common (letter from Marsh to Green, December 13, 1838 ABCFM Papers).

Marsh wasn't specific about what the Hendricks and Konkapot faction were doing to oppose the new constitution. However, after considering the Schermerhorn treaty of 1836 and a hand-written copy of an old letter I found in the John C. Adams Papers (at the Historical Society in Madison, WI) I have concluded that it had a lot to do with the Munsee Delawares.

The treaty the United States made with the Menominees in 1832 set aside two townships on the east shore of Lake Winnebago for the Stockbridge and Munsee Indians, but the vast majority of Munsees remained either in New York State or in southern [southeastern] Ontario, Canada. By the 1830's, present-day Wisconsin was a popular destination for white settlement and instead of removing New York Indians to Wisconsin, the federal government aimed to move them west of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. As a result, the Schermerhorn treaty of 1836 contained a clause in which any chief who would "remove his Tribe or any party of not less than 100 persons [would receive] $500 for his services"(the treaty is reprinted in Oberly, pages 243-246).

As you may remember, the tribal leaders (aka leaders of the "Wiskonsin party") had seen the land west of the Missouri River and decided not to make the move. While John W. Quinney was lobbying Congress not to ratify the Schermerhorn treaty, Thomas Hendricks and Robert Konkapot were lobbying Congress to ratify it (see Oberly, 62).

A handwritten, undated letter, addressed only to "the Honorable Secretary of War," and signed by John W. Quinney and Austin E. Quinney, alleged that Thomas Hendricks and Robert Konkapot left their reservation and met up with roughly 200 Canadian Munsees near Detroit. According to the Quinneys, Hendricks and Konkapot persuaded the Munsees to "come round by the way of Green Bay, telling them that that was the easiest and they would be provided with everything necessary by the government in this route to the end of the journey." Furthermore, the Quinneys claimed that Hendricks and Konkapot induced the Munsees by telling them that there were Munsee lands near the Stockbridge settlement which had recently been sold and they could receive some of the proceeds of that sale if they showed up.

<------ Joel Poinsett, U.S. Secretary of War, 1837-1841. An amateur botanist, Poinsett imported a plant from the Aztecs that was named after him (the Poinsettia).

As the Quinneys tell it in their letter, nearly all the Munsees wanted to continue on their way to what is now Kansas, but they were "persuaded to remain until the [Schermerhorn] treaty was ratified." In other words, the Quinneys were alleging that Hendricks and Konkapot worked to keep the Munsees on the Stockbridge reservation in order to collect the $500 payoff promised in the treaty. They even pointed out that these were "Canadian" Munsees, not the New York Munsee Indians that the government was so eager to see gone.

Was it worth $500 for the two leaders of the "Disaffected party"? You'll see in my next post that Hendricks and Konkapot may have been motivated by more than that.

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