Saturday, August 1, 2009

Jack Campisi's Brief History of the Brothertown Indian Nation of Wisconsin, Part 3

This photo, posted on the internet by the Wisconsin State Historical Society, depicts a "Brothertown Dwelling" on/near Lake Winnebago.

On March 3, 1839, the U.S. Congress passed legislation dividing the Brothertown tribal lands in severalty and making the tribal members citizens. But in granting the Brothertown Indians citizenship the Congress faced a dilemma; could the Brothertown Indians be citizens and still retain tribal status?.....The specific language in the act read as follows: "...and their rights as a tribe or nation, and their power of making or executing their own laws, usages or customs, as such tribe, shall cease..."

Campisi says that citizen status worked out for a little while, but

By the 1870's much of the land was lost to non-Indians, and many tribal members were living on other tribe's [Stockbridge and Oneida] reservations, working on other people's farms, or living in one of the cities around Lake Winnebago.

Yet the tribe continued to operate as an organization. As part of the New York Indians, the Brothertowns received payments for a case against the United States regarding their land in Kansas.

When the Oneidas and the Stockbridges lost their lands as a result of the Dawes Act of 1887 and the "Citizen vs. Indian" controversy, the Brothertown Indians who had been living amongst them were thrown into what Campisi calls "social chaos." I think that pretty well describes the state of all the New York Indians in Wiscosnin in the first decades of the 1900's. But during the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Stockbridges and Oneidas had the opportunity to take advantage of federal programs to gradually build themselves up again. However, Campisi laments, "No such effort was made on behalf of the Brothertown."

In all those decades since the depression there really isn't a lot to add to that. Without federal recognition or a significant land base, tribal members are largely on their own. But there was another court case in which the New York Indians - after a long court proceeding and huge delays - received per capita payments for Wisconsin land taken from them almost 160 years after it happened. That court battle motivated many of the Brothertown Indians to work towards federal recognition.

They're very close to being recognized, let's keep our fingers crossed for them.


Unknown said...

Mr. Campisi suggests, in this post that the Brothertown Indians continued to function as a tribe even though federal laws were passed to make them citizens. The article goes on in the third paragraph to say that the Oneida and Stockbridge Indians both "lost their land as a result of the Dawes Act of 1887."

This is incorrect. Due to land claims, reservation boundary disputes and land-into-trust procedures that take place today, it is important to get the history correct.

The Oneida reservation was indeed allotted under the Dawes Act however the Stockbridge-Munsee were allotted under specific federal legislation requested and written in part by the Stockbridge people themselves and passed in 1906.

The Dawes Act allotments required a 25 year federal trust restriction against alienation and land use limitations. The majority of the Stockbridge people didn't want those restrictions. The Stockbridge people wanted to cut their timber and sell the allotments if they choose to.

The historical records indicate the Stockbridge hired attorneys, paid lobbyists and worked very hard to prevent Congress from making them subjects to the Dawes Act title restrictions. The majority argued forcefully that they should be free of federal supervision because, as a people they were well advanced enough to care for themselves and become citizens. They wanted federal supervision removed and Congress agreed.

I have documentation to support this statement.

Jeff Siemers said...

OK, thanks for the correction.

I was actually kind of shocked to see that error because some of the things you said can be found elsewhere in the Algonkian Church History blog.

However, in spirit the error is not that far off, since the citizenization experiment for the Brothertown and Stockbridge Indians was more-or-leass a precursor or a sampling of what would happen to the rest of Indian country after the Dawes act was passed.

Anyway, feel free to comment again and please don't remain anonymous.

Jeff Siemers said...

Then I went to make a change and when I re-read the sentance that was criticized, I found that it appears our anonymous critic misread it:

"When the Oneidas and the Stockbridges lost their lands as a result of the Dawes Act of 1887 and the "Citizen vs. Indian" controversy"

If we assume that the rest of the comment is accurate then I guess the commenter's point is that "the Indians didn't deserve any better than they got."

Is that correct?