The Robinson Treaties - Toronto, 24th September, 1850
The Treaties with The Indians of Manitoba, The North-West Territories, and Kee-Wa-Tin, in The Dominion of Canada.
Sir:--I have the honor herewith to transmit the Treaty which on the part of the Government I was commissioned to negotiate with the tribes of Indians inhabiting the northern shore of Lakes Huron and Superior; and I trust that the terms on which I succeeded in obtaining the surrender of all the lands in question, with the exception of some small reservations made by the Indians, may be considered satisfactory. They were such as I thought it advisable to offer, in order that the matter might be finally settled, without having any just grounds of complaint on the part of the Indians.
The Indians had been advised by certain interested parties to insist on such extravagant terms as I felt it quite impossible to grant; and from the fact that the American Government had paid very liberally for the land surrendered by their Indians on the south side of Lake Superior, and that our own in other parts of the country were in receipt of annuities much larger than I offered, I had some difficulty in obtaining the assent of a few of the chiefs to my proposition.
I explained to the chiefs in council the difference between the lands ceded heretofore in this Province and those then under consideration, they were of good quality and sold readily at prices which enabled the Government to be more liberal, they were also occupied by the whites in such a manner as to preclude the possibility of the Indian hunting over or having access to them whereas the lands now ceded are notoriously barren and sterile, and will in all probability never be settled except in a few localities by mining companies, whose establishments among the Indians, instead of being prejudicial, would prove of great benefit as they would afford a market for any things they may have to sell, and bring provisions and stores of all kinds among them at reasonable prices.
Neither did the British Government contemplate the removal of the Indians from their present haunts to some (to them) unknown region in the far West, as had been the case with their brethren on the American side.
I told them that the two chiefs who were in Toronto last winter (Shinguacouse and Nebennigoebing) only asked the amount which the Government had received for mining locations, after deducting the expenses attending their sale. That amount was about eight thousand pounds which the Government would pay them without any annuity or certainty of further benefit; or one-half of it down, and an annuity of about one thousand pounds.
There were twenty-one chiefs present, about the same number of principal men, and a large number of other Indians belonging to the different bands, and they all preferred the latter proposition, though two of them (Shinguacouse and Nebennigoebing) insisted on receiving an annuity equal to ten dollars per head.
The chiefs from Lake Superior desired to treat separately for their territory and said at once in council that they accepted my offer. I told them that I would have the treaty ready on the following morning, and I immediately proceeded to prepare it, and as agreed upon they signed it cheerfully at the time appointed.
I then told the chiefs from Lake Huron (who were all present when the others signed) that I should have a similar treaty ready for their signature, the next morning when those who signed it would receive their money; and that as a large majority of them had agreed to my terms I should abide by them.
I accordingly prepared the treaty and proceeded on the morning of the ninth instant to the council-room to have it formally executed in the presence of proper witnesses--all the chiefs and others were present. I told them I was then ready to receive their signatures; the two chiefs, Shinguacouse and Nebennigoebing, repeated their demand of ten dollars a head by way of annuity, and also insisted that I should insert in the treaty a condition securing to some sixty half-breeds a free grant of one hundred acres of land each. I told them they already had my answer as to a larger annuity, and that I had no power to give them free grants of land. The other chiefs came forward to sign the treaty and seeing this the two who had resisted up to this time also came to the table and signed first, the rest immediately following.
I trust his Excellency will approve of my having concluded the treaty on the basis of a small annuity and the immediate and final settlement of the matter, rather than paying the Indians the full amount of all moneys on hand, and a promise of accounting to them for future sales. The latter course would have entailed much trouble on the Government, besides giving an opportunity to evil disposed persons to make the Indians suspicious of any accounts that might be furnished.
Believing that His Excellency and the Government were desirous of leaving the Indians no just cause of complaint on their surrendering the extensive territory embraced in the treaty, and knowing there were individuals who most assiduously endeavored to create dissatisfaction among them, I inserted a clause securing to them certain prospective advantages should the lands in question prove sufficiently productive at any future period to enable the Government without loss to increase the annuity.
This was so reasonable and just that I had no difficulty in making them comprehend it, and it in a great measure silenced the clamor raised by their evil advisers.
The annuities under these treaties have recently been increased, the following item having been inserted in the Supplies Act of Canada, viz., "Annual grant to bring up annuities payable under the Robinson Treaty to the Chippawa of Lakes Huron and Superior, from 96 cents to $4 per head, $14,000."
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