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The Impact of Colonialism on Indian Life in Wisconsin

Autor:   •  November 15, 2017  •  2,573 Words (11 Pages)  •  261 Views

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Fur Trading

Fur trading had been the emphasis around the time Jean Nicolet came to Wisconsin, and they work together with the Indians for many years, without problems. With an ever-increasing population and the establishment of American government, everything changed once colonists arrived in Wisconsin. In order to accommodate newcomers settlers continued to move west, but had no concern or interest of the consequences to the American Indians. (Wisconsin Department of Health Services). Throughout the fur trading period it became more of a challenge for the Indians to hunt enough beaver for the needs of the Europeans. With more people settling in Wisconsin, Indian hunters were beginning to kill off much of the beaver population, and were forced to spread out farther away, which meant leaving their families for prolonged periods of time. After a while, a large number of Indians, and families, simply moved out of their villages in order to be nearby trading posts in new locations. This not only caused a real decline in conventional Indian communities, but it didn’t take long until the supply of beaver became too low. (Malone, 2011).


As the Frenchmen journeyed west for fur trading, many wound up living in communities made up of only Indians, which lead to Frenchmen marrying Indian women. The Indians welcomed them and their children into tribal communities. These unions are one explanation as to why multitudes of Wisconsin and Indians of the Great Lakes have French sir names. (Indian Country Wisconsin, Relations between the Indians and French).

Many Changes Lead to Warfare

While there were numerous changes in the Indians’ traditions when the French arrived, it wasn’t all bad, in the beginning. The Europeans had items such as firearms, cloth, sewing needles, cooking utensils, and other goods. Alcohol, something the Indians never had was also brought in by the French, but its effect was disconcerting. They had no experience or defenses against immoderation, and gave them delusions of being stronger and fearless. (Indian Country Wisconsin, Relations between the Indians and French).

Close to a century of intertribal warfare resulted as clashes over food and furs prevailed. The English wanted to prevent Indians to trade with the French in Green Bay, and with support from the Fox they were unwavering in their opposition of the French in Wisconsin. (Wisconsin Historical Society).

The French and Fox war lasted until 1716 when the French launched several military expeditions, but failed to wipe out the Fox from their village during the “battle at Little Lake Butte des Morts.” Starting in 1728 more fighting ensued, but ended in disaster for the Fox in 1730 when the French killed more than 1,500 men, women and children. However, between 1737 and 1739 they finally reached a peace agreement. (Indian Country Wisconsin, Relations between the Indians and French).

Between 1689 and 1763 the British and French waged war four times, to take control of North America; the final one being the French and Indian War from 1754 to 1763. Wisconsin Indians fought with the French, and were at the final crucial battle; the war at the Plains of Abraham in Quebec. (Wisconsin Department of Health Services). There, in 1759, the British, under leadership of General James Wolfe, defeated the French under General Louis-Joseph, Marquis de Montcalm. A peace treaty was signed in 1763; however, Wolfe’s seizure of Quebec put an end to the French in control of Canada, and made the British governing supremacy over North American and Wisconsin. (Indian Country Wisconsin, Relations between the Indians and French).

Disease and Death

Overall, the Europeans’ presence caused a widespread outbreak of horrific diseases, including tuberculosis, cholera, influenza, measles and smallpox, creating countless deaths. Higher taxes, slavery and compulsory hard labor were additional “changes” imposed on the Indians. (Indian Country Wisconsin, Relations between the Indians and French). What’s more, besides disease, the conflicts and colonization that took place for more than 100 years transformed the Indians’ lives tremendously. Dominant tribes diminished to fractions of their size, and most were reduced to nothing more than hunters and trappers. (Wisconsin Historical Society).

Treaties Force Indians Out

Wisconsin’s largest Indian tribe, the Menominee, occupied somewhere between 7.5 and 10 million acres[3] of land alongside the lower Fox River, prior to the onset of the “Treaty Era,” in the early 1800s. The treaties between the Menominee and US Government forced the Indians to cede all but approximately the 235,000 acres, or 368 square miles of land they own today. They endured further obstacles in the 1950’s when Congress passed the Menominee Termination Act. It took away federal recognition over the Tribe, which ultimately would rob them of their cultural identity. They regained the federal recognition, but not until 1973 and a lengthy, grueling grassroots movement.[4] (Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, 2015). By 1804, the Sauk and Fox tribes were required to relinquish their land in Southern Wisconsin through a treaty they never agreed to. What followed was the Black Hawk War of 1832. (Wisconsin Department of Health Services).

A major historical moment for Wisconsin’s Indians came in 1825, with the Treaty of Prairie due Chien. Instigated by the US government, its purpose was to put an end to the inter-tribal wars involving the Ojibew and other Midwestern tribes, cease interrupting fur trade, and stop the stress and friction between Indian tribes and settlers. This seemed rather curious, as most tribal conflicts resulted from the US government pitting them against each other to acquire more land. (Wisconsin Department of Health Services).

Ojibwe Treaties

Between 1837 and 1854 the Ojibwe of Wisconsin singed treaties with the US. The overall purpose was for the US to acquire their land, and institute new reservations for the Indians throughout the state. In return the government would provide the tribe with money for food, goods, tobacco, equipment, debits and cash. In addition annuities were promised, as well as funds to teach new skills, such as agriculture and carpentry. The Ojibwe agreed to most of these provisions; however, would not sign unless there was a stipulation saying they still had the right to hunt, fish, and gather on the land before they could leave the area. (Indian Country, Ojibwe Treaty Rights).

The State of Wisconsin essentially


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