The first mention of SAGINAW in an Indian treaty between the United States and the Indian tribes appears to have been in the "Treaty with the OTTOWAS, etc., 1807" made at Detroit in which "the United States...further stipulates to furnish the said Indians with two blacksmiths, one to reside with the Chippewas at Saguina". By this treaty, the Ottawas, Potawatamies, Wyandots and Chippewas ceded to the United States all that territory in south-east Michigan beginning from a point at "White Rock" on Lake Huron; thence south-westerly to the Meridian Line; thence due south on the Meridian Line to the present State line; thence easterly to the mouth of the Maumee River. This was the first large land cession of Michigan territory, the forerunner of which had been the Treaty of Greenville, in 1795, wherein the Indians had made great concessions in what was then the Northwest Territories.

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Source:  Unknown

Before the Treaty Meeting, or Council
Land hunger found expression in Saginaw Country very soon after the War of 1812, for it became known that it was a center of Indian population, well watered and with easy access on account of its converging streams---a hunter’s and fisherman’s paradise. However, an agitation soon arose for a treaty, so in 1818 the government decided what it would lay claim to and formulated a new treaty which was to give to the whites a vast territory covering the most desirable portion of the unceded lands of Michigan.
    General Cass, then Governor of the Northwest Territories, was commissioned to enter into the necessary negotiations. General Cass was of good old New England stock, his father having served through the Revolutionary War with a final rank of captain, and later was commissioned as major in the Indian wars of the west. The General was also Superintendent of Indian Affairs with headquarters at Detroit.
    It was customary for the Indian chiefs to make journeys to Detroit, to consult with the representative of the Great Father, and visit their friends and relatives of that vicinity, so, long before the time set for the great council at Saginaw, with Governor Cass, the members of the Indian bands whose council fires were at Kah-Bay-Shay-Way-Ning (Saginaw) were duly notified of the coming event. They assembled at that point for several days prior to the coming of the General, who had employed a person named Louis Campau to go on ahead and erect the council-house and make other needed preparations. It was variously estimated that from 1500-4000 Indians were assembled, but the vagueness of these numbers was characteristic, for Saginaw was then a primitive forest, and the temporary shelters of the Indians were scattered far up and down the river.
    At the conference, four log buildings were placed end to end, to be used by Cass and his staff as offices and quarters. The Council-House, which was merely a bower constructed by laying poles from tree to tree in the crotches or held by withes, and covered with boughs, was located south of the quarters. While Louis Campau was making ready for the coming council, the Indians were busy with their own preparations. They were continually arriving in their canoes; it must indeed have been a stirring scene to have witnessed, camping along the river bank, their twinkling fires at night, together with the sound of the drum as it accompanied the dance, lent a weird charm to the wild gathering that remained fresh in his memory to his last days.
    The Indians present were principally Chippewas, but there were also Ottawas, and quite possibly a few Potowatomies. They had come from the headwaters of the Cass, the Flint, the Shiawassee, and "the-River-that-follows-the-Shore" otherwise the Tittabawassee. They had come in their canoes from the Kawkawlin, the Rifle and the Au Gres, from the islands in the bay, from the lowlands of the "Thumb." Here they had gathered to listen to the message of the Great Father. Did they realize that they were about to bargain away their homes, their hunting grounds, their teeming rivers and their wide domains? It was a tragic hour, but they realized it not. It was not only the autumn of the year---it was the autumn of their wild, free days.
    While these incidents were transpiring at Saguina, Cass was making ready for his journey. However, at the outset Cass found himself in embarrassing circumstances. By the treaty of 1807, the United States had obligated itself to pay to the Chippewas $1666.66, but the Government had not, as has been very frequently the case, kept faith with the Chippewas. Thus, General Cass wrote to the Secretary of War, James Calhoun, in September 1819, as follows: " I shall leave here on Monday next to meet the Indians at Saginaw, and endeavor, agreeable to your instructions, to procure a cession of that valuable territory. It would be hopeless to expect a favorable result to the proposed treaty, unless the annuities previously due are discharged. Under these circumstances I have felt myself embarrassed and no course has been left me but to procure the amount of the Chippewa annuity upon my private responsibility. I trust the receipt of a draft will soon relieve me from the situation in which I am placed, and enable me to perform my promise to the bank." How embarrassing!

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Signing the Treaty
Cass himself, with his staff, secretaries, interpreters and other attendants, came from Detroit on horseback, following the Indian trail by way of Pontiac, Flint, and Pe-on-i-go-wink. They arrived in the afternoon, and men were sent out to assemble the Indians at ten o’clock the next morning for the first council. A rough platform had been built to accommodate the principal white participants, while the chiefs, headmen and warriors were seated on logs that had been cut and rolled under the bower or council house. Beside the company of soldiers, there were present perhaps 50 or 60 white men.
    Cass opened the council by stating the desire of the government, in the usual language of such occasions, speaking of the desire of the Great Father for their welfare, and of the beauties of a life of agriculture, which it was hoped that they would follow, how game was growing scarce, how much better off they would be by confining themselves to reservations, how civilization was advancing to overwhelm them, winding up with the promise of beads, blankets, run and silver provided they would agree to the terms set forth. His speech was not, of course, original, for it was the stereotyped address of all white negotiators running back to the Pilgrims. The worst of it all is that not a single important treaty of the government, from the Delaware Treaty of 1778, to the last treaty previous to 1890 has been faithfully kept by its white signatories. One might as well expect the earth to stand still on its axis, as to expect the Indians to subsist by "agriculture" where no agriculture existed. Recall that it took the white man himself was thousands of years to attain the agricultural state.
    Three Chiefs of high repute acted as speakers for the Indians. Their names were often-times pronounced by our early traders and pioneers differently, and are found in documents with different orthography, but as they appear at the foot of the treaty they are Mish-e-ne-na-non-e-quet, O-ge-maw-ke-ke-to, and Kish-kaw-ko. At the subsequent councils the latter was not present. He had put himself out of condition at the close of the first day by drinking, and remained in a state quite unpresentable as a speaker for the rest of the time. He was an Indian of violent temper, and in the excitement of liquor was reckless in the commission of outrage. Subsequent to the treaty, after many acts of violence, he was arrested and died in prison at Detroit. Cass knew that he was less dangerous in his wigwam quietly drunk than in the council room tolerably sober.
    The chief speaker, O-ge-maw-ke-ke-to, opposed the proposition made by Cass with indignation. His speech as remembered by persons by still surviving, who were interested listeners, was a model of Indian eloquence. He was then quite young, not over 25, above the average height, and in his bearing, graceful and handsome. Although in the later years of his life he was often seen intoxicated, he never fully lost a look of conscious dignity which belonged to his nature as one of the original lords of the soil. In true eloquence he was probably hardly surpassed by the Seneca Chief, Sa-go-ye-wat-ha (Red Jacket). His band lived at the Forks of the Tittabawassee, and like the famous Seneca Chief he wore upon his breast a superb Government medal. He addressed the Commissioner: "You do not know our wishes. Our people wonder what has brought you so far from your homes. Your young men have invited us to come and light the Council fire. We are here to smoke the pipe of peace, but not to sell our lands. Our American Father wants them. Our English Father treats us better. He has never asked for them. Your people trespass upon our hunting grounds. You flock to our shores. Our waters grow warm. Our land melts like a cake of ice. Our posessions grow smaller and smaller. The warm wave of the white man rolls in upon us and melts us away. Our women reproach us. Our children want homes. Shall we sell from under them the spot where they spread their blankets?"
    To this oratory Cass replied with earnestness, reproving the speaker for arrogant assumption; that their Great Father at Washington had just closed a war in which he had whipped their English Father, and the Indians too; that their lands were forfeited in fact by the rules of war, but that he did not propose to take them without rendering back an equivalent, not-withstanding their late acts of hostility; that their women and children should have secured to them ample tribal reserves on which they could live, unmolested by their white neighbors, where they could spread their blankets and be aided and instructed in agriculture.
    The Chiefs and head-men of the natives then retired to their wigwams in sullen dignity, unapproachable and unappeased. Certainly this had been a very unpropitious opening of the great and important undertaking!

The Final "Negotiations"
The Flint River was, by the treaty of 1807, left in full Indian possession. It was called by the natives Pe-won-nuk-ening, meaning literally the river of the Flint, and by the early French traders, La Pierre, as was the principal fording or crossing place of that river, called by them Grand Traverse. By the Chippewas the site of that city was called Mus-cu-ta-wa-ingh, meaning the open plain burnt over. Well beaten trails existed upon the Flint and its tributaries, reaching to their head waters and upon all the affluents of the Saginaw, all converging to the main river as the centre, forming a network of communication which might not inaptly be compared to an open fan, with the handle resting upon the treaty ground. These trails gave the Chippewas, upon the banks of those streams, unobstructed access by land, as well as by canoes upon the rivers, to the Council. The advancing wave of white settlements had already approached and in some instance had without authority, encroached upon the southerly border of their network of trails upon the Flint.
    Geographically, Ne-ome and his powerful band stood at the door, the very threshold of the large body of land which our Government wanted. To any one standing at Detroit and looking northerly to the beautiful belt of the land lying westerly of the St. Clair River, it was plain that Chief Ne-ome stood a lion in the path. Ne-ome was honest and simple-minded, evincing but little of the craft and cunning of his race, sincere in his nature, by no means astute, firm in his friendships, easy to be persuaded by any benefactor who should appeal to his Indian sense of gratitude; harmless and kind. In stature he was short and heavily moulded. With his own people he was a chief of partriarechal goodness, and his name is never mentioned by any of the members of his band, even at this remote day, except with a certain traditionary sorrow.
    After General Cass had made known the purpose of the Government in calling the Council, he found the Chippewas, as before, with minds by no means disposed to treat or cede. But there was power behind the throne greater than the throne itself. That power rested in the hands of an Indian trader who was known to the Chippewas as Wah-be-sins, ( the young swan), and to the border settlers as Jacob Smith. He had been for a long time a trader among the Indians at different points on the Flint and Saginaw, both before and after the war of 1812. It is safe to say, that of the 114 Chippewa chiefs, whose totems were affixed to the treaty, there was not one with whom he had not dealt and to whom he had not extended some act of friendship; either in dispensing the rites of hospitality at his trading post, or in substantial advance to them of bread or of blankets, as their necessities may have required. Jacob Smith had entrenched himself in their friendship, and, at the time of the treaty, so nearly had he identified himself with the good old chief, Ne-ome, that they even hailed each other as brother. Even to this day, Sa-gos-e-wa-qua, a daughter of Ne-ome, and others of his descendents now living, when speaking of Smith and the old chief, invariably bring their hands together, pressing the tow index fingers closely to each other, as the Indians’ symbol of brotherhood and warm attachments.
    Upon the treaty ground the two friends (Jacob Smith and Ne-ome) acted in perfect unison. No progress was made until Mr. Knaggs and the other Government agents, who assumed to speak for the government outside of the council room, had promised the faithful Ne-ome that in addition to various and ample reservations for the different bands, of several thousand acres each, there should be reserved as requested by Wah-be-sins, (Smith,) eleven sections of land of 640 acres each, to be located at or near the Grand Traverse of the Flint. The Indians had "upped" the demand, and the Government acceded.
    A council was again called several days after the first one and fully attended by all the chiefs and warriors. The storm which at first threatened to overwhelm the best efforts of the Commissioner and the active agents had passed over, and in its place a calm and open discussion ensued. Eventually, the terms and basis of a just and honorable treaty were concluded. There was but one more general council held, which was mainly formal, for the purpose of having affixed to the treaty, the signatures of General Cass and the witnesses, and the totem of the chiefs and head men of the Chippewa and Ottawas.
    Removal of the Chippewas to lands west of the Mississippi, at least west of Lake Michigan, was one of the purposes of the treaty, in addition to the cession of the valuable body of land lying upon the Saginaw and its tributaries. It was, however, discovered by Cass, soon after his arrival at the council, that it was impossible to carry that out without hazarding the consummation of a treaty upon any terms. This country had been so long occupied by their people, and was so well adapted to their hunter state, in the remarkable abundance of fish in its rivers, lakes and bays, and in the game yet left to them, that the Indians were simply not inclined to listen to any proposition of removal.
    The execution of the treaty was consummated about the middle of the afternoon of the last day. The silver, which was to be paid to the Indians upon its completion, was counted out upon the table in front of the Commissioner.

The negotiations had continued for about 10 days or more, during which time three formal councils had been held, the first being preparatory, the second at which the principal discussions were held, and at which there was much anger on the part of the Indians; they had threatened General Cass and the other white negotiators. The government had proposed in substance that the Indians entirely abandon Michigan, and retire west of the Mississippi, and it was only by receding from these demands that Cass was able to secure any treaty at all. The amount of land ceded amounted to about six million acres.
    A careful reading of the Treaty (below), shows much carelessness in its spelling of Indian names. In fact, it is hard to recognize some of them, and it is more than probable that many of the presumed signers never assented to the document, and it is still more likely that no a single Indian who signed, realized what he was bartering away. Four of the principal Indian reservations were in Saginaw County, while all but three of the large reservations were on the Saginaw River or its tributaries. Saginaw County was the largest center of aboriginal population in the State. Viewed from all standpoints, this was the most important land cession of Michigan, for it was in the very heart of the Indian Country, and covered nearly a third of the Lower Peninsula.

The Text of the Treaty of 1819

ARTICLE 1. The Chippewa nation of Indians, in consideration of the stipulations herein made on the part of the United States, do hereby forever cede to the United States the land comprehended within the following lines and boundaries: Beginning at a point in the present Indian boundary line, which runs due north from the mouth of the great Anglaize river, six miles south of the place where the base line, so-called, intersects the same; thence, west, sixty miles; thence, in a direct line, to the head of Thunder Bay river; thence, down the same, following the course therefor, to the mouth; thence, northeast , to the boundary line between the United and the British Province of Upper Canada; thence, with the same, to the line established by the treaty of Detroit, in the year one thousand eight hundred and seven; thence with the said line to the place of beginning.

ARTICLE 2. From the cession aforesaid the following tracts of land shall be reserved, for the use of the Chippewa nation of Indians:
One tract, of eight thousand acres, on the east side of the River Au Sable near where the Indians now live.
One tract, of two thousand acres, on the river Mesagwisk.
One tract, of six thousand aces, on the north side of the river Kawkawling, at the Indian village.
One tract, of five thousand seven hundred and sixty acres, upon the Flint river, to include Reaum’s village, and a place called Kishkawbawee.
One tract, of eight thousand acres, on the head of the River Huron, which empties into the Saginaw river, at the village of Otusson.
One island in the Saginaw Bay.
One tract, of two thousand acres, where Nabobask formerly lived.
One, tract of one thousand acres, near the island in the Saginaw river.
One tract, of two thousand acres, at the mouth of Point Au Gres river.
One tract, of one thousand acres, on the river Huron, at Menoequet’s village.
One tract, of ten thousand acres, on the Shiawassee river, at a place called the Big Rock.
One tract, of three thousand acres, on the Shiawassee river, at Ketchewaundaugenick.
One tract, of six thousand acres, at the Little Forks, on the Tetabawasink river.
One tract, of six thousand acres, at the Black Bird’s town, on the Tetabawasink river.
One tract, of forty thousand acres, on the Saginaw river, to be hereafter located.

ARTICLE 3. There shall be reserved for the use of each of the person hereinafter mentioned and their heirs, which persons are all Indians by descent, the following tracts of land:
For the use of John Riley, the son of Menawcumegoqua, a Chippewa woman, six hundred and forty acres of land, beginning at the head of the first march above the mouth of the Saginaw river, on the east side thereof.
For the use of Peter Riley, the son of Menawcumegoqua, a Chippewa woman, six hundred and forty acres of land, beginning above and adjoining the apple-trees on the west side of the Saginaw river, and running up the same for quantity.
For the use of James Riley, the son of Menawcumegoqua, a Chippewa woman, six hundred and forty acres, beginning on the east side of the Saginaw river, nearly opposite to Campau’s trading house, and running up the river for quantity.
For the use of Kawkawiskou, or the Crow, a Chippewa chief, six hundred and forty acres of land, on the east side of the Saginaw river, at a place called Menitegow, and to include, in the said six hundred and forty acres, the island opposite to the said place.
For the use of Nowokeshik, Metawanene, Mokitchenoqua, Nondeshemau, Petabonaqua, Messawwakut, Checbalk, Kitchegeequa, Sagosoqua, Annoketoqua, and Tawcumegoqua, each, six hundred and forty acres of land to be located at and near the grand traverse of the Flint river, in such manner as the President of the United States may direct.
For the use of the children of Bokowtonden, six hundred and forty acres, on the Kawkawling river.

ARTICLE 4. In consideration of the cession aforesaid, the United States agree to pay to the Chippewa nation of Indians, annually, for ever, the sum of one thousand dollars in silver; and do hereby agree that all annuities due by any former treaty to the said tribe, shall be hereafter paid in silver.

ARTICLE 5. The stipulation contained in the treaty of Greenville, relative to the right of the Indians to hunt upon the land ceded, while it continues the property of the United States, shall apply to this treaty; and the Indians shall, for the same term, enjoy the privilege of making sugar upon the same land, committing no unnecessary waste upon the trees.

ARTICLE 6. The United States agrees to pay to the Indians the value of any improvements which they may be obliged to abandon in consequence of the lines established by this treaty, and which improvements add real value to the land.

ARTICLE 7. The United States reserve to the proper authority the right to make roads through any part of the land reserved by this treaty.

ARTICLE 8. The United States engage to provide and support a blacksmith for the Indians, at Saginaw, so long as the President of the United States may think proper, and to furnish the Chippewa Indians with such farming utensils, and cattle, and to employ such persons to aid them in their agriculture, as the President may deem expedient.

ARTICLE 9. This treaty shall take effect, and be obligatory on the contracting parties, so soon as the same shall be ratified by the President of United States, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate thereof.

In testimony whereof, the said Lewis Cass, commissioner as aforehereunto set their hands, at Saginaw, in the Territory of Michigan, this twenty-fourth day of September, in the year of our Lord on thousand eight hundred and nineteen.



After the contracting parties agreed, the following names were affixed to the document:

Shingwalk, Jr.,
Mayto, Sheemaugua,
Okemares, or Okemes,

Modified from a 1919 book by Fred Dustin: "The Saginaw Treaty of 1819".

This material has been compiled for educational use only, and may not be reproduced without permission.  One copy may be printed for personal use.  Please contact Randall Schaetzl ( for more information or permissions.