Resisting Removal: The 1854 Treaty of La Pointe

Resisting Removal: The 1854 Treaty of La Pointe

On September 30, 1854, eighty-five leaders of the Lake Superior Ojibwe signed a treaty ceding their lands along western shores of Lake Superior in exchange for annual payments, goods and services, and permanent reservations near their homes.  The treaty was signed in the aftermath of the Sandy Lake Tragedy and the removal efforts of the early 1850s.

Lands ceded by the Ojibwe, 1836–1854.

In the late 1840s and early 1850s, the Lake Superior Ojibwe argued for permanent homes within the so-called “ceded territory” of northern Wisconsin and Michigan.  Their resistance included trips to Washington DC in 1849 and 1852. During this time, the Ojibwe were told that they had to move west into the “unceded territory” of northern Minnesota.  But, the Ojibwe wished to remain living on their homeland just as they had been promised they could during the La Pointe Treaty of 1842.

After a series of failed removal efforts by the U.S. government, it was finally determined that a new treaty be made.  In September, 1854, thousands of Ojibwe from the Lake Superior and Upper Mississippi bands along with Indian traders gathered at La Pointe to negotiate a new treaty.  The U.S. government, led by Indian agent Henry Gilbert and Commissioner of Indian Affairs George Manypenny, wished to acquire the copper and timber resources of the region and to concentrate the Ojibwe on reservations for the purpose of assimilation.  The Ojibwe, led by Chief Buffalo and interpreter Benjamin Armstrong, wished to secure permanent homes, annual cash payments, and the right to hunt, fish, and gather within the ceded territory.

After much negotiation that included a split between the Lake Superior and Upper Mississippi bands, and a show of objection from the traders, an agreement was reached.  The final treaty ceded almost all remaining land held by the Lake Superior Ojibwe, but it also secured permanent reservations for the numerous bands such as those at Grand Portage, Fond du Lac, and La Pointe.  Furthermore, it included a stipulation that annuity payments would thereafter be made near their homes, rather than forcing the Ojibwe to travel to Minnesota Territory as they had previously done. The reservations created by the treaty remain home for the Lake Superior Ojibwe who still hold many of the original treaty rights to hunt, fish, and use the land.  

Read the 1854 treaty. 

See this blog post on YouTube.


Armstrong, Benjamin Green. Early Life Among the Indians: Reminiscences From the Life of Benj. G. Armstrong. Dictated to and Written by Thomas P. Wentworth. Ashland, Wisconsin: A.W. Bowron, 1892.

Stone, Andrew. “Treaty of La Pointe, 1854.” MNopedia, Minnesota Historical Society. http://www.mnopedia.org/event/treaty-la-pointe-1854 (accessed June 3, 2018).

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