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The 1821 Treaty of Chicago

“Behold our braves and warriors, women and children, and take pity upon them, as they take pity upon themselves. If we had more land to give, you should get more, but our country has been wasting away ever since the white people became out neighbours, until we have hardly land enough left to cover the bones of our tribe.” – Chief Metea

On August 29, 1821, the Chippewa, Ottawa, and Potawatomi signed a treaty with the United States of America, ceding 4 million acres of land from southwestern Michigan to the United States. The negotiations took place in Chicago, where 3,000 Potawatomi, Chippewa, and Ottawa met with U.S. Land Officials, including Lewis Cass (who would become a Governor of the Michigan territory).

Across two weeks, intense dialogues were held. The Potawatomi, Chippewa, and Ottawa originally refused to cede the lands, and cited past transgressions made by the U.S., including unreceived payments for previous land transactions and relentless encroachment and trespass by white settlers. In response, Lewis Cass used threats of force, the withholding of whiskey, and large promises to force them to sign.

Potawatomi Chief Metea and Chief Topinabee, both respected for the oratory skills and leadership, gave many speeches during the negotiations, some of which were recorded translated and transcribed in the minutes of the negotiations, which were made by U.S. Official Indian Agent Henry Rowe Schoolcraft. These minutes, and the speeches of Chief Metea, Chief Topinabee, Lewis Cass, and others, can be found in these digital transcriptions.

The agreement served to remove Native people, and to prepare the region for settlement by Americans. This treaty, and the subsequent 1833 Treaty of Chicago, made the settlements of Lockport and Three Rivers, among many others, possible.