Reading the ancestor’s mail
It is always interesting to read letters and communications regarding early Canada’s dealings with the Six Nations and Mississauga in particular. At one point, the Mississauga was considered the Sixth Nation of the Six Nations, even though Ojibwa and not Iroquois.
History has a way of being twisted to fit a contemporary 2000 millennial world view. Sometimes it fits, but in most cases it does not. To glean what was the intent of an agreement or treaty, it is always best to interpret old documents as understood by those who made them.
The following is a transcript of a meeting between Indian Affairs, and a delegation of government representatives and the Chiefs of the Mississaugas. Any misspellings or typos are as recorded. The occasional space represents pieces of the document that were either missing or impossible to read in the original hand written form.
Aug. 21, 1797:
Proceedings of a meeting held with the Chiefs of Mississauga Nation at the Government House at the head of Lake Ontario for the purpose of ___ a purchase of lands intended for Capt. Brant.
Captain Claus Superintendent of Indian Affairs
Lt. Givens Assistant Superintendent Indian Affairs
Robert Nelles Esq. Commission on the part of the Province
Lt. Douglas — artillery?
Lt. Bromihead 24 Regt?
W. Claus Indian Department
W. Lt. John Interpreter
Brothers – This day the Great Spirit has permitted us to see each other; and I am happy that you are all assembled and well
Brothers – We are now assembled here for the purpose of finishing a work that has been a long time compliting. The paying for the land for your Brother Capt. Brant, it has already been fully explained to you.
Brothers – The plans now before you shows you the Country that you disposed of, one of which will be left in your hands to prevent any disputes hereafter.
Brothers – The King of England your Father has always shown a tender and affectionate regard for his Children the Indians. His affection and love for you are the same still, and always will be.
Brothers – I always feel great uneasiness at seeing many of your people almost naked, altho’ they have received from me things to make them comfortable. I am afraid there are bad people about who get you in liquor, and then buy your things for almost nothing. Your Father the King thought so much of you as to have a law made to punish those bad people, and if I can find out any that wrong you, I will take care that that law shall punish them to the utmost vigor.
Brothers – There is a man amongst you that I cannot see here to day. I wish he was here. He speaks bad words. He always says that whenever your Fathers Servants buy lands from you that they make you drunk and get you to sign away your lands to them for almost nothing. You must know that he does not tell truth when he says so.
Brothers – The goods to pay for this land for your Brother Capt. Brant is before us we will sign the papers to confirm and complete the Business, but brothers, I wish to know what answer this man gave you, when you sent for him to be present at this meeting.
Wabanip, Principal Chief of the Mississaga Nation returned the following Answer:
Father – We sent for that bad man by these two boys, he declined coming here. These people present hear him every day. He tells us not to dispose of the lands we are now talking of, but listen to what he says that he can advise us, and we had better leave our affairs to his discretion. We told him we had prepared our words to dispose of the land. He said never mind, say nothing, I will give you more than they will and buy it myself.
Father – He also told us that when you got this land you would lay claim to all our land about it, and would turn us out of the country.
Father – He is always endeavoring to hurt me in the Eyes of our people saying I am not fit to be at their head.
Father – We think nothing of what he says, we consider him to be as a dog, just ___ and do not regard what he tells us.
Father – We desired him to come and see if we got anything as he always told us we got nothing but gave away our Lands, we therefore wished him to be present that he might be a witness to what passed, but he said that there was a friend of his would be there that would inform him of every thing that passed.
Father – We thank you with all our Hearts, Woman and CHildren, and every one present for the attention you pay us in this business; the goods we now receive in payment for the land which we disposed of to the King our Father for our Brother Capt. Brant we are very well satisfied with.
Father – We thank you also for the extra articles (over and above what we agreed for) which you have bestowed on us. The Ammunition in particular is what we get our living by, and we feel very grateful for our kind consideration of us in this respect.
My Good Father – All we request of you is this; your own people come and fish in our rivers without our permission and remain till they load their boats for which we receive nothing, they do not consider that by taking away such large quantities we are deprived of our principal means of subsisting, we hope Father this may be thought of, and that some measure may be taken to prevent our suffering in this instance.
21 August 1797