Background: The Canadian Branch of the Potawatomis of Wisconsin
In 1907, W.M. Wooster, acting on the instructions of the United States’ Commissioner of Indian Affairs, travelled to various communities in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Canada, (including Killarney village) to complete a roll of members and descendants of members of the Potawatomis of Wisconsin. The roll had been ordered by an Act of Congress approved June 21, 1906, to address Potawatomi claims that some Band members had not been paid their share of annuity monies promised under various U.S.-Potawatomi treaties. Wooster submitted the roll to the U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of Indian Affairs, on December 18th 1907, and noted in a follow-up letter dated January 18th, 1908, that a draft supplemental roll with additional names had been prepared but that these names were subsequently found to already be recorded on the 1907 roll.
In 1909, the Canadian Department of Justice supplied the Canadian Department of Indian Affairs with a copy of a list of Canadian and American Indians who were members of the Potawatomis of Wisconsin (the complete list will be available online at this site at a later time). The list, based on the 1907 Wooster Roll, had been provided to the Justice department by two lawyers from Wisconsin who had presented a claim to the United States House of Representatives on behalf of the Potawatomis.
According to lawyer Andrew Chisholm, who was eventually hired by the Canadian Department of Indian Affairs to represent the Canadian members of the Potawatomis of Wisconsin...the migration of members of the Pottawatamies of Wisconsin to Canada was occasioned by their eviction by the United States from their lands in Wisconsin. At the time, it was the policy of the United States to remove all Indians west of the Mississippi. The forefathers of these Pottawatamies of Wisconsin [i.e., the forefathers of the Canadian Potawatomis that Chisholm represented] were dissatisfied with such proposal. They refused to go and were driven off their lands, some fled to inaccessible parts of Wisonsin and Michigan, and others and the greater part crossed the Lakes to Canada, where their descendants on whose behalf this Petition is brought, still remain.3
Individual members of what came to be called the “Canadian Branch” of the Potawatomis of Wisconsin had contracted with lawyers to obtain from the U.S. government their share (or their ancestors’ share) of the annuity monies referred to above. One law firm received approval from the Department of Indian Affairs to represent the Canadian Potawatomis, and any monies recovered were to be paid to the Dominion of Canada. Another law firm also contracted with Canadian Potawatomis, but any monies recovered were to be paid out to individual claimants. In response to a concern raised by the Canadian Superintendent General of Indian Affairs to the Department of External Affairs, about who might gain control of any funds paid out as a result of the claim, the Clerk of the Privy Council wrote the following (in part) to the Superintendent General of Indian Affairs on March 20th, 1911:
...That the Superintendent General of Indian Affairs is of the opinion that the undue rate of remuneration provided for by the proposed agreement with Messrs Robeson and Chisholm affords ground for believing that those attorneys are not acting disinterestedly, and he is apprehensive that the absence for the provision for payment of the moneys to him, whereby the possibility of any control being exercised by him over the funds is prevented, may lead to their further dissipation to the disadvantage of the Indians. He considers that any moneys found to be due them should be placed in the hands of Your Excellency’s Government to be dealt with in the same manner set out in the draft Power of Attorney approved by the Department of Indian Affairs.
...Your Excellency may be pleased to communicate the facts above recited to His Majesty’s Ambassador at Washington, to the end that the attention of the United States Government may be drawn to the danger of these Indians who are to a large extent in statu pupillari, their funds being administered by the Dominion authorities, — being induced to enter into an improvident arrangement in regard to their claim, and that that Government may be requested to take any measures possible to ensure that their interests may be protected in the manner indicated by the Superintendent General of Indian Affairs.1 (My italics.)
In December, 1911, the Privy Council reiterated the position of the Superintendent of Indian Affairs...“…it is desirable that any moneys found due to these Indians should be paid over to your Royal Highness’s Government to be administered by the Superintendent General of Indian Affairs under the rules and precedents governing the Trust Funds of the Indians of the Dominion…”.2 (My italics.)
The Department eventually contracted with lawyer Andrew Gordon Chisholm of London, Ontario, to present the Canadian Potawatomi claim to the United States government on behalf of the Department of Indian Affairs. The August 8th, 1918 petition composed by Chisholm contains a brief history of the Canadian Branch.3 It was approved by the Department of Indian Affairs and the Privy Council for submission to the Secretary of the Interior of the United States.4 In 1919, it was forwarded to His Majesty’s Ambassador at Washington by the Department of External Affairs.5, 6
In the 1918 petition, Chisholm addressed the legal status of the Canadian Branch, initially stating..."...notwithstanding their residence in Canada, they are still treated by the government of that Dominion, as United States and foreign Indians except for certain individuals who have been adopted into scattered Chippewa Bands of Indians in the Province of Ontario, they do not share in any of the benefits bestowed upon its Indians by the Government of Canada".2 (My italics)
However, Chisholm’s petition also contains the following further explanation: "The Pottawatamies of Wisconsin to-day in Canada, have no reserve, nor does the Canadian Government hold any trust funds on their behalf, and except that it recognizes them as Indians, supervises them accordingly, and affords them the means of education extended to other Indians, bestows no benefits upon them, except as mentioned in the preceding paragraph."2 (My italics.)
In the 1918 petition, Chisholm quotes statements made about the Potawatomi claim by the United States Secretary of the Interior in the Secretary's April 1st, 1908, Report to Congress. The Secretary relied on the 1907-08 Wooster rolls to identify claimants residing in the U.S. and in Canada and to calculate the amount of annuity monies owed to them. Chisholm also includes an excerpt showing how the Wooster rolls were viewed by the U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs…"These rolls are believed by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to be as nearly correct and complete as it is practicable to make them. Of the total number enrolled 457 reside in Wisconsin and Michigan and 1550 in the Dominion of Canada." 2 (My italics.)
On the last page of the petition, Chisholm asks that if the United States Government does make the payment that is owed to the Canadian Branch, "...the same should be made to the Government of Canada to be administered by it as a fund for the benefit of the individuals composing said Canadian Branch of said Pottawatamie Indians of Wisconsin." 2 (My italics.)
In 1919, Chisholm submitted a list, showing only members of the Canadian Branch, to the Canadian Department of Indian Affairs, this time with the names presented in alphabetical order.8
Despite pursuing the claim for years, the Canadian Department of Indian Affairs did not succeed in obtaining annuity monies from the United States government. As recently as March, 2003, Senator Inouye of the state of Hawaii introduced another bill in the United States Senate for the settlement of the claim, based on a May 2000 Stipulation for Recommendation of Settlement between the Pottawatomi Nation in Canada and the United States.
The Potawatomis of Wisconsin who fled to Upper Canada may have been viewed by that government as “United States and foreign Indians”, but by the time work had begun on the Potawatomi claim in the 1890s, at least two generations of their “Upper-Canadian” and Canadian descendants had been born. The Department of Indian Affairs acknowledged their obligations toward these people, as well as their authority over them, prior to the submission of the 1918 petition, which states that the Department “recognizes them as Indians, supervises them accordingly, and affords them the means of education extended to other Indians”.
The Department’s internal documents repeatedly refer to the collective members of the Canadian Branch as “wards of the Canadian government” and, in at least one instance, they are characterized as “in statu pupillari” (minors under the care of a guardian). When it became known to the Department that lawyers had contracted with individual Potawatomis to directly pay them their share of any annuity monies recovered, the Department and the Committee of the Privy Council were obligated to intervene. The Department acted to protect the financial interests of its wards and to collect any annuity monies paid out by the United States government so they could be added to “the trust funds of the Indians of the Dominion”.
By quoting the U.S. Secretary’s Report, Chisholm and the Department verify by implication that Wooster’s rolls are accurate and credible, at least with regard to the Canadian Branch. Indian Affairs officials in both countries were satisfied that Wooster’s rolls were “...as nearly correct and complete as it is practicable to make them…”. The rolls identified individual members of the Canadian Branch and their families, and formed the basis for calculating the total amount of annuity monies owed to the Band. Although the annuities were to be paid out in a lump sum by the United States government to the Canadian government, the Department of Indian Affairs expected to control them through “the trust funds of the Indians of the Dominion”, just as they controlled annuity monies of other Indians of the Dominion.
Although Wooster’s rolls were not initiated or compiled by Canada’s Department of Indian Affairs, it could be argued that the sections of it which name members of the Canadian Branch became the equivalent of a Departmental Band list when the 1918 petition was approved by the Department of Indian Affairs and by the Privy Council, for submission to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.
Those people who have been named on the Wooster and Chisholm lists as members of the Canadian Branch of the Potawatomis of Wisconsin should be deemed entitled to registration as Indians under Section 6(1) of the Indian Act. However, to date, the Department of Indian Affairs will not recognize the Indian status of descendents of those members if that status is based solely on these Potawaomi ancestors -- despite the fact that, well into the mid-1900s, the Department of Indian Affairs recognized and referred to these people as Canadian Indians under the care and authority of the federal government.
Sources: Indian Affairs Archival Documents (National Archives of Canada)
The following list of documents relate to the Potawatomi claim. (NOTE: I number the pages of large files so that I may more easily locate information. The page numbers supplied below may be of some help to researchers as well.)
1. Certified copy of a Report of the Committee of the Privy Council, approved by His Excellency the Governor General on the 20th March, 1911. pgs. 66-67 2. Certified copy of a Report of the Committee of the Privy Council, approved by His Excellency the Governor General on the 2nd December, 1911. pgs. 81-82 3. Petition from Andrew Gordon Chisholm to the Secretary of the Interior of the United States, on behalf of the Department of Indian Affairs and the Canadian Branch of the Potawatomis of Wisconsin, dated August 8th, 1918. pgs. 247-253 4. Certified copy of a Report of the Committee of the Privy Council, approved by His Excellency the Governor-General on the 18th October 1919, to the Superintendent General of Indian Affairs. pgs. 254-255 5. Letter to A.G. Chisholm, Barrister, from J.D. McLean, Assistant Deputy and Secretary, Indian Affairs, dated November 4th, 1919. pg. 256 6. Letter to the Secretary of the British Embassy, Washington D.C., from J.D. McLean, Deputy Superintendent General, Indian Affairs, dated November 4th, 1919. pg. 257 7. Excerpts from the Band list of the Potawatomis of Wisconsin, originally compiled by W.M. Wooster, 1907-1908, pgs. 15-44 8. List of members of the Canadian Branch of the Potawatomis of Wisconsin, compiled by Andrew Gordon Chisholm, 1919, last 60 pgs. of the file
Documents 1-7 can be found in:
Natonal Archives of Canada, RG10, Indian Affairs, Volume 2788, Reel C-11278, File: 156,610, Parts: 1, File Title: Headquarters — Correspondence, reports, petitions and memoranda regarding the Potawatomi claim against the United States government for annuity money owing under treaties (including the Chicago Treaty) between said government and the tribe at Wisconsin. They had sold a large quantity of land and were removed to an area west of the Mississippi River but as the land was not suitable had moved to Canada (List of names of Potawatomis in Canada and the United States). 1894-1919 No. of pages: 268
Document 8 can be found in:
National Archives of Canada, RG10, Indian Affairs, Volume 2789, Reel C-11278 and Reel C-11279, File: 156,610, Parts: 2, File Title: Potawatomi claim against the United States government — (List of parties claiming to be descendants of the Potawatomies of Wisconsin, residing in Canada, making contracts with A.G. Chisholm, London, Ontario).