They accordingly assembled, and, accompanied by the Indian agent and the interpreter, came to Fort Snelling to make their complaint. When they were all seated, (all on the floor but one, who looked most uncomfortable, mounted on a high chair), the agent introduced the subject, and it was discussed for a while; the Dahcotahs paying the most profound attention, although they could not understand a word of what was passing; and when there was a few moments’ silence, the chiefs rose each in his turn to protest against the Winnebagoes passing through their country. They all spoke sensibly and well; and when one finished, the others all intimated their approval by crying “Ho!” as a kind of chorus. After a while Shah-co-pee rose; his manner said “I am Sir Oracle.” He shook hands with the commanding officer, with the agent and interpreter, and then with some strangers who were visiting the fort.
His attitude was perfectly erect as he addressed the officer.
“We are the children of our great Father, the President of the United States; look upon us, for we are your children too. You are placed here to see that the Dahcotahs are protected, that their rights are not infringed upon.”
While the Indians cried Ho! ho! with great emphasis, Shah-co-pee shook hands all round again, and then resumed his place and speech.
“Once this country all belonged to the Dahcotahs. Where had the white man a place to call his own on our prairies? He could not even pass through our country without our permission!
“Our great Father has signified to us that he wants our lands. We have sold some of them to him, and we are content to do so, but he has promised to protect us, to be a friend to us, to take care of us as a father does of his children.
“When the white man wishes to visit us, we open the door of our country to him; we treat him with hospitality. He looks at our rocks, our river, our trees, and we do not disturb him. The Dahcotah and the white man are friends.
“But the Winnebagoes are not our friends, we suffered for them not long ago; our children wanted food; our wives were sick; they could not plant corn or gather the Indian potato. Many of our nation died; their bodies are now resting on their scaffolds. The night birds clap their wings as the winds howl over them!
“And we are told that our great Father will let the Winnebagoes make a path through our hunting grounds: they will subsist upon our game; every bird or animal they kill will be a loss to us.
“The Dahcotah’s lands are not free to others. If our great Father wishes to make any use of our lands, he should pay us. We object to the Winnebagoes passing through our country; but if it is too late to prevent this, then we demand a thousand dollars for every village they shall pass.”
Ho! cried the Indians again; and Shah-co-pee, after shaking hands once more, took his seat.
I doubt if you will ever get the thousand dollars a village, Shah-co-pee; but I like the spirit that induces you to demand it. May you live long to make speeches and beg bread—the unrivalled orator and most notorious beggar of the Dahcotahs!