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Chouteau-Family

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Indian Land Tenure Foundation (ILTF)



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​A Chouteau/Clark Family Tree

After the Louisiana purchase, St. Louis became a focal point of the US fur trade, military presence, and treaty making. The fur trade was run by the powerful Chouteau family, who had founded St. Louis in the 1760s and survived multiple colonialist regime changes. When William Clark became the Superintendent of Indian Affairs - in charge of granting fur trade licences west of the Mississippi - the Chouteaus went into business with him. The Clark and Chouteau families cast a long shadow on US-Indian relations throughout the treaty making period. The following families are components of the Chouteau/Clark kinship group.

William Clark Family

William Clark rose to prominence as co-leader (with Merriwether Lewis) of the famous Corps of Discovery. His older brother, George Rogers Clark, was the leader of US forces on the western front in the Revolution. George signed some of the earliest US-indian treaties; William signed more treaties than any other US signer. Their sisters married prominent fur traders and politicians, and William Clark incorporated their children (his nephews) into the St. Louis Treaty-making machine.

​Clark's brothers-in-law, sons, step-son, and step-daughter's husband were also prolific treaty signers, and played prominent roles in US Indian affairs in the west. One example of the affect of these family relations is that a Clark nephew, John O'Fallon, became the richest man in St. Louis.

Pierre Chouteau

Pierre Chouteau, raised among the Osage to advance his family's fur trade interests, co-founded the St. Louis Fur Company with his brother August and William Clark in 1808. It was the continuation of a family dynasty in the fur trade. Pierre and another partner in the Company, Illinois Lt. Governor Pierre Menard, married sisters. Menard's daughter married William Clark's brother-in-law, supplementing their business connections with a family tie.

Among the many Chouteau relatives involved in the Chouteau business empire, Pierre's son, Pierre "Cadet" Choutreau Jr., assumed a controlling interest, directing profits along family lines and diversifying family holdings into real estate, railroads, and other enterprises. Cadet's daughter married his business associate, Indian agent John F. A. Sanford, an owner of Dred Scott.

Victoire Chouteau

Pierre's sister Victoire married Charles Gratiot, the main financial backer of George Rogers Clark's military expeditions in the Revolution. Their son Henry became a prominent lead miner. He married into the Hempstead family, which included Missouri's first US Representative, William Hempstead, and another Chouteau fur trading partner, Manuel Lisa. Charles and Victoire's daughter Emily married her cousin Pierre Chouteau, Jr. 

Chouteau Sisters

Two other Chouteau sisters also married prominent fur traders. US treaty signers included Marie Louise's son and Pelagie's son-in-law. Pelagie's granddaughter married Lewis Bogy, the US Commissioner of Indian Affairs.

Auguste Chouteau

In 1764, at the age of 14, ​Auguste Chouteau co-founded the city of St. Louis with his stepfather. Auguste was a full partner of William Clark, running the fur trade business while Clark handed out the business licenses, and negotiating scores of trade agreements and land cessions with Indigenous nations. Auguste also engaged his sons and in-laws in the treaty-making process. His sons-in-law the Paul brothers (from a slave owning family that fled Haiti during a slave revolt), and his grandson Gabriel Rene Paul, were interpreters at dozens of treaties.

Big Elk

Manuel Lisa, partner in the St. Louis Fur company, married into the powerful Chouteau/Clark kinship group. Before that marriage, however, he also started a family with Mitain, the daughter of powerful Umoho (Omaha) chief Big Elk. Big Elk's family illustrates the complexities of kinship ties that animated the fur trade and US-Indian relations.

Big Elk navigated a world in upheaval: colonialist regime change as the US reached the Missouri River; devastating epidemics; and constant warfare with the Seven Council Fires (Sioux). He did this in part by building relationships with US fur traders and neighboring Indigenous nations. Mitain's sister married trader Lucien Fontenelle. One of their sons was a US treaty signer, while another represented the Omaha at treaties. Another fur trader, Joseph Laflesche, and his Ponca wife, were the parents of Estamahza, who was adopted by Big Elk and became the last hereditary chief of the Omaha. Estamahza was married to the daughter of an Iowa woman and John Gale, a US soldier and doctor who signed 13 treaties.​

​46 SIGNERS WHO ACCOUNT FOR 259 SIGNATURES ON 84 TREATIES

George Atchison
Gabriel P. Cerre
Charles Chouteau
​Paul L. Chouteau
George R. H. Clark
John Emerson
Samuel Gwathmey
William Hempstead
James Kennerly
​Pierre Menard, Jr.
​​Gabriel Rene Paul
​John F. A. Sanford

​Henry Bainbridge
​Auguste Chouteau
​Edmond Chouteau
Pierre Chouteau
Meriwether Lewis Clark
Henry Fontenelle
​John Hay
John Honey
​Joseph LaFlesche​
Benjamin O’Fallon
​Gabriel Rivat Paul
​J. B. Sarpy

​Lewis Bogy
Augustine A. Chouteau
Gabriel S. Chouteau
Pierre Chouteau, Jr.
William Clark
John Gale
Charles S. Hempstead
Stephen Watts Kearny
Manuel Lisa
John O’Fallon
Rene Paul

​L. Paschal Cerre
​​A. P. Chouteau
Henry P. Chouteau
George Rogers Clark
​William P. Clark
Henry Gratiot
​Edward Hempstead
​George Kennerly
Pierre Menard
Alexander L. Papin
William Radford ​