Indian Land Tenure Foundation (ILTF)

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The Chippewa tribe grant to the government of the United States the right to search for,                       

and carry away, any metals or minerals from any part of their country                       

"Treaty With the Chippewa," August 5, 1826                           

​In the 1800s The extraction of natural resources became an increasingly important financial motivation for US expansion. Lead mining became as profitable as the fur trade. The richest deposits of lead in the world lay in Missouri and in the Fever River region of Illinois and Wisconsin, and avaricious US miners overran these regions, creating frequent crises in US-Indian relations. Government officials such as Lewis Cass mounted expeditions to identify copper d​eposits around the Great Lakes on behalf of mining interests. In other places gold fields and salt became the targets of US aquisition. 

As westward expansion intensified, the forests of the Midwest and Pacific Northwest became seen less as an obstacle to farming and more as a potential source of profit. Mining and lumbering demonstrate the sea change in human relations to the natural world that US-Indian treaties brought about.

Detail: Great Seal of the State of Idaho

Before th​e colonialist era many Indigenous nations engaged in relatively low-impact mineral extraction. By the time the US reached the MIssissippi, French miners were more intensively extracting lead from the lands of the Sac and Fox, Iowa, Ho Chunk and Osage people. In 1819 mineralogist Henry Schoolcraft wrote A view of the Lead Mines of Missouri​, describing the potential for huge profits in lead mining along the Mississi​​ppi. His book kicked off the first "mineral rush" in US history. Thousands of US miners illegaly occupied the lead fields of Missiouri, Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin, antagonizing Indigenous nations. The treaties by which the US acquired Indigenous land in the miners' interests were often negotiated and signed by the miners themselves. Schoolcraft was appointed an Indian Agent by Le​wis Cass of Michigan Territory, and his focus switched from lead to copper deposits along the Great Lakes. These deposits became the object of targeted land acquisition treaties that were signed by representatives of copper mining companies.

In 1829 a rich gold deposit was discovered in the Cherokee nation in Georgia. Georgian settlers, already avid to acquire Cherokee land, pressed even more forcefully for Cherokee removal and helped motivate the passage of the Indian Removal Act the following year. With successive discoveries of gold in California, Oregon, and Idaho, the mineral rush pattern was repeated: illegal invasions by miners, followed by US military presence and land cession treaties. 


Some US Trea​ty Signers with interests in Mining:​

​​John Smith T.
Henry Dodge
Reuben Carlton
Henry Schoolcraft
Henry Gratiot
William Hempstead

Douglass Houghton
Chauncy Bush
John H. Kinzie
Robert P. Currin
Reuben Ottman
Henry Sibley


​See a treaty focused on lead mining:
Treaty with the Winnebago, etc. 1828

Treaty signer Henry Schoolcraft wrote A View of the Lead Mines of Missouri in 1819. The book kicked off the first big mineral rush in US history. Read it here.

To early pioneers who pursued a dream of an agrarian republic, forests were an obstacle to be cleared. Many of the men who became prominent in the settler colonies of the Midwest - and therefore helped negotiate US-Indian treaties - were the owners of sawmills. They converted the forests into building materials. In the great pine forests of Wisconsin, however, timber was transformed from an impediment to a profit center. Men who signed the removal treaties that transferred these rich timberlands to US control formed companies that acquired that timber and proccessed it for sale to the "irresistable tide of Anglo-Saxon immigration." But it was in the Pacific Northwest that the greatest profits from timber were realized. Lumbering wholly replaced the fur trade there as the great moneymaker that motivated the US acquisition of land.


Some US Treaty Signers with timber interests:​

Hercules Dousman
Joel Bassett

M. T. Simmons
Josiah P. Keller​