The substance of a Talk held at Prairie du Chien, 22 June, 1832 by Gen. STREET, Indian Agent, with the SIOUX, who turned back after starting with Colonel Hamilton to join the army commanded by General Atkinson.
GEN. STREET- I wish to know why you have left the army? Heretofore, under the instructions of your Great Father, the President, I have endeavored to keep peace between all his red children. When your friends were killed by the Sacs and Foxes, I advised you not to revenge: your Great Father would see justice done. That all the Indians were alike under his protection; who, as the Father of all, desired to see them live in peace and harmony. The Sacs and Foxes had behaved bad (sic); they had killed several Indians of different nations; but the President was desirous to keep peace, and urged them to wait, and he would have justice done. H wished to show the Indians how much better and happier they would be if they could live in peace as brothers, than in a state of war, one revenging his friend today, and the other retaliating the next. This would be an endless war, where the nations could feel no security. Your Great Father wanted you to learn to seek justice and not revenge. When a murder was committed, to give up the murderer, and let him be punished as an example to deter other Indians from like offenses.
Your Great Father feels towards his red children as you feel towards yours. He does not want to kill, but reclaim them, and make them good. When they ever and are bad, he chastises them; and if they can be he will make them good. But when you revenge the innocent are more frequently killed than the guilty. You make no distinction between virtue and crime and good and bad. This is not right. And your father wants to save you from the horrors attending upon retaliation; unite you in love and restrain you from retaliation, or revenge.
This is the reason I was directed to restrain you from war, that he might interpose and bring about a lasting peace between all his red children. If that was once the case you would be much happier and in security. Now you are in danger when you lie down at night of being murdered before the morning or rising to see your families butchered around you. As yet, the unruly and vengeful passions of the Indians have defeated these humane intentions from effecting the desired object, and saving the effusion of blood amongst his red children. Still you Great Father has forborne to use force, until the Sacs and Foxes have dared to kill some of his white children. He will now forbear no longer. He has tried to reclaim them, and they grow worse. He is resolved to sweep them from the face of the earth. They shall no longer trouble his children. If they cannot be made good they must be killed. They are now separated from their friends and country and he does not intend to let one return to trouble him again. And he directed me no longer to restrain you from war. And I said go and be revenged of the murderers of your friends, if you wish it. If you desire revenge, you have permission to take it. I will furnish you arms, ammunition and provisions, and here is the man who is sent to conduct you to the enemy. Follow him. (Colonel Hamilton) and he will lead you to the murders of the Winnebagoes. the Minominies and the Sioux. With one accord you desired to go to war, and appeared bent on full satisfaction for your accumulated wrongs and injuries. You raised the war song and were borne on your way upon the bosom of the Father of waters, under the conduct of Colonel Hamilton. He led you into the country infested by Sacs and Foxes and when in striking distance of your enemy, you mangled the dead bodies of eleven Sacs killed by the warriors of your Great Father, the day before your arrival, and you turned about and came back to this place. You have neither seen or made an effort to see the Sacs and Foxes. After coming two or three hundred miles for revenge your murdered friends and relations and the murderers are before you, you turn and come home without striking a blow. Why is this. To me your conduct is strange. I cannot comprehend it and want you to explain the reasons that have influenced you to so disgraceful of course. Your own, and the reputation of your nation are at stake. Consider what you have done, and what you now ought to do, to redeem the honor of your tribe. Answer me truly; why have you returned and what do you intend to do?
The Sioux chief Lare, (a half Winnebago) said-
My Father. We had a little piece of land over there (pointing west of the Mississippi,) which we wanted to keep for hunting. But you gave us a great deal of trouble about it. We live by our Father there, (pointing to Mr. Rolette, the trader,) and he told us he wanted Rats, and not Scalps. The Sacs and Foxes would not let us hunt on this land, and killed our people. You told us to let them alone, and leave it to our Great Father, and he would settle the quarrel. We wanted to go to war, but you would not let us. and now the land is not ours, and what have we got for it?
The Sacs and Foxes have now begun to kill white people, and you say, go to war, and take your revenge. We came to do so, and you sent us with a little man, (Col. Hamilton) and said he will conduct you to a great Chief, who has many men, and some on horses; he will show you the Sacs and Foxes. We followed him a great way over large wagon roads that were very hard, and our moccasins are worn out, and our feet sore; we can walk no further. Yet we have seen but very few men and horses. The people were not there.- We saw desolated houses, and some places where houses had been burned, and white people killed and left, but no large body of people to help us fight. We were led to a fort (Fort Hamilton) where there were not many people, and we had served until we were tired-we did not want to go any further. We have seen no large army as you said we would.- The man (Col. Hamilton) whom you sent with us did not use us well, and we turned and came back to you.
Father. We saw a man with much beard, (Gen. Dodge) who had killed eleven Sacs-he is a brave man, and there are brave men along with him, but they are very few. The Sacs and Foxes have killed a great many white men, and are still killing them. More than a hundred have been killed already, and there are not many more.
Gen. Street. You have now answered the principal inquiry I made of you. What brought you back and do you mean to return? If you are tired, some can ride, as these white men (Cpts. Estes nd James) are going to take horses for Gen. Dodge. He will show you the large army I told you was on Rock River. You did not go far enough to see it. I know of all the white people that have been killed. Some person has told you lies about the numbers. This though makes no difference with your Great Father; he has a great many white children and when some are killed he sends more.
It was not that your Great Father wanted help from you, that I told you to go to war. It was to give you an opportunity to revenge your slaughtered friends. Your Father has penned these Indians up, and he means to kill them all; and had you remained you would have seen how his white children rush upon and kill their enemies. He does not ask you to help him; but if you want revenge go and take it. This is what I said to you. And now repeat-if you want to kill the murderers of your friends and families go now and do it; for your Great Father has devoted these Indians to death. He cannot reclaim, and he will kill them.
What I said, was to explain to you how you came to go down, and to remind you of your great anxiety to go against the Sacs and Foxes. I do not mean to take any notice of any part of what you have said, except what related to this business. I want a direct answer. What brought you back and what do you intend to do?
Lare. Our feet are sore, and our moccasins worn out; we want to see our families. We have come thus far, and I think we shall continue on home. Six of our people have remained with the little man (Col. H.), some went by Galena for our canoes, three of these who went to Galena have just arrived. They say the white people will not let them have the canoes and have detained the rest of the Indians.
Father. We want you to write to the white people to let our friends come back, and give us our canoes.
General Street. When I first sent to you, I thought you were men, and wanted to revenge your murdered friends. You had complained of the Sacs and Foxes murdering your friends and being prevented by me from retaliating, and I was willing to give you an opportunity to take your revenge. I gave you liberty to go, and showed you a man to conduct you. I put arms in your hands, and gave you provisions and ammunition, and you have gone within striking distance, and come back, and say you are on your way home.
Your stay is not true. These gentlemen who sent by me, are some of General Dodge's men, they were at the place when you arrived, and came down since you left. You were kindly treated, and provisions are plenty and were issued to you freely. They also add that you said you came to get new moccasins and would return in a few days. Your complaints are untrue-they are made to excuse your coming. You have not hearts to look at the Indians who murdered your friends and families. Go home to your squaws, and hoe corn- you are not fit to go to war. You have not courage to revenge your wrongs. Your Great Father knows how to right his wrongs, and is able to do it without your help. I gave you an opportunity to revenge yourselves, but you are afraid.
Yesterday one of you gave me his left hand and said-'my other hand is stained with the blood of the Sacs and Foxes.'- It was untrue; yours was a bloodless campaign. Some of you may have mangled the dead bodies of the Sacs killed by General Dodge and his brave men with him (who know how to kill Indians,) the day before you reached the army. You have not seen or endeavored to see a live Sac or Fox.
Your Great Father gives you some flour and pork to eat-you have no stomachs for war. Go home to your squaws and hoe corn, and never again trouble your Great Father with your anxiety to go to war.
Your canoes shall be returned. Leave here as soon as possible, and if any of you are found drunk, you will be put into confinement.
Note In justice to Mr. Rollette, the Trader alluded to by the Indians, he immediately explained to me, that he did use such language to the Indians; but it was several months previous, when he knew I was endeavoring to prevent the Indians from going to war.
JOS. M. STREET.