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DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,
OFFICE OF INDIAN AFFAIRS,
Washington, May 13, 1921. Mr. JAMES I. COFFEY,
Washington, D. C. MY DEAR MR. COFFEY: Referring to your communication of March 1, 1921, and to your personal visit yesterday relative to the matter of representation of Indians in the local council or councils of the White Earth Reservation, Minn., there is inclosed herewith a copy of a letter dated May 12, 1921, addressed to Mr. P. R. Wadsworth, supervisor in charge of the White Earth Agency, relative to this matter. Sincerely, yours,
Chas. H. BURKE, Commissioner. Mr. COFFEY. I have here a photostatic copy of a contract that we entered into with Mr. Ballinger in 1917 to prosecute a case that I spoke of Wednesday to restrain the Indian Office from expending the fund appropriated by Congress in à joint resolution.
The CHAIRMAN. You may put the contract in, but you do not want to put all these other papers in.
Mr. COFFEY. The contract provides that in case he does not win the case he was to get $1,000, and in case that he lost it he was to get a percentage of the amount of $180,000 that was appropriated.
The CHAIRMAN. You mean the reverse of that. You mean to state that if he lost the case he was to get $1,000, and if he won it 10 per cent of what he recovered.
Mr. COFFEY. That is what I intended to say. (The contract referred to is as follows:)
CONTRACT OF EMPLOYMENT.
This agreement made in triplicate at the village of Bemidji, State of Minnesota, witnesseth:
1. That the parties in interest are the Chippewa Indians of Minnesota, party of the first part, and Webster Ballinger, attorney at law, residing at the City of Washington, District of Columbia, party of the second part.
2. The authority under which this contract is entered into, its scope, and the reasons for exercising the same will appear from a certain resolution adopted by the executive committee of the General Council of the Chippewa Indians of Minnesota, an authenticated copy of which is hereto attached and made a part of this contract.
3. That the general, special, and particular purposes for which this contract is entered into are fully set out in said resolution of the executive committee of the General Council of the Chippewa Indians which is hereto attached and made a part of this contract.
4. The party of the second part agrees to faithfully and diligently prosecute said case to a final determination to the best of his ability.
5. In consideration for the services heretofore and hereafter to be rendered in said case commenced in the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia and entitled “John G. Morrison, jr., for and on behalf of himself and all other members of the Chippewa Tribe of Indians in Minnesota similarly situated, plaintiffs, v. Franklin K. Lane, Secretary of the Interior. Cato Sells, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and John Burke, Treasurer of the United States, defendants. Equity No. 33761," and in securing the payment of the decree when finally entered in said case by the party of the second part, the party of the first part agrees to pay the party of the second part out of the funds recovered a sum of money equal to the interest on said principal sum of $160,000 since the same was withdrawn from the trust funds of the Chippewas on the books of the Treasury of the United States and until the same is reimbursed to the Chippewas by the United States; and in the event said suit should be adversely decided to the Chippewas then and in that event the said Webster Ballinger shall receive out of the trust funds of the Chippewas on deposit in the Treasury of the United States the sum of $1,000 for moneys expended by him in defraying the expenses of said litigation,
6. This contract shall continue in full force for a period of five years from and after the date of its being signed by the parties hereto.
7. In testimony whereof we have hereunto set our hands and affixed our seals this 21st day of November, A. D. 1917. [SEAL.]
THE CHIPPEWAS OF MINNESOTA,
By JOHN G. MORRISON, Jr.,
Party of the first part. [SEAL.]
Party of the second part.
I, J. E. Harris, judge of the probate court within and for Beltrami County. Minn., do hereby certify that John G. Morrison, jr., for and on behalf of the Chippewa Indians of Minnesota, executed in my presence the foregoing contract; that the interested parties thereto, as stated to me by John G. Morrison, jr., are the Chippewa Indians of Minnesota and Webster Ballinger, and that the authority for making the contract and the execution of the same by John G. Morrison, jr., as representative of the Chippewa Indians of Minnesota is the resolution of the executive committee of the General Council of the Chippewa Indians of Minnesota, an authenticated copy of which is hereto attached and is made a part of the contract.
In testimony whereof I have hereunto affixed my signature as judge of said probate court and caused the seal of said court to be hereto attached this 21st day of November, A. I). 1917.
J. E. HARRIS,
Judge. I, Wendell Phillips Stafford, associate justice of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia, do hereby certify that Webster Ballinger, a member of the bar of the District of Columbia, executed in my presence the foregoing contract; that the interested parties thereto, as stated to me by Webster Ballinger are the Chippewa Indians of Minnesota and Webster Ballinger, and that the authority for making the contract and the execution thereof is the resolution of the executive committee of the General Council of the Chippewa Indians of Minnesota, an authenticated copy of which is hereto attached and is made a part of this contract.
In testimony whereof I have hereunto affixed my signature as associate justice of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia and caused the seal of said court to be hereto affixed, this 13th day of December, A. D. 1917.
WENDELL PHILLIPS STAFFORD, Associate Justice, Supreme Court, District of Columbia.
Mr. JEFFERIS. What is the date of that contract?
Mr. COFFEY. A specific job; yes. That is the only case. We have paid him. It is shown that he received under that act of March 21, 1917, the sum of $400.
Mr. BALLINGER. That is all in the record.
The CHAIRMAN, Outside of the contract I think those figures are in the record.
Mr. COFFEY. Since then we have not employed him. The Chippewa Indians of Minnesota have not employed him nor has he rendered any service for them. He has rendered service for people that have no interest in the trust funds of the Chippewa Indians of Minnesota, who, however, are on the roll and were put on the rolls through imposition of the Indian Office. Under the treaty of 1867 we ceded the Government 3,000,000 acres of land. It was provided by the council that they were to be taken off the rolls, but the Indian Office never took apy action on that. The Indians have contended for the last 60 or 70 years that they have no interest in the tribal property of the Chippewa Indians. They subscribed to the cession in 1889, but they had nothing to cede. What did they cede? What property did they have in Minnesota that they could cede? They are from Wisconsin, Michigan, and Canada. They have nothing in Minnesota that they could cede, but they were there for the simple reason that the Indian Office had them on our rolls. They went through the farce of making an investigation at one time and had a hearing in 1914. That was decided adversely to the Indians' contention on technical grounds, not because of justice and equity. The Indians do not accept that settlement until they get a just settlement on grounds of equity and what is right. I say they do not represent the Chippewa Indians at all, because I will tell you that certainly is not the general council of the Chippewa Indians of Minnesota. They really had that, but that does not make it so. They represent those fellows, those interlopers, about 1,100 or 1,200 of them in number and their council consisted of those people, but the Chippewa Indians of Minnesota had nothing to do with that council. They had a council of their own; 10,000 or 11,000 of them. Those fellows are only 1,000 or 1,100. They are trying to come down here and make you believe and to make the officials of the Indian Oflice believe, that they are representatives of the Chippewa Indians of Minnesota, but they are not. This man was up there in 1919 and witnessed a performance up their, which, if he was right, he would never have stood for it, if he was a representative of the Chippewa Indians of Minnesota. Those fellows were up there and Dickens pulled off fraud and undertook to override the Chippewa Indians of Minnesota.
The CHAIRMAN. Whom do you mean by those fellows?
Mr. COFFEY. Yes; Dickens was connected with the bureau. They had the sanction of the bureau. The point at issue was this: That the local council at White Earth—there are four local councils there-elected delegates. Every one of them was to elect delegates according to their population, and they did. It was agreed he was to go and undertake a survey of that work there on the White Earth and have them adjourn to June 17, and he was going to act in that controversy and try to settle it there. But, before it came to that, all these councils had been held and concluded their business, that phase of it, and the Indian agent went to work and called another council. There is no provision in our constitution that would authorize any such thing, as that. Our constitution provides to conduct those meetings in an orderly way. So they went to work and held a special meeting; that is what he calls it himself in his report. He does not call it a constitutional meeting by any means. It is a special meeting. He went to work and had a new chairman and a new organization altogether elected there, and they went ahead and overrode all the delegates that were elected under these constitutional local councils.
The Indians did not attend the special meeting, because they knew they had business on June 3, at the regular time, and they all believed it was another fraud being perpetrated by those mixed bloods that pretend to represent the general council and pretend to control it, and so it was; so it turned out to be. They were friends of this man, Dickens, who was agent at Red Lake, and these people had stores up at Red Lake and had been dealing with the Indians' money. I have letters in my possession, stating that there was fraud between Dickens and those merchants up there. For years they had been getting the Indians' complaints and they laughed at the absurdity of the Indians going to one of those stores to purchase goods, to find there awaiting him a check in his name against his account in the bank that he had never called for and didn't know how it came there, and which was presented to him to sign. Such things were pulled off up there by Dickens on the Red Lake Reservation. That is a matter of common knowledge and complaint. It is all over in Minnesota that way among the Indians. Dickens was removed from the White Earth Agency, but there is where he pulled this stuff off. Ben Fairbanks was interested in it at White Earth, where the agency is, and they were closely associated. It is plainly to be seen why this stuff was pulled off by Dickens, contrary to all law and order and the constitution. He held a meeting at Cass Lake and he took the chair there. It was my duty to take the chair, as I was president, but it was agreed with the commissioner that Dickens should hold a meeting in order to bring those parties together, and then proceed along the lines of the constitution and by-laws. There were two contending factions: Those that were orderly and regularly constituted by the local councils were there, and also the bunch that was irregularly elected or selected as general council.
The constitution provides that the committee on credentials shall seat the delegates. But this fellow Dickens said “ No; I have got the chair here. What I say will go. If anybody don't like it they can go out doors; there is the door." That thing was pulled off and there were about 100 people in the hall. There were 350 got up and walked out, all Chippewa Indians of Minnesota ; and 40 or 50 interlopers stayed there in the middle of the hall. It was a pitiful sight to watch them sitting on the roof there bunched in front of Dickers. We went to another hall, and we were settled and got into session in the regular order of things under the constitution. The president took the chair; every man there, every officer, took his place. The committee on credentials was appointed and the credentials were turned over to them. The convention took a recess at that time, I might say, and walked over where we just left. What did I see there? A bunch sitting there on the roof yelling the school yell: “We thank you, Dickens; we thank you, Dickens." A vote of thanks! A vote of thanks for that kind of stuff. That is on his record. He shows that in his report, and I say so.
Now, then, there are five local councils on the White Earth Reservation. What purpose are they for? These mixed bloods—when I say mixed bloods I refer to that gang of men, because there are lots of mixed bloods in Minnesota that have a right there the same as I, and those full bloods regarded them as their own certainly, but these other fellows they call mixed bloods; they do not call us mixed bloods by any means; they live around the White Earth village. There are 700 or 800 of them there. They have a local council there, and at that local council they elected 65 or 66 delegates who pretended to represent the Indians of the White Earth Reservation. They do not recognize the other delegates of the local councils. They elected their own delegates and went to their own council. They haven't got one man, an Indian, that comes from the other four local councils. That is the kind of council they have. It does not recognize the Chippewa Indians.
You need not take my statement for it. I have a sworn statement-affidavits; if you will let me submit them I would like to do it and get in the record those facts.
The CHAIRMAN. I do not want to make the record too extensive. You may put in one of them.
Mr. BALLINGER. Those are all matters of official reports in the department. Can not the official reports from the Secretary of the Interior be submitted instead of those affidavits?
Mr. COFFEY. This that I have has not been referred to the department because the department is lukewarm.
Mr. JEFFERIS. Who made the reports? Dickens?
Mr. COFFEY. Our vice president; the vice president of our general council and the president and the chiefs.
Mr. SWANK. How many of these affidavits have you? A great many ?
Mr. SEARS. Let me suggest that you put in one of these affidavits and then say there are also eight or nine similar affidavits signed by so and so, giving the names.
The CHAIRMAN. Yes.
Mr. COFFEY. Yes. Here is one by a chief, a full blood. They are all full bloods except one.
Mr. JEFFERIS. Are the affidavits to all intents and purposes to the same effect?
Mr. COFFEY. Yes.
Mr. COFFEY. I would like to file these three. They give a clear aspect of the situation.
The CHAIRMAN. If there is no objection, we will print the three. (The affidavits referred to are as follows:)
AFFIDAVIT OF WAH-WE-YEA-CUMIG.
STATE OF MINNESOTA,
County of Wah-we-yea-cumig, first being duly sworn according to law, deposes and says that he is one of the chiefs of the Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa Indians occupying the White Earth Indian Reservation in the State of Minnesota, and the number of persons in said Mille Lacs Band of Indians are 1,236, more or less, according to the census of said band of Indians; that the said Mille Lacs Band of Iudians have an organized local council and elect delegates on the first Tuesday of June each year to represent them and to attend the meetings of the council of the Chippewa Indians of Minnesota (Inc.) at the annual meetings of said council at Cass Lake, Minn., and elsewhere; that the incorporated council represents the full-blood Indians and their mixed-blood relatives having vested rights in the property of the Chippewa Ind’ans of Minnesota, as distinct from the council representing the John G. Morrison, jr., Benj. L. Fairbanks, and the Beaulieus and their relatives who do not represent any of the members of the said Mille Lacs Band of Chippewa Indians in the State of Minnesota ; that the said incorporated council is the council of which Benjamin Caswell is the president at this time. Deponent further saith not.
WAH-WE-YEA-CUMIG (his thumb mark). Witness:
GEO. W. EARTH.
Subscribed and sworn to before me, a notary public in and for said county and State, this 5th day of November, A. D. 1921.
HAROLD H. EMERSON,
Notary Public, Mahnomen County, Minn. My commission expires September 15, 1923.
AFFIDAVIT OF BENJAMIN CASWELL. STATE OF MINNESOTA,
County of Cass, 88: Benjamin Caswell, first being duly sworn according to law, deposes and says that he is the duly elected president of the Council of Chippewa Indians of Minnesota (Inc.) ; that the said council is incorporated under the provision of chapter 58 of the General Statutes of Minnesota of 1913 and acts amendatory thereof; that the incorporated council is the original General Council of the Chippewa Indians in the State of Minnesota, which was organized May 8 and 9, 1913, at Cass Lake, Minn., by the Chippewa Indians in the State of Minnesota ; that said incorporated council adopted a constitution and by-laws and said incorporated council is composed of the Chippewa Indians in the State of Minnesota located on the White Earth Indian Reservation and other ceded reservations as follows:
The Mille Lacs Band, of the White Earth Reservation.
That each of the said bands of Chippewa Indians named above have organized local councils as provided by the constitution of said incorporated council, which forms a constituent part of the Council of the Chippewa Indians of Minnesota (Inc.) and affiliate with the said incorporated council to represent said bands of Indians in their tribal affairs, as distinct from the council representing the John G. Morrison, jr., Benjamin L. Fairbanks, and the Beaulieus and their relatives, who do not represent any of the bands of Indians above ramed, further deponent saith not.
BENJAMIN CASWELL. Witness:
DANA V. WARDNER. Subscribed and sworn to before me, a notary public in and for said county and State, this 14th day of November, A. D. 1921.
DANA V. WARDNER,
Notary Public, Cass County, Minn. My commission expires September 29, 1925.