January 10, 1855: The 1854 Treaty of La Pointe is ratified

On this day in 1855, the U.S. Congress ratified the 1854 Treaty of LaPointe, opening what is now the “Minnesota side” of Lake Superior to settlement by U.S. citizens. The city of Superior, Wisconsin, had been established the previous year following the announcement of government locks being built at Saulte Sainte Marie, which would connect Lake Superior to the lower great lakes and open the entire region to development. In 1854, representatives of the U.S. government met at La Pointe on Madeline Island with over 5,000 Ojibwe who had lost their livelihood with the demise of the fur trade. They negotiated a treaty that gave native lands north and west of Lake Superior to the United States. The agreement also created the Fond du Lac and Grand Portage reservations. The Ojibwe also received some cash and goods—firearms, kitchen utensils, household furniture, clothes, and hunting and trapping gear—and were provided with the services of a blacksmith. (In subsequent years even more Ojibwe land would be claimed by both general sales and the general Allotment Act of 1887, which reduced Ojibwe property in some areas by nearly sixty percent.) With the treaty signed, some Superior pioneers set their sites on the rocky slope across the bay and by 1856 they were platting the townsites that would one day become the city of Duluth.

A painting depicting the gathering on Madeline Island that negotiated the 1854 Treaty of La Pointe, artist unknown. (Image: Duluth Public Library)