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Half-Breed Scrip

and the Bleau dit Rossignals, 1864-1874  

 

Guiding Questions  •  Evidence & Interpretations  •  The Scrip Scam, 1864-71  •   Table 1  •  2  •  3  •  Bleaus in the Scrip Scam  •  Legit Scrip  •  Table 4  •   Documents  •  Interpretations  •  Conclusion  •  Next Chapter

 

   

Guiding Questions

 

What's the deal with "half-breed scrip" that the Bleau dit Rossignal family got, or tried to get, in the 1860s and 1870s?  What can we learn about Louis, Margaret, Bailey, and their family from this whole "half-breed scrip" business?

 

Evidence & Interpretations

    This is a complicated story, with two main parts. 

     The first part goes something like this:  From around 1864 to 1870, Marguerite Baldwin and other members of the Bleau dit Rossignal family, along with more than 700 other "half-breeds" of Pembina and the Red River Valley, became minor bit players in a scam cooked up by unscrupulous Indian agents, land speculators, and wealthy Saint Paul bankers, brokers, and financiers to defraud the federal government.  At the center of the controversy was the government's issuing of "half-breed scrip" in compliance with a treaty with the Chippewa Indians of Lake Superior and the Mississippi, concluded at La Pointe, Wisconsin, on September 30, 1854.  Thanks to the unvarnished greed of Indian agents, bankers, and other Euro-Americans, this whole La Pointe Treaty "half-breed scrip" affair ended up stinking of corruption and scandal.  (Portion of title page of the report of the congressional commission on Half-Breed Scrip, 1874; excerpts reproduced below; many thanks to Ruthanne Fresonke for pointing us to this source and for her comments on previous drafts of this essay, and to www.ojibwe.info for putting a copy of this 1874 text on the Web)

     Then, in 1873-1874, the Bleau dit Rossignal siblings had a second encounter with half-breed scrip -- this one entirely legitimate and legal.  This is the second part of the story.   The government issued this second batch of half-breed scrip to the Bleau dit Rossignal siblings in compliance with the Pembina Treaty of 1863-64 -- scrip to which they were legally entitled.

     "Half-breed scrip" was a peculiar legal creation that basically represented title to land.  Such land scrip wasn't supposed to be bought or sold, but in the first case (from the 1854 La Pointe Treaty), that's exactly what ended up happening.  The whole La Pointe scrip scam represents one more chapter in the long, complex, sordid history of the US government's fraud, corruption, and deceit in its dealings with Indian peoples. 

     The second batch of scrip (from the 1863-64 Pembina Treaty) represents something else -- mainly the legal savvy of the Bleau dit Rossignals in getting what was coming to them.

     Taken as a whole, this half-breed scrip episode reveals not only the corruption of the federal government and the avarice of white speculators and bankers, but the resourcefulness, resilience, and savvy of those whose lands the US government had stolen, including the Bleau dit Rossignals.

     We begin with the first batch of half-breed scrip -- the scrip scam -- from the La Pointe Treaty of 1854.

 

The Scrip Scam (1864-1871)

     In 1854, the US government signed a treaty with the Chippewa (Ojibwe) of Lake Superior and the Mississippi in which the latter relinquished tens of thousands of acres to the US government.  One of the treaty's provisions called for the US government to issue land "scrip" to Lake Superior Chippewa "mixed-bloods" or "half-breeds." 

     The basic purpose of the scrip, in the eyes of the federal government, was to "Christianize" and "civilize" the "half-breeds" and turn them into yeoman farmers, each the owner of a separate plot of land.  This was in keeping with the agrarian vision of Thomas Jefferson -- "Jeffersonian Democracy" -- which envisaged a "nation of farmers" as the cornerstone of an agrarian democracy.  (This was in contrast to Alexander Hamilton -- "Hamiltonian Democracy" -- which envisioned a far different, more urban future for the young Republic).

     Federal policymakers basically devised "half-breed scrip" as a kind of carrot, as a way to entice those of mixed Indian-European ancestry to abandon their "backward" Indian ways and adopt the ways of the superior "white civilization."  The other form of compensation for the millions of acres of land stolen in various treaties, in addition to "half-breed scrip," were "annuities" -- annual payments to various specified tribes and bands.

     A secondary purpose of "half-breed scrip" was to turn the public lands acquired through Indian treaties into private property that could be bought and sold on the marketplace.  This privatization of public lands was a top priority of the national government -- for one thing it brought in huge revenues via land sales and taxes.  It took place in a wide variety of ways, including the Homestead Act of 1862.  Overall, "half-breed scrip" was a small but nonetheless important part of the privatization of Minnesota public lands, even while its primary purpose was to "civilize" the "half-breeds."  (Sources:  John G. Rice article cited in the Conclusion, below, and a huge literature on this whole business of "civilization" versus "barbarism.")

     Yet another purpose, and effect, of "half-breed scrip" were to create the legal fiction that "half-breeds" were different from "full-blooded" Indians, and thus divide Indian peoples amongst themselves.  Those who refused to "civilize" would get annuity payments.  Those who agreed to "civilize" would get "half-breed scrip."  The interests of the two groups would diverge, and the power of each thus wane.  Eventually both would disappear.

     The culmination of all these strategies came in 1887 with the Dawes Severalty Act, an aggressive federal law intended to break up and privatize collectively-owned Indian lands -- a "mighty pulverizing engine to break up the tribal mass," in the words of President Theodore Roosevelt  (cited in Gary B. Nash, et al., The American People, NY: HarperCollins, 1994, p. 581).

     The government-appointed committee investigating the Chippewa scrip scam of the 1860s, however, ignored these larger purposes, focusing instead on the details of the scandal itself, beginning with the treaty's provision for the issuance of "half-breed scrip":

 

(Excerpt from Half-Breed Scrip, Chippewas of Lake Superior (1874), p. 4)

 

     "Half-breed scrip" was a document that typically took the following form:

(Excerpt from Half-Breed Scrip, 1874, p. 7)

 

     In May 1863 -- nine years after the La Pointe Treaty, one year after the Great Sioux Indian Uprising, at the height of the Civil War, and in the same year as the Pembina Treaty (see below) -- the government relaxed its definition of who was eligible to receive scrip from the 1854 La Pointe Treaty.  Residency requirements were loosened to include just about any Chippewa "half-breed."  Around the same time, thanks to the willingness of prominent St Paul bankers and brokerage houses to flout the law, "half-breed scrip" itself became a marketable commodity, bought and sold like anything else in the marketplace, despite explicit prohibitions against buying and selling it.  

     In other words, the floodgates were opened after 1863, and especially after 1867, when the federal government jettisoned its residency requirement, and all "half-breed" Chippewas from the Upper Midwest became eligible for Lake Superior Chippewa scrip.  The height of the scandal was in the immediate postwar years (1865-1870), when the nation's attention was riveted on Reconstruction in the South and stitching the Union back together again after the horrors of the Civil War.  Indian treaties in Minnesota were small potatoes, and Congress paid little attention until the early 1870, when the scandal had gotten out of hand.  In other words, the illegal scrip scheme unfolded for six or seven years before it was stopped around 1871. 

     Margaret and her family were affiliated with the Pembina Chippewa bands of the Red River Valley -- a region some 300 miles west of Lake Superior, and members of bands not covered by the 1854 La Pointe Treaty.  As we've seen, in the 1870s Margaret lived in Anoka and Hennepin Counties (Centerville and then Minneapolis).  On both residency and tribal affiliation requirements, she and other Bleau dit Rossignal family members were ineligible to receive La Pointe Treaty half-breed scrip, at least by the original terms of the treaty.  After the federal government changed the rules in 1863 they became eligible, white land speculators stepped in, and the whole process became mired in fraud and corruption.  (Photo:  Margaret Baldwin, or Kas-kas-ka-na-gee, circa 1862; courtesy of Jeane Morneau DeCoursey)

     The scheme itself was the brainchild of several ambitious and unscrupulous men and institutions -- including Indian agents (especially one Agent Webb), land speculators (especially Isaac Van Ettan of St Paul); notary public H. J. Donaldson (Donaldson's Department Store was huge in the Twin Cities when I was a kid -- is this where the Donaldson's got some of their money?); one Norman W. Kittson; and some of the "principal banks of Saint Paul," which very tactfully go unnamed in the report (even though by rights they should have been the primary targets of the investigation). 

     Over 700 Pembina Ojibwe "half-breeds," including at least nine or ten members of the Bleau dit Rossignal family, participated in the scheme.  Most all of the profits went to Webb, Van Ettan, Donaldson, Kittson, and other white men, and to the banks and brokerage houses, while most "half-breeds" ended up with nothing. 

      How did the scam work?  Here are some of the juiciest excerpts from the 1874 report:

(Excerpt from Half-Breed Scrip, 1874, p. 14)

 

(Excerpt from Half-Breed Scrip, 1874, p. 15)

 

     In their final report, the commissioners recommended abolishing the practice of issuing "half-breed scrip" altogether in subsequent treaties with Indians,

". . . the history of all half-breed scrip already proving that such Governmental bounty inevitably leads to fraud and corruption, and brings no help to the to the half-breeds." (emphases in the original, p. 16)

 

The Bleau dit Rossignals in the Scrip Scam

     No less revealing than the details of how the scam worked is the information the commission gathered on various individuals in the course of its investigation.  The Bleau dit Rossignals rarely appeared in official documents, so by our reckoning any extant document that sheds light on their lives and relationships to each other constitutes a valuable source.

     We have identified ten or eleven people whose mention in the final investigative report of 1874 proves useful in our efforts to understand more about the Bleau dit Rossignal, Bottineau, and Baldwin families.  Let's begin by listing these people and the pages on which they're mentioned:

 

Table 1:  Half-Breed Scrip Investigation (1874): 

Names and Page Numbers


Name

appears on page

1.  Baldwin, Margaret (Rasignole)

127, 135, 233, 251

2.  Blow, Antoine (Rasignole)

113, 166, 176, 218, 237, 248

3.  Blow, Jean-Baptiste (John B.)

113, 237, 248

4.  Blow, Jean-Baptiste (John Bte.)

176

5.  Blow, Margaret

113, 237

6.  Bottineau, Charles

113

7.  Bottineau, Jean-Baptiste

[many more than included here]

8.  Rasignole, Etienne

218

9.  Rasignole, Felix

219

10.  Rasignole, Jeandron

166, 219

11.  Rasignole, Louis

219

 

     What did the commission say about them?  The following table (Table 2) reproduces the complete text of each of these references.

(Note All of this information was gathered between May 4, 1871 (the date the commission of Neal, Crowell, Clark & Smith was established) and Sept 4, 1871 (the date they submitted their final report; see p. 14).  In other words, this information was gathered in the summer of 1871, though some of the events described go as far back as 1864.)

 

Table 2:  Half-Breed Scrip Investigation: 

Data on Individuals 

(Organized Alphabetically, then by Page Number)


Margaret Baldwin Antoine Blow John B. Blow John Bte. Blow Margaret Blow Charles Bottineau J. B. Bottineau Etienne Rasignole Felix Rasignole Jeandron Rasignole Louis Rasignole
127  135 233  251 113  166 176  237  248 113  237 248 176 113  237 113 --- 218 219 166  219 219

Page No.

Name

Source & Remarks

127 Baldwin, Margaret Schedule D.--Showing the applications upon which was issued to persons represented as mixed-bloods belonging to Chippewas of Lake Superior and entitled to scrip under treaty of September 30, 1854.  Name.  Baldwin, Margaret.  Residence.  Little Canada.  Evidence taken by the commission.  Was before marriage Margaret Rasignole; is about 48 years of age; was married September 30, 1854; connected with the Pembina Chippewas and not with the Lake Superior; came from Red River.  (See affidavit no. 8, Schedule D.)  [data from 1871]     back to top
135 Baldwin, Margaret The following are the names of some of the persons who sold (?) [sic] their scrip to Isaac Van Ettan, of St. Paul, with the amounts he paid for the same. . . . Margaret Baldwin.  Residence.  near Red Lake.  Amount.  $40.  [date unknown]     back to top
233 Baldwin, Margaret Department of the Interior, Office of Indian Affairs, November 12, 1864.  SIR:  I have to inform you that I have, by direction of the Secretary of the Interior, issued scrip for eighty acres each, to the following named half-breeds of the Chippewas of Lake Superior, under the provisions of the Treaty of 1854 with that tribe, viz: . . . no. 123.  Margaret Baldwin.     back to top
251 Baldwin, Margaret List of Chippewa half-breed scrip patented.--Continued.  Number of Scrip.  123 C.  Name of patentee.  Margaret Baldwin.  Subdivision.  S. ½ of S. E. ¼.  Section. 13.  Township. 10 S.  Range.  13 E..  Located at-- Stockton, California [sic].  Range and range number.  49.  Recorded.  Vol. 2.  Page 80.  Date of patent. May 10, 1869     back to top
113 Blow, Antoine Red Wood Minnesota.  Know Antoine Blow by the name of Rasignol; now lives on Minnesota River; he is about 45 years old and a mixed-blood of the Pembina band.-- P. Bottineau.     back to top
176 Blow, Antoine Schedule B.*--Being a list of the applications filed with the special commission, with the dates, names of attorneys, findings of the commission, and the evidence taken concerning each case. . . . No. 65.  Name of applicant.  Blow, Antoine.  Date.  April 1, 1865Residence.  Yellow Medicine, Minnesota.  Attorney.  E. M. Wilson.  Finding.  Rejected.  The evidence taken by the commission.  Same as Antoine Rasignole; saw his brother; is a mixed-blood of the Pembina Chippewas; is 46 years old; resides in the United States.--H. S. Neal.  (Appears to have had scrip under the treaty of La Pointe, 1854.)     back to top
237 Blow, Antoine Department of the Interior, Office of Indian Affairs.  May 25, 1865.  SIR:  I have to inform you that by direction of the Secretary of the Interior, I have issued scrip for eighty acres each, to certain mixed-bloods of the Chippewas of Lake Superior, treaty of 1854, at La Point, viz: . . . Issued May 4, 1865, letter D:  . . . No. 70.  Blow, Antoine.    back to top
248 Blow, Antoine List of Chippewa Half-Breed Scrip patented--Continued.   Number of scrip.  70 D.  Name of Patentee.  Blow, Antoine.  Subdivision.  E. ½ of N.E. ¼.   Section 10.  Township 54.  Range 24.  Located at--St. Cloud, Minn.  Range and range number.  42.   Recorded volume 2, page 189.  Date of patent.  Aug. 20, 1869.    back to top
113 Blow, John B. Holy Cross, Clay County, Minnesota.  The husband of Margaret known by the name of Rasignol.  Over 40 years of age and a mixed-blood of the Pembina band; has resided at Holy Cross, Minnesota, for 4 years past.-- J. B. Bottineau.     back to top
176 Blow, John Bte. Schedule B.--Being a list of the applications filed with the special commission, with the dates, names of attorneys, findings of the commission, and the evidence taken concerning each case. . . . No. 66Name of applicant.  Blow, John Bte.  Date.  May 9, 1871Residence.  Georgetown, Minn.  Attorney.  B. Beauprie.  Finding.  Rejected.  The evidence taken by the commission.  Same as Antoine [Rasignole; saw his brother; is a mixed-blood of the Pembina Chippewas]; is 40 years of age.--H. S. Neal.  (Appears to have had scrip under the treaty of La Pointe.)     back to top
237 Blow, John B. Department of the Interior, Office of Indian Affairs.  May 25, 1865.  SIR:  I have to inform you that by direction of the Secretary of the Interior, I have issued scrip for eighty acres each, to certain mixed-bloods of the Chippewas of Lake Superior, treaty of 1854, at La Point, viz: . . . Issued May 4, 1865, letter D:  . . . No. 69.  Blow, John B.     back to top
248 Blow, John B. List of Chippewa Half-Breed Scrip patented--Continued.   Number of scrip.  69 D.  Name of Patentee.  Blow, John B.  Subdivision.  S.W. ¼ of S.E. ¼ and S.E. ¼ of S.W. ¼.   Section 3.  Township 54.  Range 26.  Located at--Saint Cloud, Minn.  Range and range number.  20.   Recorded volume 2, page 167.  Date of patent.  Aug. 20, 1869.     back to top
113 Blow, Margaret Holy Cross, Clay County, Minnesota.  Known by the name of Rosegnole:  has resided at Holy Cross for about 4 years past, and a mixed-blood, but don't know of what bands.-- J. B. Bottineau.  The witness to this application resided at Pembina at date of application.     back to top
237 Blow, Margaret Department of the Interior, Office of Indian Affairs.  May 25, 1865.  SIR:  I have to inform you that by direction of the Secretary of the Interior, I have issued scrip for eighty acres each, to certain mixed-bloods of the Chippewas of Lake Superior, treaty of 1854, at La Point, viz: . . . Issued May 4, 1865, letter D  . . . No. 71.  Blow, Margaret.     back to top
113 Bottineau, Charles Hennepin County, Minnesota.  A son of Bazil Bottineau; about 30 years of age; of the Superior and Pembina bands; mixed-blood.-- J. B. Bottineau.  Never had any immediate connection with the Lake Superior Chippewa.     back to top
--- Bottineau, Jean-Baptiste [ Note:  J. B. (Jean-Baptiste) Bottineau appears as the source of personal information on many individuals, and was used as an informant by the commissioners in their investigation of this affair, along with his father Pierre (P.) Bottinea; see page on him and his daughter Marie Louise Bottineau Baldwin. --MJS ]     back to top
166 Rasignole, Antoine Schedule N.--List of Red Lake and Pembina applicants who were rejected because of having received scrip under treaty of 1854, &c--Continued.  No. 606Names.  Rasignole, Antoine.  Date. Jan. 6, 1869Residence. Rice Lake.  Attorney. W. H. Grant.  Findings.  Rejected.  The evidence taken by the commission.  Same as Antoine Blow; is a mixed-blood from Pembina Chippewas, and is 46 years of age; so informed by his brother.--H.S. Neal.  (Appears to have had scrip issued under the treaty of La Pointe, 1854.)     back to top 
218 Rasignole, Antoine Schedule B.--Being a list of the applications filed with the special commission, with the dates, names of attorneys, findings of the commission, and the evidence taken concerning each case. . . . No. 606.  Name of applicant:  Rasignole, Antoine.  Date:  Jan. 6, 1869Residence.  Rice Lake, Minn.  Attorney.  William H. Grant.  Finding.  Rejected.  The evidence taken by the commission.  Same as Antoine Blew; is a mixed-blood from Pembina Chippewa, and is 46 years of age; so informed by his brother.--H.S. Neal.  (Appears to have had scrip under the treaty of La Pointe, 1854.)     back to top
218 Rasignole, Etienne Schedule B.--Being a list of the applications filed with the special commission, with the dates, names of attorneys, findings of the commission, and the evidence taken concerning each case. . . . No. 605.  Name of applicant.  Rasignole, Etienne.  Date:  Jan. 2, 1869Residence.  Rice Lake, Minn.  Attorney.  William H. Grant.  Finding.  Rejected.  The evidence taken by the commission.  Stated to me he was 25 years of age.--H.S. Neal.     back to top
219 Rasignole, Felix Schedule B.--Being a list of the applications filed with the special commission, with the dates, names of attorneys, findings of the commission, and the evidence taken concerning each case. . . . No. 608.  Name of applicant:  Rasignole, Felix.  Date:  Dec. 30, 1868Residence.  Rice Lake, Minn.  Attorney.  William H. Grant.  Finding.  Rejected.  The evidence taken by the commission.  Is brother of Austine [sic] and is 24 years of age; so informed by his brother.--H.S. Neal.     back to top
166 Rasignole, Jeandron Schedule N.--List of Red Lake and Pembina applicants who were rejected because of having received scrip under treaty of 1854, &c--Continued.   No. 607Names. Rasignole, Jeandron.  Date. Jan. 6, 1869 Residence. Rice Lake.  Attorney. Dana White.  Findings. Rejected.  The evidence taken by the commission.  Same as John Bte. Blow, brother of the above [Antoine Rasignole]; 40 years of age; same person as applied for scrip under the La Pointe treaty.--P. Bottineau.  (Appears to have had scrip issued under the treaty of La Pointe, 1854.)     back to top
219 Rasignole, Jeandron Schedule B.--Being a list of the applications filed with the special commission, with the dates, names of attorneys, findings of the commission, and the evidence taken concerning each case. . . . No. 607.  Name of applicant.  Rasignole, Jeandron.  Date.  Jan. 6, 1869Residence.  Rice Lake, Minn.  Attorney.  Dana White.  Finding.  Rejected.  The evidence taken by the commission.  Same as John Bte. Blew, brother of the above [Antoine Rasignole]; 40 years of age.  Same person as applied for scrip under the La Pointe treaty.--P. Bottineau.  (Appears to have had scrip issued under the treaty of La Pointe, 1854.)     back to top
219 Rasignole, Louis

Schedule B.--Being a list of the applications filed with the special commission, with the dates, names of attorneys, findings of the commission, and the evidence taken concerning each case. . . . No. 609.  Name of applicant.  Rasignole, Louis.  Date.  Jan. 2, 1869Residence.  Rice Lake, Minn.  Attorney:  William H. Grant.  Finding.  Rejected.  The evidence taken by the commission.  Is brother of above [Felix Rasignole], and is 22 years of age; so informed by his brother.--H.S. Neal.     back to top


* Note:  Schedule B evidently refers to applications made under the Pembina Treaty of 1863, as seen on p. 171, for example, where remarks for application no. 16 (Louis Amlin) note that the applicant was "found to be entitled as a beneficiary under this (1863) treaty" yet also note that his application was rejected.  Legitimate applications under the 1863 treaty were evidently rejected if the commission found that the applicant had previously and illegitimately received scrip under the 1854 treaty.

 

     Let's organize this data a different way:  by the date of each transaction or event, beginning with the earliest.  Let's also briefly note the results of each event; and while we're at it, let's spell people's names correctly:

 

Table 3:  Half-Breed Scrip Investigation: 

Chronology, People, and Events


Date

Name

Result of Transaction or Event

Nov 12, 1864

Margaret Baldwin Issued scrip #123 for 80 acres  (LP)*

May 4, 1865

Jean-Baptiste Bleau dit R. (#1)** Scrip issued May 1865  (LP)

May 4, 1865

Margaret Bourdon Bleau dit R. Scrip issued #71 for 80 acres  (LP)

May 4, 1865

Antoine Bleau dit R. Scrip issued #70 for 80 acres  (LP)

Dec 30, 1868

Felix Bleau dit R. Scrip app. #608 (rejected 1871 - PRL)

Jan 2, 1869

Etienne Bleau dit R. Scrip application #605 (  "    "    " )

Jan 2, 1869

Louis Bleau dit R. Scrip application #609 (  "    "    " )

Jan 6, 1869

Antoine Bleau dit R. Scrip application #606 (  "    "    " )

Jan 6, 1869

Jeandron Bleau dit R. Scrip application #607 (  "    "    " )

May 10, 1869

Margaret Baldwin Scrip patented in Stockton, CA  (LP?)

Aug 20, 1869

Antoine Bleau dit R. Scrip patented in St Cloud MN  (LP)

Aug 20, 1869

Jean-Baptiste Bleau dit R. (#1) Scrip patented in St Cloud MN  (LP)

1870?

Margaret Baldwin Sold scrip to Van Etten for $40  (PRL)

May 9, 1871

John-Baptiste Bleau dit R. (#2) Scrip application #66 (rejected - PRL)

* LP = Under the La Pointe Treaty of 1854.   PRL = Under the Pembina & Red Lake Treaty of 1863-64.

**  The information provided indicates that Jean-Baptiste #1 (pp. 113, 237, 248) was over 40 years old and the husband of Margaret Blow, and that Jean-Baptiste #2 (p. 176) was around 40 years old and the son of Margaret Blow; further discussion below.

 

Interpretation of the Data

     Several intriguing patterns emerge from these data.  Let's explore these for each individual, beginning with the matriarch of this family,

 

Margaret Blow 

     Very probably Marguerite Bourdon Bleau dit Rossignal, born around 1805 and the mother of Margaret Baldwin (Kas-kas-ka-na-gee) all the rest of the Bleau dit Rossignal siblings.  The surnames "Blow" and "Rosegnole" together in the same reference (p. 113) would seem to prove her identity.  Information provided by Pierre Bottineau indicated that by 1871 she had lived for the past four or so years with her husband Jean-Baptiste Bleau (John B. Blow) in Holy Cross, Clay County, MN (at the southern reaches of the Red River of the North, in the same county as Moorhead, MN).  This does not accord with data in the 1870 census, which show her living with her son, Aiken, near Sauk Rapids in Benton County, MN. 

     Perhaps Pierre Bottineau got his information wrong.  Her (first) husband, Antoine Bleau dit Rossignal, was not listed here (the Antoine that is listed was her son, b. 1827).  Or, perhaps people moved around a lot more than we'd realized.

     Or, perhaps Pierre Bottineau feigned ignorance ("a mixed-blood, but don't know of what bands") because she was part of his extended family.  Pierre Bottineau knew most everyone -- including the Bleau dit Rossignals, because his brother Basil had married one.  Surely he knew that Margaret Bourdon Bleau dit Rossignal was Pembina Ojibwe and not Lake Superior Ojibwe.  Maybe he lied so she would get to keep her scrip and her land.  Maybe he considered it "bad medicine" to squeal to the authorities about members of his extended family. 

     So it's unclear exactly what was going on here.  Another point of confusion is the identity of "John B. Blow."  If he were Margaret's second husband, why did he carry her surname?    When, exactly, did she stop being married to Antoine?  When did she marry Jean-Baptiste?  Was Jean-Baptiste the brother of her late husband Antoine?  The data pose many puzzles.

     What about her land transactions?  It appears that she did receive scrip, and early, at Civil War's end in May 1865.  Evidently she kept it, sold it, or otherwise profited from it.  In other words, she apparently succeeded.

 

Margaret Baldwin  

     Our Marguerite Bleau dit Rossignal Bottineau Baldwin (b. 1823), or Kas-kas-ka-na-gee, wife of Bailey T. Baldwin.  The information gathered by the commissioners in summer 1871 had her living in Little Canada (which is pretty close to Centerville, Anoka County, her residence in the 1870 census); about 48 years of age (putting her year of birth at 1823, which jibes exactly with what we know); married on Sept 30, 1854 (three years off); and originally from the Red River area and connected with the Pembina Chippewas (which also accords with what we know).    (Photo:  Kas-kas-ka-na-gee in 1862, courtesy of Jeane Morneau DeCoursey)

     What about her land transactions?  She evidently succeeded, too, along with her mother.  In fact she was the first family member to become involved in the scheme, in November 1864.  This was during the Civil War.  By this time, Bailey had been home -- bedridden, injured, and blind -- for almost two full years.  Those two years trying to run the farm in Anoka County while also tending to her disabled husband and caring for her three small children (Lucy, William, & Mary) probably got her fertile mind racing on how to earn some extra income.  It seems likely that she was the first to hear about the scheme, and was a kind of trailblazer for the rest of the family. 

     The report says she received $40 for her participation in the scam.  If she actually did get the money, there's little doubt it came in handy, what with Bailey's incapacity and all the mouths she had to feed, including our great-grandmother Jennie Lang (age 15 in 1871).

     Margaret Baldwin also has the most curious of data associated with her name:  in May 1869 she had scrip patented in Stockton, California!  (To "patent" the scrip was to secure title to the lands it described.)  California??  Was this a very clever scheme layered atop the garden-variety "half-breed scrip" scam?   It is true that lands patented in other states occasionally appear in these listings, though it is not known why.

    In any event, the evidence here strongly suggests that Margaret Baldwin was the family pioneer in the effort to acquire La Pointe Treaty "half-breed scrip," and that she was unusually canny and shrewd in dealing with federal government agencies with regard to scrip.

 

Antoine Blow (Antoine Rasignole) 

     Very probably Antoine Bleau dit Rossignal (b. 1827), younger brother of Margaret Baldwin, father of Charlotte Blue and the other Blue siblings.  Says he was 46 years old (in 1871), meaning he was born around 1825, two years earlier than other evidence indicates, but close enough.

     Antoine apparently had mixed success with half-breed scrip.  From the listings above we see the following sequence of events:  (1) May 1865:  issued scrip for 80 acres, presumably from the La Pointe Treaty.  (2) Jan 1869:  makes a scrip application, presumably for the Pembina Treaty of 1863; ends up rejected.  (3) Aug 1869:  scrip patented in St Cloud MN, presumably from the La Pointe Treaty.  From this it looks like ended up gaining title to 80 acres under the La Pointe Treaty (1854), but had a second application under the Pembina Treaty (1863-64) rejected precisely because of the scrip he had received under the La Pointe Treaty.

 

Charles Bottineau   

     Charles Mijigisi Bottineau, son of Marguerite Bleau dit Rossignal and her first husband Basil Bottineau.  The report has him living in Hennepin County, MN in 1871, and "about 30 years of age," putting his birth around the year 1841 (Debra McCann's website says 1838, which accords with other evidence).  Apparently had his scrip application rejected (why else would he appear here?), but it doesn't explicitly say so.

 

John B. Blow 

     Jean-Baptiste Bleau dit Rossignal.  Reference on p. 113 ("Holy Cross, Clay County, Minnesota.  The husband of Margaret known by the name of Rasignol.  Over 40 years of age and a mixed-blood of the Pembina band; has resided at Holy Cross, Minnesota, for 4 years past.")  This suggests that there were two Jean-Baptiste Bleaus:  the one named here, over 40 and the husband of Margaret Bourdon Bleau dit Rossignal; and the other, 40 years old and Margaret's son.  Apparently he was issued scrip under the 1854 La Pointe Treaty, but then was rejected in his application for scrip under the 1863-64 Pembina Treaty.

 

John Bte. Blow

     Jean-Baptiste Bleau dit Rossignal. "40 years old," resident of Georgetown, MN, and evidently the brother of Antoine Rosignole (p. 176).  Who is this guy?  Is he yet another Bleau dit Rossignal sibling?  Never heard of him!  Maybe he's the same person as the "John B. Blow," above (pp. 113, 237, 248), but we doubt it.  The data suggest these were two different people.  Maybe this was actually Antoine and he lied about his name.  In either case, in 1871 this "John Bte. Blow" had his application under the Pembina Treaty rejected, though he apparently did receive scrip under the La Pointe Treaty. 

 

Jeandron Rasignole  

     Jeandron Bleau dit Rossignal Proof that this guy existed and was one of the Bleau dit Rossignal brothers.  Report says he was 40 years old (in 1871), making his birth year around 1831, which fits perfectly into the big gap in the Bleau dit Rossignal siblings.  Remember that "Jeandron Rossignal" was identified in the Pembina Annuity Rolls, listed in 1868 as belonging to "Way ke ge ke zhick's band"?  This is the same guy.  Came into the scam late in the game, and had his application rejected, the same as his brothers Etienne, Felix, and Louis, below.

 

Etienne Rasignole  

     Etienne Bleau dit Rossignal, or Stephen Blue.  Report says he was 25 years old (in 1871), meaning he was born in 1846, which fits perfectly with the other stuff we know about him (collected here).

 

Felix Rasignole 

     Felix Bleau dit Rossignal.  Our Felix, brother of Aiken, Etienne, and the other Bleau dit Rossignal siblings.  Says he was 24 years old (in 1871), meaning he was born in 1847, which is almost exactly right (1850 census says he was born in 1848).  Living in Rice Lake with brother Louis / Aiken.  But which Rice Lake?  There's at least a dozen of them scattered across Minnesota.  Anyway it's definitely our Felix.

 

Louis Rasignole  

     Louis Bleau dit Rossignal This has got to be Nellie's second husband.  Says he was 22 years old (in 1871), meaning he was born in 1849, which is probably a bit early, but close enough. Also says he was residing in Rice Lake, MN, along with his brother Felix.  Besides which, his older brother Etienne is also listed here, demonstrating that Etienne and Louis were two different people.  Yahoo!

 

Jean-Baptiste Bottineau 

     Minneapolis lawyer; used as an informant by the commission.  He obviously knew a lot of people, and was held in very high regard by the commissioners, as they trusted his word and knowledge about people in dozens of individual cases.


     So that's mainly what we learn about the Bleau dit Rossignals' involvement in the La Point Treaty half-breed scrip scam of the late 1860s.  But that's only half the story.

 

Legit Scrip and the Bleau dit Rossignals

     The second half of the story has to do with scrip to which the Bleau dit Rossignal siblings were legally entitled as legitimate "half-breeds" covered in the Pembina & Red Lake Treaties of 1863-64.  From the Pembina Treaty Margaret Baldwin and her siblings received at least five allotments of scrip from the federal government in 1873-74.  Again, this was scrip to which they were legally entitled by law.

     The following table summarizes the allotments of Pembina "half-breed scrip" that the Bleau dit Rossignal siblings received in 1873-74:

 

Table 4

Summary of Scrip Received by the Bleau dit Rossignals in 1873-74

from the Pembina Treaty of 1863-64


Felix Rasignole Issued 160 acres March 1873.  Scrip No. 143.
Louis Rasignole Issued 160 acres March 1873.  Scrip No. 144.
Margaret Rasignol Issued 3 allotments of 160 acres each:  (1) March 1873, Scrip No. 145.  (2) April 1874, Scrip No. 373.  (3). April 1874, Scrip No. 351.  Total:  480 acres. 
Etienne Rasignole Issued 160 acres March 1873.  Scrip No. 146.

 

     From this evidence it appears that Margaret Rossignal legitimately received 480 acres worth of "half-breed scrip" from the Pembina Treaty.  Add to this the 80 acres she evidently received in the scrip scam, and she appears to have gotten 560 acres worth of scrip altogether.

     The other very useful bit of data here concerns Louis Rasignole, whom we are 99% certain is our Louis Bleau, Nellie's husband from the early 1870s until his tragic death on December 26, 1874.  We see him listed twice in these documents, both times as "Louis."  This is the latest reference we have for him before his death.

     Let's now turn to the documents.

 

The Documents

     We begin with (1) the documentary evidence on the illegal "half-breed scrip" scam.  Then we turn to (2) evidence showing the Bleau dit Rossignals' legal acquisition of scrip from the Pembina Treaty. 

 

1.   Selected Portions of the 1874 Half-Breed Scrip Commission Report

The first 20 pages of this report provide a good summary of how the scandal unfolded (from www.ojibwe.info/scrip/LakeSuperior/).

title page

p. 2

p. 4

p. 5

p. 6

p. 7

p. 8


p. 9

p. 10

p. 11

p. 12

p. 13

p. 14

p. 15


p. 16

p. 17

p. 18

p. 19

p. 20

(Following pages:  individual names in lists, some with comments)

p. 113


p. 127

p. 135

p. 166

p. 176

p. 218

p. 219

p. 233


p. 237

p. 248

p. 251 

       

             
             

 

2.  The Bleau dit Rossignals' Legitimate Receipt of Half-Breed Scrip from the 1863-64 Pembina & Red Lake Treaties

     The Pembina & Red Lake Treaty of 1863-64 applied to the Bleau dit Rossignal siblings, who were considered "half-breeds" who legitimately qualified for scrip under the terms of the treaty.  In March 1873, Felix, Louis, Margaret, and Etienne Rasignole each received 160 acres in scrip.  Their scrip numbers were sequential:  Felix (143), Louis (144), Margaret (145), Etienne (146). 

     We don't yet know whether this receipt of scrip translated into actual ownership of land.  Perhaps in some cases it did.  Bailey T. Baldwin was a shrewd salesman and trader, as was his wife Margaret.  Bailey once listed his occupation as "real estate," while Margaret had been dealing with scrip for at least a decade (since her application of 1864, above).  Maybe Louis or Felix sold their scrip for cash, but Etienne and Margaret might well have turned it into actual real estate.

     In this section we include:   (A).  The full text of the Red Lake & Pembina Treaty of 1863-64, accompanied by a narrative by Minnesota Governor Alexander Ramsey describing the negotiations leading to the treaty.  (B).  Summaries of records from the National Archives on these scrip transactions, published online at www.maquah.net.   (C).  Digital copies of the original scrip records from this treaty, from the same source.

 

Documents Relating to the 1863-64 Pembina Treaty

     In the box below are reproduced three documents relating to this 1863 Pembina Treaty:  (1) the text of the 1863 treaty, (2) the text of the 1864 amendment to the treaty, and (3) a narrative description of the treaty-making process by Alexander Ramsey, the U.S. government's chief negotiator with the Pembina Chippewa and twice governor of Minnesota (First Territorial Governor, June 1849-May 1853, and second State Governor, January 1860-July 1863).


Pembina Treaty Scrip Issued to the Bleau dit Rossignals in 1873-74

     Here we summarize the "half-breed scrip" issued to the Bleau dit Rossignals in 1873-74 in compliance with Article VII of the April 12, 1864 Amendment to the "Old Crossing Treaty" between the US Government and the Red Lake and Pembina bands of the Chippewa.

(Hearty thanks to Maquah.net for posting this data on the Web; source:  www.maquah.net/Historical/Scrip/list.html)


(a)  Felix Rasignole   Issued 160 acres March 1873.  Scrip No. 143.

[R.L. Scrip #143]  National Archives, RG 75, Entry 363, "List of Persons to Whom Scrip was Issued under Red Lake & Pembina Treaties...." Halfbreed Scrip No. 143 issued March 14, 1873, under the authority of Secretarial Decision, March 8, 1873, delivered March 15, 1873 National Archives, RG 75, Entry 364, "Treaty of April 12, 1864, Red Lake and Pembina Half-Breeds," Scrip Stubs, Number 143 [checked], dated March 14th, 1873, 160 Acres, delivered March 15th, 1873, issued to Felix Rasignole, delivered to Agent E.P. Smith


(b)  Louis Rasignole   Issued 160 acres March 1873.  Scrip No. 144.

[R.L. Scrip #144]  National Archives, RG 75, Entry 363, "List of Persons to Whom Scrip was Issued under Red Lake & Pembina Treaties...." Halfbreed Scrip No. 144 issued March 14, 1873, under the authority of Secretarial Decision, March 8, 1873, delivered March 15, 1873 National Archives, RG 75, Entry 364, "Treaty of April 12, 1864, Red Lake and Pembina Half-Breeds," Scrip Stubs, Number 144 [checked], dated March 14th, 1873, 160 Acres, delivered March 15th, 1873, issued to Louis Rasignole, delivered to Agt. E.P. Smith

(c)  Margaret Rasignol  Issued 320 Acres March 1873, April 1874.  Scrip nos. 145, 373.

(abt.1823 - March 31, 1900) [VRA #12s] [R.L. Scrip #351/heir].  Rasignol, Margaret [R.L. Scrip #145/heir & 373/heir].  Blue, Margaret (abt.1823 - March 31, 1900) [VRA #12s].  Bottineau, Margaret (abt.1823 - March 31, 1900) [VRA #12s].  Baldwin, Margaret (abt.1823 - March 31, 1900) [VRA #12s].  Blow, Margaret [R.L. Scrip] [Virginia Rogers, Ah-Dick Songab Genealogy, #12s], she was Original Allottee 3304 (WE-3304) on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota. National Archives, RG 75, Entry 363, "List of Persons to Whom Scrip was Issued under Red Lake & Pembina Treaties...." Halfbreed Scrip No. 351 issued April 21, 1874, under the authority of Secretarial Decision, April 18, 1874, delivered April 21, 1874 [notation: heir of Blow, Antoine Sr."]; Halfbreed Scrip No. 145 issued to Margaret Rasignole, heir of Augustin, March 14, 1873, under the authority of Secretarial Decision, March 8, 1873, delivered March 15, 1873; and Halfbreed Scrip No. 373 issued to Margaret Rasignole, heir of Joseph, on April 21, 1874, under the authority of Secretarial Decision, April 18, 1974, delivered April 21, 1874 National Archives, RG 75, Entry 364, "Treaty of April 12, 1864, Red Lake and Pembina Half-Breeds," Scrip Stubs, Number 145 [checked], dated March 14th, 1873, 160 Acres, delivered March 15th, 1873, issued to "Margaret Rasignole, heir of Augustin Rasignole," delivered to Agt. E.P. Smith wife of, #1: Bottineau, Basil (abt.1820) [VRA #12], son of Bottineau, Charles [VRA] and Ah-dick-Songab, Margaret [VRA] issue: Bottineau, Charles (abt.1838) [VRA #95] wife of, #2: Baldwin, Bailey T. [VRA #12s]

(d)  Etienne Rasignole   Issued 160 acres March 1873.  Scrip No. 146.

[R.L. Scrip #146].  National Archives, RG 75, Entry 363, "List of Persons to Whom Scrip was Issued under Red Lake & Pembina Treaties...." Halfbreed Scrip No. 146 issued March 14, 1873, under the authority of Secretarial Decision, March 8, 1873, delivered March 15, 1873 National Archives, RG 75, Entry 364, "Treaty of April 12, 1864, Red Lake and Pembina Half-Breeds," Scrip Stubs, Number 146 [checked], dated March 14th, 1873, 160 Acres, delivered March 15th, 1873, issued to Etienne Rasignole, delivered to Agt. E.P. Smith.

(e)  Antoine Blow Sr.   Legacy of 160 Acres to Daughter Margaret Baldwin.  April 1874.  Scrip No. 351  (included in (c) above).

PLOUFFE, Antoine (1806) [1850 U.S.].  Pluf, Nam toine [*1865].  Pluf, Antoine [1868].  Blow, Antoine Sr. [R.L. Scrip #351/estate].  Minnesota Territorial Census, Pembina County, 1850: 88/88.  Born Red River British.  Occupation:  Hunter.  Lake Superior Halfbreed Scrip:  Blow, Antoine; Aug. 20, 1869 - St. Cloud, Minn.

Pembina Annuity Roll.  Member Ais ance's Band, 1865: 22; counted as 1 man, 1 woman, 5 children, $35 paid.  Member Way ke ge ke zhick's Band, 1868:  213; counted as 1 man, 1 woman, 7 children, $27 paid.  National Archives, RG 75, Entry 363, "List of Persons to Whom Scrip was Issued under Red Lake & Pembina Treaties...." Halfbreed Scrip No. 351 issued April 21, 1874, under the authority of Secretarial Decision, April 18, 1874, delivered April 21, 1874 [issued to Blow, Margaret as his heir] National Archives, RG 75, Entry 364, "Treaty of April 12, 1864, Red Lake and Pembina Half-Breeds," Scrip Stubs, Number 351, dated April 21, 1874, 160 Acres, delivered April 21, 1874, issued to "Margaret Blow, heir of Antoine, Sr.," delivered to Agt. Douglass husband of: Plouffe, Archange (1815) born: Pembina.  Issue:  Plouffe, Catherin (1834), born: Red River Br.  Plouffe, Gabriel (1837) born: Pembina.  Plouffe, Magdalan (1839) born: Pembina.  Plouffe, Baptiste (1844) born: Pembina.  Plouffe, Pierre (1846) born: Pembina.  Plouffe, Xavier (1850) born: Pembina

[Interpretive note:  This latter information on "Archange Plouffe" and the various "Plouffe" children evidently belongs with another record, as none of these children were "issue" of Margaret Baldwin, or her father, or her sisters, or anyone else in the Bleau dit Rossignal family.  The governmental investigative committee concluded that many of the records for half-breed scrip were flawed, with unrelated and even dead people sometimes listed as scrip recipients.  In other words, we wouldn't put too much stock in this latter list of names, as it probably belongs with another record altogether.

[Interestingly, however, this man's headman -- Way ke ge ke zhick -- is the same headman associated with Jeandron Rossignal in 1868, and Etienne Blue in 1889.

Digital Images of Original Records of Pembina Treaty Half-Breed Scrip Issued to the Bleau dit Rossignals in 1873

 

Digital image of title on cover of "List of Persons To Whom Scrip Was Issued Under Red Lake & Pembina Treaties of October 31, 1863 & April 12, 1864", from http://www.maquah.net/Historical/Scrip/

 

  

Pages for the letters "B" and "R," in "List of Persons To Whom Scrip Was Issued Under Red Lake & Pembina Treaties of October 31, 1863 & April 12, 1864," from http://www.maquah.net/Historical/Scrip/   Many thanks to Maquah.net for publishing these documents on the Web

 

Conclusions

     This is not the place to launch a polemic against the avarice, corruption, deceit, and wickedness of white people or the British, Canadian, and US governments in their dealings with Indian peoples since the first English colonists landing in Jamestown, Virginia in 1607.  Nor is this the place to recount the long, tragic history of the state-sanctioned murder, theft, and outrage that marks the US and Canadian governments' dealings with the indigenous peoples of North America.  Others have told that story much more effectively, and in much greater detail, than we could here.

     This does, however, seem an appropriate venue for a few remarks on the curious phenomenon known as "half-breed scrip."  The term itself, it seems to us (to Mike, anyway), is inherently insulting, demeaning, and dehumanizing, carrying with it the implicit assumption that human beings come in different "breeds," like dogs or rabbits, and that "mixtures" of "Indians" and "whites" produced a kind of "mongrel race" of "half-breeds" or "mixed-bloods" that ought to have been, and were, ranked according to their inherent worth and value.  We know the ranking:  "white" people on top, and people of color beneath.  The ranking, ultimately, was about power, who had it, and who didn't.  The very concept of the "half-breed" is profoundly racist and loathsome, as is the term itself.  That is why we always use "scare quotes" around it -- to mark it as inherently problematic.

     The legal device of "half-breed scrip" was conceived mainly as a way to "Christianize" and "civilize" the "mixed-bloods" who (in the eyes of policymakers) too often preferred the "primitive" ways of the Indians.  A secondary purpose was to turn public lands into private lands.  Indian peoples owned land collectively, with no concept of private ownership of land.  Fulfilling the Jeffersonian ideal of an agrarian empire required turning that collectively-owned land into private property.  The government's reasoning went something like:  "Divvy up a small fraction of the land we just conquered from the Indians among individual half-breeds.  Either they'll become civilized Christian farmers and forget about their Indian ancestry, or, they'll be too poor or ignorant to make use of it and will sell it to white settlers.  Either way Indians are weakened and white civilization strengthened."  Simple.  And deadly effective.

     "Half-breed scrip" was also conceived a way to drive a wedge between different groups of Indians.  This too is an old story:  divide and rule -- a strategy used by governments and the powerful since the dawn of humanity.  Many people of mixed ancestry, including many Métis, self-identified as Ojibwe (and Dakota).  They lived, spoke, ate, bore children, played games, and buried their dead in ways indistinguishable from the Native peoples amongst whom they dwelt.  Many others who did not self-identify as "Indian" were among Indian peoples' most important and valuable allies.  By giving preferential treatment to "half-breeds," and by creating the legal fiction that such a category of people existed to begin with, the federal government worked to divide Indian peoples amongst themselves.  Simple.  And deadly effective.

     Here we enter the murky and contentious terrain of what constitutes "legitimate" Native American Indian identity.  A useful reminder of the fallacy of using the criteria of "blood" or "race" to determine "legitimate" Indian ancestry is offered by the scholar Ward Churchill, who reminds us not only of the fallacy of the concept of "race," but also that many of the most implacable opponents of Euro-American land-grabs have been "mixed-bloods" (such as John Ross of the Cherokee; Quannah [Parker] among the Quahadi Comanches; George Bent of the Cheyennes, and dozens of others).  For ease of reference we include his article, "The Crucible of American Indian Identity" (originally published in Z magazine) in the following box (thanks to Ruthanne Fresonke for pointing us to this article):
 

 

 

     In short, to distinguish between peoples based on "bloodlines" or "race" is to embrace the pernicious fallacy that such a thing as "race" exists to begin with, and thus to internalize the oppressive worldview of the oppressor.

         How much land in Minnesota was actually privatized via the device of "half-breed scrip"?  In fact very little.   Altogether, "half-breed scrip" was responsible for less than one percent (0.8%) of the public lands in Minnesota that ended up in the hands of private individuals and the state government.  Of far greater importance were federal government grants to the state (33.5%), to the railroads (21%), to white settlers via the Homestead Act of 1862 (23%), and other such grants.  From this larger perspective, "half-breed scrip" was of marginal importance in the privatization of Minnesota's public lands.  Its main purpose, as we've seen, was to "Christianize" and "civilize."  Another was to divide Indians amongst themselves -- to prise "half-breeds" away from "pure-bloods" and to help both groups forget about what they once had in common.  (Source: Table 1, "Alienation of the Public Domain in Minnesota," in John G. Rice, "The Effect of Land Alienation on Settlement," Annals of the Association of American Geographers, vol. 68, no. 1 (March 1978), pp. 61-72; available online at www.jstor.org)

    Getting back to the Bleau dit Rossignals, one of the main things we learn from all this is that Margaret, Antoine, and other members of her family were not unsophisticated backcountry hicks.  They were smarty, savvy, resourceful, and persistent in dealing with the authorities, including one of the most byzantine and red-tape-ensnared branches of the federal government -- the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  Margaret Baldwin in particular seems to have figured out just how to work the system, for maximum benefit and with minimal cost to herself.  Altogether she seems to have received upwards of 560 acres of half-breed scrip, most of which seems to have been translated into actual real estate.  Margaret Baldwin, it seems clear, was one smart cookie.

     An important element of her shrewdness, we suspect, was her plenitude of names.  Official documents show that legally she was known as Margaret Rasignole, Margaret Blue, Margaret Bottineau, Margaret Baldwin, and Margaret Blow.  In other words, she had at least five legal surnames.  She also spelled her first name differently:  Margaret, Marguerite, Margarette.  She had something like 15 or 20 distinct legal names, or more!  The same is true of her brother Aiken, who used something like 13 or 15 different legal names over the course of his long life (see solving the mystery of ekan blow).

     Anglo-American law and legal culture, like modernity itself, tends strongly toward standardization.  Nuts, bolts, railroad tracks, computer operating systems -- and, people's names.  Standardize, standardize, standardize -- the mantra of modernity.  People in the modern world are supposed to be identified by a single, unique legal name, spelled the same way every time. 

     Ojibwe and Métis cultures were very different.  In this oral, non-literate culture, names were far more fluid and rarely unique.  For every 100 people, 50 shared a dozen given French names.  Names changed to mark different stages of life.  Spellings and pronunciations varied.  Margaret, Aiken, and their siblings grew up in an oral culture, a world of fluid and diverse naming patterns and shifting and multiple names.  Partly this was a result of non-literacy, partly the result of cultural traditions and practices of naming.  But whatever its origins, Margaret Baldwin's many legal names, like her brother Aiken's, represented the opposite of what Anglo lawyers and the US government required:  a unique legal name. 

     In other words, we are suggesting the possibility that Margaret, Aiken, and others might have used Ojibwe and Métis naming traditions to their material advantage.  Evidently they went by different names, identifying themselves in different ways in different documents.  Why?  Perhaps out of habit or thoughtlessness.  Or, perhaps so they wouldn't be easily recognized, could make multiple applications, and thus take advantage of a weakness in the system.

     In short, it is possible that the Bleau dit Rossignals used their many names as a kind of weapon -- a "weapon of the weak," in historian James Scott's memorable phrase.  Using several legal names that scarcely resembled each other might have been their way of fighting back, of refusing to give the government what it wanted, of deploying their culture's shifting and complex naming patterns in order to exploit an opportunity -- as a kind of rearguard action against the US government's theft of her people's lands.  Using different names in different legal documents would be an effective way to muddy the waters and confuse things:  What administrator would suppose that "Marguerite Rasignole" was the same person as "Margaret Baldwin"?  Or "Ekan Blow" was the same person as "Ecan Ressenblue"?  It is possible, in short, that the Bleau dit Rossignals, like other members of their community, used different legal names as a way to befuddle the legal system -- to acquire as much "half-breed scrip" as possible, and then, to get it patented and transformed into something tangible, something more than a piece of paper with her name written on it.  Real estate.  Cash.  Something.  That's our notion, anyway. 

     But however one interprets this multiplicity of names, one thing seems clear:  Kas-kas-ka-na-gee Margaret Bleau dit Rossignal Bottineau Baldwin was far and away the most successful of all the Bleau dit Rossignal siblings in acquiring and cashing-in on "half-breed scrip." 

     And cashing in on "half-breed scrip" was, we suspect, a pretty big deal.  Among the Bleau dit Rossignals, and up to the year 1871, it appears to have happened only four times, in at least ten attempts.  Only three actual patents (titles) to land were issued, while Margaret reportedly got $40 from Van Etten.  None of this, of course, represented any kind of compensation for the vast land-grabs of the treaties.  No one in the Bleau dit Rossignal family got rich from their participation in the La Pointe scrip scam.  Doubtless none were stupid enough to think they could have.  The most that most scrip applicants hoped for, we'd guess, was a little bit of something.  And most never received even that.

     The other main thing we learn from all this is that Aiken and Louis were two different people.  This Louis Rasignole is definitely the future husband of our great-great-grandmother Nellie Kinsman Lang Blow.  They probably married right around this time.  Perhaps the events were related.  Perhaps, failing to receive his scrip (and in light of the streams of white settlers pouring into the Red River Valley after Canadian Confederation in 1867 and the Riel Rebellion of 1869-70), he moved to Minneapolis the next year and met Nellie.  There's still a lot more to puzzle out.

    

*

     And that, comrades, is a brief introduction to the business of the "half-breed scrip" and the Bleau dit Rossignal family in the 1860s and 1870s!  Any questions?  We hope so, because we have a ton, and we'd love to hear yours.  What mainly seems clear is that the story has only begun to be told. 

 

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Next Chapter:

Jean Baptiste Bottineau and, Marie Louise Bottineau Baldwin

 

 

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