Lake Calhoun Gets Second Name; This Day in History, The Treaty of Paris

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has voted to hyphenate Lake Calhoun. Signs for the lake will now bear two names: One remembering John C. Calhoun, a South Carolina Senator known as a great orator and outspoken slavery proponent, the other remembering the original Dakota name for the lake, Bde Maka Ska, meaning White Earth Lake.

According to MPR, “the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board’s effort to honor the lake’s original name does not satisfy activists who called on the board in June to completely remove the current name, which they find offensive.” Park Board officials say the power lies with the state Department of Natural Resources to rename lakes.

For more details, see stories in Minnesota Public Radio and the StarTribune.

This Day in History: The Treaty of Paris

For U.S. history texts, the Treaty of Paris on August 3, 1783, marks the end of the Revolutionary War and the birth of a new nation. It has a very different meaning to Native American nations, many of whom sided with the British in hopes of stopping  western expansion.

The Native Heritage Project website outlines the British negotiation strategy to gain Indian support in the war:

For many Indians, in particular, the Shawnee, Creeks and the very large and powerful Cherokee and Iroquois, the British seemed like a better bet.  The British knew full well that the Indians wanted to stem the tide of settlement, and they promised the Indians that if they won, the settlers would be stopped.  Of course, they hadn’t been able to arrest the tide of settlement the entire time they had been in power, but it was easy for the British to “blame” the rowdy settlers and rogue politicians…and by doing so, to strike a chord of harmony with the Indians.

The website shmoop.com provides the following summary on the Treaty of Paris on its Native American History Timeline, and its impact on Native nations:

In the treaty, the British cede all of their North American territories south of Canada and east of the Mississippi River to the United States. Former agreements between the British and the Indian occupants of these territories are implicitly voided. The United States now claims all Indian lands east of the Mississippi River by right of conquest.

The Indian nations were not part of the Treaty of Paris; it was a high priority for leaders of the new nation to renegotiate those relationships. On August 7, 1793, just four days after the treaty was signed, George Washington outlined his Indian policy in a letter to Continental Congress member James Duane. It read in part (in its original spelling and punctuation, courtesy of the University of Virginia Press):

That as they (the Indians) … were determined to join their Arms to those of G. Britain and to share their fortune; so, consequently, with a less generous People than Americans they would be made to share the same fate; and be compelld to retire along with them beyond the Lakes. But as we prefer Peace to a state of Warfare, as we consider them as a deluded People; as we perswade ourselves that they are convinced, from experience, of their error in taking up the Hatchet against us, and that their true Interest and safety must now depend upon our friendship. As the Country, is large enough to contain us all; and as we are disposed to be kind to them and to partake of their Trade, we will from these considerations and from motives of Compn, draw a veil over what is past and establish a boundary line between them and us beyond which we will endeavor to restrain our People from Hunting or Settling, and within which they shall not come, but for the purposes of Trading, Treating, or other business unexceptionable in its nature.

In establishing this line, in the first instance, care should be taken neither to yield nor to grasp at too much. But to endeavor to impress the Indians with an idea of the generosity of our disposition to accommodate them, and with the necessity we are under, of providing for our Warriors, our Young People who are growing up, and strangers who are coming from other Countries to live among us. and if they should make a point of it, or appear dissatisfied at the line we may find it necessary to establish, compensation should be made them for their claims within it.

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