Saturday, July 17, 2010

Profile: Pierre Bottineau

I keep finding intersections between where I grew up, and other places in my home state of Minnesota, including where I just moved to (I now live only a few miles from one of the main Red River oxcart trails...) Also, many of the men and women who show up in the historical record crisscrossed the entire region over and over in their daily lives - guiding, exploring, surveying, and conducting business - again, some traveling or living near where I now live myself.

One such man - whom I have written about before - was Pierre Bottineau...
In 1856, Pierre was guide for the expedition led by Colonel F. Smith from Fort Snelling to explore the mouth of the Sheyenne River, the southern tip of Devil's Lake and the region around Pembina for the best sites for military posts. This would have been in anticipation of and just the year prior to Major Seton coming up in November of 1857.

In June of 1860, Pierre accompanied a military expedition with Gov. Ramsey to Pembina to conclude treaties with the Northern Minnesota Chippewas. On his return, he guided an expedition led by Commissioners Cullen and Bailey to the Red River to hold council with the Chippewa of the Red Lake and Red River Lands in MN

Regarding the 1863 Treaty with the Chippewa-Red Lake and Pembina Bands, Oct 2, 1863, 13 Stats., 667, Ratified Mar 1, 1864, Proclaimed May 5, 1864, Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties. Vol. II - aka the Old Crossing Treaty - Pierre Bottineau signed his mark as a witness to the treaty made and concluded at the Old Crossing of Red Lake River, MN, on Oct 2, 1863, between the US, by their commissioners, Alexander Ramsey and Ashley C. Morrill, agent for the Chippewa Indians, and the Red Lake and Pembina bands of Chippewas; by their chiefs, head-men, and warriors.
Pierre, called the "Kit Carson of the Northwest", was a man who truly got around, doing a lot in the time he had. He had been involved in many of the major events that created our state. He died in 1895 at age 78, and is buried just west of Red Lake Falls, MN which is only about 20 miles southeast of where I live now.

The memorial below was created in honor of Bottineau for "...his years of distinguished service as a founding father and civic leader." I find it very ironic that he is honored now which is exceedingly appropriate; however, in an obituary written at the time of his death, there were definite mixed messages - on the one hand it praised him, but on the other hand insulted his ethnicity (Metis)...
No one in the northwest ever passed a life of more romantic adventures, thrilling experiences, hairbreath escapes and accidents--- generally by flood and field. He travelled over nearly every square mile of the northwest and knew the country as thoroughly as a farmer knows his lands.

He spoke every language in the region from French, English, Sioux, Chippewa, Cree, Mandan, and Winnibago. Experiences in all the particulars of frontier and savage life, he was equally proficient as a hunter, trapper, boatman, guide, and businessman. He could build a house, fashion a boat or plow a field with equal facility. Fully six feet tall and straight as a grenadier with clean piercing black eyes, he was of attractive appearance, despite swarthy complexion due to his Indian blood. He was naturally of manly instincts and gentlemanly deportment, polite, agreeable and of a kindly disposition, always true to his word and his fellowman.
Pierre Bottineau Memorial at St. Joseph Cemetery

NOTE: Much of the above information is from a timeline provided by a descendant of Pierre Bottineau. An amazing collection of historical information on an individual, I was quite impressed!