The Treaty of Detroit

One question we get asked frequently is “what is the oldest artifact in your collection?”, though it isn’t always easy to come up with an answer. The oldest Detroit-related artifact in the collection is a 250 year-old wampum treaty belt. This wampum belt, made of traditional purple and white shell beads, was the Native American method for recording important events–in this case the transfer of a large piece of land. The belt was attached to a handwritten deed for 2,000 Acres at the west end of Lake Superior to British Army Major Robert Rogers from the Chippewa tribe. The deed was signed at Detroit on December 23, 1760 by Chiefs Ogemavas, Nawkusick, Moyeltice, and Kechicushonce. While the treaty did give ownership of the land to the British, the Chippewa retained hunting and fishing rights.
According to the deed, “a desire to convince the World that we will grant him our Country with Troop as well as for the Consideration of 100 white blankets, Fifty [illegible] blankets, Twenty barrels of Rum, forty Pounds Vermillion, Twenty thousand wampum and three hundred pounds of Gunpowder, Two hundred of Shot and Ball.” The deed was signed less than a month after Rogers had taken over Detroit’s Fort Pontchartrain from the French. Rogers had interests in the Upper Peninsula but because of the late season postponed going to Michilimackinac to transfer that post from the French. Roger’s possible connection to the land on the west side of Lake Superior occurred when he sent an expedition there while trying to find a water route to the Pacific Ocean. The signed deed was transferred to the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library, in 1949.

2 thoughts on “The Treaty of Detroit

  1. Looking for Maj. Rogers deed to Sault? An article published Dec. 26, 1962, “Maj. Rogers Deed to Sault Turns Up After 200 Years” In the Sault Evening News states that in 1760 Maj. Rogers purchased the city of Sault Ste. Marie form the Chippewa Indian Chiefs. That it is written on paper and was shipped to Chicago for preservation. It was turned over to the Detroit Historical Society which presented it to the library. The “sale” between chiefs and “Major Rover Rogers, John Baptiste Cadotte and Alexander henry for 50 blankets, 20 pairs laegions, 20 pounds vermillion, 10 barrels of rum, 10,000 wampum, 4 barrels of powder and 300 pounds of shot.” James Babcok was “chief” of the Burton Historical Collection at the time and is quoted in the article.

    • The deed you refer to, regarding Sault Ste. Marie, is at the Burton Historical Collection. It is in very sad shape and difficult to read. For more information about this deed and problems with its authenticity see Theresa Schenck, “Who Owns Sault Ste. Marie?” 28 Michigan Historical Review 28 (Spring 2002): 108-120. This deed should not be accepted on face value. For photographs of the deed check out Keith Widder’s new book Beyond Pontiac’s Shadow: Michilimackinac and the Anglo-Indian War of 1763 (2013). The appendix has photographs of both 1760 deeds and transcriptions.

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