The Reverend Samson Occom, founder
|4000 enrolled (as of 2013)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|United States Wisconsin|
|English, formerly Mohegan and Pequot|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Mohegan, Pequot, Narragansett, Montauk|
The Brothertown Indians (also Brotherton), located in Wisconsin, are a Native American tribe formed in the early nineteenth century from communities of several Pequot and Mohegan (Algonquian-speaking) tribes of southern New England and eastern Long Island, New York. In the 1780s after the American Revolutionary War, they migrated from New England into New York state, where they accepted land from the Iroquois Oneida Nation in Oneida County.
Under pressure from the United States government, the Brothertown Indians, together with the Stockbridge-Munsee and some Oneida, removed to Wisconsin in the 1830s, taking ships through the Great Lakes. In 1839 they were the first tribe of Native Americans in the United States to accept United States citizenship and have their communal land allocated to individual households, in order to prevent another removal further west. Most of the Oneida and many of the Delaware were relocated to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma).
Seeking to regain recognition, the Brothertown Indians filed a documented petition in 2005. The Bureau of Indian Affairs notified the tribe in 2009 in a preliminary finding that they had not satisfied all seven criteria. In addition, the BIA said that the Department of Interior had reinterpreted a 1993 ruling, and determined that the 1839 act granting the Brothertown United States citizenship and allotting their communal reservation land to individual households terminated the people as a sovereign tribe. In September 2012, in the final determination on the Brothertown petition, the acting Assistant Secretary determined that the group previously had a relationship with the United States, but had its tribal status terminated by the 1839 act. Because Brothertown could not satisfy one of the seven mandatory criteria for federal acknowledgment, the Department did not look to the other criteria in making its final determination. The acting Assistant Secretary noted that only Congress may restore the tribal status of Brothertown and its government-to-government relationship with the United States. The Brothertown Indians are continuing to pursue federal recognition.
Tribe forms in New England
The Brothertown Indian Nation (Eeyamquittoowauconnuck) was formed by three leaders of the Mohegan and Pequot tribes of New England and eastern Long Island: Samson Occom (Mohegan), a notable Presbyterian minister to New England Indians and fundraiser for Moor's Indian Charity School—although funds Occom raised for this school were used by Wheelock to found Dartmouth College; his son-in-law Joseph Johnson (Mohegan), who was a messenger for General George Washington during the American Revolution; and Occom's brother-in-law David Fowler (Montauk). They organized as a new tribe the numerous remnant peoples who had survived the disruption of disease, colonialism and warfare.
After the American Revolutionary War, the tribe formally organized on November 7, 1785, from remnants of the so-called Christian tribes of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Long Island, New York. These included people of Mohegan, Pequot at Groton, Massachusetts; Pequot at Stonington, Connecticut; Narragansett, Montauk, Niantic, and Tunxis (Farmington) tribes. Under pressure from the victorious American settlers to move west, they began to migrate in the 1780s to land provided to them by the Oneida Nation of the Iroquois near Waterville, New York, in Oneida County, where they formalized their new status. As allies to the Patriots, the Oneida were allowed to stay in New York on a small reservation. Due to hostilities aroused by four of the Iroquois nations having allied with the British during the war, and continuing land hunger by new settlers, New York and the United States governments pressured the tribes to remove west of the Mississippi River.
Treaties to move west
In 1821, numerous New York tribes signed a treaty with the federal government and acquired 860,000 acres (3,500 km2) in Wisconsin. In 1822, another delegation acquired an additional 6,720,000 acres (27,200 km2), which consisted of almost the entire western shore of Lake Michigan. The Brothertown Indians were to receive about 153,000 acres (620 km2) along the southeastern side of the Fox River near present-day Kaukauna and Wrightstown. Some of the other tribes included in the 1821 treaty felt they were misled by the federal government. The treaty was hotly debated for eight years, and was never ratified by the United States Senate.
The federal government mediated a settlement with three treaties signed in 1831 and 1832. The settlement with the Brothertown consisted of exchanging the formerly agreed-upon lands for the 23,040 acres (93 km2) now referred to as the entire town of Brothertown in Calumet County along the east shore of Lake Winnebago.
Tribe moves west to Wisconsin
The Brothertown leadership led the move west so they could live in peace away from European-American influences. The Brothertown joined their neighbors, some of the Oneida tribe and the Stockbridge-Munsee, in planning the move to Wisconsin. Five groups of Brothertown people arrived in Wisconsin on ships at the port of Green Bay between 1831 and 1836, after having traveled across the Great Lakes. Upon arrival, the Brothertown cleared their communal land and began farming, after building a church near Jericho. They also created a settlement called Eeyamquittoowauconnuck which was later renamed as Brothertown. Finding that their land was fertile, the federal government soon proposed to move the Brothertown west to Indian Territory in present-day Kansas, as authorized under the Indian Removal Act.
In 1834, the Brothertown Indian Nation requested U.S. citizenship and allocation of land by individual title to tribal members (the land had been considered tribal property) so they could not be forced to move west again. On March 3, 1839, Congress passed an act granting the Brothertown Indians U.S. citizenship, making them the first Indians to acquire it. One member, William Fowler served in the Territorial Legislative Assembly of the Wisconsin Territory; two others, Alonzo Dick and William H. Dick, served in the Wisconsin State Assembly, the first non-whites to do so. Several tribal members held office in Calumet County, even after the Brothertown ceased to be a majority in that county. Although William H. Dick was a member of the State legislature again in 1871, after that year political officeholding by Brothertown Indians continued only at the local civil township level.
The tribe did not give up their sovereignty for citizenship. The Bureau of Indian Affairs has repeatedly confirmed that U.S. citizenship and sovereignty are not mutually exclusive. All American Indians are now U.S. citizens, yet the federal government has acknowledged approximately 365 sovereign Indian tribes. In 1878, the federal government met with the Brothertown leaders. It proposed that the tribe should release land in the former reservation that had not been allocated to individual households; the federal government intended to sell it to German immigrants settling in Wisconsin.
Federal recognition status
In the 1950s, the Brothertown Indians joined the Stockbridge-Munsee tribe in taking action against the federal government through the Indian Claims Commission. The Brothertown received money to settle the claim. Part of the settlement required the tribe to update their membership rolls.
In 1978, the federal government developed guidelines for tribes who lost recognition. The Brothertown submitted its first petition of intent that year to gain federal recognition as a tribe, in order to be able to provide for people who live away from their small reservation, as well as to have status among federally recognized tribes. They want to establish historical records for their people as well. They contend they have maintained cultural identity and continuity, as well as political government.
In 1993 the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) acknowledged that the Brothertown Indians had been recognized as a sovereign tribe by the federal government in provisos to treaties of 1831 and 1832, and in the 1839 act granting them citizenship and allocation of lands in Wisconsin. The Office of the Solicitor of the Department of Interior confirmed in writing to the tribe that the Brothertown Indian Nation was eligible to petition the BIA for federal recognition, a process that the tribe has been pursuing. Had Congress's granting of citizenship status stripped the Brothertown Indian Nation of its federal acknowledgment in 1839, the tribe would have been deemed ineligible for the BIA's federal acknowledgment process (25 CFR sec. 83), and only an act of Congress could give the tribe federal acknowledgment. Based on the BIA's ruling, the Brothertown Indians spent several years compiling the data to petition for federal recognition from the Department of Interior's BIA and submitted a detailed petition in 2005.
In 2009, the Brothertown Indians were notified by the BIA of the preliminary finding that they did not satisfy five of the seven criteria for recognition. More importantly, the BIA reinterpreted its 1993 policy memo, and said in a press release that the tribe lost its federal status by the 1839 Congressional act:
“Congress, in the act of 1839, brought federal recognition of the relationship with the Brothertown Indian tribe of Wisconsin to an end. By expressly denying the Brothertown of Wisconsin any federal recognition of a right to act as a tribal political entity, Congress has forbidden the federal government from acknowledging the Brothertown as a government and from having a government-to-government relationship with the Brothertown as an Indian tribe.”
In September 2012, in the final determination on the Brothertown petition, the acting Assistant Secretary determined that the group previously had a relationship with the United States, but had its tribal status terminated by an 1839 Act of Congress. Because Brothertown could not satisfy one of the seven mandatory criteria for federal acknowledgment, the Department did not look to the other criteria in making its final determination. The acting Assistant Secretary noted that only Congress may restore the tribal status of Brothertown and its government-to-government relationship with the United States.
Enrolled members of the Brothertown Indian Nation elect tribal officers, and its tribal council meets monthly. They have bought back a small portion of their former reservation in Wisconsin and function with some degree of self-government in the state of Wisconsin. As individual Native Americans, members who satisfy blood quantum rules have certain rights and may gain some federal assistance, such as scholarships available to some Native Americans. The lack of federal recognition reduces their access to certain programs.
The Brothertown remain a culturally distinct Indian community, with the largest concentration residing in the Fond du Lac, Wisconsin area. In 1999 the nation had about 2400 enrolled members. Tribe councilwoman Dr. Faith Ottery estimates that there are approximately 4000 members enrolled in the tribe as of 2013. She estimated about 1,800 reside in Wisconsin with 50% within 50 miles (80 km) of the original reservation and about 80% in about 80 miles (130 km). Some tribe members own land in the 1842 - 1845 original reservation.
Brothertown members hold a picnic every July and a homecoming every October. Many Brothertown Indians have been buried at Union Cemetery in the town of Brothertown, and Quinney Cemetery located just outside the former reservation boundary. Many Brothertown return to these grave sites yearly to honor their ancestors and tend to the burial sites. The tribe would like to purchase more land in the original reservation and build a museum.
In 2007, the Brothertown Indian Nation supported the archaeologist Craig Cipolla of the University of Pennsylvania to begin an archaeological survey and excavation on historic Brothertown sites in Wisconsin. He is conducting outreach to gain community involvement by Brothertown members and local landowners. The goal of the project is to locate, map and explore sites in need of preservation.
The Brothertown tribe is featured in several books:
- Craig N. Cipolla, Becoming Brothertown: Native American Ethnogenesis and Endurance in the Modern World, University of Arizona Press (September 25, 2013), hardcover, 224 pages ISBN 0816530300 ISBN 978-0816530304
- Patty Loew, Indian Nations of Wisconsin: Histories of Endurance and Renewal (2013)
- Burg, Faye (October 24, 2013). "Ottery fosters tribe's identity". Tri-County News (Kiel, Wisconsin). pp. 1, 7. Retrieved October 27, 2013.
- "Brothertown Indians"
- Brothertown History, Life in New York, Indian Country
- Samson Occom Letters, Dartmouth College Library
- Thomas Commuck, "Sketch of the Brothertown Indians" (1859), Wisconsin Historical Collections
- "Brothertown Indians", Wisconsin History
- United States Bureau of Indian Affairs. Proposed Finding Against Acknowledgment of The Brothertown Indian Nation (Petitioner #67): Prepared in Response to the Petition Submitted to the Assistant Secretary - Indian Affairs for Federal Acknowledgment as an Indian Tribe August 17, 2009; pp. 74-75
- INDIAN AFFAIRS: LAWS AND TREATIES, Compiled and edited by Charles J. Kappler. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1904, available online at Digital Library, Oklahoma State University. Retrieved January 4, 2007
- Burg, Faye (October 19, 2013). "Efforts have gone on for years to get Brothertown recognition". Tri-County News (Kiel, Wisconsin). Retrieved October 29, 2013.
- Pamela Hughes, "Brothertown Indians’ recognition efforts take step forward", Indian Country Today, 26 September 2008
- Gale Courey Toensing, "BIA denies Brothertown federal acknowledgment", Indian Country Today, 11 September 2009
- , Indian Country Today
- "Brothertown Indians", Federal Reporter, 18 September 2008
- "Brothertown Archeological Project", Craig Cipolla website
- "Brothertown archaeological project planned". Tri-County News (Kiel, Wisconsin). May 24, 2007. p. 3.