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'Raw Deal' probes the unfair treaties forced on the Indians of the Midwest

Journalist Robert Downes has published Raw Deal - The Indians of the Midwest and the Theft of Native Lands, a work of nonfiction history which includes the perils faced by Native peoples in the heartland of America, including Minnesota.

The book starts out with the Chippewa Trail of Tears, also known as the Wisconsin Death March, detailing the 1850-'51 disaster in which 400 men, women and children of the Ojibwe died at Sandy Lake, MN, due to a government scheme which denied them food, supplies and their annual treaty payments. In the aftermath, the courageous mission of Chief Great Buffalo of the Ojibwe aided in the establishment on permanent reservations in the Upper Midwest, heading off plans to remove the tribe to beyond the Mississippi.

Published by The Wandering Press of Traverse City, MI, the book tells the epic story of the Indians in their fight to retain their homelands against overwhelming odds. It details the theft of Native lands by squatters, speculators, unfair treaties and blatant swindles.

"Although Native peoples were paid for their land with hard cash and services provided by the U.S. government, it was always for pennies per acre, or less, back by the threat of removal at the point of bayonets, sabers and guns wielded by government troops and violent militias," Downes says. "Native peoples who bowed to government demands soon learned that federal treaties rarely lived up to their promises."

Downes also explores the motivations of European explorers and immigrants in their roles as pillagers of Indian lands and cultures. "You can't tell the story of the Indians' dispossession without delving into the mindset of European immigrants."

Additionally, the book offers clues to resolving a number of historic mysteries, including:

- Why the Indians never advanced into the Bronze Age;

- Why the Indians had no defense against diseases such as smallpox and measles;

- The role of Spanish conquistadors in destroying Indian civilizations and trading networks as far as the Great Lakes;

- A possible reason that Native copper mining ceased along the shores of Lake Superior around the year 1600.

A journalist of more than 30 years, Downes was the co-founder and editor of Northern Express Weekly in Traverse City, MI, from 1991-2013. He is the author of seven other books, including two memoirs of traveling around the world, a bicycle guide to northern Michigan, and two historical novels of the Ojibwe, The Wolf and The Willow and Windigo Moon.

 

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