Bagone-giizhig, known in English as Hole-in-the-Day the Younger, was a charismatic and influential chief who played a key role in relations between the Ojibwe and the U.S. government in Minnesota. Yet he won as many enemies as friends due to his actions during the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 and his claim to be the leader of all Ojibwe. In 1868, Bagone-giizhig was assassinated by a group of other Ojibwe from Leech Lake. For many years the real reason for this killing remained a mystery.
Bagone-giizhig became chief of the Mississippi band of Ojibwe after the death of his father, Bagone-giizhig the Elder. Like his father, the younger Hole-in-the-Day wanted to be chief of all Ojibwe in Minnesota. Traditionally, however, Ojibwe chiefs were leaders of only a single village or small group of settlements. Important decisions were made by consensus among all chiefs, not by a single leader.
This tradition began to change as the Ojibwe had more contact with the U.S government. By the 1840s, the Ojibwe were facing strong government pressure to sell their lands for logging, mining, and white settlement. In 1847, they met with government representatives at Fond du Lac to negotiate these land sales. During these negotiations, the young but ambitious Bagone-giizhig saw his chance. He suddenly got up to speak and declared that he, like his father, should be "first chief" of all Minnesota Ojibwe.
The Mille Lacs band and other groups did not accept Bagone-giizhig as "first chief," but the U.S. government did. For the next two decades, Bagone-giizhig played a key role in every major treaty between the Ojibwe and the U.S. government. He helped to negotiate and administer annuities, the payments that the government promised in exchange for Ojibwe land. Yet Bagone-giizhig also used his position to gain personal benefits for himself and his family. This sparked resentment among the other Ojibwe, even in his own Mississippi band.
Though the Ojibwe had been promised regular payments from the government, these payments were often late or sometimes even stolen by corrupt officials or traders who dealt with the Ojibwe. When violence broke out between the Dakota and white settlers in 1862, Bagone-giizhig briefly threatened to join Taoyateduta's (Little Crow IV's) Dakota warriors in attacking white settlements. To encourage other Ojibwe to fight, he also spread a false rumor that the U.S. government was planning to force all Ojibwe men to fight in the Civil War.
Governor Alexander Ramsey feared potential alliance between the Dakota and the Ojibwe. He and other officials met personally with Bagone-giizhig and agreed to provide the promised payments. The Mille Lacs and Leech Lake Ojibwe, however, were angry at being tricked into almost going to war. Bagone-giizhig's lie cost him their support for good.
Despite Bagone-giizhig's threats during the U.S. Dakota War, the U.S. government continued to treat him as the main voice for all Ojibwe. In 1867, he helped to negotiate the treaty that created the White Earth reservation. He said that all Ojibwe in Minnesota should relocate there, but not until the government built houses for relocated families. He also argued that mixed-blood traders should not be allowed on the reservation. Although these traders shared some family ties with the Ojibwe, they often took financial advantage of them.
On June 27, 1868, Bagone-giizhig left for Washington, D.C. for another treaty negotiation. Outside Crow Wing, he was attacked and killed by a group of Leech Lake Ojibwe. News of his death soon spread throughout Minnesota and as far away as New York.
Though the identities of most of the assassins was known, they were never prosecuted. Many at the time believed that Bagone-giizhig had been killed by jealous rivals or by other Ojibwe who were still angry over his actions during the U.S.-Dakota War.
Decades later the killers revealed that they had in fact been hired by a group of white and mixed-blood traders led by Clement H. Beaulieu. The traders were afraid that Bagone-giizhig would exclude them from White Earth and they would lose their businesses. They secretly promised to pay $1000 to each person who helped kill Bagone-giizhig but never actually did so. This broken promise made the killers so angry that they finally revealed the truth.
Diedrich, Mark. The Chiefs Hole-in-the-Day of the Mississippi Chippewa. Minneapolis: Coyote
———. "Chief Hole-in-the-Day and the 1862 Chippewa Disturbance: A Reappraisal."
Minnesota History 50 no. 5 (Spring 1987): 193-203. http://collections.mnhs.org/MNHistoryMagazine/articles/50/v50i05p193-203.pdf
Treuer, Anton. The Assassination of Hole in the Day. St. Paul: Borealis Books, 2011.
During the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, Bagone-giizhig (Hole-in-the-Day) the Younger threatens to ally the Ojibwe with the Dakota. His attempt to involve the Ojibwe in the war angers many, particularly the Leech Lake Pillager band.
The Ojibwe people slowly migrate westward into what is now Minnesota, coming into conflict with the Dakota and pushing them out of northern and central Minnesota.
Bagone-giizhig (Hole-in-the-Day) the Elder is born on Madeline Island in Lake Superior.
Bagone-giizhig the Elder's son, Gwiiwizens (Boy) is born. Later, he will become Bagone-giizhig the Younger.
Bagone-giizhig the Elder moves his band to the area near Gull Lake, establishing the Mississippi band of Ojibwe.
In a treaty negotiated near Fort Snelling, the Ojibwe give up most of their land in southeast Minnesota.
After Bagone-giizhig the Elder dies in an accident, his son becomes leader of the Mississippi Ojibwe.
At the Fond du Lac treaty negotiations, Bagone-giizhig the Younger makes his claim to be "first chief" of all Minnesota Ojibwe in a powerful and unexpected speech.
Hundreds of Ojibwe become sick or die at Sandy Lake when they accidently receive spoiled food from government storehouses, angering many Ojibwe.
Bagone-giizhig helps negotiate the treaties that establish reservations for the Ojibwe, forever changing their lives in Minnesota.
A group of Ojibwe burn down the store of Clement Beaulieu, an important trader in Crow Wing. Though they had once been friends, Beaulieu believes Bagone-giizhig is responsible for the fire.
Lucius Walker becomes the new Indian agent for the Ojibwe, and is soon accused of stealing thousands of dollars from payments intended for the Ojibwe.
When war erupts between the Dakota and white settlers, Bagone-giizhig considers joining with the Dakota, but other Ojibwe are reluctant. On September 15, Governor Alexander Ramsay meets with Bagone-giizhig and agrees to replace the stolen payments.
Bagone-giizhig plays a key role in negotiating the treaty establishing the White Earth reservation. He encourages the Ojibwe to wait before moving.
On June 27, Bagone-giizhig is assassinated by nine Ojibwe from the Leech Lake Pillager band.
The truth about the assassination finally comes out. Angry at having never been paid, the assassins (now old men) testify that they were hired by a group of traders led by Clement Beaulieu to kill Bagone-giizhig.