Error Correction: Photo Mystery Still Unsolved

April 27, 2014


According to Benjamin Armstrong, the men in this photo are (back row L to R) Armstrong, Aamoons, Giishkitawag, Ba-quas (identified from other photos as Akiwenzii), Edawi-giizhig, O-be-quot, Zhingwaakoons, (front row L to R) Jechiikwii’o, Naaganab, and Omizhinawe in an 1862 delegation to President Lincoln.  However, Jechiikwii’o (Jayjigwyong) died in 1860.



In the Photos, Photos, Photos post of February 10th, I announced a breakthrough in the Great Chief Buffalo Picture Search.  It concerned this well-known image of “Chief Buffalo.”  

(Wisconsin Historical Society)

The image, long identified with Gichi-weshkii, also called Bizhiki or Buffalo, the famous La Pointe Ojibwe chief who died in 1855, has also been linked to the great chief’s son and grandson.  In the February post, I used Benjamin Armstrong’s description of the following photo to conclude that the man seated on the left in this group photograph was in fact the man in the portrait.  That man was identified as Jechiikwii’o, the oldest son of Chief Buffalo (a chief in his own right who was often referred to as Young Buffalo). 

Another error in the February post is the claim that this photo was modified for and engraving in Armstrong’s book, Early Life Among the Indians.  In fact, the engraving is derived from a very similar photo seen at the top of this post (Minnesota Historical Society).

(Marr & Richards Co. for Armstrong)

The problem with this conclusion is that it would have been impossible for Jechiikwii’o to visit Lincoln in the White House.  The sixteenth president was elected shortly after the following report came from the Red Cliff Agency: 

Drew, C.K. Report on the Chippewas of Lake Superior.  Red Cliff Agency.  29 Oct. 1860.  Pg. 51 of Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs.  Bureau of Indian Affairs.  1860.  (Digitized by Google Books).

This was a careless oversight on my part, considering this snippet originally appeared on Chequamegon History back in November.  Jechiikwii’o is still a likely suspect for the man in the photo, but this discrepancy must be settled before we can declare the mystery solved.

The question comes down to where Armstrong made the mistake.  Is the man someone other than Jechiikwii’o, or is the photo somewhere other than the Lincoln White House?  

If it isn’t Jechiikwii’o, the most likely candidate would be his son, Antoine Buffalo.  If you remember this post, Hamilton Ross did identify the single portrait as a grandson of Chief Buffalo. Jechiikwii’o, a Catholic, gave his sons Catholic names:  Antoine, Jean-Baptiste, Henry.  Ultimately, however, they and their descendants would carry their grandfather’s name as a surname:  Antoine Buffalo, John Buffalo, Henry Besheke, etc., so one would expect Armstrong (who was married into the family) to identify Antoine as such, and not by his father’s name.

However, I was recently sent a roster of La Pointe residents involved in stopping the whiskey trade during the 1855 annuity payment.  Among the names we see: 

…Antoine Ga Ge Go Yoc  
John Ga Ge Go Yoc…

[Read the first two Gs softly and consider that “Jayjigwyong” was Leonard Wheeler’s spelling of Jechiikwii’o]

So, Antoine and John did carry their father’s name for a time.

Regardless, though, the age and stature of the man in the group photograph, Armstrong’s accuracy in remembering the other chiefs, and the fact that Armstrong was married into the Buffalo family still suggest it’s Jechiikwii’o in the picture.

Fortunately, there are enough manuscript archives out there related to the 1862 delegation that in time I am confident someone can find the names of all the chiefs who met with Lincoln.  This should render any further speculation irrelevant and will hopefully settle the question once and for all.    

Until then, though, we have to reflect again on why Benjamin Armstrong’s Early Life Among the Indians is simultaneously the most accurate and least accurate source on the history of this area. It must be remembered that Armstrong himself admitted his memory was fuzzy when he dictated the work in his final years.  Still, the level of accuracy in the small details is unsurpassed and confirms his authenticity even as the large details can be way off the mark. 


Thank you to Charles Lippert for providing the long awaited translation and transliteration of Jechiikwii’o into the modern Ojibwe alphabet.  Amorin Mello kindly shared the 1855 La Pointe documents, transcribed and submitted to the Michigan Family History website by Patricia Hamp, and Travis Armstrong’s remains an outstanding bank of primary sources on the Buffalo and Armstrong families.

3 Responses to “Error Correction: Photo Mystery Still Unsolved”

  1. According to some Ojibwa and to the history website that has this also posted as part of the history, The farthest seated gentleman on the left is Chief Madosh, whom absolutely looks just like his relatives of the same name alive today. It also says that it is NOT taken in Washington, but in Baraga, near where a reservation sits today with missionaries. However, as I am sure you know, there are many mistakes in these old pictures. (Frustratingly so.) There are in fact TWO pictures that are similar on this and they vary in how high the pipes are carried. One is certainly the one used in Benjamin Armstrong’s picture. However, Benjamin was also rendered blind for a time and when he regained his vision, was still very much hampered and seems to not use names of the Native Americans often, except of Chief Buffalo, also relaying his forgetfulness or not being told names to begin with. It is quite obvious to me the mistakes he made on this picture of the “delegation” of 1862. Click the first on the list. There is a list on that site as well and you can see how the picture is just slightly different. It is also on this site (Click on the first photograph.) Zeba is a reservation. It is not that unusual for Native Americans to travel, as their lifestyle made them somewhat transient, depending on weather, hunting and life. It is also not unusual to be called several names or be known as for instance Baqua (the patcher or fixer), such as what Marji Gesick, is noted for his name, that means Bad Day, also interpreted as Flying Sky, however, perhaps it should be Stormy Sky. He is also called “Old Man of the Mountain or Old Ish for Old Ishpiming. Ishpiming here means mountain. There is a story to that name and why and why the city here is named Ishpeming. Charlie Kawbawgam is also very recognizable to the area here and was well known.

    • Leo said

      Hello Ms. Watts,

      Thank you for the comment. In light of what Amorin posted from the Barber papers (, I strongly suspect the photos were taken in St. Paul in the late fall/early winter of 1855-56. It is not the 1862 delegation. As always seems to be the case with Armstrong, there’s a bizarre mix of extremely-accurate detail and complete invention.

      As for who is pictured, other images of the chiefs would strongly suggest Armstrong’s identifications of at least Aamoons, Kishkitawag, Edwegishig, and Nagunub are accurate. If the photo is indeed that early, the big chief in the lower left could be Jayjigwyong, the Little Buffalo.

      Is Madosh the same man as May-dway-aw-she who signed the 1854 Treaty as 1st Chief of Lac Vieux Desert? Great Buffalo had a nephew by that name, variously written Maydwosh, Madweosh, Maydawash, etc. who helped translate the treaty and along with Armstrong was granted the famous “Duluth Tract.” If all of these are the same person (not a given by any stretch), Madosh and Little Buffalo would have been first cousins, and it would make sense that either of them could be in that seat or resemble one another. It wouldn’t make sense that Armstrong wouldn’t recognize them, since he was their in-law.

      Do you know when the writing appeared on the bottom of the “Michigan” version and who might have written it?

      Thank you for alerting me to this new twist in the story of this photo,


    • Amorin Mello said

      Hello, Ms. Watts.

      Thank you for sharing this information. I have seen the identifications listed on the Baraga County Historical Museum before. They are aware of these discrepancies with Armstrong’s identifications, but have declined to look into this matter further when I inquired about the discrepancy, because it might offend the family that donated it to them (they claimed to be related to an individual in this photograph). You seem to be indicating that Armstrong was in this photo, however he is identified in your sources. Unfortunately I cannot find any alternative photographs or documentation to support the Baraga/Zeba claim of location and identities.

      I have looked into Leo’s research published on here, and I believe he is correct in verifying the identities of at least some of these people with alternative photos. I also think it is plausible that this photo was taken in St. Paul in late 1855 or early 1856, I suspect that there may be more to this story that hasn’t been published yet. Please consider this modified version of the photograph to compare identities:

      – Click on the photograph for a larger version to see details.
      – Text in Green are identities provided in Armstrong’s version.
      – Text in Red are identities provided in the “Michigan” version.
      – Text in Yellow are identities and dates of alternative photos of individuals from Leo’s research.

      From my comparison I notice that “Kiskitawag” is listed by both the Armstrong and “Michigan versions. However, the “Michigan” version of Kiskitawag is clearly Naagaanab of Fond Du Lac, while Kiskitawag seems to correlate with Armstrong’s version. Kiskitawag was associated with the Ontonagon Band before joining the La Pointe Band. I speculate that perhaps the Baraga County Historical Museum received their copy of this photograph from descendants of Kiskitawag, but that they got the identities and circumstances muddled over the decades. From researching my own family’s photos, I know how easy it can be to get identities and circumstances from the 1800s mixed up despite the best of intentions. I do not know if my speculation about this photograph is correct or not, it is simply the conclusion that I have come to based on the available information that I have seen.

      Please share your thoughts on my comparison.


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