Among The Otchipwees: I

May 28, 2016

By Amorin Mello

Magazine of Western History Illustrated No. 2 December 1884 as republished in Magazine of Western History: Volume I

Magazine of Western History Illustrated
No. 2 December 1884
as republished in
Magazine of Western History: Volume I, pages 86-91.

 AMONG THE OTCHIPWEES.

Like all the northern tribes, the Chippewas are known by a variety of names.  The early French called them Sauteus, meaning people of the Sault.  Later missionaries and historians speak of them as Ojibways, or Odjibwes.  By a corruption of this comes the Chippewa of the English.

No-tin copied from 1824 Charles Bird King original by Henry Inman. Noodin (Wind) was a prominent chief from the St. Croix country. ~ Commons.Wikimedia.org

“No-tin” copied from 1824 Charles Bird King original by Henry Inman in 1832-33. Noodin (Wind) was a prominent Chippewa chief from the St. Croix country.
~ Commons.Wikimedia.org

On the south of the Chippewas, in 1832, across the Straits of Mackinaw, were the Ottawas.  Some of this nation were found by Champlain on the Ottawa River of Canada, whom he called Ottawawas.  In later years there were some of them on Lake Superior, of whom it is probable the Lake Court Oreille band, in northwestern Wisconsin, is a remainder.  The French call them “Court Oreillés,”, or short ears.  All combined, it is not a powerful nation.  Many of them pluck the hair from a large part of the scalp, leaving only a scalp lock.  This custom they explain as a concession to their enemies, in order to make a more neat and rapid job of the scalping process.  A thick head of coarse hair, they say, is a great impediment.  Probably the true reason is a notion of theirs that a scalp lock is ornamental.  The practice is not universal among Ottawas, and is not common with the neighboring tribes.  These were the people who committed the massacre of the English garrison at Old Mackinaw, in 1763.

Mah-kée-mee-teuv, Grizzly Bear, Chief of the [Menominee] Tribe by George Catlin, 1831. ~ Smithsonian Institute

“Mah-kée-mee-teuv, Grizzly Bear, Chief of the [Menominee] Tribe” by George Catlin, 1831.
~ Smithsonian Institute

West of the Ottawas, across Lake Michigan, around Green Bay, were the Menominees.  They were neither warlike nor numerous.  They had a remarkable orator known as “Grisly Bear.”  He was a war chief only, but had more influence than Oshkosh, the hereditary chief.  His eloquence was felt by those who could not comprehend his language.  In their councils he was as nearly supreme as an Indian chief can be.  He inflamed them for war or quieted them when they were inflamed.  The officers, agents and traders treated him with great respect on account of his talents, although he never lost an opportunity for getting drunk, and keeping so as long as drink could be had.  For this he would beg and lie, but was too high minded to steal.  Oshkosh was a young man of excellent sense.  His home was on the west side of the Fox River, about two miles above Lake Winnebago, near the city which bears his name.  He was killed in a quarrel near the extremity of Kitson’s bend, on the Menominee River.

The Oneidas, a small remnant of that nation, from New York, were located on Duck River, near Fort Howard, and the Tuscaroras on the south shore of Lake Winnebago.

Detail from "Among The Winnebago Indians. Wah-con-ja-z-gah (Yellow Thunder) Warrior chief 120 y's old." by Henry Hamilton Bennett, circa 1870s. ~ J. Paul Getty Museum

Detail from “Among The Winnebago [Ho-Chunk] Indians. Wah-con-ja-z-gah (Yellow Thunder) Warrior chief 120 y’s old” stereograph by Henry Hamilton Bennett, circa 1870s.
~ J. Paul Getty Museum

Plaster life cast of Black Hawk reproduced by Bill Whittaker, original was made ca. 1830, on display at Black Hawk State Historic Site. ~ Wikipedia.org

Plaster life cast of Sac leader Black Hawk (Makatai Meshe Kiakiak) reproduced by Bill Whittaker (original was made circa 1830) on display at Black Hawk State Historic Site.
~ Wikipedia.org

Next to the Menominees on the west were the Winnebagoes, a barbarous, warlike and treacherous people, even for Indians.  Their northern border joined the Chippewas.  Yellow Thunder’s village, in 1832, was on the trail from Lake Winnebago to Fort Winnebago, south of the Fox River about half way.  He was more of a prophet, medicine man or priest, than warrior.  In the Black Hawk war man of the Winnebago bucks joined the Sacs and the Foxes.  Only four years before the United States was obliged to send an expedition against them, and to build a stockade at the portage.  Their chiefs, old men, and medicine men, professed to be very friendly to us, but kept up constant communications with Black Hawk.  When he was beaten at the Bad Ax River, and his warriors dispersed, they followed the old chief into the northern forest, captured him, and delivered him to the United States forces.

One of the causes of the Black Hawk War in 1832 was the murder of a party of Menominees near Fort Crawford, by the Sacs and Foxes.  There was an ancient feud between those tribes which implies a series of scalping parties from generation to generation.

"Ke-o-kuk or the Watchful Fox" by Thomas M. Easterly, 1847. ~ Missouri History Museum

Sac leader “Ke-o-kuk or the Watchful Fox” by Thomas M. Easterly, 1847.
~ Missouri History Museum

As the Menominees were at peace with the United States, and their camps were near the garrison, they were considered to have been under Federal protection, and their murder as an insult to its authority.  The return of Keokuk’s band to the Rock River country brought on a crisis in the month of May.  The Menominees were anxious to avenge themselves, but were quieted by the promise of the government that the Sacs and Foxes should be punished.  They offered to accompany our troops as scouts or spies, which was not accepted until the month of July, when Black Hawk had returned to the Four Lakes, where is now the city of Madison.

Colonel William S. Hamilton; son of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton.

On a bright afternoon, about the middle of the month, a company of Menominee warriors emerged in single file from the woods in rear of Fort Howard at the head of Green Bay.  They numbered about seventy-five, each one with a gun in his right hand, a blanket over his right shoulder, held across the breast by the naked left arm, and a tomahawk.  Around the waist was a belt, on which was a pouch and a sheath, with a scalping knife.  Their step was high and elastic, according to the custom of the men of the woods.  On their faces was an excess of black paint, made more hideous by streaks of red.  Their coarse black hair was decorated with all the ribbons and feathers at their command.  Some wore moccasins and leggings of deer skin, but a majority were barefooted and barelegged.  They passed across the common to the ferry, where they were crossed to Navarino, and marched to the Indian Agency at Shantytown.  Here they made booths of the branches of trees.  Captain or Colonel Hamilton, a son of Alexander Hamilton, was their commander.  As they had an abundance to eat and were filled with martial prowess, they were exceedingly jubilant.

"A view of the Butte des Morts treaty ground with the arrival of the commissioners Gov. Lewis Cass and Col. McKenney in 1827" by James Otto Lewis. ~ Library of Congress

“A view of the Butte des Morts treaty ground with the arrival of the commissioners Gov. Lewis Cass and Col. McKenney in 1827” by James Otto Lewis, 1835.
~ Library of Congress

Their march was up the valley of the river, recrossing above Des Peres, passing the great Kakolin, and the Big Butte des Morts to the present site of Oshkosh.  Thence crossing again they followed the trail to the Winnebago villages, past the Apukwa or Rice lakes to Fort Winnebago, making about twenty miles a day.  On the route they were inclined to straggle, presenting nothing of military aspect except a uniform of dirty blankets.  Colonel Hamilton was not able to make them stand guard, or to send out regular pickets.  They were expert scouts in the day time, but at night lay down to sleep in security, trusting to their dogs, their keen sense of hearing and the great spirit.  On the approach of day they were on the alert.  It is a rule in Indian tactics to operate by surprises, and to attack at the first show of light in the morning.

From Fort Winnebago they moved to the Four Lakes, where Madison now is.  Black Hawk had retired across the Wisconsin River, where there was a skirmish on the 21st of July, and the battle of the Bad Ax was being fought.

Pierre Jean Édouard Desor, Swiss geologist and professor at Neuchâtel academy. ~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Photograph of Pierre Jean Édouard Desor (Swiss geologist and professor at Neuchâtel academy) from Wisconsin Historical Society.  Desor and others were employed to survey for Report on the geology and topography of a portion of the Lake Superior Land District in the state of Michigan: Part I, Copper Lands; Part II, The Iron Region.

A few miles southwesterly of Waukedah, on the branch railroad to the iron mines of the upper Menominee, is a lake called by the Indians “Shope,” or Shoulder Lake, which I visited in the fall of 1850, in company with the late Edward Desor, a scientist of reputation in Switzerland.  It discharges into the Sturgeon River, one of the eastern branches of the Menominee.  There was a collection of half a dozen lodges, or wigwams, covered with bark, with a small field of corn, and the usual filth of an Indian village.  The patriarch, or “chief” of that clan, came out to meet us, attended by about thirty men, women and children.  By the traders he was called “Governor.”  His nose was prominently Roman.  He stood evenly on both feet, with his limbs bare below the knees.  The right arm was also bare, and over the left shoulder was thrown a dirty blanket, covering the chest and the hips.  A mass of coarse black hair covered the head, but was pushed away from the face.  The usual dark, steady, snakelike, black eye of the race examined us with a piercing gaze.  His face, with its large, well proportioned features, was almost grand.  his pose was easy, unstudied and dignified, like one’s ideal of the Roman patrician of the time of Cicero, such as sculptors would select as a model.

This band were the Chippewas, but the coast of Green Bay was occupied by Menominees or Menomins, known to the French as “Folle Avoines,” or “Wild Rice” Indians, for which Menomin is the native name.  Above the Twin Falls of the Menominee was an ancient village of Chippewas, called the “Bad Water” band, which is their name for a series of charming lakes not far distant, on the west of the river.  They said their squaws, a long time since, were on the lakes in a bark canoe.  Those on the land saw the canoe stand up on end, and disappear beneath the surface with all who were in it.  “Very bad water.”  From that time they were called the “Bad Water” lakes.

No additional record of “Cavalier” could be identified for this reproduction.
The Bad Water Band was first documented by Captain Thomas Jefferson Cram in his December, 1840, report to Congress.

The Bad Water Band of Lake Superior Chippewa was first documented by Captain Thomas Jefferson Cram in his 1840 report to Congress.
~ Dickinson County Library

Cavalier was a half-breed French and Menominee.  He was a handsome young man, and was well aware of it.  Though he was married, the squaws received his attentions without much reserve.  Half-breeds dress like the whites of the trading post, and not as Indians.  Their hair is cut, and instead of a blanket they have coarse overcoats, and wear hats.  Many of them are traders, a class mid-way between the whites and Indians.

No Princess Zone: Hanging Cloud, the Ogichidaakwe is a popular feature here on Chequamegon History.

No Princess Zone: Hanging Cloud, the Ogichidaakwe is a popular feature here on Chequamegon History.

Polygamy is the most fixed of savage institutions, and one that the half-breed and trader does not despise.  Chippewa maidens, and even wives, have many reasons for looking kindly upon men who wear citizens’ clothes and trade in finery.  Moccasins they can make very beautifully, but shawls and strouds of broadcloth, silk ribbons, pewter broaches, brass rings, and glass beads they cannot. These are the work of the white man.  But none of that race, man or maid, has a more powerful passion for the ornamental than the children of the forest, male or female.  Let us not judge the latter too harshly – poor, ignorant, suffering slave, with none of the protection which the African slave could sometimes invoke against barbarian cruelty.  Their children are as happy and playful as those of the white race.  Before they become men and women they are frequently beautiful, the deep brunette of their complexion having, on the cheek, a faint tinge of a lighter color, especially among those from the far north, like the “Bois Forts” of Rainy Lake.  Young lads and girls have well formed limbs and straight figures, with agile and graceful movements.  At this age the burdens and hardships of the squaws have not deformed them.  The smoke of the lodge has not tanned their skin to Arab-like blackness nor inflamed their eyes.  In about ten years of drudgery, rowing the canoe, putting up lodges, bearing children, and not infrequent beatings by her lord, the squaw is an old woman.  Her features become rough and angular, the melodious voice of childhood is changed to one that is sharp, shrill, piercing and disagreeable.  At forty she is a decrepit old woman, and before that time, if her master has not put her away, he may have installed number two as an additional tyrant.

A Menominee village in "Village of Folle-Avoines" by Francis de Laporte de Castelnau, 1842. ~ Wisconsin Historical Society

A Menominee village in “Village of Folle-Avoines” by Francis de Laporte de Castelnau, 1842.
~ Wisconsin Historical Society

Well up the Peshtigo, on a rainy, foggy afternoon, we made an early camp near a dismal swamp on the low ground.  On the other side of the river, at a considerable distance, was heard the moans of a person evidently in great distress.  Cavalier was sent over to investigate.  He found a wigwam with a Menominee and two women, both wives.  The youngest was on a bridal tour.  The old wife had broken her thigh about a month before, which had not been set.  She was suffering intensely, the limb very much swollen, and the bridal party wholly neglecting her.  It was evident that death was her only relief.  A strong dose of morphine gradually moderated her groans, which were more pathetic than anything that ever reached my ears.  Before morning she was quiet.

As the water was very low I went through the gorge of the Menominee above the Great Bekuennesec, or Smoky Falls.  Near the lower end, and in hearing of the cataract, I saw through the rocky chasm a mountain in the distance to the northeast.  My half-breed said the Indians called it Thunder Mountain.  They say that thunder is caused by an immense bird which goes there, when it is enveloped by clouds and flaps its wings furiously.

Mid-1840s Keweenaw copper mines were featured on Chequamegon History in Wisconsin Territory Delegation and Two Months In The Copper Region.

Turning away from the mists of the cataract and its never ceasing roar, we went southwesterly among the pines, over rocks and through swamps, to a time worm trail leading from the Bad Water village to the Pemenee Falls.  This had been for many years the land route from Kewenaw Bay to the waters of Green Bay at the mouth of the Menominee River.  When the copper mines on Point Kewenaw were opened, in 1844 and 1845, the winter mail was carried over this route on dog trains, or on the backs of men.  Deer were very plenty in the Menominee valley.  Bands of Pottawatomies scoured the woods, killing them by hundreds for their skins.  We did not kill them until near the close of the day, when about to encamp.  Cavalier went forward along the trail to make camp and shoot a deer.  I heard the report of his gun, and expected the usual feast of fresh venison.  “Where is your deer?”  “Don’t know; some one has put a spell on my gun, and I believe I know who did it.”

Giishkitawag, a chief associated with the Ontonagon and Bad River Bands of Lake Superior Chippewa, may have also been connected with Lac Vieux Desert.

Map of Lac Vieux Desert from Thomas Jefferson Cram's 1840 fieldbook. ~ School District of Marshfield: Digital Time Travellers

Map of Lac Vieux Desert with “Catakitekon” [Gete-gitigaan (old gardens)] from Thomas Jefferson Cram’s 1840 fieldbook.
~ School District of Marshfield: Digital Time Travelers

On an island in Lake Vieux Desert, or the Lake of the Old Gardens, there was a band of Chippewas, known as the “Kittakittekons.”  There is on that island, which is a point in the boundary between Michigan and Wisconsin, ancient earthworks, which probably are of the time of the Mound Builders and the Effigy Builders of Wisconsin.  This lake is at the sources of the Wisconsin River, and near those of the Wolf and Ontonagon Rivers.

Izatys: Mdewakanton Sioux Band

The Chippewas are spread over the shores and the rivers of Lake Superior, Lake Nipigon, the heads of the Mississippi, the waters of Red Lake, Rainy Lake and the tributaries of the Lake of the Woods.  When Du Lhut and Hennepin first became acquainted with the tribes in that region, the Sioux, Dacotas, or Nadowessioux, and the Chippewas were at war, as they have been ever since.  The Sioux of the woods were located on the Rum, or Spirit River, and their warriors had defeated the Chippewas at the west end of Lake Superior.  Hennepin was a prisoner with a band of Sioux on Mille Lac, in 1680, at the head of Rum River, called Isatis.  When Johnathan Carver was on the upper Mississippi, in 1769, the Chippewas had nearly cleared the country between there and Lake Superior of their enemies.  In 1848 their war parties were still making raids on the Sioux and the Sioux upon them.

CHARLES WHITTLESEY.

 


 

To be continued in Among The Otchipwees: II

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One Response to “Among The Otchipwees: I”

  1. Leo said

    “Kittakittekon”=Gete-gitigaan i.e. Lac Vieux Desert.

    This was a really interesting read–rare to get an overland account from Green Bay to Ojibwe country rather than another Mackinaw-Sault-La Pointe one

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