MADE ON A
TOUR TO PRAIRIE DU CHIEN;
By CALEB ATWATER
What follows are the parts of Atwater's work which apply to the Hočąk nation. Two editions have been used to obtain the text. The first page number is from the first, with the page number of the second following a forward slash.
Caleb Atwater, Remarks Made on a Tour to Prairie du Chien thence to Washington City in 1829, Reprint Edition (New York: Arno Press, 1975 ).
Caleb Atwater, Writings of Caleb Atwater, Travel in America Series (Carlisle: Applewood Books, 2007).
INDIAN FORM OF GOVERNMENT.
THE MANNERS AND CUSTOMS OF THE INDIANS.
THE LIFE OF A CIVILIZED MAN AND A SAVAGE COMPARED TOGETHER.
OLD MAID OF THE WISCONSIN.
THE MINERAL COUNTRY.
(65/237) General M’Niel went to the fort as soon as we landed, and Colonel Menard and myself went to the Indian agent's, Mr. Forsyth, where we were met by the Winnebago prophet and about two hundred Indians of that nation. Seating ourselves in the porch of the agency house, we were addressed by five orators in succession, who complained bitterly of neglect, as they had been here sometime awaiting our arrival, without having been fed as they expected by us. "They wanted flour, hog meat, and whisky."
We explained to them the cause of our not appearing there sooner. They then complained of the change of place to Prairie du Chien, from this place, where they had come, but would not go to the latter place. We explained the reason why the place was changed; because Nawkaw had requested the change, and he was the principal chief, whose wishes governed the Secretary of War, in this matter. We immediately purchased eleven barrels of flour, and gave them, with a suitable number of barrels of pork; and we gave them also two hundred pipes, and a plenty of tobacco, which we procured of Mr. Davenport, our stores not having yet reached us here.
Giving order to Mr. Forsyth, the agent, to follow us in four or five days, with the prophet, and certain chiefs and warriors, whom we named, we went to rest, not very late in the night. ...
(66/238) Galena stands on the land we afterwards purchased of the Indians, and is the largest town in Illinois. When we arrived there, it had been settled about three years. ... (67/239) Here we learned, that a large body of Indians had already been assembled at Prairie du Chien, for some time, and were in readiness to meet us. Knowing the necessity of supplying them with food, that ours would not reach us for some time yet, and knowing this to be the last opportunity we should find to purchase any food, we purchased five hundred bushels of corn, and loading all we could convey, we left this beautiful town on the next day, and departed for our final destination, where we arrived about the middle of July, 1829. As soon as we were discovered by our red friends, a few miles below the fort, opposite to their encampment, they fired into the air, about fifteen hundred rifles to honor us. Our powder had become wet, and, to our extreme mortification and regret, we could not answer them by our cannon. Having fired their arms, some run on foot, some rode on their small horses furiously along over the prairie to meet us where we landed. Amidst the motley group of thousands, of all ages, sexes, classes of society, colors and conditions, of men, women and children, who met us on the wharf — NAWKAW [Nąga] and HOOCHOPEKAH [Hujopka], with their families, eagerly seized my hand, and I was happy indeed, to meet them here. During twenty years, I had seen them several times, and they recognized me in a moment, among the crowd, and assured me of their friendship and good wishes. (67/240) These chiefs of the Winnebagoes, and their families, pressed around me, and continued close by me until we reached the tavern where we went. There we entered into a long conversation, and they introduced me to their red friends. I assured them of my ardent friendship, and "that they and their people should be dealt with, not only justly but liberally. That the President, their great father, was their friend, a warrior like them, and never would do them any injury: That I wished them all to remember what I now told them, and when we finally parted, if my solemn promise, thus (68/240) voluntarily made to them, had not been kept to the very letter, I wished them to publicly tell me so." Shaking me heartily by the hand, and assuring me of their friendship, they then appealed to Colonel Menard, who heartily agreed with me, in assuring them of our good intentions towards them.
Doctor Wolcott, the agent for the Chippeways, Ottowas, and Pottawatimies, here met us, and he had been at incredible pains to get his Indians here, where they had been for nearly a month perhaps. Mr. Kinzy, the sub-agent of the Winnebagoes, whose sub-agency is located at fort Winnebago, had also come, and with him all the principal persons of that nation, residing in that direction.
All the Indians with whom we were sent to treat, were represented on the ground, and all that was wanting to begin our councils, we urged forward with all the energy that the officers of the government and their numerous friends could muster. The next day, in company with General Street, the agent of the Winnebagoes, resident here, several sub-agents and interpreters, I met the principal men of the Winnebagoes, and we impressed upon them the necessity of keeping their young men under subjection, and arranged with them the outlines of the manner in which our business should be conducted. The talk was a long one, and occupied the afternoon. General Street was very zealous in the service of the government.
(68/241) The officers at the fort erected a council shade near the fort, and in about three days we were ready to hold a public council, when Doctor Wolcott's Indians informed me that they could not meet in public council until an Indian was buried, and inquired of me if I objected to the burial; to which I replied, that I could not object to the burial, certainly. On the next day, to my regret, I learned they would not assemble in council until the Indian was buried, and again inquired whether I was willing to have the person buried? To which question I replied in the affirmative, when I was informed that the relatives of the deceased would not consent to the burial of the murdered person until they had received a horse, as the compensation for his death. Understanding the difficulty at last, the commissioners gave the horse, the deceased was buried, and the Indians agreed to meet in council next day.
(69/241) I took some pains to get the murderer and the relatives of the deceased together, in order to have a perfect reconciliation between them. They shook hands very cordially in appearance, but the relatives of the deceased person informed me privately afterwards, that as soon as the murderer got home with his horse and goods, they would kill him, and take his property, which he could better keep than they could, until then. If I am correctly informed, they did as they assured me they would, after their arrival in their own country. So that compounding for the murder only procrastinated, for a time, the punishment of the crime.
When every thing was in readiness for the opening of the council, the Indians of all the tribes and nations on the treaty ground, attended, and requested to have translated to them, severally, what we said to each tribe; which being assented to on our part, the Winnebagoes, the Chippeways, Ottowas, Pottawatimies, Sioux, Sauks, Foxes, and Munominees, half breeds, the officers from the fort, the Indian agents, sub-agents, interpreters, and a great concourse of strangers from every city in the Union, and even from Liverpool, London, and Paris, were in attendance.
(69/242) The commissioners sat on a raised bench, facing the Indian chiefs; on each side of them stood the officers of the army in full dresses, while the soldiers, in their best attire, appeared in bright array, on the sides of the council shade. The ladies belonging to the officers' families, and the best families in the Prairie, were seated directly behind the commissioners, where they could see all that passed, and hear all that was said. Behind the principal Indian chiefs at the common people — first the men, then the women and children, to the number of thousands, who listened in breathless and death-like silence to every word that was uttered. The spectacle was grand and morally sublime, in the highest degree, to the nations of red men who were present; and when our proposition to sell all their country to their great father had been delivered to them, they requested an exact copy of it in writing: the request was instantly complied with, and the council broke up. Next day we addressed the Winnebagoes, as we had the Chippeways, &c., the day before, and at their request gave them a copy of our speech.
(70/242) After counseling among themselves, the Chippeways, &c., answered favorably as to a sale, though they would do nothing yet, until they had fixed on their terms.
The Winnebagoes appeared in council, and delivered many speeches to us. They demanded the twenty thousand dollars worth of goods. "Wipe out your debt," was their reply, "before you run in debt again to us."
Our goods, owing to the low stage of the water, had not arrived yet, and the Indians feared we did not intend to fulfill Governor Cass's agreement of the year before. When our goods did arrive, and they saw then, they then changed their tone a little; but in the mean time, great uneasiness existed, and I was often seriously advised by Nawkaw, and other friends, to go into the fort, as General M’Niel had done. Colonel Menard's ill health had compelled him to leave the ground, and go to General Street's, five miles, (the General calls it three,) from the council house. Unless we (70/243) left the ground, we were told by the Winnebagoes, that they "would use a little switch upon us." In plain English, they would assassinate the whole of us out of the fort. Two hundred, warriors under Keeokuk and Morgan, of Sauks and Foxes, arrived and began their war dance for the United States, and they brought word that thirty steamboats, with cannon and United States' troops, and four hundred warriors of their own, were near at hand! The Winnebagoes were silenced by this intelligence, and by demonstrations, not misunderstood by them.
When Keeokuk arrived he brought two deserters from the garrison here, whom he had made prisoners on his way up the river. Quasquawma and his son-in-law, Tiama, came with Keeokuk. It was a season of great joy with me, who placed more reliance on these friendly warriors, than on all our other forces. Good as our officers were, our soldiers of the army were too dissipated and worthless to be relied on one moment. Taking Keeokuk aside, and alone, I told him in plain English all I wanted of him, what I would do for him, and what I would do for him, and what I expected from him and his good offices. He replied in good English, "I understand you, sir, perfectly, and it shall all be done." It was all done faithfully, and he turned the tide in our favor.
The goods arrived and also our provisions, Col. Menard's and Gen. M’Niel's health were restored and they appeared (71/243) again at the council house, and every thing wore a new aspect. They approved of all I had done in their, temporary absence.
On the 29th day of July, 1829, we concluded our treaty with the Chippeways, Ottowas, and Pottawatimies.
On the 1st day of August, a treaty was concluded with the Winnebagoes.
So the treaties were executed at last, and about eight millions of acres of land added to our domain, purchased from the Indians. ...
(75/249) Not a few of our supposed Indian names, are not Indian names, and never were used by any Indians, on earth. (76/249) Ohio, itself, is not an Indian word at all. "Oyo," a sort of interjection among the Indians, was applied to this river by the earliest French travelers, through sheer mistake, and has acquired a local habitation without Indian aid. The Indians called it "Kiskepeela sepee," or Eagle river. Ojibeway we have changed into Chippeway; Hoatchungara into Winnebago; Ozauke into Sauks; Musquawkee into Foxes; (it means "red earth," and not red fox, as some ignorant interpreter supposed;) Docota, by some strange fatality, we call Sioux, or as we pronounce it, Soos! ...
(77/251) If a Winnebago wished me to walk aside, and converse with him by ourselves, as Nawkaw often did, his only way of communicating his wish to me, was to point to his own breast first, then to me next; and finally to that part of the prairie (in which we happened to be standing,) where he wished me to go; he uniformly said, "MAUNEE [mąnį́]," [walk,] and that was the only word which was uttered, until we had retired to the place pointed out and thus designated. When arrived at the spot, the conversation was carried on between us with as few words as possible, using signs for objects, by pointing to them. With his pipe stem or a stick, he would draw in the sand the lines of demarcation, when the limits of the lands to be purchased of his people, were in discussion between us, and a stick was struck in the ground to indicate a corner in the plat. If he approved of my proposition, "oah [ho]," [yes,] was all he said in reply; and I answered him in the same way. If the proposition pleased either of us very much, the reply was uttered with great vehemence, otherwise faintly. ...
(78/252) Nearly all the verbs among the Winnebagoes are not conjugated, and when they are, they are very imperfect verbs. "Maunee" is used in all cases without conjugation, for the verb "to walk," in all the moods and tenses, and for the participles, likewise. In other Indian languages, I am almost tempted to the belief that either white men, or educated Indians, have supplied many imperfections originally belonging to their verbs. ...
(82/256) Doubtless, there are sounds which occur quite too frequently to please a nice ear, in every human language. Foreigners complain of the constant "hissing" in the English language; and the "ong," of the French, is not very agreeable to my ear. In all the Indian languages, the sounds which occur too often to please the ear, are — ah, gah, tah, rah, hah, dah, mah, nah, neeh, weeh, seeh, goh, yoh, cawn, sawn, tso, tsi, en, tsen, chen, hai, whang, hoo, woan, eeh, kai, quang, kon, tung, keen, &c. — These sound are found in the Winnebago language, and they belong to all primitive languages. The Chinese employ the selfsame sounds. ...
[The languages of Hindustan] sound exactly like Winnebago, so much so, that the nicest ear cannot detect the difference between them. Ali Kawn, (83/257) is the name of a man among the Winnebagos, as it was among the Hindoos. Kawrawkaw, (crow killer,) is an Indian chief, so are, Maunkawkaw, Wawnkawshaw (whirling thunder) Nawkaw (wood) Hoochopekah (four legs) Kayray mawnee (walking turtle) Wawtcheakaw (big canoe) Wawrootsheka (yellow thunder) chahwawsaipkah, (black eagle.) But although these sounds are common to the languages of India and North America, and indeed, although individuals of both countries bear precisely the same names, and are pronounced exactly alike, yet the meaning of those names is not the same, nor at all alike in the different languages. ...
(84/258) Instead of deriving these words from any other source whatever, I go no further than the sounds uttered by man in his earliest infancy, as THE TRUE FOUNTAIN from whence all human languages are originally derived. The most ancient languages of the Chinese, of the Hindoos, the Celts, &c. will be found to contain nearly the same sounds, and the same words, with our Winnebagoes, Sioux, Sauks, Ojibeways, &c., of the northwest; but the same sounds, and the (84/259) same words, will in no case mean the same things, in any two different languages. ...
On the whole, I am free to confess, that I find no proof in the languages of North America, of any origin of the red man, other than that he possesses the same colloquial powers as the man of the eastern continent, and that man in every part of the world is the same being, in every essential power of body and faculty of mind. ...
[It had been suggested that the Indians are a lost tribe of Israel.] (87/262) The practice of having a standard bearer for every tribe, when going to war, or while met in national council, and, indeed, while our natives are traveling as a nation, has been violently dragged into the argument, in favor of a Jewish origin. Carrymaunee, (walking turtle,) a Winnebago chief, carries a large tortoise, fully extended and beautifully painted, perfect in all its limbs, on his back, as he marches onward at the head of the Turtle tribe. In the same manner, Snakeskin marches at the head of the Snake tribe, with the skin of a large snake tied around his neck. In fine, every tribe has its standard bearer, with appropriate emblems.
INDIAN FORM OF GOVERNMENT.
(97/273) Their form of government is aristocratical, and the whole structure of their society is equally so. The Winnebagoes are divided into seven tribes,or bands; some of these are named after animals, such as the Turtle tribe, the Snake tribe, Wolf tribe, &c., and others are named after inanimate things, as the Thunder tribe.
These tribes dwelling different places, in towns or villages; in each one of which, there are two civil chiefs, who govern that town — for instance, Du Corri and Winnesheek are at the head of the government, of the Le Croix village, situated near the Mississippi river, on its eastern bank, eighty miles north of Prairie du Chien. So of all the other tribes, each of which has its town or seat of government, and is governed by its two civil chiefs. The civil government of the Winnebagoes is in the hands of fourteen civil chiefs, and when they are all assembled in one council, it is the grand national council.
In each village, the two civil chiefs appoint all the officers deemed necessary, civil and military, who obey them implicitly. There are two ways of arriving at these high stations, by birth and by election. When the father dies, if he has a son who has arrived at the age of manhood, and (97/274) who bids fair to make a good chief — that is, if he possesses a good form, has good bodily powers and mental faculties — is brave, sedate, wise and prudent, he generally succeeds his father in the government, on his father's demise. If the chief, at his death leave no son who is qualified for the high office of chief, but wills it to some other person, he succeeds to the government. If the chief has no son at his death, it is commonly the case that his brother's son succeeds him. The line of succession may run out for want of a lawful heir, which is always supplied by an election. It may be changed too, where the heir is unqualified for the station. Great deference is always paid to the will of the dying chief, but every such case is always laid before a full national council, whose decision is final. ...
(98/274) There is, in every tribe, what answers to a standing army among us. The profession of arms holds out, to the great mass of the common people, the only road to the temple of fame, and no one can find a place in the army, unless he is well formed in body, of a good size, and possesses a good mind. He must be brave, artful, cautious, patient of fatigue and of hunger, and he must know no such thing as fear, where duty calls him to press forward. Death has no terrors for him, and cowardice is more despised than any one acquainted with them can imagine. The young man who inspires to the honourable distinction of a "brave," or warrior, must exhibit such traits of character as are deemed necessary for a soldier to possess, before he can be admitted into the army. When admitted, he wears on his head just as (98/275) many feathers of the bald eagle, as he has slain human beings, and the size of the feathers indicate the size of his victims. If he has slain a whole family, the father, the mother, and five children, for instance, he wears two large feathers and five smaller ones. The feather denoting the father, in that case would be the largest, the one worn for the mother a size less, and the five for the children would vary in size to correspond with the size of each child. I do not remember one warrior of any nation, who did not wear at least, one feather, and some displayed a great number of them. If the warrior has taken a captive, he has a human hand as large as life, painted either on his face, or on some part of his body, or on his blanket. Some individuals have several such hands painted on them.
At the head of the army, belonging to each tribe, there is a person who occupies the same station as a general does with us, and he appoints all the inferior officers. The chiefs, when met in council, call into it their warriors, with whom they consult, but frequently they are called to receive (99/275) the orders which are obeyed to the letter. This council call before them persons who are interested in the trial, if it be one, to hear his allegations and his proofs, in his defense. They call in persons who can afford information on the subject under consideration; but in all such cases, when these persons are heard, they retire from the council, who debate on all matters by themselves.
Seated on mats, in the eastern manner, like the Turks, around the wigwam or the lodge, no one rises to address his fellow chiefs, nor does he speak in a high tone of voice generally, but what he delivers, is in a low tone of voice, and all he utters is listened to in the profoundest silence. No speaker is ever interrupted in the midst of his discourse, and no calls to order, as in our public councils, are ever heard or needed.
If the senate of the United Sates is the mildest, the most patriotic, and wisest legislative assembly in the civilized world, as it truly is, the Winnebago council is decidedly (99/276) at the head of the savage world. Wisdom personified, either as a civilized man or as a savage, is seen in the deportment and conduct of each legislative body. Like the court of Mar's Hill, at Athens, the Indian council generally sits at night, when the mass of the nation is asleep. They some times sit in council nearly all night, deliberating on some important matter, without coming to any result, which is again and again resumed, in the night, until a final vote is taken and the cause decided. In many instances further information is needed, and in cases of difficulty, more time for reflection is wanted, or the council may be equally divided in opinion. Where the majority is small, and some members seem to be at a loss how to decide, the minority get a final decision of a question postponed, in order to gain more strength, so as finally to succeed. I always ascertained, at early dawn, the result of each night's council, through my friends, who belonged to it, and how each man had voted. The great body of the people have little influence, almost none, with this council, and they never appear before it unless they are summoned to attend it. They have no voice in electing the chiefs, and in fact no political influence. The civil chiefs and the chief warriors, have in their hands the whole government of the community, and they govern as they please. Disobedience to the (100/276) orders of the rulers is punished with death, though, unlike the British nation, the Indians are not savages enough to cut the traitor into quarters after hanging him until he is dead.
Though I have been describing the form of government among the Winnebagoes, yet the Sauks and Foxes have the self-same aristocracy among them. How much of this form of government has been borrowed from the English and French, I cannot say, but the Indians have no tradition of any other, ever in existence among them. If they had a house of commons, elected by the people, I should suspect they had borrowed it from the English traders who have visited them. Considering them as savages, and if they are to continue such, these are some of the advantages attending (100/277) their form of government. It is an efficient one, acts promptly, and many times wisely. The person who is born to be a ruler, from his earliest years, knows it, and studies to prepare himself for it. He is more grave, sedate and dignified in his manners, if a young man, than others of his age. He exhibits a noble and dignified deportment in his intercourse with the world, he appears more thoughtful and less frivolous than other persons of his years. He acts up to his destination in society. In his whole conduct he is an example of obedience to "the powers that be," and towards his equals, he is polite and conciliating, but always shows that he feels above the common mass of the people. The same remarks apply to the whole family of the chiefs, who always act as if they know their full value. The female part of it exercised the same influence among the women that the chiefs did among the men, and the presents they expected from us had to be better than those given to the common people. The daughter of a chief never marries into a family below hers in dignity. The pride originating in birth, is as deeply seated in the hearts of those who are nobly descended, among the natives of the northwest, as it is among the petty princes of Germany.
It is customary for the chiefs to appoint two soldiers in each village, to keep order in it; and they faithfully do so.
In each tribe, some one man acts as a divider, by order of the civil chiefs, and by general consent. Whenever we made the men any presents, of pipes, paints, tobacco, or any thing else, the selfsame seven men, if the Winnebagoes (101/277) were the Indians receiving the presents, appeared, took charge of the property, and divided it in the most equitable manner, among all present at the time. They reserved nothing for themselves, generally, but held up their empty hands, at the conclusion of their labors, to show their disinterestedness. ...
THE MANNERS AND CUSTOMS OF THE INDIANS.
(101/278) In their manners, the aborigines of the northwest resemble the people of the earliest ages of the world. The females pay the greatest respect to their husbands, children to their parents, and both sexes to the aged and infirm.
After preparing his food, the wife and her daughters never sit down to eat with the head of the family, but stand around him while seated on his mat, in order to supply his wants, and anticipate them, if possible. If he appears to be pleased with his food, every female face wears a smile of satisfaction, but if otherwise, visible signs of regret cloud every female's brow. The women are modest, silent and submissive, in the presence of the men, who, in return, never act harshly towards their wives and daughters. — The generally received opinion, that the men tyrannize over the women, I am satisfied, has no foundation in fact. According to their ideas of correct conduct, I am persuaded, the men treat their wives and children with kindness and attention. All the children belong to the women, (their mothers,) and they assist in raising the corn, cutting and carrying the wood for fuel, either for cooking their food, or for warming their wigwams in cold or wet weather.
The wood being generally at some distance from their dwellings, as the women cut it, the children carry it home, except such sticks as are too large for them, when the women themselves, or the younger men carry it for them. The fire once made, in winter, in the center of the wigwam, or in summer, just at the end of the lodge, the kettles in which the food to be prepared for eating is placed, are hung in a row over the fire.
When they have it, a great quantity of food is cooked, five times as much as the same number of persons would (102/278) eat among us. They eat most voraciously, and they continue to eat all they can swallow, as long as it lasts.
The women contrive to hide some of the food, when they have an abundance, so as not to be at any time entirely destitute. (102/279) While at prairie du Chien, I inquired for some wild rice, and to my surprise, a squaw produced several quarts of it, which had been gathered the autumn before, near lake Puckaway, kept until then, and brought one hundred and fifty miles, for fear of needing it while away from home, attending on the council.
They parch their rice and corn, in order the better to preserve them, and sometimes bury them in the ground to keep them from being stolen. The thief who wishes to find it, goes about with a sharp stick, piercing the earth, until he strikes upon the hidden treasure. Their parched grains would not be spoiled by lying in the ground for a considerable length of time.
Their food consists of fish, either fresh or dried in the smoke, of the meat of wild animals, and wild rice or Indian corn. They are fond of soup, to make which they use meat and corn meal. They boil a kettle full of corn in water and wood ashes, until the hull will come off, when they wash off the ashes in pure water, and lay the corn on mats in the sun to dry. That operation being performed thoroughly, they pound it quite fine in a mortar and put it in a kettle with the flesh, and boll it a long time, until the meat is boiled into rags, when the soup is placed in large wooden bowls for eating.
Though they have their likes and dislikes as to food, yet they eat almost any animal they kill. Not over nice about any part of the animal, they eat entrails and all. Of the entrails of the oxen we killed for them, they made soup, of which they appeared excessively fond. They change their diet as often as they conveniently can, and every season produces a change of food. Their dog feasts are greatly admired by them, and no epicure among us can find any food more to his liking, than the flesh of a fat dog is to an Indian. They generally live on flesh of some kind, yet they prefer that which is fresh, to salted meats, but they often mix the two sorts in cooking. The meats they eat being wild and tender, easily digested, and so thoroughly boiled, (103/280) broiled, roasted or fried, that they can eat large quantities of them without injury.
Their tenderness towards aged persons of both sexes, is very common, and places them in an agreeable point of view. When we delivered them their goods, we required every person among the Winnebagoes to be present at the delivery of them, so that each one should receive his or her fair proportion of them. Until that day, the most aged and infirm persons had never appeared out of their camp. It was quite satisfactory to see the kindness with which these persons were treated by their young relatives and friends. Over these infirm persons, temporary lodges were erected to screen them from the heat of the sun. Food and water were tendered to them frequently, and every comfort administered to them, in the power of their friends to furnish. This conduct evidently sprung from benevolent hearts; yet those Indians are the wildest and most savage of any in North America. Respect and sympathy for the aged and infirm are found among all savage nations.
The custom of giving presents as tokens of friendship, is universal among all savage nations, as well as among our Indians. It is a custom springing from the best impulses of the human heart, common in every nation, ancient and modern, and will last as long as the world is inhabited by man. Such mementoes of friendship are as highly prized by an Indian as by a civilized man; and no earthly consideration will induce him to part with him. Whenever I wished to purchase a war club, a sword, or medal, which had been presented to the owner as a token of friendship, the reply always was, that it was "a great medicine." He would make me an article that by far excelled it, but would on no terms part with the present.
Like all savages, our red men of America are extremely fickle, and ready to change their minds in a moment. This trait of character renders it extremely difficult to treat with them. Some idle report of danger to be apprehended from some quarter, an earthquake, an eclipse, a violent thunder (103/281) storm, or any thing unusual in the course of events, unless instantly explained to them, would break off a council, and they would be off to their coverts and their hiding places. So it was with the Greeks and Romans, and would be with us, were it not for the lights of science, which have (104/281) dispelled the darkness that once rested on the phenomena of nature all over the world. Wherever man is unenlightened by science, he is as fickle and as superstitious as our own Winnebagoes! Ignorance is the parent of superstition, and this again begets fears, which among the crowd create sudden panics. The early histories of all unenlightened nations, record accounts of such panics, often produced, especially in war, by any occurrence almost, not strictly belonging to every day's events. The early histories of Greece and Rome are full of these sudden panics, produced by some uncommon events happening at the moment, which produced the most disastrous results among the crowds that followed the army.
Our red man of America is excessively fond of smoking tobacco, the leaves of the sumac, (kinne kennick,) and of some other plants. Every Indian, arrived at the age of manhood, has his tobacco pouch, his pipe and tobacco, and when he has the leisure, he smokes so much that he is perfectly saturated with the scent of tobacco and kinne kennick. So strong is this disagreeable scent, that the rooms much frequented by Indians, partake of it enough to render them unpleasant to one not habitu[a]ted to such noxious effluvia. The pipes used by the Indians of the northwest, are generally made of stone, on which great labor is bestowed. The Soos (Sioux) use a pipe made of jasper, red as blood, found any where on the margin of the Mississippi from Rock island to its native beds, high on St. Peter's river. The Winnebagoes use a black stone which they color a deep black, and both the Soos and Winnebagoes polish their pipes so as to make them look very well. The pipe stem is generally long, from two to six feet in length. Some pipes are beautifully carved, so as to represent some (104/282) living object. The principal civil chief of the Winnebagoes, had a very good likeness of himself cut upon the front of a war pipe, which he forwarded by me to the President, with the request that it might be suspended under the President's looking glass. The request, I believe, was complied with.
They are the most ingenious beggars in the world.1 One or two illustrations will be offered to the reader. [Illustrations are from the Fox and Sauk.]
(107/285) This practice prevails among all the Indian nations of the Upper Mississippi. I do not recollect to have become acquainted with any one family, where the man was fifty years old, who had not at least two wives, and the principal chiefs and warriors have from two to five. The eldest woman, generally, was nearly of the same age with the husband; the others appeared to have been married at different times, and were of different ages. The eldest, as in Asia, has the control of the household affairs, and the others obey here. The consequence of the man is rated, in some respect, by the number of wives belonging to him.
The number of wives, guns, medals, dogs, traps, horses, children, and slaves, show the wealth and consequence of the possessor. This state of things naturally reminds one of the patriarchal ages. In a rude state of society, where the laws of nature govern, polygamy always has, and always will exist. This custom has often been supposed to be derived from Asia, whereas, I derive it from the nature (108/285) of man, who is always the same by nature. Christianity, in Europe, and among the descendants of Europeans, every where, has counteracted a natural propensity. Lawgivers have acted as moral philosophers have taught them, in prohibiting polygamy. nature produces among the human family, thirteen males to twelve females. The excess of the males over the females, philosophers have told us, was intended to supply the losses by casualties, in war, navigation, &c., to which the males were more exposed than the (108/286) other sex. Deducting those losses in war, and by various casualties, the number of the two sexes being equal, our laws prohibit polygamy for reasons of state. This leveling and truly republican principle, ill accords with the aristocratic practice of the chiefs and warriors of the Upper Mississippi. I discovered no evils growing out of this custom, and on the whole, I suspect, that in their state of society it is productive of good effects. It tends to create a little community, which is capable of supporting, protecting and defending itself. I have seen forty persons belonging to one family. It is easy to see, that in a savage state of society, polygamy tends to produce a little community having one interest; directed by one head, strong enough to support itself in times of sickness, famine and war. The father of it appears, like the patriarchs of old, to be beloved by all members of the family. When the stranger approaches his wigwam or his lodge, the patriarch goes out to meet and welcome him to his humble mansion. More hospitable than we civilized men are, he offers to his guest all he has — food for himself, his horse and dog; a mat for him to sleep on, skins for his covering, and a bed fellow. When the stranger leaves him, he is accompanied a short distance on his way, his course is correctly pointed out to him, and even protection on his journey is offered him, provided any danger is apprehended from enemies on his route. All this is done without arrogance, or any airs of self-complacency in the host, and no pay is expected from the guest.
No parents on earth are fonder of their offspring, than the Indians of the northwest. I might mention numerous instances, in my intercourse with these people, where deep paternal fondness for their children appeared to great advantage. (109/286) Kindness to their wives and children always conciliated the chiefs whom I wished to please.
It became my duty, in order to effect the views of the United States' government, to gain over to our interest, Winnesheek, the principal chief of the Prairie le Cross, lying eighty miles north of Prairie du Chien. As the readiest (109/287) way to effect my object, I sent for his son, gave him many presents, of clothes, fish hooks, paints and jewelry. I showed him some cornelians, and employed him to find them on the shore of the Mississippi. He attended on me daily every morning, with the products of his labor the day preceding, and received his daily presents. His father always accompanied him to my window, on such occasions, and though he never told me it was his son, he showed in his countenance strong marks of pleasure, at the kindness extended to his boy. The day was set for the departure of the band to which the boy belonged, and the morning had arrived when Isaac Winnesheek was to visit me for the last time. At early dawn, dressed in clothes he had received from me, painted in the best manner, and his hair filled with white clay, he made his appearance at my door, and was admitted. He took his seat, after the Indian manner, in silence, for fifteen minutes. He was filled with grief, in which, I confess, I largely participated. At length he rose, and presented to me as a parting memento, the largest and handsomest cornelian I ever saw. The tears ran freely down his cheeks, and I could not prevent mine from mingling with his. Having kept until then, for him, the choicest articles I had, while handing them to him, glancing my eye towards the window, I saw his father, (who had secreted himself there until this moment,) covered with tears, and convulsed with grief. His likeness, taken in the most correct manner, preserves the recollection of him.
When Du Corri, of the same band, presented his son to me, he shed tears; on inquiring the cause of his grief, he replied that, that son's mother was dead. On further inquiry, I learned that she had been dead ten years. Conjugal affection is not wanting, even in savage life, and paternal tenderness is as common among Indians as it is among us. ...
(110/288) An Indian family, of a distinguished chief, consists generally of the man, who is called the father of it; his wives; his sons, who may or may not have wives; his daughters, and their husbands; and the children, belonging to all the family. The captives taken in war, if any, may form a part of it, and the whole constitutes a little community within itself. ...
The influence of women is as great among the savages of the northwest, as it is among us. While the national council is deliberating about the fate of a prisoner of war, it is not an uncommon event for the prisoner to be killed by the young men, if the women do not wish to preserve his life. The women may be said to govern the young men as they please, and while the council is deliberating in a grave debate, if the women wish it, any act which the old men hesitate to do, is done promptly by the young men. ...
(112/290) Some of them, I regret to state, are great scolds, taking their husbands to task for every trifling incident, and scolding their children almost incessantly. I suspect, however, that circumstance is generally owing to the delicate state of their health, at the time. While scolding, their voices are as disagreeable, as harsh, and as grating on the ear, as can be imagined; whereas, when good nature prevails, as it generally does, no earthly sounds can be more harmonious, more soft, more soothing, more melodious. As there is more elasticity in the mind of a female, than in the mind of the male, so there is in their voice, which can either grate harsh under, or produce sounds as agreeable as the music of the spheres.
So far as I could learn, from all I saw and heard, I should suppose that the Indian women are faithful wives and kind mothers.
(113/291) I suspect there is no marriage ceremony among them; an agreement between the parties, (if sanctioned by the parents of the woman,) to live together in a state of matrimony, is all that is necessary to constitute a marriage.
One of the Winnebago chiefs pressed me very urgently to give him a hoe. I therefore refused to give him the wished-for present, until he would inform me for whom he intended it. He repeated his request every day, and every day received the same answer. At length, when he ascertained that he could obtain the hoe on no other terms, he informed me that there was a young woman about thirty miles off, whom he had purchased of her mother for a hoe! On the receipt of this intelligence, I cheerfully gave him the present, and suitable clothes for her to wear. Three days afterwards the chief returned to me with his new bride dressed very elegantly, according to all his ideas of things. After introducing her to me, and to his whole family, with each one of whom she shook hands very cordially, her new clothes were laid aside for old ones, and I saw her at work pounding corn in a mortar, and preparing food for the family. She took the place of the youngest wife, waited on those who were her seniors in matrimony, and the whole family appeared to rejoice in the addition which she made to their number. I saw no other ceremony than I have mentioned. After the marriage of the daughter, I frequently saw her aged mother visiting the family of the chief, to whom she was now honorably and happily allied. All parties were well pleased with the match; the elder wives were relieved, in part, of their daily labors, the young woman was honorably allied to a distinguished family, her mother now had a good home in her declining age, (she was a widow,) and the old chief, as he believed, a handsome young wife.
The females belonging to poor families, marry quite too young, which is very injurious to them. It is not uncommon among them to marry at the early age of twelve years. (113/292) The consequence is, that they never attain to the size they otherwise would, but are dwarfish, which in many instances belittles their offspring. The daughters of chiefs rarely marry until they arrive at the age of maturity. (114/292) This may be one reason why those belonging to the families of chiefs, are larger in their persons, better formed, well proportioned in their limbs, and are more perfect in body and mind than the common people. If it be an evil, and it certainly is one, to be compelled to marry off their daughters at too tender an age, it is one which cannot be avoided by persons in their condition. Whereas, the chiefs can and do wait, until some man, equal to them in dignity, wishes to marry their daughters, before they permit them to marry.
If the father-in-law be a chief, his son-in-law generally after marriage belongs to his family, and the husband becomes one of the tribe to which the wife belongs. I know of some exceptions to this rule, though it is a general one. I am persuaded that no chief expatriates himself by marrying, but that a common man may do so, and when he marries out of his own tribe he does so.
It is not uncommon for a chief, on the marriage of his daughter to any distinguished man, to give with her a very liberal dower. The bride is dressed in the best manner; she has a horse to ride, and blankets and skins, clothing and food. Painted in the best and most fashionable manner, gaily dressed, meek, modest, unassuming, and submissive to her husband, she is all that nature, assisted by all that her parents could instruct her in, can do for a female, to prepare her to become a wife and a mother. If her husband have older wives, she cheerfully obeys them, and learns every art which they can teach her. The half-breed women generally marry either half-breeds or white men. In either case, they make excellent wives, and many of their children are beautiful. While in the Indian country, I always rejoiced when I came in sight of one of their houses, as I felt assured of experiencing under their roofs, hospitable and kind treatment. The half-breeds are excellent cooks, (114/293) and many of them have been well educated in some Catholic seminary, either in Canada or Missouri. ...
(117/296) Gambling is very common among the Indians. On visiting the camp of the Winnebagoes, for the first time, I found nearly every individual of mature age engaged in some sort of game. The young men were playing, the game of "old sledge," with exactly such cards as our gambling gentry use. They bet largely, and lost nearly all they had to lose, in some instances. Whether the winner always keeps what he gets in that way, I cannot say, though on rising from play, I have sometimes seen all that was won redelivered to the losers. The women play a game among themselves, using pieces of bone, about the size, and which have the appearance of, a common button mould. They are so cut out, that one side is blackish, and the other white. A considerable number of these button moulds are placed in a small wooden bowl, and thrown up in it a certain number of times, when the white sides up, are counted.
Athletic games are not uncommon among them, and foot races afford great diversion to the spectators. The women (118/296) and children are present at these races and occupy prominent situations, from which they can behold every thing that passes, without rising from the ground where they are seated. Considerable bets are frequently made on the success of those who run.
They also play ball, in which sport great numbers engage on each side, and the spectators bet largely on each side. The articles played for, are placed in view of those who play the game. These consist of beads, paints, jewelry, &c. This game is a very animated one, and excites the greatest interest.
The game of cards must have been introduced among them by the white men who have visited them, from time (118/297) to time. It is the only game they practice, thus derived, so far as I could learn. ...
(119/297) The chiefs and warriors have a great thirst for fame and for glory, and I doubt whether any man, in any age or in any country, exceed these people in that particular. To acquire "the bubble reputation," they will undergo any privations or sufferings, whatever, even death itself.
(119/298) Nothing pleased them so much as to tell them, that their likenesses were in the war department, and that their fame was spread through the world. Carrymauny, the elder, three times repeated to me his history, and requested me to write it in a book. He complained to me that in all our accounts of Tecumseh, we had only said of him, "that Winnebago who always accompanies Tecumseh," without calling the Winnebago by his name — NAWKAW CARRYMAUNY. ...
At Prairie du Chien, in the summer of (120/298) 1829, while listening to several Indian speeches, I was forcibly struck with the evident marks the chiefs exhibited of the deep sense impressed (120/299) upon their minds, of the awful responsibility they felt. ...
(121/301) To continue to use the language of the “LITTLE ELK,” at Prairie du Chien, in July, 1829 — “The first white man we knew, was a Frenchman — he lived among us, as we did; he painted himself, he smoked his pipe with us, (122/301) sung and danced with us, and married one of our squaws, but he wanted to buy no land of us! The "red coat" came next; he gave us fine coats, knives and guns, traps, blankets, and jewels; he seated our chiefs and warriors at his table, with himself; fixed epaulets on their shoulders, put commissions in their pockets, and suspended medals on their breasts, but never asked us to sell our country to him. Next came the "blue coat," and no sooner had he seen a small portion our country, than he wished to see a map of THE WHOLE of it; and having seen it, he wished us to sell it ALL to him. Governor Cass, last year, at Green bay, urged us to sell ALL our country to him, and now you, fathers, repeat the request. Why do you wish to add our small country to yours, already so large? When I went to Washington to see our great father, I saw great houses all along the road, and Washington and Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York, are great and splendid cities. So large and beautiful was the President's house, the carpets, the tables, the mirrors, the chairs, and every article in it, were so beautiful, that when I entered it, I thought I was in heaven, and the old man there, I thought was the Great Spirit; until he had shaken us by the hand, and kissed our squaws, I found him to be like yourselves, nothing but a man! You ask us to sell our country, and wander off into the boundless regions of the west. We do not own that country, and the deer, the elk, the beaver, the buffalo, and the otter, now there, belong not to us, and we have no right to kill them. Our wives and our children now seated behind us, are dear to us, and so is our country, where rest in peace the bones of our ancestors. Fathers! pity a people, few in number, who are poor and helpless. Do you want our country? yours is larger than (122/302) ours. Do yo want our wigwams? you live in palaces. Do you want our horses? yours are larger and better than ours. Do you want our women? yours, now sitting behind you, (pointing to Mrs. Rolette and her beautiful daughters, and the ladies belonging to the officers of the garrison,) are handsomer and dressed better than ours. Look at them, yonder! Why, Fathers, what can be your motive?”
Such is the substance, and almost the very words, of Hoowaneka [Hųwąnįka], in council. His gestures were very graceful, but in those parts of his speech where he felt deeply what he (123/302) said, his gesticulation was violent, and his whole soul appeared to be agitated in the highest degree. ...
Among the Winnebagoes, they generally put forward as orators, half-breeds, such as Snakeskin and the Little Elk, but on great occasions the principal chiefs appear as orators. Among them, orators do not, as such, stand as high as they do among civilized nations. Under an aristocracy, birth is esteemed of great consequence, and in a savage state, bodily powers and prowess are considered of greater value than among us, who are more intellectual than man in his natural condition. The Indian word for an orator, is "babbler." Thus, we see, that our red men are not sufficiently advanced in the arts, either of life or of government, to give an orator all the consequence which our condition, as a people, affords. Could the man of America throw off his aristocracy, his love of war, his indolence, which has its origin partly in these sources, and adopt all the new wants of civilized life, which are the true fountain heads of all our industry, he might excel as an orator at the bar, on the stage, in the desk, in the mixed assembly, and in the senate hall. Until then, he will rise no higher than he now is; (123/303) his speeches will be vehement, his gesticulation violent, and repetitions, and darkness, and obscurity, mixed with some beautiful allusions to nature, and vague traditions, handed down from ages gone by, will be found in all his harangues. ...
(124/303) Ignorant of all secondary causes, the savage looks only to the GREAT FIRST CAUSE, as the only and immediate Author of all things, and all events, and his soul is filled with dread, awe and wonder. The very names of individuals, nay, of whole tribes, fortify this position. The "Rolling Thunder," the "Yellow Thunder," (124/304) the "Distant Thunder," &c. are individuals among the Winnebagoes, who possess great weight of character; and that tribe to which belong men who stand high on their roll of fame, for their distinguished valor in war, for their consummate prudence, experience and wisdom in the national councils, is emphatically called, "the Thunder tribe." ...
(127/307) I was unable to discover any love songs among the Winnebagoes, the wildest savages of the northwest, yet I obtained, through Mr. Kinzey, the sub-agent, at fort Winnebago, a war song, the words of which are subjoined. (128/308)
WINNEBAGO WAR SONG
Hyeeheenartsheezhee, Hyeeheenartsheezhee, Hyeeheenartsheezhee,
I am not to be trifled with — I am not to be, &c.
Koa’rar woankeezhun mau’nee tshee’reerar,
Friends man a walks this village
Hyeeheenartsheezhee, Hyeeheenartsheezhee, Hyeeheenartsheezhee,
I am not to be trifled with — I am not to be, &c.
|I am not to be trifled with, &c.
Friends! a man walks thro’ this village.
|Who shall dare to sport with me?
Friends! ’tis a warrior chief you see.
|Who shall dare contend with me?
Friends! ’tis the chief of chiefs you see!
The notes for the drum are struck short and abruptly, and the first and every alternate note in a bar, is sounded loud and strong; the intermediate ones lightly.
When this tragedy was acted, the actors were so painted as to show with great effect every wound which they had ever received in battle. BROKEN ARM, who had been severely wounded in the attack on fort Meigs, in the late war, was particularly conspicuous. The wound was so painted, and the blood which run from it was so well represented by the painter, as to look like the reality itself. At a short distance from him, on a first view, I thought he had recently been badly wounded.
Like all the tragedians whom I ever saw play, the actors went beyond nature, or, as was once well said of Garrick, he over-acted Garrick. They worked themselves into every attitude of gesture, and looked more like devils than like men. Though considering their advantages of education, they no more over-acted their parts than the very best payers on our theatrical boards do. On the whole, I give the Indians the preference, as over-stepping simple nature (128/309) less than the most celebrated players, in our Atlantic cities. Fashion, sole arbitress, saves them from deserved ridicule and scorn, as actors, musicians, and singers. ...
(131/311) What nature has done for man, in giving him musical powers, the Winnebagoes showed us at Prairie du Chien, in July and August of 1829; and what art could add to nature, in that line, was exhibited to us, (131/312) while listening to the singing of the accomplished Miss Roletta, of that place.
In 1782, there were published at the English University of Oxford, three ancient Greek hymns, composed by one Dionysius, accompanied by the notes of music, in which they were once sung in the best days of Greece. The music, read it as you will, either backwards or forwards, is not one whit better than the Winnebagoes possess now. It may be said, that the Greek and Roman languages, were so musical in themselves that they needed not the aid of music. Be that as it may, I think it quite clear, that in those times, when Greece and Rome flourished most, their music was extremely poor. We, in the United States, are running into the opposite extreme; so singing every thing (132/312) in public and private, that not a sentence can be heard; while our Indians, like the ancients, rely almost wholly on the sense of the words for effect. Doubtless, it would be a vast improvement, if the auditor could distinctly hear and understand both the words and the music. If but one of these advantages can be attained, I am decidedly in favor of the Indian mode of singing. Even if the tune be monotonous, let the human voice be in a fine tone, and this tone impassioned, it will, as the great Milton expresses it,
“————— take the prisoned soul,
And lap it in Elysium ——————.”
As to musical instruments, the Winnebagoes use a great number of gourd shells, with pebbles enough in them, to make them very good rattles. These are shaken so as to keep time with the everlasting daw, daw, daw, of their singing. They have a flute of their own invention, which produces the most melancholy music in the world.
When the musician is playing his mournful tune, of three notes, only four rods from you, you would conclude, unless you actually saw him, that he was forty rods from you.
(132/313) It is played at war dances, and at those executions of human beings who are burned at the stake. It is, I believe, always used by disconsolate lovers, to soften the hard hearts of their cruel fair ones. ... (132/315)
THE LIFE OF A CIVILIZED MAN AND A SAVAGE COMPARED TOGETHER.
Who enjoys the greatest sum of happiness, the savage or the civilized man? By happiness, I mean mental and corporeal enjoyment. ... (133/316) Let us descend into private life, the common lot of nearly all persons in the world; and begin with the lover — "sighing like a furnace, and making ballads to his mistress's eye-brow," among us — and in no less pitiable condition among the Winnebagoes!!! The pitiful dandy, meager, gaunt and pale faced — with a waist like a wasp — with a watch in the pocket of his scanty vest, accompanied by chain enough to hang him up by the neck, cuts not as good a figure as the young Winnebago, painted in his best manner, his hair filled with white clay, and a flute in his hand. Our fop has a few ideas in his head as the savage. He is pale, emaciated, fanciful and foolish, while the Winnebago looks brave and manly, on all around him. The dandy crawls along to the church, the theatre, or the ball room, to see his adorable, fanciful, fickle, silly fair one; whereas, the young Indian, if his fair idol move from one place to another, lightly wends his way along, not far from her, until she stops, when he seats himself on a stump, a log, or a rock, and begins his mournful and heart rending tune of three notes! He plays for hours together, without cessation, while the cruel fair one seems not to know that her afflicted lover is near her! Thus, from morn till night, the lover continues his suit, and from day to day, until the young lady's parents — I ought to say mother — consents to the marriage, or rejects him and his music. Once rejected by the mother, he seats himself near some other beautiful belle, and brings anew his mournful ditty. Thus he labors on in his vocation, until he succeeds in making some blooming beauty his bride.
As the Indian girls, in matters of love, implicitly obey their mothers, they generally marry well, though they are sometimes sold to the highest bidder. A goodly person, to be a good hunter, to be possessed of good dogs, a good gun, good traps, and above all, to be allied to one of the principal families in the nation, are the best passports to an honorable (134/317) matrimonial connection. The mother who is poor, expects a present for her daughter, while the chiefs present very handsome gifts to their sons-in-law. I leave the question to the reader to decide, between the savage and the civilized man as a lover.
The common people, such as are neither chiefs nor warriors, have no political influence, and more resemble, in their condition, the poorer people of England, than our citizens. They are generally poor, even for savages, and are more unhappy than any other portion of people in the United States, slaves not excepted. A prophet had collected into one body on Rock river, about two hundred persons, who appeared to be a wretched people. They consisted of men and women who were either deformed in their persons, or were mere dwarfs in size. These were governed by this priest, through their hopes and fears, and this little band of Winnebagoes were kept together by a common interest. Cut off from all opportunity of ever rising into any important station in their nation, by circumstances beyond their control, they naturally associated together under such a teacher. According to their ideas of happiness, this world offered very little to them, and they naturally followed the man, who promised them all they could desire in a future state of existence. This prophet carried with him a wand about three feet in length, divided into parts somewhat like a common yard stick, and from this he professed to deliver to his people the most awful denunciations, provided they disobeyed him. His dreams he professed were sent directly from heaven, and he denounced the most awful judgments against every sinner who doubted his divine mission, or disobeyed his injunctions. Whether he went so far as to represent the Great Spirit malignant enough to inflict eternal punishment for every little fault; or whether he was weak enough to inculcate the doctrine of everlasting happiness, as a reward for the little, the very little good, which even the best man can effect in his life time, I cannot say. ...
(135/318) The condition of females among the savages, is certainly less favorable to happiness, than our state of society affords. The want of comfortable habitations among the aborigines, is felt more by women and children, aged and infirm persons, than with us. Their hardy habits, however, enable them to bear this evil better than one would suppose; and between their condition and ours, there is very little more disparity, than between our earliest white men in our frontier settlements, and the wealthier inhabitants of our Atlantic cities. The first settlers of Kentucky and Ohio, probably suffered more from the want of roads, mills, bridges, schools, and all the institutions and comforts of civilized life, to which they had been accustomed from their infancy, than the Winnebagoes do now. Habit is almost every thing that a person needs in such a case.
When I crossed Rock river at Ogee's ferry, September 1st, 1829, there was a lodge of Indians there, consisting of an old man, his son-in-law, daughter and several children. They waited on me, as soon as I stopped for the night, and the house of Ogee, who had married a half-breed, and owned the ferry. They addressed to me a speech which I answered in the same friendly spirit with theirs, gave them presents of pipes and tobacco, and visited their lodge. After receiving some sugar, as a present from the lady of the family at the lodge, and after obtaining a promise from her to make a small bag, out of some nettles which had been prepared by rotting and dressing, so that they resembled dressed hemp — I retired to rest at an early hour, and saw my friends no more, until day light, at which time, on walking out at the door, I saw the two Indian men at the lodge, painting and dressing themselves in their best manner. In (135/319) this way they were preparing to wait on me, before my departure, to deliver a speech and some presents to me. Not seeing the woman at the lodge, my attention was directed towards an adjoining grove, from whence the sound of an axe proceeded. The woman was cutting wood there, and soon she raised a log from the ground, a load for almost any man, and carried it to the lodge. A regard to delicacy forbade my visiting them, until the family were in a situation (136/319) to receive me. As soon as the men were completely dressed, I took an opportunity, to upbraid them for not cutting and carrying the wood, instead of laying that labor on the woman.
The men showed in their countenances, strong marks of grief at what they evidently considered a most unjust imputation on their character. It was true, they said, that the squaw had set up nearly all night to make the bag for me, but the money she was to receive for it would be her own, of which they would receive no part. The old man said that while he and his son-in-law many times would many times would rise early in the morning fasting, and hunt all day and return home at night faint, weary and almost famished for food, and so continue on from day to day, perhaps suffering all that they could endure until success crowned their efforts at last; all this time the squaw and her children remained at the lodge, where they could be comparatively comfortable, by a good fire, when the weather was bad, and suffered much less than the men who bore all the fatigues, without a murmur of complaint. In war, the men fight all the battles, suffer from wounds, from hunger and privations of every kind. "Father," said the old man, "we do not like some of your customs; at your forts we see young men, almost boys, acting as officers, and beating and abusing older men than they, compelling them to carry on their shoulders large poles all day, marching backwards and forwards, to answer no purpose, but to gratify their young officers. All this is imposed upon them, merely because these old men have drank too much whisky, which their officers first give them (136/320) to drink, and then punish them for drinking it! We endeavor to keep the whisky from our soldiers, and if they get it by any means, we do not punish them for drinking it. We have only old men like you, for our officers, and we teach our young men to obey them. Our women own all the children — the lodge and the wigwam are theirs, and all the household furniture. The men own the guns, the traps, the powder and lead, the horses and canoes. The women and children own the fishing lines and hooks, the axes and the hoes. We kill the deer, the bear, the otter, the mink and the muskrat; the women and children sometimes catch the fish, kill the birds and raise the corn."
(137/320) According to their ideas of things, they are, doubtless, kind and indulgent husbands, and the mother has the whole education of the children on her hands. The son she teaches to reverence and obey his father — to be brave and intrepid in danger — to be a man patient of fatigue; and when old enough, he learns the arts of a hunter, from his father, who takes him out into the forest for that purpose. From his earliest years he uses the bow, in killing birds and other small game. The daughter is taught by her mother, the culinary art, in all its branches — to be modest and submissive — to make mats of rushes and various kinds of bark — to dress skins and make them into moccasins. One squaw will, in one day, dress a deer skin, and work it up into moccasins, unless they are ornamented with porcupine quills, when I have known a squaw occupy herself during four or five days, on one pair of moccasins, or a shot pouch. ...
OLD MAID OF THE WISCONSIN.
(173/333) On the day we delivered the goods, to the Winnebagoes, after the Indians were all seated on the ground in rows; the chiefs, on the highest spot in the centre, on benches, clothed in the most sumptuous manner; where they could see, and be seen to the best advantage; every tribe by itself; the half breeds, in one place; the full whites, in another; as I passed through the open spaces, between the ranks, my attention was forcibly drawn to a particular spot, by a constant snarling, hissing noise of some miserable human being, whom, on approaching her, I ascertained to be an Indian woman, shriveled, haggard, and old, though remarkably neat in her person and dress.
She appeared to be about sixty years of age, and scolded incessantly. Some of the goods placed before her, as her share of them, she complained of as being too fine; others as being too coarse; some cost too much; while others were quite too cheap, and none of them seemed to please her.
Wishing, if possible, to please all of them, and especially the ladies; actuated by the best of motives, I endeavored by every argument in my power, to satisfy her, that so far as I could do any thing towards it, great care had been taken in the distribution, to do justice to every individual. I told her, that her Great Father, the President, had specially ordered me, so far as in me lay, to please all, and to see that no one went home dissatisfied. At the moment, she returned upon me a volley of epithets, too degrading to be repeated, even though applied to myself, as I felt conscious of not deserving them. Turning around to some females who were politely sitting on the ground behind me, I learned the fault finder, was an old maid, (unmarried men at sixty years of age, I will call bachelors, but ladies never) and that the only distinguishing mark of attention she had ever received from any man, was a smart blow, with the flat hand, on her right ear! ... (174/334) She was the only person who left the treaty ground, dissatisfied with the commissioners. To please her, was utterly impossible.
Seated, as I said, upon rising ground, on benches; clad in blankets, either green or red; covered with handsome fur hats, with three beautiful ostrich plumes, in each hat; dressed in ruffled calico shirts, leggins and moccasins — all new, and faces painted to suit the fancy of each individual, who held in his hand a new rifle — adorned too, with silver broaches, silver clasps on every arm, and a large medal suspended on each breast — the chiefs, principal warriors and head men, to the number of forty-two, sat during two hours, after all the goods had been delivered to the nation.
Every individual, of both sexes, in the nation, had, lying directly before the person, on the ground, the share of the goods belonging to the individual. Great pains had been taken to give each, such, and just so many, cloths as would be suitable for the owner to wear, during the year to come. The cloths were cut so as to correspond exactly with the size of the owner. The pile of cloths, for each person, was nearly two feet in thickness, the sight of which entirely overcame with joy, our red friends, and they sat during two hours, in the most profound silence; not taking off their eyes one moment, from the goods, now their own. For the first time, during my constant intercourse of several weeks, with these interesting sons and daughters of the forest, as I passed repeatedly through their ranks, not an eye appeared to see me; — not an ear, to hear my heavy tread; — not a tongue, as always heretofore, repeated the endearing name (174/335) of — “Oconee kairakee,” (the good chief,) which their kind partiality had given me, on my first landing at Prairie du Chien. Their minds were entirely overcome with joy.
The day being far spent, and as the loading of the canoes, in which they were about to depart, would necessarily (175/335) occupy some little time, I informed the chiefs and principal men, that the time had arrived, when we should part to meet no more — that the great gun at the fort would soon be fired, to do them honor. With one accord they all arose, and shaking me heartily by the hand, many of them shedding tears on the occasion, they one and all invited me to visit them, at their respective places of abode. In a shrill tone of voice, Nawkaw issued his orders for every individual to arise, take up his or her goods, and repair to the beach of the river near at hand, and there await the signal from the fort, for their embarkation.
In fifteen minutes they were all seated on the sands, by the river's edge, where they all sat in breathless silence, awaiting the signal, which was soon given. As soon as that was given, each chief came forward, shook me again cordially by the hand, accompanied by the warmest protestations of friendship. In a few moments more, they were off, covering a considerable surface with their canoes, each one of which carried its flag, of some sort, floating in the gentle breeze which ruffled the surface of the Mississippi.
The Chippeways, Ottowas, and Pottawatimies, had received their goods in the same manner as the Winnebagoes; had been treated precisely in the same way, and three guns, one for each nation, had given them a signal to depart, and they had parted with me in the same kind and affectionate manner. ... (198/354)
THE MINERAL COUNTRY.
The prairie wolf [coyote], in size, color and disposition, is half way between the black wolf, and the grey fox. His food consists of almost every thing within his reach — grasses and birds, their eggs — pigs and poultry. He is the greatest thief on the small scale, in the world. He can live on grasshoppers, crickets and bugs — he can steal from a hen coop, or a barn yard, and when pinched with hunger, he will even venture into a kitchen, and steal a crust of bread. He is the Indian dog of the North west, and the Jackal of Asia. He often approached, within a few feet of me, at night, when I lay out in the prairie, and barked at me with great earnestness. He is, for his size, the most mischievous animal in the world.
He is easily domesticated, and mixes with the common dog family; and the mixed breed propagates this new species of dog, which is easily recognized by its white eyes, and pointed, and erect ears. (198/355) Besides this mixed breed, the Winnebagoes, have a species of lap dog, which they fatten and feed upon, at their dog feasts. These dogs must have been derived from Canada, I should suppose, with which all the Indians of the Upper Mississippi, keep up an intercourse still; and from whence, they receive large presents annually. ...
1 Office seekers at Washington city only excepted.
by Richard L. Dieterle
A Map of Northern Illinois and the Southern Portion of the Wisconsin Territory, 1831
"Caleb Atwater (December 25, 1778 – March 13, 1867)" — born in Massachusetts, he traveled to New York City, where he was briefly a Presbyterian minister. After studying law, he was admitted to the bar in New York. In 1815, he moved to Circleville, Ohio, on the frontier. He was elected to the Ohio State House on a liberal platform, and became an ardent supporter of Andy Jackson. After losing his seat in the House, Jackson appointed him one of the three negotiators of the Treaty of 1829 with the Northwestern Indians. Thereafter, he wrote a number of books, including the first history of Ohio. He was one of the first to undertake a study of the Adena and Hopewell mounds. His theory was that they were created by people who migrated by sea from India. These people were, he supposed, pushed south to Mexico by incoming tribes form the north.
"General M’Niel" — M. Quaife, the editor of the Wisconsin Historical Society for many years, gave a short portrait of Gen. John McNeil,
Gen. McNeil came of heroic ancestry and from boyhood displayed a fondness for military life. Because of his unusual size and strength he enlisted in the militia when only 13 years old, and at 18 was commanding a company. When the army was increased, immediately before the War of 1812, McNeil was tendered a captaincy in the regular army. He served with distinguished credit throughout the war, being twice breveted for gallant conduct, the first time at the battle of Chippewa, the second at Lundy's lane. ... Of McNeil's size and strength some interesting anecdotes are preserved. Early in the war, while he was on recruiting duty at Concord, a mob of anti-war men came to the tavern where he was quartered for the purpose of provoking a fight with the soldiers. Hearing an uproar in the bar-room, and on taking in the situation promptly threw several of the disturbers through the window, whereupon the rest beat a hasty retreat.
When McNeil was sent as an envoy under flag of truce to the British Army, one of their officers asked him of his size and weight. He replied that he was 6' 6" and weighed 300 pounds. He then informed the red coat that he was the smallest of the brood and that he wasn't particularly noted among his countrymen, since he was counted as being somewhat small. The British officer is said to have replied, "Then may the Lord have mercy on the British army."1
"Colonel Menard" — Pierre Menard (7 October 1766 – 13 June 1844) of Quebec had settled in old French Louisiana, and became a citizen of the United States when that territory was purchased in 1803. This is an account of his life:
At the session of the Legislature in 1838-39, Menard County was stricken off from Sangamon, and named in honor of Col. Pierre Menard, a Frenchman, who settled at Kaskaskia in 1790. Menard was so popular in his day, with the people of Illinois, that when the Convention framed the Constitution of the State, a clause was included in the schedule to the Constitution providing that “any citizen of the United States, who had resided in the State for two years, might be eligible to the office of Lieutenant Governor.” This was done in order that Col. Menard, who had only been naturalized a year or two at the time, might be made Lieutenant Governor under Shadrach Bond, first Governor of Illinois, after its formation into a State.
As Menard County was named after this popular Frenchman, it may be interesting to the reader to give a brief account of his life. Pierre Menard was born in Quebec in the year 1767. He remained in his native city till in his nineteenth year, when his native spirit of adventure led him to seek his fortunes in the Territories watered by the Mississippi and its tributaries. He was, therefore, soon found in the town of Vincennes, on the Wabash River, in the employ of a merchant, one Col. Vigo. In the year 1790, he formed a partnership with one Du Bois, a merchant of Vincennes, and they removed their stock to Kaskaskia, in Illinois. Menard, though possessed of but a limited education, was a man of quick perception and of almost unerring judgment. He was candid and honest, full of energy, and industry, and these qualities soon marked him as a leader among the scattered population of his adopted home. For a number of years, he was Government Agent for the Indians, and his candor and integrity soon won for him the esteem and friendship of the Indian tribes. This fact secured him great advantage as a merchant, as he could buy their peltries for half that they could be purchased by the “Longknives.” He was a member of the Lower House of the Legislature while Illinois was under the Indiana regime, and, from 1812 to 1818, he was a member of the Illinois Legislative Council, being the President of that body. He was Lieutenant Governor from 1818 to 1822, and after that he declined to accept further honors at the hands of the people. He acquired a considerable fortune, but much of it was lost through his liberality in going security for his friends. He died at the good old age of seventy-seven years, in Tazewell County. Such was the man for whom the county of Menard was named.2
"the fort" — this is Fort Armstrong adjoining the village of Rock River, Illinois.
OLD FORT ARMSTRONG. As this celebrated fort was built on Rock Island, it will be proper to precede our account of it by a brief description of the Island itself. Rock Island is situated in the Mississippi River, opposite the upper end of the city of Rock Island, and between it and Davenport on the Iowa side. It is about two and a half miles long by three-fourths of a mile wide, and contains an area of about a thousand acres. The base of this island is a mass of limestone of the Hamilton group which underlies this section of country. At its lower extremity this rocky exposure rises in an almost perpendicular wall to a considerable height above the water, and was the cause of its being called by its appropriate name — Rock Island. ... After Fort Armstrong was built on the lower point of this island, the view on ascending the river became still more picturesque; and it has been described as one of the most beautiful and romantic scenes in the whole western country. ... In 1816, Fort Armstrong was built on the lower point of Rock Island. The force of regulars under Col. William Lawrence, which came up the river for the purpose of locating and erecting the fort, arrived at the mouth of Rock River and examined the country for a suitable site. They decided on the above location. On the 10th of May, 1816, they landed on the island, and as soon as they had completed their encampment, Colonel Lawrence employed the soldiers to cut logs and build store-houses for their provisions. He also had a bake-house and oven erected, which was the first building finished on the island. The erection of the fort and its accompanying buildings soon followed, and was named Fort Armstrong, in honor of the Secretary of War. It was a substantial structure of hewed logs, built in the form of a square, whose sides were four hundred feet in length. A block-house was built at each of the four angles, and embrazures for cannon and loop-holes for musketry were provided. A magazine store house barracks, and officers’ quarters were erected within the enclosure, and sections of heavy stone work built for protection against fire.3
|Fort Armstrong by Octave Blair (?), 1839|
"Forsyth" — Major Robert Allen Forsyth, jr., was sub-agent to the Winnebago under Col. John Kinsie. He transported the Hočąk delegation to Washington to sign the Treaties of 1829 and 1832.
Forsyth, Robert Allen (1798-Oct. 21, 1849) born in Detroit, son of Maj. Thomas Forsyth and his Ojibwa wife; early citizen of Chicago; served in the War of 1812; was a cadet in 1814 and later served as secretary to Governor Cass (in that capacity, accompanied him on the exploratory expedition that passed through Chicago in August 1820); received $1250 in payment for a claim at the 1828 Indian Treaty; was present at the Treaty of Chicago of 1833, serving on the claims committee and signing the treaty as a witness; received $3000 in payment to himself for a claim at the Chicago Treaty, $300 in trust for Mau-se-on-o-quet, $1000 in trust for Catherine McKenzie, and $200 in trust for heirs of Charles Guion; married Maria Howard [c.1799, Hinsdale, MA] on Nov. 6, 1826 at Genesco, NY; the couple had five surviving children born at Detroit; he died in Detroit; Maria died there on Oct. 4, 1890. He is sometimes cited as Chicago's very first schoolteacher: at the age of 13, during a winter visit in 1810, he taught the alphabet to six-year-old John H. Kinzie, tutoring with a speller brought from Detroit.4
The inset is purported to be of this Robert Allen Forsyth, but this has not been confirmed.
"Winnebago prophet" — named "White Cloud" (Mąxisgaga) in Hočąk. In conjunction with Black Hawk, the chief of the Sauk, he preached in favor of war against the Long Knives, gaining the support of the Fox, Kickapoo, Potawatomi, and Hočągara. The result was the near annihilation of the Sauks, from which he and Black Hawk barely escaped alive. See also, "A Prophecy."
"Prairie du Chien" — for its location, see the map above. The scene above was painted by George Catlin six years later (1835), and shows the U. S. Garrison in the distance.
"Nąga" — this name means "Wood" or "Tree." In another portrait by Catlin, he is shown with an Upper Moiety warclub (one which resembles a hockey stick). He will have been a chief of the Thunderbird Clan as emphasized in the painting above by Charles Bird King, where he is presenting a peace pipe in conjunction with the negotiations in Washington in 1828. He also bore the name Keramąnį́(ga), "The Turtle Who Walks," a reference to The Turtle, the spirit who invented war. For more on Nąga Keramąnį́ga, see the Commentary to "The Tavern Visit."
"Hujopka" — meaning, "Four Legs." See "Four Legs."
"Doctor Walcott" — (1790-1830), a figure in the history of Chicago, related by marriage to the Kinzies. Currie says this about him:5
Dr. Alexander Wolcott was Indian agent at Chicago from 1820 until his death in 1830. He was a Yale graduate, and had come to Chicago from Connecticut. He was appointed physician of Governor Cass western expedition in 1820, one of the party with Schoolcraft, Trowbridge, and John H. Kinzie. Of the Chicago of Dr. Wolcott's day, Schoolcraft tells us: "We found four or five families living here, the principal of which were those of Mr. John Kinzie, Dr. A. Wolcott, J. B. Bobian [Beaubien] and Mrs. J. Crafts, the latter living a short distance up the river." He writes later of continuing their journey: "Dr. Wolcott, being the US Agent for this tribe [Pottawattomies], found himself at home here, and constitutes no further a member of the expedition." There the exploring party left Dr. Wolcott, "whose manners, judgment, and intelligence had commanded our respect during the journey. While his predecessor, Jouett, was Indian Agent, the latter had begun the building of an agency house north of the river, on the southwest corner of the present intersection of North State and North Water Streets. This was later finished by Dr. Wolcott and occupied by him from 1820 to 1823, and again from 1828 until his death in 1830. The building was called Cobweb Castle, perhaps owing to its bachelor housekeeping. In 1823, he was married to Ellen Marion Kinzie, daughter of John Kinzie. Earlier in the same year, when the troops were removed from Fort Dearborn, Dr. Wolcott having been put in charge of the post and its property, moved into one of the officers dwellings. There he lived during the vacancy of the fort until 1828, when he returned to his own house, where he died in 1830. In mourning the death of Dr. Wolcott, Mrs. Kinzie says: "That noble heart, so full of warm and kindly affections, had ceased to beat, and sad and desolate, indeed, were those who had so loved and honored him."6
|John H. Kinzie||Kinzie House, Chicago, 1804||Indian Agency House (1832)|
"Mr. Kinzy" — John Harris Kinzie (July 7, 1803–June 19, 1865) became one of the earliest settlers of Chicago, when his parents moved there from Detroit in 1804. He had great proficiency in Indian languages, and consequently was selected as personal secretary to Governor Cass of Michigan Territory in 1826. In that same year, he accompanied the Hočągara to Washington. In 1827 he was a participant in the Treaty of Butte des Morts. From 1829-1834, he was the Indian Subagent at Ft. Winnebago. His Indian Agency House near Portage, Wisconsin, was one of the earliest houses built in Wisconsin, and still exists today. He married his wife, Juliette Augusta McGill in 1830. She was the author of the famous Wau-Bun, the Early Day in the Northwest.
Gen. Joseph Street
"General Street" — General Joseph Montfort Street (October 18, 1782 – May 5, 1840), was a frontiersman in the old Northwest Territory, and a friend of Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, and Zachary Taylor. After a stormy career as a newspaper owner in Kentucky, he established himself in Shawneetown, Illinois, in 1812. He was made general of the local militia. In 1827 he became the Indian agent to the Hočągara. He attempted to keep white settlers out of the lands reserved for the tribe, but it proved a hopeless task, so he came to believe that Indian removal was the only answer. In 1832, he was able to keep most of the Hočągara neutral in the Black Hawk War. In 1834, the Fox and Sac were added as his charges. This diffusion of his labors caused the abortion of his school for the Hočągara at Prairie du Chien, which closed the year that he died.
"Keeokuk" — Atwater describes him as, "the principal warrior of the Sauks, is a shrewd politic man, as well as a brave one, and he possesses great weight of character in their national councils. He is a high minded, honorable man, and never begs of the whites."7 He and his wife were painted by Charles Bird King in 1837.
"Morgan" — "Morgan, is the principal warrior of the Foxes, and resides at Du Buque's mine, on the western bank of the Mississippi. Though less versatility of talent belongs to him than Keeokuk possesses, yet he is a brave man and fond of war. More than a year before we were in that country, this Indian general had gone to the Sioux country and killed a woman and three children of that nation, which act produced the war then raging between the two nations. This act has since been dreadfully avenged by a large party, on some twenty individuals of the Foxes."8
"Quasquawma" — "Quasquawma was the chief of this tribe once, but being cheated out of the mineral country, as the Indians allege, he was degraded from his rank, and his son-in-law Tiama elected in his stead."9
"Tiama" — "Tiama, a principal civil chief of the same tribe, is an excellent man, and the son-in-law of Quasquawma. Their village is already noticed as being located on the west side of the river, opposite where we lay on an island, at the head of the lower rapids."10
"without conjugation" — this is false.
|mą̄nį||I walk||mą̄nįwi||we walk|
|mąšį́nį||you walk||mąšį́nįwi||you walk|
|hįmąnį́||you and I walk (dual)||hįmąnįwi||we (incl.) walk|
|mąnį́||he, she, it walks; to walk||mąnį́re||they walk|
His attempt to portray all Indian languages as "primitive" or "savage," particularly since he had no knowledge of any of them, represents spectacular hubris. In this case, it is the English "walk" that is hardly conjugated. The Hočąk has a dual which is missing in English. The latter evolved from the language of a savage forest dwellling tribe whom the Romans called germani.
"Ali Kawn" — Ali Khan is, of course, a Muslim name, not Hindu. I know of no Hočąk name similar to this.
"Kawrawkaw" — the word for crow in Hočąk is kaǧí, which bears little resemblance to this name. Maunkawkaw, appears to be Mąką́ga, "Medicine." Wawnkawshaw is Waką́ja(ga), "Thunderbird," whereas Whirling Thunder is actually, Wakąjagiwįxka. Nawkaw and Hoochopekah (four legs) have been mentioned above. Kayray mawnee, "Walking Turtle," is for Keramąnį́(ga). Wawtcheakaw, "Big Canoe," is for Wačxetega, the name of one of the Decorahs. Yellow Thunder is Wakąjaziga, but Wawrootsheka most resembles Warujᵋxiga, "Makes Yellow by Eating." Chahwawsaipkah, "Black Eagle," is a variant of Čawaxšepsepka.
"two civil chiefs" — they do indeed have at least two civil chiefs, one a peace chief, the other a war chief. However, in the example given, of Decori and Winneshiek, both of these are Thunderbird clansmen, and therefore are peace chiefs. Such chiefs were never known to divide their authority over a village. The village here called "le Croix," is (as given elsewhere) better known as "La Crosse (Wisconsin)."
"dwelling different places" — this is not true, as is shown by the fact that the Hočągara and related tribes have functional clans. For instance, the Bear Clan is the police force, so it would be preposterous for the police to live off some place in their own village, since their function is integral to every village.
"the other tribes" — the basic confusion here is between a clan/gens/phratry (moiety), and a band. He counts as one of the "tribes" the "Turtle tribe," who follow after Keramąnį́ga, "The Turtle Who Walks." This, however, is a band over whom Keramąnį́ga is the Thunderbird Clan (peace) chief. He is called in his clan, Nąga, "Tree," since trees (ną) are the favorite target of Thunderbirds. Because Atwater thought that the Turtles were a "tribe" (clan), he concluded that each clan lived in its own village.
"fourteen civil chiefs" — this is arrived at by taking the two civil chief and multiplying them by the villages of the supposed seven "tribes." Trowbridge, whose ethnography deserves the name, says,
Anciently there was a body of counselors, composed of fifteen chiefs, over which the Chief of the Thunder tribe presided. It was their duty to meet occasionally and regulate the government of their villages. They received propositions for peace or alliance with other nations and attended to the general welfare of the nation; but this society has long been extinct, owing to the separation of the tribes.11
Here "tribes" means "bands." It is hard to be certain, however, that the similarity of fourteen and fifteen councilors is just coincidental.
"the two civil chiefs appoint all the officers" — this is not like to be the case, since many positions depend on clan function. The Bear Clan, for instance, supplies all the security for any occasion, and the precise choice of men falls to the chiefs within the Bear Clan.
"he generally succeeds his father in the government" — this seems to be true, as many Hočąk stories assume this to be the case.
"the daughter of a chief never marries into a family below hers in dignity" — given the intra-moiety exogamy of the Hočągara, it is necessarily the case that any young woman from the Thunderbird Clan, the clan of the chief, will marry someone of a lower clan. However, it was falsely claimed at times that the Thunderbird and Bear Clans intermarried with one another. Given the superiority of the Bear Clan in the lower moiety, this idea could be explained by the desire on the part of higher born females to accept the courting of an Earth Moiety man who has higher standing in that moiety than do his competitors. It may have worked out that there was a higher preference among Thunderbird female for members of the Bear Clan, rather than any formal constitutional arrangement that dictated their exclusive intermarriage.
"stand around him" — this sounds more like what a man's nieces would do during a feast. Given the official standing of Atwater at these negotiations, their hospitality to him may have been in what they would consider a formal feast.
"the younger men carry it for them" — this is a sheer flight of fancy. Atwater later contradicts this very point.
"to eat all they can swallow" — among the Hočągara, it is considered good manners to not quite finish everything on one's plate, but save some leftovers to put back in the pot.
"salted meats" — the Indians generally preserved their meat by drying it to create jerky. They may have become acquainted with salted meat by receiving it in payment from the U. S. government.
"a bed fellow" — it is not clear what this would mean in the early XIXth century. Among the Hočągara, sleeping with a woman is essentially tantamount to marrying her. Perhaps he merely meant someone to sleep alongside for the sake of security.
|The Elder Winneshiek||Young Winneshiek|
"Winnesheek" — Oliver LaMère is quoted as saying of the older Winneshiek,
He is said to have been of medium size, had black mustache and chin whiskers. He was very handsome, and it is said that he always wore goggles, or dark glasses. He always carried a pipe, which was made out of a round stick about a foot and a half long with the stem hole bored through it, and the bowl bored into the other end; he carried this most all the time, and especially at council meetings would he have it with him.12
The historian Lawson relates an incident during this very treaty negotiation at Prairie de Chien,
The older Winneshiek is said to have been a good chief. The Indians in a drunken pow wow at Prairie du Chien had killed his brother. Word of this tragedy being sent to him, he coolly loaded his pistol, and with it concealed beneath his blanket, went to the place where his brother lay. He had the murderer brought beside his victim and then suddenly shot him dead.13
He became head chief of the whole tribe in 1845, and was so recognized by the United States Government.
"his son" — known as "Little Winneshiek," sometimes confused with Young Winneshiek, the elder Winneshiek's brother. Hexom has this to say about him,
NO-GIN-KAH [Nójįga] (meaning, Striking Tree and Younger Winneshiek) is the youngest son of Chief Winneshiek, or Coming Thunder. He is seventy years old and is still living in Wisconsin. He is more commonly known as Little Winneshiek. No-gin-kah says, "John Winneshiek and I are the only sons of Chief Winneshiek living and his other descendants produced by our deceased brothers and sisters diverge into a very large family." He further states that, "The medals issued to Winnebago chiefs by the United States Government are lost, the one described by Geo. W. Kingsley was lost by one of my elder brothers. I have only one medal in my possession, on which is engraved King George the 3d and Latin inscriptions [this medal, (with the exception of a slight variation in size) conforms to a description of the one issued by the British military authorities in 1778]."14
"old sledge" — a variant of "All Fours," a card game originating in Kent in England.15 For the rules of this game, see Foster.16 The game was particularly vulnerable to cheating.17 In this context, we should observe that Hočąk hohí means both "to win (at a game)," and "to cheat."
"Little Elk" — Hųwąnįka in Hočąk. His portrait, painted during his trip to Washington, to which he refers, is seen above. Of interest are the wounds painted on the right side of his body. He appears to have been struck by an arrow right on top of his rib, which if it had been off this mark by an inch, would have passed between his ribs and into his vital organs. He also has two slash marks on his right arm, probably the result of more close order combat.
"Hočąk Nąwąra" — the first phrase which is repeated five times is not coherent. The next line, however, can be made out:
[Hiča]kora wąkižą mąnį čira-hira,
"Friends, a man walks to his lodge."
The word čira-hira could become čirira by sandhi. "The village," would be, činą́gera. What this line means is that he will hit him where he lives.
"fort Meigs" — near Perrysburg, Ohio, was the site of a siege by the British and Indians that began on April 28, 1813. The Indian forces were under Tecumseh and Roundhead. A large force of Kentucky militia who had arrived to reinforce the fort, were engaged by the Indians, who made a fighting retreat into the depths of the woods, where they cut the Kentucky force to pieces. Of the 866 men of the force, only 150 made it back to Fort Meigs. Indian casualties were 19 killed or wounded. Between 12 and 14 of the hundreds of prisoners taken were being massacred by the Indians before Tecumseh and two British officers could stop them. Tecumseh upbraided the British commander, Gen. Proctor, at the scene for not stopping the massacre.
"they naturally followed the man" — the Hočąk system was a welfare state governed by the Thunderbird or Peace Chief. People would constantly make presents to the chief, who out of a sense of disinterestedness and virtue, would keep nothing for himself, but then distribute it all to the poor. By this means, those who had a surplus then supplied the needs of those who had a deficit. Here we find a priest keeping a set of unfortunate people in good order, good morale, and presumably in good supply at least of food. At the same time we should remember that the origin of evil lies in defect among the Hočągara. So these people were born cursed by the spirits, but their priest seems to have been of the opinion that by soliciting the favors of heaven by paying close attention to the configuration of the relevant astronomical bodies, that a happy Spiritland might be found for them post mortem.
|Čižąhaka Holding a Calendar Stick||Cock Turkey||Elk's Horns||The Sauk|
"a wand about three feet in length" — this certainly sounds like a calendar stick. Since Čižąhaka had his portrait made this same year when in Washington, we might think that the man being described is the subject of this painting. This suggests that the calendar stick could also be used for what we would call "astrology." Čižąhaka seems to have been a member of the Bear Clan, and its subclan, the Blue Bear Subclan, was a college of priests who kept the calendar sticks. That he seems to govern these people rather like a constable is not surprising, since the exclusive function of the Bear Clan as a whole is to furnish police (mąnąpera).
However, when we examine neighboring tribes, we arrive at a still more like identity for this marked stick. Catlin tells us, with respect to his painting, "Ah-tón-we-tuck, Cock Turkey - Repeating His Prayer" (1830), a Kickapoo,
The present chief of this tribe … usually called the … Prophet, is a very shrewd and talented man. When he sat for his portrait, he took his attitude as seen in the picture, which was that of prayer. And I soon learned that he was a very devoted Christian. … It was told to me in the tribe by the Traders (though I am afraid to vouch for the whole truth of it), that while a Methodist preacher was soliciting him for permission to preach in his village, the Prophet refused him the privilege, but secretly took him aside and supported him until he learned from him his creed, and his system of teaching it to others; when he discharged him, and commenced preaching among his people himself; pretending to have had an interview with some … inspired personage; ingeniously resolving, that if there was any honor … or influence to be gained by the promulgation of it, he might as well have it as another person; and with this view he commenced preaching and instituted a prayer, which he ingeniously carved on a maple stick of an inch and a half in breadth, in characters somewhat resembling Chinese letters. These sticks, with the prayers on them, he has introduced into every family of the tribe, and into the hands of every individual; and as he has necessarily the manufacturing of them all, he sells them at his own price; and has thus added lucre to fame, and in two essential and effective ways, augmented his influence in his tribe.18
He is seen "reading off from characters cut upon a stick that he holds in his hands."19 Shown also is the Kickapoo subject of "Ma-shee-na, Elk's Horns, a Subchief" (1830), using his prayer stick in an act of prayer; and the Potawatomi in "On-sáw-kie, The Sauk, in the Act of Praying" (1830).
"Indians" — Judge Joseph Gillespie recalls,
My brother, and I left Edwardsville on the 22d of February, 1827, to seek our fortunes at the mines. The winter had been a very “open” one, more so, I think, than the one through which we have just passed, but had been very wet. The whole country was covered with water, and as there were but few bridges, we were compelled to swim nearly every stream between Edwardsville and Galena, and “camp out” every night. After passing Springfield, where we rested the third night, we ferried the Illinois River at Fort Clark (now Peoria), and Rock River where Dixon now stands. It was occupied by a band of Winnebago Indians, with whom we bivouacked and bargained for ferriage the next morning. During the night it turned very cold, and in the morning the Indians either would not or could not take us over, and so we took their canoes and crossed, ourselves. This was the first bitter cold weather we had experienced.20
Therefore, the Indians of this part of the Rock River were Hočąk.
"Ogee" — Joe Ogee, himself half French and half Indian, had set up the ferry there in 1828, and later had a part in running its first post office. He established a "setting pole" ferry boat in the spring of 1828, the initial attempt by Bogardus to established a ferry the year before, met with the disapproval of the Hočągara, who expressed this by burning the boat.21 The next year, Ogee and his Potawatomi wife had a falling out, and she left him. Not long after, in 1830, John Dixon purchased both the ferry and surrounding region. The town that sprang up there in Lee County, Illinois, is named "Dixon" after him.22
"the whole education of the children" — this is simply false.23
"green or red" — in Hočąk, these colors would be čo and šuč respectively. It happens that young people dress in šuč, but once a person becomes an elders, they dress in the color čo (blue/green). So whether by accident or design, the two correct colors were chosen for the blankets.
"plumes" — one of these was Nąga, who this same year, when he appeared in Washington, was painted wearing almost exactly what was described here by Atwater. Instead of three ostrich plumes, two have been replaced by peacock tail feathers. He is also wearing a calico shirt and silver armbands.
"oconee kairakee" — this may be, Hųk’uniga-(h)iragi, "He who is Made Chief has arrived."
Notes to the Commentary
1 M. M. Quaife, "Stories of Wisconsin. No. 34. Gen. John McNeil," Milwaukee Journal, November 28, 1920.
2 [Rev. R. D. Miller,] The History of Menard and Mason Counties, Illinois (Chicago: O. L. Baskin & Company, 1879) 190-191.
3 The Past and Present of Rock Island County, Ill. (Chicago: A. F. Kent & Co., 1877) 116, 118.
4 Michigan Territory Lodges. Transcribed & edited by Gary L. Heinmiller (warranted by the Grand Lodge of the State of New York, 2009) 38.
5 Josiah Seymour Currey, Chicago: Its History and Its Builders, 3 vols. (Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1918) 1:129-130.
6 Juliette Augusta McGill Kinzie, Wau-Bun, The "Early Day" in the North-west (New York: Derby & Jackson; Cincinnati: H. W. Derby & Co., 1856) 84.
7 Atwater, Remarks made on a Tour to Prairie Du Chien, 73/246-247.
8 Atwater, Remarks made on a Tour to Prairie Du Chien, 73-74/247.
9 Atwater, Remarks made on a Tour to Prairie Du Chien, 74/247.
10 Atwater, Remarks made on a Tour to Prairie Du Chien, 74/247.
11 Charles C. Trowbridge, "Manners, Customs, and International Laws of the Win-nee-baa-goa Nation," (1823), Winnebago Manuscripts, in MS/I4ME, Charles Christopher Trowbridge Collection (02611), Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library, 88.
12 Quoted in Indian History of Winneshiek County, Compiled by Charles Philip Hexom (Decorah: A. K. Bailey & Don, Inc., 1913) unpaginated, s. nom. "Chief Winneshiek."
13 Publius V. Lawson, "The Winnebago Tribe," Wisconsin Archeologist, 6, #3 (July, 1907): 156.
14 Hexom, Indian History of Winneshiek County, unpaginated, s. nom. "No-Gin-Kah."
15 Charles Cotton, THE Compleat Gameſter: Or, Full and Eaſy INSTRUCTIONS For Playing at above Twenty ſeveral GAMES Upon the CARDS; WITH Variety of diverting FANCIES and TRICKS upon the ſame, now firſt added. As likewiſe at All the GAMES on the TABLES. Together with The ROYAL GAME of Cheſs, and Billiards. Fifth Reprint (London: J. Wilford, 1725 ) 80-83.
16 Robert Frederick Foster, Foster's Complete Hoyle, An Encyclopedia of Games, Including All the Indoor Games Played at the Present Day. With Suggestions for Good Play, All the Official Laws, Illustrative Hands, and a Brief Statement of the Doctrine of Chances as Applied to Games (F. A. Stokes Company, 1909) 324-330.
17 Cotton, The Compleat Gamester, 82-83; Foster, Foster's Complete Hoyle, 329-330.
18 George Catlin, Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Conditions of the North American Indians, (New York: Wiley and Putnam, 1841) 2:98-99, Plate 186.
19 Catlin, Letters and Notes, 2:98.
20 Joseph Gillespie, "Recollections of Early Illinois and Her Noted Men: Read Before the Chicago Historical Society, March 16th, 1880," Issue 13 of Fergus' Historical Series (Chicago: Fergus Printing Company, 1880) 40-41. Gillespie goes into more detail in a letter quoted in Henry Rush Boss, Sketches of the History of Ogle County, Ill., and the Early Settlement of the Northwest (Polo, Illinois: Henry R. Boss, 1859) 50-51.
21 William D. Barge, Early Lee County, Being Some Chapters in the History of the Early Days in Lee County, Illinois (Chicago: Barnard and Miller, Printers, 1918) 47.
22 For Ogee, see Barge, Early Lee County, 10, 40-42, 47-48, 52-69, 73. Seen below is Ogee's signature in his sale of his ferry to Dixon in 1832.
Barge, Early Lee County, 61.
23 See, for instance, Sam Blowsnake (ed. Paul Radin), Crashing Thunder. The Autobiography of an American Indian (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983 ) Chapter 7, "The Teachings of My Father," 56-74.