I N D I A N  T R I B E S


North America,



P R I N C I P A L  C H I E F S.













Thomas L. McKenney


TSHIZUNHAUKAU, a Winnebago Warrior 195
NAWKAW, a Winnebago Chief 315
AMISQUAM, a Winnebago Chief 363
WAKAUN HAKA, a Winnebago Chief 433
WAKAWN, a Winnebago Chief 107
HOOWANNEKA, a Winnebago Chief 157


(62) The governor inquired whether [Tecumthé] would forcibly oppose the survey of the purchase. He replied, that he was determined to adhere to the old boundary. Then arose a Wyandot, a Kickapoo, a Potawatimie, an Ottawa, and a Winnebago chief, each declaring his determination to stand by Tecumthé. The governor then said, that the words of Tecumthé should be reported to the President, who would take measures to enforce the treaty; and the council ended.

(195) TSHIZUNHAUKAU, or He who runs with the deer, is a Winnebago warrior, of remarkable genius and singular character. He unites the characters of the conjurer and medicine-man with that of the brave, without losing any of his reputation for manliness and courage.

It is a peculiarity of savage life, that but one high road to distinction exists. War is the only occupation which is considered as capable of giving exercise to the highest powers of manhood. Hunting is the business of their life, and expertness in this employment, and in the various arts belonging to it, is highly estimated; but to be a successful hunter confers respectability rather than distinction. The spoils of the chase afford sustenance, and to the able or fortunate hunter give that competency which stands in the place of wealth; but the standing gained by this employment, in its best aspect, is only equal to that of a successful man of business in civilized communities. Oratory ranks a little higher, and carries with it a certain degree of popular influence, which is eagerly sought after by the aspiring savage. Strength, swiftness, expertness in horsemanship, and other qualities which enable their possessor to triumph in athletic sports, and give grace and manliness to his movements, are highly prized. But all these are but the accomplishments considered desirable to give finish to the character of the warrior; for without military distinction all else is as the sounding brass and tinkling cymbal.

A few men among the Indians have gained high repute, and maintained a commanding influence through life, without the aid of a military reputation. One of these was Red Jacket, who never (196) attained any standing as a warrior, nor set up any pretensions to martial skill or fame; and some other instances have been recorded in this work. But these were men of consummate ability, whose talents were useful to their people, and whose genius elevated them above the operation of general rules; and, in the case of Red Jacket, there were a nationality, a zeal, and tenacity, with which he adhered to the side of his own people, right or wrong, in all their controversies with the whites, and clung to the customs and prejudices of his ancestors, that endeared him to the Senecas. But these are rare examples, in which the strong law of human nature prevails over the peculiarities of national character.

It follows, that those who are incapacitated by indolence, bodily debility, and mental weakness, from earning laurels on the field of battle, sink into insignificance and even contempt, unless they can strike out some other mode of securing respectability. The same causes which render them unfit for warriors, operate equally against their success in either of the occupations we have alluded to. But no debility, either physical or mental, prevents a man from becoming a doctor; as in this occult science, skilful practice and skilful imposture approach as nearly as the sublime and the ridiculous. We think that the majority of the Indian prophets, conjurers, and medicine-men, have their origin in this principle. Though indolent, or pusillanimous, or unfortunate in laboring under some physical deficiency, they have been compensated by a sufficient portion of that cunning which Nature bestows upon inferior creatures, to enable them to impose on the credulity of the people. A few of these persons have undoubtedly been fanatics, who were self-deluded; but we suppose the greater part of them to be crafty impostors, whose highest motive is to gain a livelihood, without incurring the danger and fatigue of war or hunting, and to rise above the contempt of a wholly idle and useless life.

The standing of this class may be readily imagined. A savage people, without arts or literature, who scarcely ever reason, and act (197) almost entirely from impulse, are easily imposed upon. Superstition is one of the thriftiest plants in the wilderness of an uncultivated intellect; it flourishes under the rude culture of the most bungling impostor. The number of such persons is small, for the reasons indicated above; inactive employments are unsuited to the habits and genius of the savage; few will condescend to follow such pursuits, and still more few will undertake the mental exertion of thought and deception required for the office. The conjurers, therefore, rank high, because they are a small class, practising an occult art, among a superstitious people.

The failures of this class, on the other hand, are numerous, because the capital of intellect embarked in it is small, and the indolence and improvidence of the race are such, that few persevere long in any occupation requiring continued attention. The medicine men and prophets, therefore, often fall into disrepute, either from repeated want of success in their incantations and predictions, or from the laziness or dissoluteness of life consequent upon a brief harvest of successful practice; and the same man who was revered on account of his supposed intercourse with the world of spirits, is heartily despised when discovered to be a cheat. The brother of Tecumthé, whose reputation was very high, and whose influence, extending through several tribes besides his own, lasted for several years, dwindled into a very insignificant person, and in his old age there were "none so poor to do him reverence." There are some who, from honesty of purpose, or great native sagacity, become skilful in public business, or useful counsellors in sickness and domestic calamity, and retain the confidence of the people; but we think that usually this class of persons, like the quacks and hum bugs of civilized society, enjoy a short-lived celebrity; the delusion itself survives in ever-blooming vigor; the gullibility of mind which sustains it remains fresh and prolific as the bountiful earth, while the impostors flourish and fade, like the annual plants, in rapid succession. (198) We need not enlarge upon the practice of the Indian conjurer, for although the details of the modes of operation may exhibit considerable variety, none of them exhibit much ingenuity, and the leading features are few, and exceedingly superficial. The Indians are not an imaginative people; they have no poetry, no sprightliness of fancy, scarcely any perceptible creative faculty. They have no mythology, no belief nor theory in regard to another world, which is general, or which lasts from one generation to another. The whole subject is to them a blank. The conception or idea, inseparable from the existence of spirit, and which the human mind, in a sane state, nourishes under every modification of life, of a hereafter, and a superhuman power, is prevalent among them; but the conception is so vague and feeble as to be fruitless of any practical result. No system of worship obtains amongst them, no fabric of superstition has been reared. When their minds awaken for a moment from the lethargy that benumbs them, and soar into the regions of speculation, the flight is too feeble, and the newly acquired vision too dim, to yield materials for any connected chain of reasoning, and the only product of such efforts, consists of the most puerile and shapeless vagaries. A few traditions are handed down from times past, but so mutilated as to be scarcely traced from one generation to another. The legends, dreams, and visions in current circulation, are mostly of modern date, but are fabricated from the fragments and reminiscences of other times.

Their knowledge of the medicinal qualities of herbs is not extensive. The medicine-men have a few simple remedies of this character, which are efficacious in ordinary cases of disease and injury, and in the use of these the women are equally expert. In more difficult cases they resort to incantations and prayers addressed to good or evil spirits. To produce dreams they resort to fasting and bodily penance, carried often to the utmost power of endurance, and by these means a disturbed state of mind is induced, which gives rise to visions of more or less coherence. Great confidence (199) is placed in these dreams; and this circumstance affords a sufficient temptation to cunning men to feign them, while it points out to sagacious chiefs an efficient mode through which a secret though powerful influence may be exerted over the people.

Tshizunhaukau was not a regular medicine-man, but he practised the art when it suited his convenience, and had the reputation of possessing the gift. He was a sagacious man, who knew and thought more than those around him. He noticed the seasons and changes of the atmosphere, and had a strong memory for dates and events. The portrait represents him holding in his hand a rod, which was an invention of his own, and was covered with marks and figures representing the divisions of time, and certain changes of the seasons, to which were added signs, indicating the results of certain calculations he had made respecting the weather. It was a curious and original invention, the fruit of an inquisitive and active mind, and the indication of a spirit that rose above the sluggish incuriousness of his race. He had noticed the phenomena which took place around him, with deep attention, and had recorded upon the tablet of a retentive memory all that seemed worthy of remark. He had endeavored, to the extent of his limited knowledge and means of information, to trace effects to their causes, and to find out the reasons of uncommon events. The results of these inquiries were carved upon his wand, which became thus an almanac, and doubtless as complete a one, in reference to his wants, as our common almanacs are to the enlightened astronomer. He maintained a high character as a warrior, and was one of the deputation who accompanied Nawkaw, the principal chief of the Winnebagoes, to Washington, in 1828.

(216) For several years previous to 1811, the prospect of a war between the United States and Great Britain, produced an irritable state of feeling on the frontier ... (217) [The British] were busily employed, for several years, in holding talks with the Indians residing within the United States, supplying them with arms, making them liberal presents, and inciting them to make war upon the American settlements. Several interviews were held with these officers by Black Hawk, and on one of these occasions we find him, for the first time, dignified with a title. His own relation is as follows: "In the encampment, I found a large number of Potawatimies, Kickapoos, Ottawas, and Winnebagoes. I visited all their camps and found them in high spirits. They had all received new guns, ammunition, and a variety of clothing. In the evening a messenger came to me to visit Colonel Dixon. I went to his tent, in which were two other war chiefs and an interpreter. He received me with a hearty shake of the hand, and presented me to the other chiefs, who shook my hand cordially, and seemed much pleased to see me. After I was seated, Colonel Dixon said: 'General Black Hawk, I sent for you to explain to you what we are going to do, and the reasons that have brought us here. Our friend, La Gutrie, informs us in the letter you brought from him, what has lately taken place. You will now hold us fast by the hand. Your English Father has found out that the Americans want to take your country from you, and has sent me and his braves to drive them back to their country. He has likewise sent a large quantity of arms and ammunition, and we want all your warriors to join us.' ...

(227) In the spring of 1831, after the Indians had for a long while passively endured a series of insults and injuries from the intruding whites, settled in their vicinity, and while the most profound peace existed on the frontier, a war was suddenly kindled by the same parties, who had thus far been the aggressors. The fences of the white people had, it seems, been thrown across a path which the Indian women had been accustomed to use, and the latter, finding their way obstructed, threw down the enclosure. This trivial offence was eagerly seized upon by those who had long sought to bring about a war. Letters were despatched to the interior, in which it was alleged that the Indians were hostile, that measures had been taken to unite the Winnebagoes and Potawatimies with them in a league against the whites ...

(232) After several weeks' laborious marching, and some skirmishes in which gallantry was displayed on both sides, the Indians were overtaken on the shore of the Mississippi, near the mouth of a stream called Bad Axe, and nearly the whole party slain or captured. Black Hawk was among the few who escaped; but he was delivered, a few days after, to General Street, the Indian agent at Prairie du Chien, by two Winnebagoes. Thus ended a war instigated by a few individuals to forward their own sinister views, but which cost the government more than two millions of dollars, besides needlessly sacrificing many valuable lives.

(315) NAWKAW, THE countenance of this chief is prepossessing, and indicative of his true character. He was a firm, sagacious man, of upright deportment, and pacific disposition, who filled his station with dignity, and commanded respect by his fidelity to his engagements. His name is less expressive than most of those which are borne by Indians of reputation the word Nawkaw signifying wood. He was of the Winnebago tribe, and of the Caromanie or Walking Turtle family, which is of the highest distinction. The name Caromanie, among the Winnebagoes, implies rank and dignity, conveys the idea of sovereignty, and is, therefore, highly respected; for this people, like all other savages, have an inherent veneration for hereditary greatness.

This chief was the head of his tribe, who inhabited a broad and beautiful country, lying between the Mississippi and Lake Michigan, and spread out in plains of great extent, fertility, and magnificence. His residence was at the Big Green Lake, which is situated between Green Bay and Fort Winnebago, and is about thirty miles from the latter. Although a warrior by profession, the successful leader in many a fight, he was a person of excellent disposition, who preferred and courted peace; and his upright conduct, in connection with his military talents, caused him to be respected and beloved. His conduct was patriarchal, and his sway that of the parent rather than the master. In the recent war between the United States and the Sauks and Foxes, it was feared that the Winnebagoes, inhabiting the country (316) immediately north of the hostile Indians, would unite with them, and forming a powerful combination, would devastate the defenceless frontier, before our government could adopt measures for its relief. The opportunity was a tempting one to a savage tribe, naturally disposed to war, and always prepared for its most sudden exigencies; and many of the Winnebagoes were eager to rush into the contest. But the policy of Nawkaw was decidedly pacific, and his conduct was consistent with his judgment and his professions. To keep his followers from temptation, as well as to place them under the eye of an agent of our government, he encamped with them near the agency, under the charge of Mr. Kinzie, expressing on all occasions his disapprobation of the war, and his determination to avoid all connection with those engaged in it. The Indian tribes are often divided into parties, having their respective leaders, who alone can control their partisans in times of excitement. On this occasion, the more respectable, and by far the most numerous part of the Sauk and Fox nation, headed by Keokuk, the proper chief, remained at peace, while a faction, called the British band, was led headlong into a disastrous war by Black Hawk, a warrior having no lawful rank, and his coadjutor, the Prophet. Among the Winnebagoes a similar division occurred; a few restless and unprincipled individuals giving loose to their propensity for blood and plunder by joining the war parties, while the great body of the tribe remained at peace, under the influence of their venerable chief.

Having narrated, in the historical part of this work, the interesting story of the surrender of Red Bird, we shall only advert to that circumstance here for the purpose of remarking, that Nawkaw took an active and judicious part in that melancholy and singular affair. He exerted his influence to have the murderers arrested and delivered up to the officers of our government; but, having thus discharged his duty, he was equally diligent in his endeavors to obtain for them the pardon of the President. For this purpose (317) he visited Washington in 1829, accompanied by fifteen of his chief men; and it was at that time that the portrait which we have copied was taken. He is represented in the attitude of addressing the President, and in the act of extending towards him his calumet at the conclusion of his speech.

The intercession of Nawkaw was successful; the clemency of the President was extended to the wretched men then lying captive in the prison at Prairie du Chien but unfortunately too late. The Indian, accustomed to unlimited freedom, languishes in confinement. The Red Bird was a high-spirited warrior, unused to restraint, and habituated to roam over boundless plains, with a step as unfettered as that of the wild horse of the Prairie. The want of exercise and the privations of imprisonment destroyed his health, broke his spirit, and hurried him to a premature grave. He died before the news of his pardon reached him.

We shall conclude this article with a few anecdotes of Nawkaw and his companions. In conducting these persons to Washington, it was deemed proper to lead them through some of the principal cities, where they might witness the highest evidences of our wealth, power, and civilization. Their conductors were Major Forsythe and Mr. Kinzie, the latter of whom speaks the languages of the north-western tribes with fluency, and to him are we indebted for these facts.

While at New York, the Winnebago deputies attended, by invitation, a balloon ascension at the Battery. At this beautiful spot, where the magnificence of a city on the one hand, and a splendid view of one of the noblest harbors in the world on the other, combine to form a landscape of unrivalled grandeur, thousands of spectators were assembled to witness the exploit of the aeronaut, and to behold the impression which would be made upon the savage mind by so novel an exhibition. The chiefs and warriors were provided with suitable places, and many an eye was turned in anxious scrutiny upon their imperturbable countenances as they (318) gazed in silence upon the balloon ascending into the upper atmosphere. At length Nawkaw was asked what he thought of the aeronauts? He replied coolly "I think they are fools to trifle in that way with their lives, what good does it do?" Being asked if he had ever before seen so many people assembled at one time, he answered, "We have more in our smallest villages."

While at Washington they were lodged at a public hotel, and regaled in the most plentiful and sumptuous manner; not with standing which, when about to leave the city, Nawkaw complained of the quality of the food placed upon his table. Such a remark from an Indian, whose cookery is the most unartificial imaginable, and whose notions of neatness are far from being refined, was considered singular; and on inquiry being made, it turned out that a piece of roast beef, which had been taken from the table untouched, was placed a second time before these fastidious gentlemen, who, on their native prairies, would have devoured it raw, but who now considered their dignity infringed by such a procedure. Being asked if the beef was not good enough, he replied, that "there were plenty of turkeys and chickens to be had, and he chose them in preference."

On their way home, at the first place at which they stopped to dine, after leaving Baltimore, they sat down at a well-furnished table. A fine roasted turkey at the head of the board attracted their attention, but keeping that in reserve, they commenced upon a chicken-pie. While thus engaged, a stranger entered, and taking his seat at the head of the table, called for a plate. The Indians became alarmed for the turkey, cast significant glances at each other, and eyed the object of their desire with renewed eagerness. They inquired of each other, in subdued accents, what was to be done their plates being well supplied, they could not ask to be helped again, yet the turkey was in imminent jeopardy. The stranger was evidently hungry, and he looked like a man who would not trifle with his knife and fork. Luckily, however, he (319) as not jet supplied with these necessary implements; there was a moment still left to be improved, and the red gentlemen, having cleared their plates, occupied it by dividing among them an apple-pie, which quickly vanished. A clean plate, knife and fork were now placed before the stranger, who was about to help himself, when, to his astonishment and utter discomfiture, one of the Indians rose, stepped to the head of the table, and adroitly fixing his fork in the turkey, bore it off to his companions, who very gravely, and without appearing to take the least notice of the details of the exploit, commenced dividing the spoil, while the stranger, recovering from his surprise, broke out into a loud laugh, in which the Indians joined.

As the party receded from the capital, the fare became more coarse, and the red men began to sigh for the fat poultry and rich joints that were left behind them. And now another idea occurred to their minds. Having noticed that payment was made regularly for every meal, they inquired if all the meals they ate were paid for, and being answered in the affirmative, each Indian, on rising from the table, loaded himself with the fragments of the feast, until nothing remained. When they observed that this conduct was noticed, they defended it by remarking, that the provisions were all paid for.

It has been well said that there is but a step between the sublime and the ridiculous; and this aphorism is strikingly illustrated in the conduct of savages or uneducated men. The Indian has some heroic traits of character; he is brave, patient under fatigue or privation, often generous, and sometimes tenacious of the point of honor, to an extreme which has scarcely a parallel, except in the records of chivalry. In all that relates to war or the council, they are systematic, and the leading men exhibit much dignity and consistency of character. As hunters they are keen, skilful, and diligent; as warriors, bold, sagacious, and persevering. But when the Indian is taken from this limited circle of duties, and thrown (320) into contact with the white man, in social intercourse, his want of versatility, and deficiency of intellectual resources, often degrade him at once into meanness and puerility. For a time he may disguise himself in his habitual gravity, and his native shrewdness, and presence of mind may enable him to parry any attempts to pry into his thoughts, or throw him off his guard, but the sequel inevitably betrays the paucity of the savage mind. Thus the chiefs and warriors of whom we have spoken were, some of them, distinguished warriors, and others eminent in council; but when thrown out of their proper sphere, and brought into familiar contact with strangers, they become the subjects of anecdotes such as we have related, and which, except the first one, would be too trifling for repetition, were they not illustrative of the peculiarities to which we have adverted.

When at Washington, in 1829, Nawkaw, in speaking of his own age, called himself ninety-four winters old. He died in 1833, at the advanced age of ninety-eight, and was succeeded in his rank and honors by his nephew, who was worthy to inherit them. The latter is a person of temperate habits, who abstains entirely from the use of ardent spirits. He also is Caromanie, and has assumed the name of his uncle. Nawkaw was a man of large stature and fine presence. He was six feet tall, and well made. His person was erect, his muscles finely developed, and his appearance such as indicated activity and great strength. Like many of his race, he was remarkably fond of dress; and even in the last days of his protracted life, devoted the most sedulous care to the decoration of his person. His portrait affords ample evidence of his taste; the head-dress, the ear-rings, and the painted face, show that the labors of the toilet had not been performed without a full share of the time and study due to a matter of so much importance; while the three medals, presented to him at different times, as the head of his tribe, and as tokens of respect for himself, are indicative of his rank, and are worn with (321) as much pride and as much propriety as the orders of nobility which decorate the nobles of Europe.

The memory of this distinguished chief [Keokuk] and respectable man is cherished by his people, and his deeds are recounted in their songs. He was one of those rulers whose wisdom, courage, and parental sway, endear them to their people while living, and whose precepts retain the force of laws after their decease.

(353) Some of his warriors, falling in with an encampment of unarmed Menomenies, in sight of Fort Crawford, at Prairie du Chien, wantonly murdered the whole party. The Menomenies, justly incensed at an unprovoked and cowardly murder, declared war; (354) and their friends, the Winnebagoes, who were previously hostile to the Sauks, were also highly indignant at this outrage. To prevent a sanguinary war, General Street, the agent of the United States at Prairie du Chien, invited the several parties to a council. They assembled at Fort Crawford, but the Menomenies positively refused to hold any negotiation with the offending party. When Keokuk was informed of this resolution, he told the agent confidently that it made no difference; that he would make a treaty with the Menomenies before they separated all he asked was to be brought face to face with them in the council house. The several tribes were accordingly assembled, each sitting apart; but when the ceremony of smoking, which precedes all public discussions, was commenced, the Menomenies refused to join in it, sitting in moody silence, while the other tribes exchanged this ordinary courtesy. The breach between the Winnebagoes and the Sauks and Foxes was talked over, explanations were mutually made, and a peace cemented. Keokuk then turned towards the Menomenies and addressed them. They at first averted their faces, or listened with looks of defiance. The commencement of a speech, without a previous smoking and shaking of hands, was a breach of etiquette, and he was besides the head of a tribe who had done them an injury that nothing but blood could atone for. Under all these disadvantages the Sauk chief proceeded with his harangue, and such was the power of his eloquence, even upon minds thus predisposed, that his hearers gradually relaxed, listened, assented and when he concluded by saying proudly, but in a conciliatory tone, "I came here to say that I am sorry for the imprudence of my young men I came to make peace. I now offer you the hand of Keokuk, who will refuse it?" they rose one by one, and accepted the proffered grasp.


(363) ALTHOUGH we shall scarcely infer the fact from his name, Amisquam, or the Wooden Ladle, is a very noted leader of the Winnebagoes, a fierce and restless tribe of the Upper Mississippi. His mother was a woman of that nation, and his father a French man named Descarrie, by which name also the subject of this notice is known. He is a fine looking man, of large stature, and commanding mien, whose influence over the entire mass of the warriors of this numerous tribe is very great. He has led many war parties against the Chippewas, and has always been successful, returning laden with spoil and scalps.

The leader of such parties seldom engages in a fight as a common brave, nor does he usually even carry a gun. The systematic and cautious tactics of Indian warfare, and the inevitable disgrace which results from defeat, imposes upon him a responsible office; and like the general in the army of a civilized people, he is expected rather to direct the efforts of others, than to fight with his own hand. The plan of the enterprise is often the subject of a council, in which all who are of sufficient age may speak, and the decision is usually unanimous; for we know of no instance among the Indians in which questions are decided by majorities. When the leading features of the scheme are agreed upon, the execution is left to the war chief, who may rely on the secrecy, as well as the implicit obedience, of his well trained followers. On the eve of a battle, he gives his orders to his captains, or if the party be small, to the whole band; and during the fight he is engaged in overlooking (364) and directing the whole operation. Occasions may occur, as in all military enterprises, where it may be proper for the leader to place himself at the head of his men, and go foremost into battle; and in all cases when the fight thickens so that the braves meet hand to hand, the leader is thrown into personal contact with the enemy; but the general practice is as we have stated.

The Wooden Ladle was a general, or war chief, who led large parties of his people, and gained reputation by the sagacity with which he directed these military enterprises. He usually assembled his braves at Prairie du Chien; and before going out always adorned himself with a string of beads which he wore round his neck. This was to be the prize of the first warrior who should kill an enemy, and bring his head to the leader, and the trophy was always given on the spot.


(433) THIS individual is of mixed blood; his father was a Frenchman, and his mother a woman of the Winnebago nation. He is one of the finest looking men among that people, and has for many years been one of their principal speakers on all public occasions. The qualifications for this office are not very extensive, and in general comprise little else than fluency, a graceful manner, and a familiar acquaintance with the current transactions of the day. Wakaun Haka, or the Snake-Skin, possesses these qualities in a high degree; his stature is about six feet three inches, his person erect and commanding, and his delivery easy. He is between fifty and sixty years of age, and is one of the war-chiefs of the Winnebagoes.

In the early years of the Snake-Skin, he was a successful hunter, a warrior of fair standing, and a person of decided influence among his people. But the sin that most easily besets the Indian has destroyed his usefulness; habits of dissipation, with the premature decrepitude incident to the savage life, have made him an old man, at the age at which the statesmen of civilized nations are in the enjoyment of the highest degree of intellectual vigor. His influence has declined, and many of his band have left him, and joined the standards of other chiefs.

This personage has been the husband of no less than eleven wives, and the father of a numerous progeny. With all the savage love of trinkets and finery, he had his full share of the personal vanity which nourishes that reigning propensity, and of which the following anecdote affords a striking illustration. In one of the (434) drunken broils, which have not been unfrequent in the latter part of his life, a fight occurred between himself and another person, in which the nose of the chief was severely bitten. The Reverend Mr. Lowry, superintendent of the school, on hearing of the accident, paid the chief a visit of condolence, hoping that an opportunity might offer, which might enable him to give salutary advice to the sufferer. He was lying with his head covered, refusing to be seen. His wife, deeply affected by the misfortune, and terrified by the excited state of her husband's mind, sat near him, weeping bitterly. When she announced the name of his visitor, the chief, still concealing his mutilated features, exclaimed that he was a ruined man, and desired only to die. He continued to bewail his misfortune as one which it would be unworthy in a man and a warrior to survive, and as altogether intolerable. His only consolation was found in the declaration that his young men should kill the author of his disgrace; and accordingly the latter was soon after murdered, though it is not known by whom. Had not this injury been of a kind by which the vanity of Wakaun Haka was affected, and his self-love mortified, it might have been forgotten or passed over; we do not say forgiven, as this word, in our acceptance of it, expresses an idea to which the savage is a stranger. Regarding an unrevenged insult as a trader views an outstanding debt, which he may demand whenever he can find the delinquent party in a condition to pay it, he is satisfied by a suitable compensation, if the injury be of a character to admit of compromise. Had his wife, for instance, eloped with a lover, or his brother been slain, the offender might have purchased peace at the expense of a few horses; but what price could indemnify a great chief for the loss of his nose? Happily, the wound proved but slight, and Wakaun Haka lost neither his nose nor his reputation.

We do not intend, however, by the last remark, to do injustice to this chief, who, on another occasion, nursed his resentment, under the influence of highly creditable feelings. We have had occasion (435) to mention elsewhere, a striking incident of border warfare, which occurred in 1834, when a war-party of Saukies and Foxes surprised a small encampment of the Winnebagoes, and massacred all the persons within it, except one gallant boy, about twelve years of age, who, after discharging a gun, and killing a Saukie brave, made his escape by swimming the Mississippi, and brought the news of the slaughter to Fort Crawford, at Prairie du Chien. That boy was the son of Wakaun Haka, and among the slain was one of the wives and several of the children of this chief. The exploit was considered as conferring great honor on the lad, as well as upon his family, and the father evinced the pride which he felt in his son, while he lamented over the slain members of his family with a lively sensibility. An exterminating war was expected to follow this bloody deed; but by the prompt interposition of the agent of the United States, and the military officers, a treaty was held, and a peace brought about, chiefly through the politic and conciliatory conduct of Keokuk, the head man of the offending nation. Forty horses were presented to the Winnebagoes, as a full compensation for the loss of about half that number of their people, who had been massacred in cold blood; the indemnity was accepted, the peace pipe was smoked, and the hands of the murderers, cleansed of the foul stains of midnight assassination, were clasped in the embrace of amity by the relatives of the slain. Wakaun Haka, with a disdain for so unworthy a compromise, which did honor to his feelings as a husband and father, stood aloof, and refused either to participate in the present, or to give his hand to the Saukies and Foxes.

The Snake-Skin, like many other influential men among the Indians, has always been obstinately opposed to all changes in the condition of his people, and has declined taking any part in the benevolent plans of the American Government, or of individuals, for the civilization of his race. On one occasion, when the superintendent of the school called his attention to the subject, and urged the advantages which the Winnebagoes might derive from those (436) benevolent measures, his reply was, that "the Great Spirit had made the skin of the Indian red, and that soap and water could not make it white." At another time, when urged to use his influence to procure the attendance of the Indian youth at the government school, he replied that "their children were all asleep, and could not be waked up." These answers were figurative, and contain the substance of the objection invariably urged by the savages on this subject: "The Great Spirit has made us what we are it is not his will that we should be changed; if it was his will, he would let us know; if it is not his will, it would be wrong for us to attempt it, nor could we by any art change our nature."




(107) WAKAWN, the Snake, was a war-chief of the Winnebagoes. He was born on St. Mary's river, near Green Bay, in the Michigan territory, and died in 1838, at the age of nearly sixty years. He was of the middle stature, but athletic in form, and was exceeded by none of his nation in ability to endure fatigue. Although his countenance displayed but an ordinary intellect, the expression was mild, and he had an honest eye, such as is not often seen among his people, who are among the most fierce and treacherous of their race. The Snake was a well-disposed man, who maintained a good character through life.

In 1811, and previously to that time, the Winnebagoes, under the influence of the British agents and traders, were unfriendly to the United States, and were actively engaged in the depredations committed upon the frontier settlements. The broad expanse of wilderness which intervened between them and the settlements in Ohio and Indiana, afforded no protection to the latter, whose log cabins were burned and sacked by savages who travelled hundreds of miles to enjoy the gratification of murdering a family, and plundering the wretched homestead of a hunter whose whole wealth consisted in the spoils of the chase. The prospect of a war between Great Britain and the United States, to which they had long been taught to look forward as an event which would give them temporary (108) employment, and great ultimate advantage, stimulated this warlike people into a high state of excitement; and when the Shawanoe Prophet raised his standard, they were among the first of the deluded band who rallied around it. Wakawn and some of his people formed a part of the motley assemblage collected at the Prophet's town in the autumn of 1811, and against whom was directed the campaign of General Harrison, which eventuated so honorably to the American arms, and to the personal fame of that distinguished leader. Wakawn was in the battle of Tippecanoe, where he was slightly wounded, and is said to have borne himself bravely on that occasion. He was occasionally on the war-path during the remainder of the war, at the close of which he buried the hatchet, and has since been uniformly friendly to the American people.

Since the establishment of friendly relations between his nation and the United States, the Snake has been conspicuous for his faithful observance of the existing treaties; and after the several cessions of lands made by the Winnebagoes to the American government, he always led the way in abandoning the ceded territories, while a majority of the tribe were disposed to rescind the contract. In the late removal of his people to the west of the Mississippi, he was the first Winnebago, of any note, who crossed the river, when a great portion of the nation, including most of the influential men, were inclined to remain upon the lands they had sold to the United States. The readiness with which the Indians sell their titles to large tracts of country, contrasted with their subsequent reluctance to deliver the possession, may be attributed in part to the fickleness of the savage character, in which notions of property, of obligation, or of abstract right are but feebly developed, if indeed they can be said to have palpable existence. But the immediate causes of those breaches of faith may be usually traced to the intrigues of unprincipled traders, who seek pecuniary profit in fomenting dissension. The refusal of an Indian nation to comply (109) with its engagements, affords an occasion for a new treaty, attended with all the parade and expenditure of the original convention, with new stipulations, additional presents, and increased disbursements of money for various purposes, all which afford opportunities for peculation to those rapacious men. No subject has been more greatly misunderstood, or has afforded a more prolific theme for vituperation towards the American government and people, than the oppression supposed to have been exercised in removing Indians from their ceded lands, and which has been inferred from their reluctance to abandon them; when, in fact, the only fault on the part of the government is, that in effecting a laudable object, and with humane intentions towards the Indian, they have unwisely adopted a system which is liable to gross abuses.

In 1834, the government established at Prairie du Chien, a school and farm for the instruction of the Winnebagoes, under the direction of the Rev. David Lowry, who engaged assiduously in the duty of instructing that tribe in the rudiments of an English education, as well as in the labors of agriculture, combining with these, such religious information as his opportunities enabled him to inculcate. The Snake was the first of the chief men to appreciate the value of this establishment; he applied himself to the study of husbandry, and placed his family under the tuition of Mr. Lowry. His example was the more valuable, as the Indians generally are opposed to all such innovations; and the Winnebagoes were obstinately hostile to the efforts made to induce them to adopt the habits of civilized life. The decision of Wakawn, and the zeal with which he advocated the benevolent views of the government, brought him into collision with the other chiefs, who viewed his predilection for the knowledge and habits of the white men, as an alien and degenerate partiality, inconsistent with the duty which he owed to his own race; and on one occasion he defended his opinions at the risk of his life.

Notwithstanding the disgrace attached to the practice of manual (110) labor among the Indian braves, the Snake often threw aside his blanket, and joined his wife in her rude but persevering attempts to support the family by tilling the soil. The fertile prairies of Wisconsin, where the soil has never been exhausted by culture, yields abundant returns, and he soon became convinced that he could more easily obtain a livelihood in this manner, than by the fatiguing and precarious labors of the chase. But when urged by the Superintendent of the school to give the full weight of his character and influence to the proposed reformation, by laying aside the character of the brave, and adopting entirely the habits of the civilized man, he replied that he was too old that the Indians who had been reared in the free and roving pursuits of savage life, could not abandon them, but that their children might; and while he declined doing what would be a violence to his own nature, he strongly advocated the employment of means to civilize the youth of his nation.

The difficulty of changing the habits of a people was exemplified in an amusing manner, in the family of this chief. At his own request a log-house, such as constitutes the dwelling of the American farmer in the newly settled parts of the country, was erected for him, at the expense of the government, under the expectation that, by giving his family a permanent residence, one step would be taken towards their civilization. The house was arranged in the ordinary way, with a chimney and fire-place; the operations of cooking were commenced in due form, at the fire-place, and the family assembled round the hearth, pleased and amused, no doubt, with this new form of social economy. But it was not long before the newly adopted contrivance was abandoned removed, and a fire kindled in the centre of the house the family gathered in a circle about it a hole was cut in the roof for the smoke to pass through and the mansion of the Snake family became once more, thoroughly and completely, an Indian lodge. Nor could Wakawn himself resolve to abandon the superstition (111) of his race: while he recommended civilization to others, he clung to the customs of his forefathers. Believing in the existence, and the superiority of the true God, he could not sever the tie that bound him to the ideal deities of his people. He continued to join his tribe in their religious feasts and dances, and usually presided at the exercises. He probably had the faculty of veneration strongly developed, for his grave and solemn demeanor, on such occasions, is said to have rendered them interesting, and to have given an imposing effect to the ceremonies.

Unfortunately this respectable chief, who possessed so many estimable qualities, and so just a sense of the true interests of his people, was subject to the weakness which has proved most fatal to them. He was addicted to intoxication; and unhappily there is nothing in the religion or the ethics of the savage, nothing in their public opinion or the economy of their domestic life, to impose a restraint upon this vice. When a fondness for ardent spirits is contracted, it is usually indulged, with scarcely any discredit to the individual, and without a limit, except that imposed by the want of means to gratify this insatiable appetite. Wakawn lived in the neighborhood of Prairie du Chien, where the temptation was continually before him, and where ardent spirits were easily procured; and he was often drunk. This vice was the cause of his death. In November, 1838, after receiving their annuities from the United States, the Winnebagoes indulged themselves in a grand debauch, a kind of national spree, in which all engaged, without distinction of age, sex, or condition; and scenes of drunkenness, of violence, and of disgusting indecency were exhibited, such as had never before been witnessed among this people. Wakawn indulged freely, and becoming entirely helpless, wandered off, and threw himself on the ground, where he slept without any protection from the weather, during the whole of a very cold night. The next day he was attacked with a pleurisy, which soon terminated his existence. (112) The Snake was buried according to the Indian customs. A pipe, and several other articles of small value were deposited with his remains in the grave. As those had been intended for the use of the spirit, in the happy hunting-grounds of the blessed, his wife was desirous of adding some other articles, and brought them to the place of interment, but they were claimed by a rapacious chief, in remuneration of his services in doing honor to the deceased, and actually carried away. Previous to filling up the grave, the family and relations of Wakawn stepped across it, uttering loud lamentations, and then, after marching from it, in single file, for several hundred yards, returned by a circuitous route to their several lodges. This custom, which the Winnebagoes usually pursue, in lodges, practised from a regard for the living, and is supposed to be efficacious in diverting the hand of death from the family of the deceased.

The grave of this chief is often visited by convivial parties of his friends, who gather around it and pour whisky on the ground, for the benefit of the departed spirit, which is supposed to return and mingle in their orgies. It would not be difficult to point out, in the bacchanalian lyrics of the most refined nations, some ideas more absurd and less poetical than this.

The wife of this chief still survives, and is a pattern to her nation, in point of morality and industry. She had the sagacity to see the advantages which civilization offered to her sex, and became an early advocate for extending its benefits to her children. She has uniformly resisted the temptation to which most of the Indian women yield, and has never been known to taste whisky. Always industrious, she contributed largely to the support of her family, during her husband's life, by cultivating the soil, and since his decease has maintained them decently by the same means. Shortly after she became a widow, a brother of her late husband offered to marry her, in conformity with a custom of the tribe, but she declined the proposal.


(157) HOOWANNEKA, the Little Elk, was a chief of the Winnebago nation, who served with some reputation on the side of the British, in the last war between Great Britain and the United States. At the termination of hostilities, when it was found that the British had made peace for themselves, leaving their Indian allies, residing within the United States, at the mercy of the latter government, the Winnebagoes reluctantly sought protection under the American flag. Hoowanneka was among the first who became convinced that his nation had been seduced by specious promises into an unnatural war against those whose enmity must be fatal to their existence, and under whose friendship alone they could continue to have a resting-place or a name. United with those who held similar opinions, he exerted a salutary influence over his fierce associates, in restraining them from further outrage upon the American frontiers; and he remained afterwards a friend of our people and government.

The Little Elk was descended from the Caramanie family, the most distinguished band of his nation. He was a tall, fine-looking man, and had some reputation as a speaker, but has left no specimen of his eloquence upon record. In the portrait which accompanies this sketch, he appeared in the costume in which he presented himself before the President of the United States, at Washington, in 1824, when he visited the seat of government as a delegate from his nation. It must have been a singular scene, which exhibited the savage orator, painted in fantastic style, and clad in these wild (158) and picturesque habiliments, addressing the grave and dignified head of the American people, in one of the saloons of the White House. The President and his cabinet, with the diplomatists and other visitors who are usually invited when a spectacle of this kind is presented, must have afforded a striking contrast to the war chiefs and orators of a savage horde decked out in all the barbarian magnificence of beads, paint, and feathers, with their war-clubs, pipes, and banners. 

(178) This chief [Watchemonne] says he has no knowledge of any tradition of his tribe [the Ioway] beyond Lake Pepin that is, before they crossed that lake a very expressive form of speech, indicating the migratory character of the people, and their own conviction that they are strangers in the land they inhabit. He only knows that, on the shores of that water, dwelt his nation before it had become divided into the Winnebagoe, the Omaha, the Missouri, and the loway tribes, and this he was told by his father, who derived it through eight preceding ancestors. It was the will of the Great Spirit that they should not be stationary, but travel from place to place, cultivating different ground; and they believe that they will only continue to have good crops and healthy children so long as they obey this law of their nature. They had better corn, and were more prosperous, before the division of their nation than since.

(190) In 1832, when the faction of Black Hawk disturbed the repose of the frontier, it was feared that the Winnebagoes and Pottawatimies would also be induced to take up the hatchet; and it is supposed that they were tampered with for that purpose. They were too sagacious to listen to such rash counsels; and Wabaunsee relieved his own conduct from doubt by joining the American army with his warriors.

(201) The following incident is in the work to which we have referred, stated, on the authority of Renville, an interpreter, to have taken place at Fort Meigs, in 1813.

(202) "The fort was besieged by General Proctor, at the head of the British army, attended by a corps of about three thousand Indians, consisting of Dacotahs, Pottawatimies, Miamis, Ottowas, Wolves [Skidi Pawnee], Hurons, Winnebagoes, Shawanoes, Sauks, Foxes, Menominies, &c. They had all shared in the battle, except the Dacotahs, who had not yet engaged against the Americans, and who were then on their way to Quebec. While Renville was seated, one afternoon, with Waapashaw and Chetauwakoamane, a deputation came to invite them to meet the other Indians, the object of the meeting not being stated; the two chiefs complied with the request. Shortly after, Frazier, an interpreter, came, and informed Renville that the Indians were engaged in eating an American, and invited him to walk over to the place. He went thither, and found the human flesh cut up, and portioned out into dishes, one for each nation of Indians. In every dish, in addition to the flesh, there was corn. At that moment, they called upon the bravest man in each nation to come and take a portion of the heart and head; one warrior from each nation was allowed a fragment of this choice morsel. In the group of Indians present, there was a brave Dacotah, the nephew of Chetauwakoamane, known by the name of the 'Grand Chasseur.' They invited him to step forward, and take his share; and, among others, a Winnebago addressed him, and told him that they had collected their friends to partake of a meal prepared with the flesh of one of that nation that had done them so much injury. Before the Sioux warrior had time to reply, his uncle arose, and bade his nephew to depart thence; he then addressed himself to the Indians. 'My friends,' said he, 'we came here, not to eat the Americans, but to wage war against them; that will suffice for us; and could we even do that, if left to our own forces? We are poor and destitute, while they possess the means of supplying themselves with all they require; we ought not, therefore, to do such things.' Waapashaw added, 'We thought that you, who live near to white men, were wiser than we who live at a distance; but it must, (203) indeed, be otherwise, if you do such deeds.' They then rose and departed."

It appears that, on this occasion, human flesh was not resorted to for want of provisions, as the camp was plentifully supplied; nor did fondness for this species of food lead to the dreadful repast, which seems to have been regarded with a natural aversion. The Dacotahs speak of that case in terms of the most decided reprobation. ...

During the war between the United States and Great Britain, which commenced in 1812, the British took possession of the out post which had been established at Prairie du Chien, for the convenience of our intercourse with the Indians, but afterwards abandoned it. The little village, consisting of a few houses, occupied by French Canadians, was left defenceless, and the Winnebago Indians, a fierce and restless tribe, who occupied the surrounding country, seemed disposed to create a quarrel, which might afford them an opportunity for plunder. Although the whites had long been established there, and had lived in amity with them, they came to the village, took some articles of private property by force, and threatened to massacre the inhabitants, and plunder the town. The alarmed villagers, intimately acquainted with the reckless and desperate character of their neighbors, and aware of their own danger, immediately despatched a messenger to Waapashaw, at his residence on the opposite shore of the Mississippi, not far above Prairie du Chien. His interposition was claimed on account of his (204) great influence, as well in his own tribe as among his neighbors; he was at peace with the surrounding Indians, and with the whites; and there was, between his own band and the Winnebagoes, a long standing friendship. These tribes had intermarried, and there were then at Prairie du Chien many individuals, the offspring of these marriages, who stood in an equal degree of relationship to both, and some of whom were nearly allied to Waapashaw. Obeying the request, he went down to the village immediately, attended by but one person. The inhabitants, seeing him thus, without the imposing train of warriors by which they had expected to see him followed, gave themselves up as lost; justly apprehending that the Winnebagoes, ascertaining that no force would be opposed to them, would now put their sanguinary threats into execution. To an intimation of their fears, and an earnest appeal which they had made to him, the chief, with the characteristic taciturnity of his race, gave no reply; but sent his attendant to the Winnebagoes, with a message, requiring them to meet him in council, during that day, at an hour and place which he appointed. In the mean while, he remained silent and reserved, apparently wrapped in deep thought.

The Indian chief is careful of his reputation, and never appears in public without the preparation which is necessary to the dignity of his personal appearance, and the success of any intellectual effort he may be called upon to make. His face is skillfully painted, and his person studiously decorated; his passions are subdued, his plans matured, and his thoughts carefully arranged, so that, when he speaks, he neither hazards his own fame nor jeopards the interest of the tribe. At the appointed hour, the Winnebago chiefs assembled, and Waapashaw seated himself among them; the warriors formed a circle around their leaders, and the individuals of less consequence occupied the still more distant places. A few minutes were passed in silence; then Waapashaw arose, and, placing himself in an attitude of studied, though apparently careless, dignity, looked round (205) upon the chiefs with a menacing look. His countenance was fierce and terrible; and cold and stern were the faces upon which his piercing eye was bent. He plucked a single hair from his head — held it up before them and then spoke in a grave and resolute tone: "Winnebagoes! do see this hair? Look at it. You threaten to massacre the white people at the Prairie. They are your friends, and mine. You wish to drink their blood. Is that your purpose? Dare to lay a finger upon one of them, and I will blow you from the face of the earth, as I now" — suiting the action to the word — "blow this hair with my breath, where none can find it." Not a head was turned at the close of this startling and unexpected annunciation; not a muscle was seen to move — the keen, black, and snake-like eyes of that circle of dusky warriors remained fixed upon the speaker, who, after casting around a look of cool defiance, turned upon his heel and left the council, without waiting for a reply. The insolent savages, who had been vaporing about the village in the most arrogant and insulting manner, hastily broke up the council, and retired quietly to their camp. Not a single Winnebago was to be seen next morning in the vicinity of the village. They knew that the Sioux chief had the power to exterminate them, and that his threats of vengeance were no idle words, uttered by a forked tongue; and, taking counsel from wisdom, they prudently avoided the conduct which would have provoked his resentment.

(236) Whence this unity of form and diversity of expression? Are they to be traced to the facility with which the words of unwritten languages are changed, and to the tenacity with which we adhere to the process by which our ideas are formed and disclosed? If so, these languages have descended from a common origin, and the tribes must have separated one from another at periods more or less remote, as their dialects approach, or recede from, one another. But this conjecture does not accord with the local relations and established intercourse between many of the tribes. Some of those speaking languages radically different, live, and have lived for ages, in juxtaposition, and the most confidential relations have been established among them. This is particularly the case with the Winnebagoes, speaking a dialect of the Sioux stock, and the Menomines, speaking (237) a dialect of the Algonquin stock; and such is also the case with the Hurons, or Wyandots, and the Ottawas.

(269) After the decline of the confederacy, a war commenced between the Illinois Indians and the Winnebagoes, and the latter sent many war parties into the territories of their enemies. In one of these, which took the route of Lake Michigan in canoes, tradition says that a violent storm arose, in which six hundred Winnebago warriors perished. Mutual exhaustion, however, led to the decline of this contest ...

(276) All the tribes whose history we have slightly sketched, belong to two different stocks the Wyandot, or Huron; and the Chippewa, or Algonquin. But the Sioux appear to have not the slightest affinity with either of these families, and include a separate class of tribes and languages. Their original, and, even to this day, their principal residence, is west of the Mississippi; but the patronymic tribe itself occupies considerable territories east of that river; and one of the cognate branches, the Winnebagoes, is entirely east of it. These two tribes, therefore, are brought within the geographical limits we have prescribed to ourselves. ...

(282) The Winnebagoes occupy the region between Green Bay and the Mississippi, and a considerable extent of country upon this river, above Prairie du Chien. Here seems to have been, during a century and a half, the period that they have been known to us, the seat of their power and population. The early French travellers found them at Green Bay, and they were here when Carver performed his adventurous journey. They have been long known among the Canadians by the designation of Puans, which has become their familiar appellation, and, doubtless, owes its origin to their filthy and unseemly habits, which have given them a disgusting pre-eminence among all the tribes that roam over the continent.

If their own tradition can be credited, they came, originally, from the south-west; and some of their peculiar manners and customs, together with their language, indicate that they are not now among the tribes with whom they have been most nearly connected. The Chippewas, Menominies, Sauks, Foxes, and Pottawatimies, by whom they are almost surrounded, and with whom they are in habits of daily intercourse, are all tribes of the Algonquin stock, speaking dialects more or less removed from that parent tongue. While the (283) Winnebagoes are evidently a branch of the Sioux family, their language is allied to that spoken by the numerous tribes of this descent who roam over the immense plains of the Missouri and Mississippi. It is harsh and guttural, and the articulation is indistinct to a stranger. It is not easily acquired by persons of mature age, and there are few of the Canadians who live among them, by whom it is well spoken.

As a people, their physical conformation is good. They are large, athletic, and well made not handsome, but with symmetrical forms, rather fleshy than slender. They will bear a favorable comparison, in these respects, with any of the aboriginal family.

Their country is intersected with numerous streams, lakes, and marshes, in which the wild rice abounds. The same subsistence is offered to them as to the Menominies, and the same use is made of it. Equally indolent and improvident, they are the subjects of the same wants and sufferings.

The Winnebagoes are fierce and desperate warriors, possessing high notions of their own prowess, and, when once engaged in warlike enterprises, reckless of all consequences. During the difficulties upon the Mississippi, a few years ago, there were instances of daring and devotion among them, which may bear a comparison with the loftiest descriptions of Indian magnanimity that have been recorded.1* In former times they were engaged in (284) hostilities with the Illinois tribes, and, associated with the Sauks and Foxes, they carried dismay even to the gates of Kaskaskias. In this long and active warfare, the Illinois Indians were almost exterminated. Many of their bands have entirely disappeared, and those that remain are reduced to a few individuals. The Winnebagoes (285) came out of this war a conquering and powerful people; but what their enemies could not accomplish, the elements did. Tradition says that six hundred of their warriors perished in canoes upon Lake Michigan, during a violent storm.

The Winnebagoes are computed at five thousand eight hundred (286) persons. It has been supposed by some, that latterly they have been increasing. There is, however, no good reason to believe this. The opinion has probably grown out of a comparison of different estimates of their population, made by various persons, and under various circumstances. Such estimates are too loose and uncertain (287) to furnish data for any calculations of this nature, more particularly when they contradict our uniform experience upon the subject of the aboriginal population. All the tribes with which we are acquainted, are in a state of progressive and rapid diminution; and although those which are most remote are not within the sphere (288) of the operation of the causes which result from their contact with a civilized people, yet a scanty and precarious subsistence, continued and active warfare, exposure to the elements, and to the accidents of a hazardous life, are pressing, with restless severity, upon their spare population.

(289) In manners and customs, the Winnebagoes resemble the other members of the aboriginal family. Like the Algonquin tribes, they are divided into bands, each designated by the name of some animal, or of a supposed spirit, such as the bear, the devil, or bad spirit, the thunder, &c. These divisions were, originally, an (290) important feature in their polity, but they are now little more than nominal, having yielded, like many others of the peculiar traits, to the untoward circumstances which have, for ages, surrounded them. Their village chiefs are hereditary in the lineal descent, and, (291) where the direct line fails, in the collateral descent. Female chiefs are not at present known among them, although Carver states, that when he visited this tribe, in 1767, a queen was at their head, and exercised her authority with much state, and without opposition. It is certainly a singular inconsistency in human nature, that rude (292) and uncivilized people, who hold women in contempt, and assign to them the performance of all those duties which are least honorable and most laborious, should yet admit them to the exercise of civil authority in supreme or subordinate situations.2 The custom may have originated in another and more advanced state of society, and may have survived the wreck in which their early history has perished.

(392) Tecumthé was never known offer violence to prisoners, nor to permit it in others. So strong was his sense of honor, and so sensitive his feelings of humanity, on this point, that even frontier women and children, throughout the wide space in which his character was known, felt secure from the tomahawk of the hostile Indians, if Tecumthé was in the camp. A striking instance of this confidence is presented in the following anecdote. The British and Indians were encamped near the River Raisin; and while holding a talk within eighty or a hundred yards of Mrs. Ruland's house, some Sauks and Winnebagoes entered her dwelling and began to plunder it. She immediately sent her little daughter, eight or nine years old, requesting Tecumthé to come to her assistance. The child ran to the council-house, and pulling Tecumthé, who was then speaking, by the skirt of his hunting-shirt, said to him, 'Come to our house there are bad Indians there.' Without waiting to close his speech, the chief started for the house. On entering, he was met by two or three Indians, dragging a trunk towards the door. He seized his tomahawk, and levelled one of them at a blow: they prepared for resistance, but no sooner did they hear the cry, 'Dogs! I am Tecumthé!' than, under the flash of his indignant eye, they fled from the house. 'And you,' said Tecumthé, turning to some British officers, 'are worse than dogs, to break your faith with prisoners'."3

(454) Unexpected vicissitudes of the seasons, and long-continued extremity of heat or cold, sweep off these unprotected wretches with fearful havoc. A drought, which, by destroying the herbage, deprives the game of support, or a deep snow which shuts up all the sources of supply, spreads a famine throughout the tribes, and thins their numbers with fearful rapidity. In the inhospitable regions which border on the northern lakes and extend thence to the Missouri, including the country of the Chippeways, Ottaways, Menomines, Winnebagoes, and a portion of the Sioux, the horrors of starvation brood over the land during the continuance of their long and dreary winters, and recur with each revolving year.

Notes to the Text

We-Kaw and Red Bird

1* Certain murders were committed at Prairie du Chien, on the upper Mississippi, in 1827, by a party of Indians, headed by the famous Winnebago chief, RED BIRD. Measures were taken to capture the offenders, and secure the peace of the frontier. Military movements were made from Green Bay, and from Jefferson Barracks, on the Mississippi the object being to form a junction at the portage of the Fox and Ouisconsin Rivers, and decide upon ulterior measures. Information of these movements was given to the Indians, at a council then holding at the Butte des Morts, on Fox River, and of the determination of the United States Government to punish those who had shed the blood of our people at Prairie du Chien. The Indians were faithfully (284 note) warned of the impending danger, and told, if the murderers were not surrendered, war would be carried in among them, and a way cut through their country, not with axes, but guns. They were advised to procure a surrender of the guilty persons, and, by so doing, save the innocent from suffering. Runners, were despatched, bearing the intelligence of this information among their bands. Our troops were put in motion. The Indians saw, in the movement of the troops, the storm that was hanging over them. On arriving at the portage, distant about one hundred and forty miles from the Butte des Morts, we found ourselves within nine miles of a village, at which, we were informed, were two of the murderers, Red Bird, the principal, and We-kaw, together with a large party of warriors. The Indians, apprehending an attack, sent a messenger to our encampment. He arrived, and seated himself at our tent door. On inquiring what he wanted, he answered, "Do not strike. When the sun gets up there, (pointing to a certain part of the heavens,) they will come in." To the question, Who will come in? he answered, "Red Bird and We-kaw." Having thus delivered his message, he rose, wrapped his blanket around him, and returned. This was about noon. At three o'clock, another Indian came, seated himself in the same place, and being questioned, gave the same answer. At sundown another came, and repeated what the others had said.

The amount of the information intended to be conveyed, in this novel manner, was, that the Red Bird and We-kaw had determined to devote themselves, by surrendering their persons and their lives, rather than, by a resistance, involve the peace of their people, or subject them to the consequence of an attack. The heroic character of this act will be more clearly perceived, when we assert, on our own knowledge, that the murders committed at Prairie du Chien, were in retaliation for wrongs which had been long inflicted on the tribes to which those Indians and their warriors belonged. It is true, those killed by them at Prairie du Chien were innocent of any wrong done to the (285 note) Indians. But Indian retaliation does not require that he, who commits a wrong, shall, alone, suffer for it.

The following extract of a letter, written on the occasion of this voluntary surrender, is introduced in this place for the purpose of making the reader acquainted with the details of that interesting occurrence, and the ceremonies attending it. It was addressed to the Honorable James Barbour, then Secretary of War, though not as forming any part of the official correspondence. We have omitted parts of the extract, as published at the time, and supplied additional incidents, which, in the hurry of the preparation, were omitted.

Monday, 4th September, 1827.

MY DEAR SIR: — It would afford me sincere pleasure, did the circumstances, by which I find myself surrounded, allow me better opportunities and more leisure, because I could then, and would, most cheerfully, enter into those minute details which are, in some sort, necessary, to exhibit things and occurrences to you as they are seen by me. I will, notwithstanding, in this letter, from the spot on which the Red Bird and We-kaw surrendered themselves, give you some account of that interesting occasion, and of every thing just as it occurred. It all interested me, and will, doubtless, you.

You are already informed of our arrival at this place, on the 31st ultimo, and that no movement was made to capture the two murderers, who were reported to us to be at the village nine miles above, on account of an order received by Major Whistler from General Atkinson, directing him to wait his arrival, and mean time to make no movement of any kind. We were, therefore, after the necessary arrangements for defence and security, &c., idly, but anxiously, waiting his arrival, when, at about one o'clock to-day we decried, coming in the direction of the encampment, and across the portage, a body of Indians, some mounted, and some on foot. They were, when first discerned, (286 note) on a mound, and descending it; and, by the aid of a glass, we could discern three flags two appeared to be American, and one white. We had received information, the day before, of the intention of the band at the village to come in with the murderers to-day; and therefore expected them, and concluded this party to be on its way to fulfil that intention. In half an hour they were near the river, and at the crossing-place, when we heard singing; it was announced by those who knew the notes, to be a death-song when, presently, the river being only about a hundred yards across, and the Indians approaching it, those who knew him said, "it is the Red Bird singing his death-song." On the moment of their arrival at the landing, two scalp yells were given; and these were also by the Red Bird. The Menominies who had accompanied us, were lying, after the Indian fashion, in different directions, all over the hill, eyeing, with a careless indifference, this scene; but the moment the yells were given, they bounded from the ground as if they had been shot out of it, and, running in every direction, each to his gun, seized it, and throwing back the pan, picked the touchhole, and rallied. They knew well that the yells were scalp yells; but they did not know whether they were intended to indicate two scalps to be taken, or two to be given — but inferred the first. Barges were sent across, when they came over; the Red Bird carrying the white flag, and We-kaw by his side. While they were embarking, I passed a few yards from my tent, when a rattlesnake ran across the path; he was struck by Captain Dickeson with his sword, which, in part, disabled him, when I ran mine, it being of the sabre form, several times through his body, and finally through his head, and holding it up, it was cut off by a Menominie Indian with his knife." The body of the snake falling, was caught up by an Indian, whilst I went towards one of the fires to burn the head, that its fangs might be innoxious, when another Indian came, running, and begged me for it. I gave it to him. The object of both being to make medicine of the reptile!* This was (287 note) interpreted to be a good omen as had a previous killing of one a few mornings before, on Fox River; and of a bear, some account of the ceremonies attending which, and of other incidents attending our ascent up that river, I may give you at another time.

* The noise of the rattles of a rattlesnake, when excited, is precisely that of a repeating watch in the intervals between the strokes.

By this time the murderers were landed, accompanied by one hundred and fourteen of their principal men. They were preceded and represented by Caraminie, a chief, who earnestly begged that the prisoners might receive good treatment, and, under no circumstances, be put in irons. He appeared to dread the military, and wished to surrender them to the Sub-Agent, Mr. Marsh. His address being made to me, I told him it was proper that he should go to the great chief, (Major Wheeler); and, that so far as Mr. Marsh's presence might be agreeable to them, they should have it there. He appeared content, and moved on, followed by the men of his bands, the Red Bird being in the centre, with his white flag, whilst two other flags, American, were borne by two chiefs, in the front and rear of the line. The military had been previously drawn out in line. The Menominie and Wabanocky Indians squatting about in groups, (looking curious enough,) on the left flank — the band of music on the right, a little in advance of the line. The murderers were marched up in front of the centre of the line — some ten or fifteen paces from which, seats were arranged, which were occupied by the principal officers attached to the command, &c.: in front of which, at about ten paces, the Red Bird was halted, with his miserable looking companion, We-kaw, by his side, whilst his band formed a kind of semi-circle to their right and left. All eyes were fixed upon the Red Bird; and well they might be; for, of all the Indians I ever saw, he is decidedly the most perfect in form, and face, and motion. In height he is about six feet, straight, but without restraint; in proportion, exact and perfect from his feet to his head, and thence to the very ends of his fingers; whilst his face is full of expression, and of every sort to interest the feelings, and without a single, even accidental glance, that would justify the suspicion (288 note) that a purpose of murder could, by any possible means, conceal itself there. There is in it a happy blending of dignity and grace; great firmness and decision, mixed with mildness and mercy. I could not but ask myself, Can this be the murderer the chief who could shoot, scalp, and cut the throat of Gagnier? His head, too — nothing was ever so well formed. There was no ornamenting of the hair after the Indian fashion; no clubbing it up in blocks and rollers of lead or silver; no loose or straggling parts; but it was cut after the best fashion of the most refined civilized taste. His face was painted, one side red, the other a little intermixed with green and white. Around his neck he wore a collar of blue wampum, beautifully mixed with white, sewn on a piece of cloth, and covering it, of about two inches width, whilst the claws of the panther, or large wild cat, were fastened to the upper rim, and about a quarter of an inch from each other, their points downward and inward, and resting upon the lower rim of the collar; and around his neck, in strands of various lengths, enlarging as they descended, he wears a profusion of the same kind of wampum as had been worked so tastefully into his collar. He is clothed in a Yankton dress, new, rich, and beautiful. It is of beautifully dressed elk, or deer skin; pure in its color, almost to a clear white, and consists of a jacket, (with nothing beneath it,) the sleeves of which are sewn so as to neatly fit his finely turned arms, leaving two or three inches of the skin out side of the sewing, and then again three or four inches more, which is cut into strips, as we cut paper to wrap round, and ornament a candle. All this made a deep and rich fringe, whilst the same kind of ornament, or trimming, continued down the seams of his leggings. These were of the same material, and were additionally set off with blue beads. On his feet he wore moccasins. A piece of scarlet cloth, about a quarter of a yard wide, and half a yard long, by means of a slit cut through its middle, so as to admit the passing through of the head, rested, one half upon his breast, and the other on his back. On one shoulder, and near his breast, was a large and beautifully ornamented feather, (289 note) nearly white; and on the other, and opposite, was one nearly black, with two pieces of wood in the form of compasses when a little open, each about six inches long, richly wrapped round with porcupines' quills, dyed yellow, red, and blue; and on the tip of one shoulder was a tuft of red dyed horse-hair, curled in part, and mixed up with other ornaments. Across his breast, in a diagonal position, and bound tight to it, was his war-pipe, at least three feet long, richly ornamented with feathers and horse-hair, dyed red, and the bills of birds, &c.; whilst in one hand he held the white flag, and in the other the pipe of peace. There he stood. He moved not a muscle, nor once changed the expression of his face. They were told to sit down. He sat down, with a grace not less captivating than he walked and stood. At this moment, the band on our right struck up and played Pleyel's Hymn (Music). Every thing was still. The Red Bird looked towards the band, and eyeing it with an expression of interest, and as if those pensive notes were falling softly and agreeably on his heart. When the hymn was played, he took up his pouch, and taking from it some kinnakanic and tobacco, cut the latter after the Indian fashion, then rubbed the two together, filled the bowl of his beautiful peace-pipe, struck fire with his steel and flint into a bit of spunk, and lighted it, and smoked. All this was done with a grace no less captivating than that which had characterized his other movements. He sat with his legs crossed.

If you think there was any thing of affectation in all this, you are mistaken. There was just the manner and appearance you would expect to see in a nobly built man of the finest intelligence, who had been escorted by his armies to a throne, where the diadem was to be placed upon his head.

There is but one opinion of the man, and that is just such as I have formed myself, and attempted to impart to you. I could not but speculate a little on his dress. His white jacket, with one piece of red upon it, appeared to indicate the purity of his past life, stained with but a single crime; for, all agree, that the Red Bird had never before soiled his fingers with the blood of the white (290 note) man, nor committed a bad action. His war-pipe, bound close to his heart, appeared to indicate his love of war, which was now no longer to be gratified. Perhaps the red, or scarlet cloth, may have been indicative of his name — the Red Bird.

All sat, except the speakers, whose addresses I took down, but have not time to insert them here. They were, in substance, that they had been required to bring in the murderers. They had no power over any, except two, and these had voluntarily agreed to come in and give themselves up. As their friends, they had come with them. They hoped their white brothers would agree to receive the horses, (they had with them twenty, perhaps,) meaning, that if accepted, it should be in commutation for the lives of their two friends. They asked kind treatment for them, earnestly begged that they might not be put in irons, and that they all might have some tobacco, and something to eat.

They were answered, and told, in substance, that they had done well thus to come in. By having done so, they had turned away our guns, and saved their people. They were admonished against placing themselves in a similar situation in future, and told, that when they should be aggrieved, to go to their Agent, who would inform their Great Father of their complaints, and he would redress them; that their friends should be treated kindly, and tried by the same laws that their Great Father's children were tried; that, for the present, they should not be put in irons; that they all should have something to eat, and tobacco to smoke. We advised them to warn their people against killing ours; and endeavored also to impress them with a proper conception of the extent of our power, and of their weakness, &c.

Having heard this, the Red Bird stood up; the commanding officer, Major Whistler, a few paces in advance of the centre of his line, facing him. After a pause of a minute, and a rapid survey of the troops, and a firm, composed observation of his people, the Red Bird said — looking at Major Whistler — "I am ready." Then advancing a step or two, he paused, and added — "I (291 note) do not wish to be put in irons. Let me be free. I have given my life it is gone, (stooping down and taking some dust between his finger and thumb, and blowing it away,) like this — (eyeing the dust as it fell and vanished out of his sight.) I would not have it back. It is gone." He then threw his hands behind him, to indicate that he was leaving all things behind him, and marched up to Major Whistler, breast to breast. A platoon was wheeled backwards from the centre of the line, when, Major Whistler stepping aside, the Red Bird and We-kaw marched through the line, in charge of a file of men, to a tent that had been provided in the rear, over which a guard was set. The comrades of the two captives then left the ground by the way they had come, taking with them our advice, and a supply of meat and flour.

I will now describe, as well as I can, We-kaw, the miserable, butcher-looking being who continued by Red Bird. He is, in all respects, the opposite of the Red Bird; and you will make out the points of comparison by this rule: Never was there before, two human beings, brought together for the same crime, who looked so totally unlike each other. Red Bird seemed a prince, and fit to command, and worthy to be obeyed; but We-kaw looked as if he was born to be hanged. Meagre, cold, dirty in his dress and person, and crooked in form — like the starved wolf, gaunt, and hungry, and blood-thirsty — his whole appearance indicates the existence of a spirit, wary, cruel, and treacherous; and there is no room left, after looking at him, for pity. This is the man who could scalp a child no more than eleven months old, and cut it across the back of its neck to the bone, and leave it, bearing off its fine locks, to suffer and die upon the floor, near its murdered father! But his hands, and crooked and miserable looking fingers, had been wet, often, with blood before.

The Red Bird does not appear to be over thirty — yet he is said to be over forty. We-kaw looks to be over forty-five, and is, perhaps, that old.

I shall see, on my arrival at the Prairie, the scene of these butcheries; and (292 note) as I may write you upon all the points of my tour that may have any interest, I will introduce you to that. The child, I forgot to say, by the latest accounts, yet lives, and promises to survive the wounds on its head and neck. The widow of Gagnier is also there, and I shall get the whole story from her own mouth, and then shall, doubtless, get it truly. You shall have it all, and a thousand things besides, that, when I left home, I never expected to realize but once entered upon the scenes I have passed, there was no giving back. I see no danger, I confess, especially now; but my way is onward, and I shall go.

I write in haste, and have only time to add the assurance of my friendship.


The Red Bird and We-kaw were delivered over to General Atkinson, who commanded the expedition from Jefferson Barracks. He arrived with his command at the portage, by way of the Ouisconsin, two days after the surrender. The prisoners were conveyed to Prairie du Chien. The Red Bird died in prison. We-kaw and others, who were taken as accomplices in the murder, were tried and convicted, but became the subjects of executive clemency — the President, Mr. Adams, extending a pardon to them.
2 We remember, in 1826, to have seen admitted into a council, at Fond-du-lac Superior, an aged woman, but she sat there as the representative of her husband, whose age and blindness prevented his attendance.
3 Drake's Life of Tecumthé. [Benjamin Drake, Life of Tecumseh and of His Brother the Prophet: With a Historical Sketch of the Shawanoe Indians (Cincinnati: H. M. Rulison, 1856).]


Thomas Lorraine McKenney, ca. 1845

"Thomas L. McKenney" — Thomas Lorraine McKenney was born into a Quaker family in Hopewell, Maryland, on March 21, 1785. In 1824, he was appointed Superintendent of Indian Affairs, a position that the Secretary of War, John C. Calhoun, created by fiat. He advocated for the removal of the eastern tribes to lands west of the Mississippi on the naive supposition that they would be able to hold these lands in perpetuity. President Jackson dismissed him in 1830, when McKenney dared to suggest to him that “the Indian was, in his intellectual and moral structure, our equal.” In addition to this book whence our excerpts, he also wrote his memoirs in 1846. He died in New York City on 19 February 1859.1

"TSHIZUNHAUKAU" this is for Cižąhaka, "In the Back of a Lodge," from ci-hižą-hak-ka, ci, "lodge"; hižą, "a"; hak, "back, rear"; and -ka, a definite article used primarily for personal names. The interpretation of "Runs with the Deer," at the very least, confuses ca, "deer," with ci, "lodge." 

Charles Bird King, 1828   John Mix Stanley, 1869
Red Jacket   The Trial Of Red Jacket

"Red Jacket" — Sagoyewatha, nicknamed "Red Jacket," was born into the Wolf Clan of the Seneca nation ca. 1750, somewhere in Upstate New York. In the Revolutionary War, he fought on the side of the British at Newtown in 1779. He gained the name "Red Jacket" from a red coat given to him by the British in recognition of his services to the Crown. By 1792, when he visited President Washington, he had achieved a reputation as an orator. At this meeting, Washington gave him the large Peace Medal which he can be seen wearing in King's painting above. In 1794, he was among the signatories of the Treaty of Canandaigua, in which the Iroquois were forced to cede extensive land holdings as a consequence of their defeat in the Revolutionary War. He is most famous for his 1805 “Speech to the U.S. Senate,” also known as “Religion for the White Man and the Red,” where he argued for religious freedom and tolerance:

The Great Spirit has made us all, but He has made a great difference between his white and red children ... to you He has given the arts. To these He has not opened our eyes. We know these things to be true. Since He has made so great a difference between us in other things, why may we not conclude that he has given us a different religion according to our understanding? The Great Spirit does right. He knows what is best for his children; we are satisfied. ... We do not wish to destroy your religion, or take it from you. We only want to enjoy our own. 

In the War of 1812, the Seneca sided with the United States. Red Jacket died January 20, 1830, near Buffalo, New York, where he is buried in the Forest Lawn Cemetery, marked by a large bronze statue atop an engraved pedestal monument of stone.2

"Colonel Dixon" — Robert Dickson (as it is more commonly spelled) was born ca. 1765 in Dumfries, Scotland, the son of a merchant. At some point the family emigrated to Upper Canada where Robert was active in shipping goods to the western Indian trading posts. In 1786, he was sent to Michilimackinac, now in Michigan, to study the Indian trade. Not long afterwards he was posted to the far west where he became a fur trader with the tribes of what is now Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and the Dakotas. Among the Indians he was known as "Red Head" on account of the color of his hair. In 1797, he married Totowin, the daughter of a Santee Dakota chief of the Wahpeton band. He formed his own company in 1804, but was bought out by the Michilimackinac Co. in ’07. By 1810, the Canadian company had been forced out of what is now Minneapolis by the expansion of the American Fur Co., which was aided by American tariffs and other restrictions imposed on foreign traders in the region. When the War of 1812 broke out, he was given a position in the British Army and asked to recruit Indians to their cause. He raised a force of 400 Indians and was instrumental in the capture of the American post at Michilimackinac in 1812. On 1 Jan. 1813, he was appointed agent and superintendent for the Indians of the western nations. He assembled a large Indian force for the unsuccessful sieges of Fts. Meigs and Stephenson. He played a part in the successful defences of Michilimackinac and the capture of two American schooners. After the war he returned to fur trading in the American upper Mississippi region. He died on Drummond Island, just off the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, in 1823.3

"La Gutrie" — Edward La Gutrie [La Gouthrie, La Goterie, Lagoterie, etc.] was a French fur trader at Portage des Sioux in the British service. He may have been the son of the La Guthrie who accompanied Maj. Frazier when the British took over Fort de Chartres in 1765.4 Since he could speak fluent Sauk, he was sent as an emissary bearing plentiful gifts for the Sauks in order to induce them to join forces with the British to fight the Americans during the War of 1812. On this mission he was successful, and Black Hawk's force joined the British cause. After the war, the Americans demanded that the tribes loyal to the British make formal peace with the United States. La Gutrie then informed Black Hawk of this and served as his interpreter when he came in to meet the Americans.5

Ft. Crawford, 1816-1831   Ft. Crawford, After 1831

"Fort Crawford" — a fort built in 1816 near the strategic confluence of the Mississippi and the Wisconsin Rivers at Prairie du Chien. The site on which the fort was built was subject to flooding, and since it was constructed almost entirely of wood, the timbers began to rot. After the flood of 1826, the fort was abandoned in favour of Ft. Snelling near Minneapolis. With the Winnebago War of 1827, troops were returned to the site, but it was decided to build a new fort on higher ground overlooking the Mississippi. The new fort was constructed mainly out of limestone, and was not fully completed until 1835, although it was occupied in 1832. In that year, Black Hawk surrendered to then Col. Zachary Taylor at the fort. Once the Hocągara had been removed from Wisconsin, the fort lost its raison d’être, and was abandoned in 1849 (although briefly reoccupied in 1855).6

William Henry Harrison,
Ninth President of the United States
  An 1840 Campaign Poster Showing
the Accomplishments of William Henry Harrison

"General Harrison" — William Henry Harrison was born on February 9, 1773 at Berkeley Plantation in Charles City County, Virginia. His father, Benjamin Harrison V, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and Governor of Virginia. At age 14, he attended the Presbyterian Hampden–Sydney College, but his father removed him and sent him to an academy in Southampton County, where he fell under the influence of anti-slavery sects. This angered his father, who transferred him to Philadelphia to study medicine, which he pursued in 1790 under Dr. Benjamin Rush at the University of Pennsylvania. His father died in 1791, leaving him without funds to continue. The governor of Virginian intervened on his behalf and had him appointed as an ensign in the U. S. First Infantry Regiment. As a Lieutenant, he participated in the Victory of "Mad" Anthony Wayne at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794. In 1795, he eloped with Anna Symmes after her father, Judge John Symmes, denied permission for them to marry. He resigned from the Army in 1798 to accept a post as Secretary of the Northwest Territory. In 1799 he was elected to serve as the delegate representing the Northwest Territory in Congress. He was responsible for the Harrison Land Act, which made land in the Territory cheap enough to induce mass migration and settlement. He resigned from Congress in 1800 to become Governor of the new Indiana Territory (made up of the present states of Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and part of Minnesota). President Jefferson granted him in 1803 the power to make treaties with the Indians, resulting in 13 such treaties in which the Indians ceded 240,000 km2 of land. This left a great reservoir of resentment among many tribes on the frontier. Initially Harrison was in favor of making the Northwest Territories slavery free to induce greater settlement, but after the population increased, he attempted to re-introduce its legality there, but was undermined by Jefferson, and eventually the settlers of the region, who in the end voted to keep the Territory free. The Treaty of Ft. Wayne in 1809 brought another 10,000 km2 of land out of Indian control, alienating still further the native tribes of the region. In 1810, Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa (The Prophet), descended on Vincennes with 400 warriors to demand that Harrison nullify this last treaty. The argument became intense, and both sides pulled their arms, but calm was restored before a serious clash could occur. After this meeting, Tecumseh formed a confederation of northwestern tribes. The Secretary of War authorized Harrison to make a demonstration in force against the Shawnees in order to bring them to heel, but the Prophet fell upon Harrison's forces at Tippecanoe. The result of the battle, however, was the defeat of the confederation, albeit at some cost to the U. S. forces. When war broke out with Great Britain in 1812, Madison made Harrison commander of the Army of the Northwest. Harrison drilled his green troops rigorously and built Fort Meigs. In 1813, Harrison took the offensive, winning victories in Indiana and Ohio, and recapturing Detroit. He invaded Canada and won a decisive victory at the Battle of the Thames where Tecumseh himself was killed in action. After the war, he entered politics, and was able to serve in the U. S. Senate from 1824-1828. After a year as the ambassador to Colombia, Harrison returned to the rustic life of his farm in Ohio. In 1836 he ran unsuccessfully as the Whig candidate for the presidency, being narrowly defeated by the Vice President, Martin Van Buren. However, in 1840, he succeeded in overthrowing Van Buren in an Electoral College landslide. The campaign saw the most well known slogan in the history of presidential politics: "Tippecanoe and Tyler, too." Twenty-two days after his inauguration, Harrison came down with a cold, but was unable to take any time off due to the press of office seekers. His condition deteriorated, and he came down with pneumonia and pleurisy, conditions his doctors only made worse. As a result, he died on April 4, 1841, making his tenure as president the shortest in history, and with the ascension of John Tyler, William Henry Harrison became the last president born as a citizen under the British Crown.7

Charles Bird King

"Watchemonne" — was born ca. 1785 in the Ioway village on the Des Moines River. In his youth he went on the warpath against the Osage and Missouria, taking scalps and winning high war honors. In the course of time, the Osages managed to kill his brother. He then led a revenge warparty, but succeeded in killing only an old man. Therefore, he made a second attempt, and this warparty made contact with the Osage, and succeeded in killing one of the enemy. This gave him the vengeance after which he sought, and won for him the name Watchemonne, which means "Warleader." He was known principally for his speeches, and was also known by the name of "Orator." He soon reached the rank of a chief. He could also be a peace maker. The Sauks, wishing to make amends for the slaying of a couple of Ioways, bearing weregild approached the Ioway village with considerable trepidation. Watchemonne went out to meet them, allayed their fears, and brought them into the village, where their presents satisfied the wounded parties. One incident nearly led to disaster. An unsuccessful warparty returned from Osage territory and passed by some white settlements. There they stole 4 horses. Watchemonne, realizing how much trouble this could start, bought the horses at his own expense, and returned them to their owners. This gave him very high standing in the white community. As a chief, he was known for his many acts of kindness.8


"Wabaunsee" [Wabanzi] — a chief among the Potawatomies, was born ca. 1760. He led Potawatomi forces at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. In the War of 1812, he and his people were allied with the British. He was opposed to the massacre at Ft. Dearborn in 1812, and protected the family of John Kinzie when his life was threatened. In 1814 at the Treaty of Greenville, he came to a reconciliation with the American government, and remained on peaceful terms ever since. One incident of his life particularly stands out. On a distant hunt, his party was ambushed by the Osage and lost several men, including one of his good friends. It chanced that a delegation of three Osages, quite some time later, were sent to the nearby U. S. fort. They got wind of Wabanzi's intent upon revenge, and for security, arranged to sleep inside the fort. Showing the stealth, courage, and self-control for which the Indians are generally famed, he silently snuck up to the fort, and without being detected, scaled its stockade, and then seemingly invisible, made his way to where the Osages were sleeping. He killed and scalped one of them with such dispatch that no one knew anything had happened at all. He then made an equally undetected escape. On account of this daring raid, he was given the name Wabanzi, "He Makes Them Blanch." In 1826, Wabanzi was almost killed when one of his friends, during a drunken carousal, accidentally stabbed him. After he recovered, he forgave the man, who had in the interim, fled for his life. In 1832, he joined his forces to those of the U. S. Army in the Black Hawk War. The next year, he and his people, having sold their land, moved west of the Mississippi. He died ca. 1848 in Tabor, Iowa. Wabaunsee, Kansas, and Wabaunsee County, Kansas are named for him, as are Wabaunsee Creek and Lake Wabaunsee, both in Kansas. Iowa has Waubonsie State Park as a remembrance of the chief.9

Joseph Renville

"Renville" — Joseph Renville was born in 1779 about where St. Paul, Minnesota is now located. His father, also named Joseph, was a prominent fur trader, and his mother Miniyuhe was a member of the Kaposia band of Dakota. The young Joseph was raised as a Dakota up to the age of about 10, at which time his father sent him to Canada to receive instruction from a priest. There he learned French and Christianity. While still a teenager, he returned to the Dakota lands, and after the death of his father, entered the employ of Robert Dickson as a fur trader. He took a wife from among the Dakota, and traveled all the way to Prairie du Chien to marry her in accord with the Catholic rites. In 1805, he encountered Gen. Pike who was on a mission of exploration. He served Pike ably as a guide and interpreter, a fact which Pike relayed to his superiors. However, when the War of 1812 broke out, he was given a captain's commission under the command of Col. Dickson, and served in the siege of Fort Meigs. After the war, Renville was employed by the Hudson Bay Co., and managed trading posts extending into Minnesota, where he lived with the Dakota. The strong presence of the United States in this country with the erection of Ft. Snelling, induced him to form his own company in 1822, the Columbia Fur Co. In 1823, when Maj. Long passed through in an exploratory mission, he was hired as the interpreter. Shortly thereafter, Jacob Astor bought out Renville's company, and Joseph assumed the position of a fur trader at the post at Lac qui Parle in Minnesota. His post was a well known stopping off point for travelers, who could always expect a warm welcome. As a Christian, he welcomed the missionaries brought to the Dakota by Rev. T. S. Williamson in 1835. Some of the early books in the Dakota language were translated by Renville. The Gospel of Mark with some excepts from the Old Testament were dictated by him to Rev. Williamson and published in 1837. Renville had a prodigious memory and great skill in rendering French into Dakota, so that an admirer once remarked that "it was generally admitted he had no equal." He also composed a number of the hymns of the "Dakota Odowan," the most famous of which is #141, "Lac qui Parle," which is an authentic Dakota melody.

"Lac qui Parle" Music10

By 1841, he had achieve the rank of Elder in the Church. He died at Lac qui Parle on 18 March 1846. Two counties, one in Minnesota, and the other in North Dakota, are named for him, as is the city of Renville, Minnesota.11

General Henry Procter

"General Proctor" (more usually "Procter") — Henry Patrick Procter was born in 1763 in Ireland to a surgeon serving in the British Army. In 1791, he entered the British Army himself as an ensign. He was posted in New York with the 43rd Regiment of Foot in the last year of the American Revolution. He rose rapidly in rank, becoming a Lt. Colonel by 1800, and commanding a battalion in Canada in 1802. He made a favorable impression on his superior, Gen. Brock. Once the War of 1812 broke out and Gen. Brock seized Detroit, Col. Procter was left in command of the Michigan frontier. He defeated an American force near Frenchtown (see below) in June, but his tactics came under criticism. Also the wounded Americans were completely rubbed out by the Indians when he retreated north to Detroit. In February 1813, he was promoted to Brigadier General, and not long afterwards, to Major General. From April-May of that year, he besieged Ft. Meigs in Ohio, but was not able to take it. He did defeat a relief column from Kentucky, and again the Indians massacred many of the prisoners. On Aug. 2, 1813, Procter lay siege to Ft. Stephenson, but again was not able to take the American fort. On 10 September 1813, the Americans won a decisive naval victory on Lake Erie, thereby cutting Gen. Procter's supply lines. Consequently, Procter began a retreat from Detroit towards Lake Ontario over the objections of Tecumseh. General Harrison reoccupied Detroit and pursued Procter's retreating army to Moraviantown, where the demoralized British were swept off the field and the Indian forces, left to their own devices, were also defeated, with the loss of Tecumseh. Procter, who had escaped, was relieved of his command. At the end of 1814, Procter was court-martialed and found guilty of various deficiencies. His sentence, to be suspended for six months without pay, was later reduced to a reprimand. He was returned to England in 1815, where he died in 1822.12

"Mrs. Ruland" — a footnote in Drake's book (p. 227) on Tecumseh (from which this incident was taken) says that this story rests on the authority of Col. Ruland. Col. John B. Ruland (later General of the Militia in the Territory of Missouri) was born in April of 1789 somewhere on the River Raisin in southeastern Michigan.13 His father and mother lived on the Raisin among the 120 families only a score of whom were not French Canadian.14 His father must have been Isaac Ruland, who appears in many Monroe County documents, and in one establishes that he had settled on the Raisin prior to 1787.15 At some point, probably in his military career, John Ruland came into contact with Samuel Wells' family in the Chicago area, since he married Ann Farrar Wells, the sister of  Rebekah Wells Heald16 on 28 December 1818.17 The Mrs. Ruland mentioned here must have been John Ruland's mother, Christy.18 At the beginning of the War of 1812, John Ruland enlisted, with the rank of corporal, in a 22 man unit of dragoons under the command of Cornet Isaac Lee. While her son was off thus employed, the British and their Indian allies under Tecumseh descended on the River Raisin area as early as 20 August 1812. An American force did not arrive until 18 January 1813. Two battles were fought, the second of which resulted in the heaviest American losses of the war. The survivors were marched off to Detroit with the wounded expected to follow, but these, who had been set up in a barn in the Raisin settlement, were attacked by drunken Indians, who burned the barn and tomahawked everyone who ran out the door. Tecumseh had left before the massacre had taken place. Meanwhile, John's unit had been sent into Indiana. After burning most of the Indians villages in the region, they had a heavy engagement with the Indians on 17 Dec. 1812, and retreated into western Ohio.19 Gen. Harrison said of this unit: "The River Raisen men — the best troops in the world."20 By 1813, John Ruland had risen to the rank of Lieutenant in this same unit, and afterwards served with William Henry Harrison as an officer in the Northwestern Army. After the war, he became an Indian sub-agent, and was the signatory of several treaties in Missouri where he then lived. From 1818 to 1830, he was a secretary to Gov. William Clark. During this time he had risen to the rank of General in the Missouri Militia. From 1835 to his death on New Years Day, 1849, he was Clerk of the Circuit Court and Recorder of Deeds for St. Louis County. He also aided Alexander McNair And Stephen Austin in their creation of the Republic of Texas.21

Jefferson Barracks

"Jefferson Barracks" — a large military post on the Mississippi at Lemay, Missouri, just south of St. Louis. A committee formed of Gen. Gaines, Gen. Atkinson, William Clark, and Gov. John Miller of Missouri, set out to find the best location for a new post to replace Ft. Bellefontaine. Their selection of the present site was approved on July 8, 1826, and two days later the first troops arrived under the command of Stephen Kearny to begin building the post. It was originally called "Cantonment Miller" in honor of the governor, but inasmuch as Thomas Jefferson had just died the year before, it was renamed in the former president's honor. In 1832, the first cavalry unit in the regular U. S. Army, the United States Regiment of Dragoons, was formed at Jefferson Barracks. The post continued to be used for the recruitment and creation of military units until 1946. After the Second World War, much of the post was sold off, but parts of it continued on as a post for the Missouri National Guard. Other portions were dedicated to a Veterans Administration hospital and the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.

"We-ka" — this is for Wiga, "the Sun."

James Barbour

"James Barbour"was one of the most accomplished politicians of the first half of the XIXth century. James Barbour was born on June 10, 1775 on his wealthy father's plantation in Barboursville, Virginia. By the time that he was 17 years old, he had married a wealthy planter's daughter, Lucy Johnson, and was already holding the office of Deputy Sheriff of Orange County. By age 19, he was admitted to the bar. He had developed great skill at oratory, and by 1796 had won a seat in the Virginia House of Burgesses. He served from 1796 to 1804, and again from 1807 to 1812, and was for several terms the Speaker of the House of Delegates. In 1811, Barbour ran unsuccessfully for governor, but at the end of the year when the sitting governor died in a fire, Barbour was named as his replacement. During the War of 1812, he received high praise from all for his leadership. In late 1814, he was elected to be one of Virginia's U. S. Senators. In 1819, he was elected President pro tempore of the Senate. Barbour was instrumental in reaching the Missouri Compromise of 1820, in which Maine was admitted as a free state while Missouri came in as a slave state. With the ascension of John Q. Adams as president, James Barbour was made Secretary of War, and therefore in charge of Indian affairs. He succeeded over opposition in having the Creeks removed from their lands in Georgia. He proposed generally, that land be set aside west of the Mississippi as an Indian Territory, and those Indians east of the Mississippi who did not wish to move there could be assimilated into white society. Something like this, but a good deal less humane, was adopted under the Jackson administration. Barbour was being considered as a Vice Presidential candidate for the upcoming 1828 elections, but withdrew and accepted instead a position as Minister to England. During his tenure there he earned an LLD degree from Oxford. After his return, he occupied leadership roles in the conventions of the National Republican Party (1831), and the Whig Party (1839). He died on June 7, 1842.22 It was said of him that he “presented an imposing appearance, with striking face, long, shaggy eyebrows, and head covered with silvery flowing locks; with a majestic and sonorous voice, he filled one’s conception of a Roman Senator in the last days of the Republic.”23

Colonel William Whistler   Mrs. Whistler, 1879

"Major Whistler" — Colonel William Whistler, was the son of John Whistler, himself an Army officer. He was born in 1780, and by 1801 was commission a 2d Lieutenant in the U. S. Army. He participated in the victory at Majagua in 1812, but was taken prisoner when Detroit fell in August of that year. After the war he was stationed at Ft. Howard near Green Bay and there married Julia Fearson of Detroit, who was a "very warm-hearted and indulgent mother, to the children of the household." Now a Captain, he and his companions were fired on by the Hocągara at the entrance of Lake Winnebago as he passed their village. They made it known to him that they expected a tribute to pass through their territory. In 1822, he was given the brevet rank of Major. In command at Ft. Howard, it was in that capacity that he was ordered to march to Portage and take into custody Redbird and Wiga. In 1832 he left Green Bay in order to take command of Ft. Dearborn in Chicago. In 1834, he was promoted to Lt. Colonel and reassigned by to Ft. Gibson in Indian Territory [Oklahoma] with the 7th Infantry. In his tenure at Ft. Gibson, he was very popular with the troops. In 1839, his unit was transferred to Florida to fight the Seminoles. In July of 1845, he was promoted to Full Colonel and took command of the 4th Infantry. In 1846, Col. Whistler apparently got drunk and made a fool of himself, and as a result was court marshalled and discharged from the service. This, however, was reversed by President Polk, who reinstated him. Until his retirement in 1861, he was stationed at Detroit and New York City, where died on December 4, 1863.24

Dr. John Marsh

"Mr. Marsh" — John Marsh was born in South Danvers, Massachusetts in 1799. He was admitted to Harvard in 1819, but in 1821 became involved in a student protest which resulted in his expulsion; however, he was reinstated on the promise of good behavior in the future. At this point, he changed his major from theology to medicine. After graduation he moved to what is now Minnesota, where he established a school. Soon afterwards, he secured the post of Indian Agent for the Sioux, headquartered at Ft. Snelling. There he took a half-Sioux mistress, Marguerite Decouteaux, who bore him a son. Governor Cass appointed him Justice of the Peace for his county, whereupon he assumed the title of Judge. Now at Prairie du Chien, he was instrumental in recruiting the Sioux contingent for the Black Hawk War of 1832. The Sioux perpetrated a terrible massacre at Bad Axe, the blame for which was laid upon Marsh. His situation became untenable, and he escaped to New Salem, Illinois. Having secured his family there, he returned to Prairie du Chien, but his pregnant wife refused to remain separated from him, and undertook a long journey by foot to rejoin him. On the way, she and her baby died in childbirth. Marsh gave his son Charles to a family in New Salem to raise. Back in Wisconsin, Marsh was discovered to have been selling guns to the Indians, and found it expedient to head west to Missouri. Now in the employ of the American Fur Co., he first made it to Sante Fe, then entered into the Mexican territory of Alta California. There he became the first person to practice western medicine. He then parlayed his lucrative practice into the purchase of a ranch, becoming the first Anglo settler in Contra Costa County. He felt his position insecure, however, and plotted to cause California to fall to the United States using the recent model of Texas. Marsh began advertising the virtues of California to the American press, and a flood of immigrants came over what was called "Marsh's Route." He was instrumental in overthrowing the Mexican Governor, Manuel Micheltorena, whom he had deported to Mexico. In 1851, he married, and built a mansion near Brentwood. On September 24, 1856, while on a journey regarding a political appointment, he was ambushed and murdered by three of his vaqueros who were enraged over the way he had mistreated them.25

Ignace Pleyel

"Pleyel's Hymn" — Ignace Joseph Pleyel was born 18 June 1757 in Ruppersthal in Lower Austria. In 1772 he became a student of Josef Haydn, with whom he formed a strong bond. He became a naturalized Frenchman by establishing himself in Strasbourg in 1783. In 1791, the Revolution abolished the composition of church music, so Pleyel went to London for a couple of years where he made a fortune. Returning to Strassburg, he was arraigned several times by the Committee of Public Safety during the Terror, being suspected of Royalist sympathies. He allayed these suspicions by writing music for the Republic. The hymn was from his String Quartet in C Major, Op. 7, No. 4, published in 1791.

Pleyel's Hymn (Music)26

Pleyel, like Josef Haydn, was a Freemason. It was not long before the Masonic Order adopted his hymn as its primary dirge. Pleyel was still alive when Redbird surrendered, dying four years later on 14 November 1831.27

Notes to the Commentary

1 Thomas L. McKenney, Memoirs, Official and Personal: With Sketches of Travels Among the Northern and Southern Indians : Embracing a War Excursion, and Descriptions of Scenes Along the Western Borders, Volumes 1-2 (New York: Paine and Burgess, 1846). Herman J. Viola, Thomas L. McKenney: Architect of America’s Early Indian Policy: 1816-1830 (Chicago: The Swallow Press Inc., Sage Books. 1974).
2 John N. Hubbard, An Account of Sa-go-ye-wat-ha, or Red Jacket and His People, 1750-1830 (Albany: J. Munsell's Sons, 1886).
3 Robert S. Allen, “DICKSON, ROBERT,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 6, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003, accessed July 24, 2016.
4 Louis Houck, A History of Missouri from the Earliest Explorations and Settlements Until the Admission of the State into the Union (Chicago: R. R. Donnelley & Sons Company, 1908) 102 nt. 10.
5 Carl Benn, Native Memoirs from the War of 1812: Black Hawk and William Apess (Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 2014) 50-52, 66-67, 134-135 nts. 79-82.
6 Bruce E. Mahan, Old Fort Crawford and the Frontier (Iowa City: State Historical Society of Iowa, 1926).
7 Robert M. Owens, Mr. Jefferson's Hammer: William Henry Harrison and the Origins of American Indian Policy (Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 2007). Freeman Cleaves, Old Tippecanoe: William Henry Harrison and His Time (New York, NY: C. Scribner's Sons, 1939).
8 Thomas Loraine McKenney (1785-1859) and James Hall (1793-1868), History of the Indian Tribes of North America, Vol. II (Philadelphia : D. Rice & Co., 1872) 174-180.
9 Thomas Loraine McKenney (1785-1859) and James Hall (1793-1868), History of the Indian Tribes of North America, Vol. II (Philadelphia : D. Rice & Co., 1872) 187-191.
10 International Youth Concert, #15: Dakota hymns, 13 August 2012. YouTube.
11 Rev. Edward D. Neill, "A Sketch of Joseph Renville, a 'Bois Brule,' and Early Trader of Minnesota," Minnesota Historical Collections (St. Paul, Minnesota: Minnesota Historical Society, 1872) 196-206.
12 A. M. J. Hyatt, "PROCTER (Proctor), HENRY," Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Vol. 6. Pierre Berton, Flames Across the Border: 1813–1814 (Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 2001 [1981]). Sandy Antal, A Wampum Denied: Procter's War of 1812 (Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1997).
13 P. Davidson Peters, "Early St. Louis," > General John Ruland.
14 The History of the Old Village Plat of Monroe, Michigan.
15 This is shown in a document in which he testifies that Col. François E. Navarre had established himself on the River Raisin prior to 1787, which implies that Isaac himself was there prior to that year. "Testimony adduced before the commissioners in 1805", American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Volume 32 (Washington: Gales and Seaton, 1860) 201.
16 Will of Samuel Wells, from the Book of Wills, St Charles County, Missouri, February 15, 1830.
17 Missouri Marriages, 1750-1920, FamilySearch, John Ruland and Ann F. Wells, 28 Dec 1818; St Charles, Missouri; FHL microfilm 966,262. "Ann Farrar Wells," Ancestry.com.
18 "Christy," Ancestry.com.
19 Diane Wolford Sheppard, "The War of 1812 – Preludes to the War and Key Events Occurring During the War in Present-day Michigan, Northeastern Ohio, and Essex County, Ontario," 24.
20 Benson J. Lossing, Lossing's Pictorial Field Book of the War of 1812 (New York: Harper Bros., 1868) 362 nt. 3, which contains the roster.
21 P. Davidson Peters, "Early St. Louis," > General John Ruland.
22 William Stapleton Long, James Barbour (n. p., 1913 ?). Charles D. Lowery, James Barbour, a Jeffersonian Republican (University, Alabama: University of Alabama Press, ca. 1984).
23 John W. Bell, Memoirs of Governor William Smith of Virginia: His Political, Military and Personal History (New York: Moss Engraving, 1891) 14.
24 Carolyn Thomas Foreman, "Colonel William Whistler," Chronicles of Oklahoma, Volume 18, #4 (December, 1940): 313-327.
25 George D. Lyman, John Marsh, Pioneer: The Life Story of a Trail-Blazer on Six Frontiers (Chautauqua, New York: The Chautauqua Press, 1931). John W. Winkley, Dr. John Marsh, Wilderness Scout (Martinez, California: Contra Costa Historical Society, 1962).
26 This version is very similar to what would have been heard at the time of Redbird's surrender. It is from Al Hirt, "Struttin' Down Royal Street," ℗ Originally released 1964. All rights reserved by RCA Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment. 
27 George Grove, A Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1450-1889), 4 Vols. (London: Macmillan, 1900) 3:2a-4a.


Thomas Loraine McKenney (1785-1859) and James Hall (1793-1868), History of the Indian Tribes of North America: with Biographical Sketches and Anecdotes of the Principal Chiefs. Embellished with One Hundred Portraits from the Indian Gallery in the War Department at Washington, Vol. I and Vol. II (Philadelphia : D. Rice & Co., 1872).