NOTED INDIANS OF THE ST. JOSEPH VALLEY
The pride of birth and the love of ancestral homes is as deeply enshrined in the heart of the Indian as in that of his paler brother. The earliest records picture the Indian's intense love of the homeland of his fathers.
Following the old Indian trails across St. Joseph county to the former Nottawa Seepe reservaton, of which Bennett's grove is a part, the Abiel Fellows Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, out on an historical pilgrimage, had as guest of honor Chief Samuel Manadoka and his family from Indian Town. After the basket dinner, Chief Manadoka, dressed in beaded buckskin clothes and moccasins and a huge feathered bonnet, told with true pride the story of the Pottawatomie nation which came from the northland to the St. Joseph; of the Three Fires federation who were brothers; of his father, who built the first hearth fire on the Nottawa Seepe reservation; of Marchia, a beautiful woman, renowned for her goodness, and as a doctor, greatly revered by the Indians of Athens because she cured by the laying on of hands.
Chief Manadoka spoke of Ponseekman, his father's sister, and then with eyes that betrayed a deeper feeling told of the service of his own sons overseas in the World war.
When asked what the word Pottawatomie meant, Chief Manadoka explained: "It means fiery ones, not elbow-out fiery but hearth-fire building fiery". He explained that as a rule the Pottawatomie Indian men married between the ages of sixteen and twenty and the girls between fourteen and eighteen. Before the tribes were Christianized, the young man's parents purchased a wife, then she became at once his property, but usually he procured her by servitude. From time of purchase until the birth of the first child, neither the young brave nor his young wife had any possessions of their own. They both served the parents of the girl. At the birth of the child they set up housekeeping for themselves. The women of the entire village contributed to the new household. It was customary for each woman of the tribe to carry a huge armload of wood and assist in building the first hearth fire for the young couple. If later the young husband wished another wife, he usually took a sister of his wife "that there be no discord in the home". The mother had all care and training of the children.
Chief Manadoka told many interesting stories of life on the Nottawa Seepe reservation-of hunting, of their games of quoits, ball, moccasin, dice, lacrosse; explained the calendar
NOTED INDIANS OF THE ST. JOSEPH VALLEY
with its notches on a stick; and of observations based on the phases of the moon.
The day, filled with all the gaiety of an old fashioned picnic in the woods, culminated when in single file, each person doing his best to catch the quick, short step of the Pottawatomie chieftian who lead with his band of Indians the entire company marked the site of the old "Apple tree" ford. Each individual carried the largest stone he could find and deposited it on the growing stone pile. At the close of the ceremony Chief Manadoka said to the regent: "White woman thank red brother for good talk, red man thank white brother for good time, nobody thank the Father." The startled regent asked: "What would you do about it?" To which the chief promptly responded: "Me- I talk;" and swinging his long arms out, he stood the image of dignified reverence, while the laughing picnicers, surprised into silence and prayer, heard him simply , quietly, as one "face to face", tell "the Father" of the happy day, of the fine spirit in the heart of the white friends and of the gratitude in the heart of their red brother.
The old Nottawa Seepe reservation furnished many Indian celebrities, including the chieftain, Pierre Morreau, the polished Frenchman and his Indian wife; their son, Sau-au-kette, who usurped the places of the legitimate chiefs, Cush-ee-wees and Pee-quoit-ah-kiss-ee. At Sau-au-kette's death "Old John Ma-gua-go", Jr. and he by Phineas Bamp-ta-na-by.
John Ma-gua-go had three sons, Man-do-ka, Mo-qua and Me-mie. Mar-chee-o-no-que was the chief's sister. She and her dusky daughter, Pont-sig-na, were considered very beautiful. "Mar-chee" married as her second husband, the furtrader, Capt. Hatch. Pont-sig-na was educated at Albion.
About 1840 the Methodist Episcopal church established a mission at the reservation, with Rev. Mannassah Hickey in charge. His sister assisted him. Mandoka's wife, Mary, was interpreter. She, also, had been educated at Albion. Rev. A. D. P. VanBuren, in his "Indian Reminiscences", vividly pictures the old mission and Rev. Hickey, with sonorous voice, speaking to the settlers. Then paragraph by paragraph, the sermon repeated in Mary's musical voice. "Of the two sermons, Mary's seemed the more effective because the Indians were the more gifted listeners". "From oldest patriarch to youngest child, their worship began the moment they entered the chapel."
Of the St. Joseph valley Indians, the settlers tell many stories. Among them, amusing ones about Chief Wee Saw, who seems to have been a man of parts. He had a village in Berrien county, farms in Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Cass
ST. JOSEPH IN HOMESPUN
counties. He was blest with three wives. In the spring he went to Prairie Ronde and from there directed the raising of corn in Kalamazoo county and vegetables in St. Joseph county then moved to the northwest in proper season for maple sugar. His hunting gounds in Volinca were visted every third year, allowing the intervals for the restoration of game. We Saw was a superb specimen, six feet four, muscular, dignified. He deemed himself every inch a king. He adored splendid attire: leggings bordered with little bells, head adorned with the most brilliant of turbans, waist with a gay sash; silver amulet, ear and nose rings. Sometimes he changed to a blue broad cloth coat and the effect was indeed marvelous. His favorite wife, a niece of Top-in-a-bee, was equally gorgeous in her attire. She was permitted to walk immediately behind him and ahead of the other two wives.
Head chief Top-in-a-bee died at Niles in 1826. He was a son of Aniqjuiba, whose village was near Niles. Top-in-a-bee was hereditary title and probably the signature of Top-in-a-bee was made by different Indians who held the title of Top-in-a-bee. However, "Old Top-in-a-bee" of the Grandville treaty, of the Chicago and later treaties, was all one and the same person. McCoy, the missionary, said of him in 1822: "Top-in-a-bee is upward of eighty years, a man of much nobility of character with unusual friendships for the whites." It was he who sent warning to Fort Dearborn of the intended massacre. After the signing of the Chicago treaty in 1821, he became hopelessly enslaved by alcohol. When General Cass urged him to keep sober that he might make better terms for his people, he replied: "Father, we do not care for land nor the money, nor the goods. What we want is whiskey. Give us whiskey."
A letter from the missionary in 1826 finished the brief biography of Top-in-a-bee :
"Poor old Top-in-a-bee is near his end. He fell from his horse and received such injury that he cannot live".
Top-in-a-bee was succeeded by Pokagon, second in rank to Top-in-a-bee. Pokagon's name was originally Sag-a-quick. After an Indian victory he became "Pokagon" who, as head of the St. Joseph valley Indians, led to victory against the invasion of the Shawnees from the Wabash.
Pokagon's son, Pokagon, Jr., was an educated Indian and when invited to take part in the anniversay celebration at Chicago in commemoration of the coming of Columbus, issued the "Red Man's Rebuke." His plea for his people was sent as his "regrets" for not attending the celebration. It is an oration worthy of a statesman. It was printed on white birch bark "In loyalty to my own people and gratitude to the Great Spirit who gave a natural writing material that cannot be injured by sun or rain." The "Rebuke" is too long to quote in its entirety. Something of his style is indicated in: "And as the young nestling, while yet blind, swallows each morsel given by the parent bird, so drank we all they said.
"As the fear of the fox in the duckling is hatched, so the wrongs we have suffered are transmitted to our children".
In the closing paragraphs, Pokagon's denunciation reaches a climax as he pictures the white race before the Great Spirit on Judgement Day. "He will hurl them headlong to that place where they may never touch, taste, handle, make, buy or sell the cup that doth damn a human soul."
The oration suggests the Talk by Chief Le Maigouis or the Trout, who spoke to his followers in the first personas the Great Spirit. He addressed them: "My Children". Stern indeed are his admonitions, scathing his denunciation of the "Children of the Evil Spirit". "They grew from the forth of the waters when troubled by the Evil One. The Froth was driven to our shores by a strong East Wind. They are numerous, unjust. They have taken. My Children-No Indian must sell rum to Indians. It makes him rich but when he dies he becomes very wretched. You bury him with his wealth and ornaments. Ashes grow along the path, they fall on him. He stoops to pick them up and they become dust. He arrives almost at the place of rest then crumbles into dust himself. But those who furnish themselves with necessaries only, when they die are happy and will find their wigwams furnished with everything they had on earth.
"I could not come to you myself, because of the World is changed. It is broken and leans down, and as it declines, the Chippewas and all beyond will fall off and die. Therefore, you must come and see me and be instructed to prevent it. Those villages which do not listen to this talk and send me two deputies will be cut off from the face of the earth Forever."
Sau-ga-nash, the half breed chieftain, sometimes known as Billy Caldwell, a hero of Fort Dearborn massacre, is claimed as a St. Joseph county Indian, at least in his burial place beside the old Sac' war trail which once ran through the village of Eschol. His grave was located through the testimony of old settlers, who lived in the neighborhood when the chief was buried and the records were compiled by Mrs. H. P. Barrows, whose father's farm bordered the deserted village of Eschol. The Chicago Hisorical Society quite indignantly repudiates this claim and pionts to his grave in Illinois. Other old settlers claim the Indian buried at Eschol was Sau-ga-mow, or Sag-a-mon and buries Sau-ga-nash in Wisconsin. All are
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united in a desire, however, to honor a man who gave his life in an endeavor to befriend his white friends. The grave was marked with a plain granite headstone by the Abiel Fellows chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution in 1916.
The Sau-ga-nash Country Club, a part of the old Fitch farm, lies just across the river from the old chieftain's grave.
No sketch of St. Joseph county Indiam life would be complete without a special mention of Wah-be-me-me, Chief White Pigeon, of the Pottawatomies, whose love for his friends of the prairie settlements, cost him his life and gave both city and township his name. The story is told that about 1830, Chief White Pigeon, while on a hunting expedition learned of the resentment of the Indians over depredations of the white man, that they had planned to attack the settlement on the prairie. Wah-be-me-me had smoked the pipe of friendship with these settlers and his warning has been voiced in a commemorative poem and issued as an official tribute to the red chieftain by the City of White Pigeon. The following is condensed from the last part of the poem:
"Louder, fiercer, sounds the war-cry, Wilder, madder, grows the war-dance, Firelight gleams on painted bodies-------- Leaping, writhing, twisting, turning. Wah-be-me-me, Chief White Pigeon, Visions pale-faced friends who trust him. Breathes an earnest, short petition, Simple, childlike, fervent, hearfelt, To the white man's God and Savior. Then the voice of gentle Southwind Comes to him from 'mong the branches, Whispers gently as in answer: "Redman ne'er betrays a friendship, "Redman ne'er forgets a friend." Swiftly vanishes the vision From the heart of Wah-be-me-me And as mists from off the meadow Fades his dream of love and glory. Quick he turns, and never faltering, Bids farewell to Mich-e-wa-ka: Leaves the camp upon the lake shore, Leaves the nation of his fathers, Leaves his love, his dream of glory. Through the forests and the marshes, Fording creeks and swimming rivers, O'er the level, grassy prairies O'er the barren, hilly uplands, Wah-be-me-me rushes onward------- Never halting, never pausing, Heeding neither thirst nor hunger. Blind and deaf to all about him, Save the impulse urging onward: "Redman ne'er betrays a friendship, Redman ne'er forgets a friend." Panting, struggling, halting, stumbling, Just as day's last glow is fading, He draws near the white men's dwellings, Sees them gathered 'round their campfires, Hears their cheerful jest and laughter; Fainting from his long exertion, Reels into their midst, and tells them Of their peril from the redman; Tells them of his peoples' anger Warns them to prepare for danger. Then, his deed of love completed, Gasping, sinks to earth before them. Gently, tenderly, they raise him. From his pale lips comes the whisper: "Mich-e-wa-ka, truest sweetheart!" Then, with one last mighty effort, As his spirit wings its parting. Breathes he once again the watchword That sustained him on his journey: "Redman ne'er betrays a friendship, Redman ne'er forgets a friend."Wah-be-me-me's grave, marked by the people of White Pigeon through the efforts of the Albe Columba Club, stands on the north side of U. S. 131 at the intersection with U. S. 112. The monument bears the inscription: "Wah-be-me-me, Chief White Pigeon". And on the base of the monument is the quatation: "Greater love hath no man than this , that he lay down his life for his friends."
Perhaps no more suitable conclusion to the chapter on St. Joseph County Indians may be found than that of "The Last Indian Council" featured by the White Pigeon Republican, in its issue of August 28, 1839. It is a picture of the last council of Nottawa Seepe Indians with the United States Government. The Pottawatomie tribe had Red Bird, a chief, as spokesman, and the government was represented by Isaac Ketchum, the Indian Agent.
Red Bird was a splendid specimen of the Indian warriors. With calm assurance he greeted Mr. Ketchum: "Father: You have waited with patience for us to come to the council and most of us are now here. We are happy to meet you all well;
ST. JOSEPH IN HOMESPUN
ourselves and our children are well. Today we have dry ground, bright sun, clear sky, and the Great Spirit be with us all. We are now ready to hear you and by ten o'clock tomorrow we will be ready to give answer."
Mr. Ketchum explained in detail the terms of the treaty; reminded them that they had signed away the reservation; that the government would take them, free of charge, to their homes in the west; He praised the land to which they were going, and closed by saying: "Your Great Father is determined to carry out his part of the treaty. It is hoped, therefore, that you will be willing to go. He knows that you will be better off on your own lands than here."
After much consultation, Chief Muchmote replied: "We have held our consultation with the three nations, and what you said to us does not please us at all. You told us that we must go west of the Mississippi. In our councils we have said we will not go and our minds have not changed. At council at Niles same question asked and we said we will not go. You wish to know when we would be ready to go. We say again, we will not go. We wish to die where our forefathers died. You say government protect on our way west and leave us there to our destruction. No one of us is daring to go. We are very poor. In the west there is no bark to build lodges. We not able to build houses like your white children. Many white people want us stay here. They hunt with us. We divide game. We stay here among white people. Therfore we not go."
Mr. Ketchum told the Indians that they were greatly mistaken about the white people wishing them to stay and to prove his assertion asked all the settlers present who wished the Indians to go to raise their hands-which everyone did. Again Mr. Ketchum pictured the benefits of the removal and urged them to reconsider.
Chief Red Bird closed the council: "Father, you have heard our decision, we shall never go. The reason the white people lifted hands is because they are afraid of you. We will never meet in council again. We will remain in the land of our sugar orchards, by shore of our rice fields and by the graves of our fathers."
When the soldiers came to enforce the treaty, many families of the Indiams had escaped to Canada. Some of these later, returned and purchased farm land near Athens, now called "Indian Town". Among them were the Pamp family and the Manadoka's.
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