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The Ottawa Moving Again Towards the Setting Sun

 Native American Nations | Ottawa and Chippewa Indians of Michigan                    


Soon after the loss of the child, the Ottawas abandoned the country and again moved toward the setting sun until they came to Lake Huron. Here they discovered a great island which is now called Manitoulin, but formerly, the Ottawa Island. Here the Ottawas remained for many more centuries. Here too, was born one of the greatest warriors and prophets that the Ottawas ever had, whose name was Kaw-be-naw. This word is accented on the last syllable,--its definition is--"He would be brought out." There are many curious and interesting adventures related of this great warrior and prophet, a record of which would require a large book. But I will here give one of the last acts of his life. It is related that he became tired of living and killing so many people. He desired to die; but he could not. It is also related that the We-ne-be- go tribe of Indians had also one man who was almost equal in power to Kaw-be-naw whose name was "O-saw-wa-ne-me-kee"--the "Yellow Thunder." Having heard the fame of Kaw-be-naw, he was very anxious to meet him on the warpath, that he might have an opportunity to contend with him in battle. And consequently he formed a most enormous expedition to the Island with his numerous warriors expressly to meet Kaw-be-naw. But Kaw-be-naw knowing everything that was going on in the Wenebago country, told his people to prepare for a great war, for numerous Wenebago were coming to the Island headed with O-saw-wah-ne-me-kee in a very hostile manner.
     At last O-saw-wah-ne-me-kee landed with his warriors on the Island, and marched towards the largest village of the Ottawa, which was situated in the interior of the Island where there was a lake. So Kaw-be-naw starts with his wife, pretending that he was going after cedar bark, but his real object was to meet the Wenebago on their march toward the village. When he saw the Wenebago coming, he told his wife to run home quickly and tell nobody what she had seen, and he alone went to meet them. When they saw him he did not try to get away, so they easily captured him. Of course the Wenebago knew not that he was the very man they were seeking. They asked him many questions as to the condition of the Ottawa, how many there were in the village, and whether Kaw-be-naw was at home or not. He told them the Ottawa were in good condition to fight, but Kaw-be-naw was not at home just then, but would probably be home by to-morrow or day after, as he was gone only to get cedar bark somewhere. The Wenebago made a deep pit in the ground and after tieing Kaw-be-naw they threw him in the pit and covered him with heavy stones and dirt and then marched on.
     When they came in view of the village they halted. They concluded that they would not make the attack until morning. Kaw-be-naw, after lying awhile in the pit, magically released himself and went home, and told his people that the Wenebago were very close at hand; and by to- morrow there would be a great battle, so every man must be well prepared. The village was in terrible anxiety that night, the women and children were all gathered in one place and the warriors in another, and the village was well guarded. Early in the morning the war cry was heard, and every warrior went forward to meet the Wenebago, but Kaw- be-naw remained in his lodge while his warriors were fighting. The old O-saw-wah-ne-me-kee was nearly naked and frightfully painted from head to foot, so that he looked more like a demon than a human being. Of course he did not know who might be Kaw-be-naw among the Ottawa, therefore he sang out, saying, "Where is your great Kaw-be-naw? I should like to meet him in this battle." So one of the warriors replied, "Don't you know that you have buried our great Kaw-be-naw in the pit yesterday?" "Thanks to the Great Spirit for delivering the Ottawa into my hands," said old O-saw-wah-ne-me-kee triumphantly. Just then, Kaw-be-naw came out of his lodge in full uniform of black bear skins, with his ponderous war club in his hand, and mocked his antagonist by saying, "Thanks to the Great Spirit, here I am; and now meet me all you want." Kaw-be-naw looked so grand and noble, and was such an extraordinary personage that O-saw-wah-ne-me-kee did not know what to do with himself, whether to yield or to fight. But remembering his previous threats, he made out to face him. However Kaw-be-naw did not take long to dispose of him; O-saw-wah-ne-me-kee was soon slain. When the Wenebagoes saw that their great warrior was no more, they immediately raised a flag of truce, and requested that they might acknowledge themselves as conquered and depart in peace.
     During the affray with O-saw-wah-ne-me-kee, Kaw-be-naw received a little scratch on his nose which drew a few drops of his blood, and therefore when he saw a flag of truce he disarmed himself and went to the Wenebago, saying, "O, you have killed me." The Wenebago said, "How and where?" "Don't you see the blood on my nose?" "Pshaw, that is only a scratch," said the Wenebago. "Well, that very thing will cause me to die." The Wenebago tried to send him away, but he would not leave them. At last they took him prisoner. They tied him with small strong cord which every warrior generally carries in case of capture. As they journeyed towards their home one fine day, they began to council about him, saying, "This man will never die. When we get him into our country, he will make a terrible slaughter among our women and children. We better dispose of him before we reach home." So they concluded to sink him into deep water. Therefore they tied a big stone about his neck and put him overboard. They went on rejoicing and traveled all day in their canoes, thinking that they had disposed of the greatest man in the world and were very much elated at the idea; forgetting how he had once escaped after being buried in a deep pit. When evening came, they encamped for the night. While they were preparing their food, they saw a man coming along on the beach toward them who appeared to them like Kaw-be-naw. The Wenebago were in terrible consternation. Soon he came up to them, and behold it was he. Then the Wenebagoes were in great terror. But as he came up to them he spoke very pleasantly, saying, "Ho, what a pleasant journey we have had to-day. Well, children, have you any meat? I am getting quite hungry after traveling all day." Of course they had to treat him as well as they could, and Kaw-be-naw came into the midst of them. That night the Wenebago lay awake all night, and they thought every moment they would be slaughtered by Kaw-be-naw in revenge for trying to drown him. In the morning after breakfast as they were preparing to go Kaw-be-naw spoke to them saying, "Children, if you want to kill me, I will tell you how. You must take all the flesh from off my body by cutting it piece by piece with your knives, and leave no flesh upon my bones; for this is the only way that I can be killed." The Wenebago were terribly frightened as they thought that so soon as any one would touch him he would kill every Wenebago. So they held a council to determine what they should do. But the majority were in favor of performing this dreadful act, as Kaw-be-naw ordered, for he desired to die. When they came back, Kaw-be-naw persisted that they should begin, and assured them that he would never resist. At last, one of the bravest Wenebago went up to him and cut a piece of his flesh. Kaw-be-naw never stirred but simply smiled and said, "That is the way you must do. What are you afraid of? Come all ye who have sharp knives." Pretty soon they were all around him taking his flesh piece after piece. When it was all done he said, "It is finished; now I shall surely die. But as recompense for my flesh and life a great battle will be made against you by my successor, and as many of your best young men shall fall in this battle as pieces have been cut from my flesh." At the end of this sentence, he fell backwards and died. Thus ended the career of the great Kaw-be-naw, the Ottawa warrior and prophet.
     "Shaw-ko-we-sy" was the successor of Kaw-be-naw and was almost equal in power to his predecessor. It is related that in the following year, he went to the Wenebago country with his numerous warriors and killed many Wenebago, as many as Kaw-be-naw predicted, and returned late in the fall to their Island with many of the Wenebago' scalps. While they were having jubilees, festivities, and war dances over these scalps of the Wenebago, in the dead of winter, the tribe of Michilimacki- nawgoes, the remnant race of Indians who resided at the Island now called Mackinac, whose fate has been given in a previous chapter, were destroyed. This is the time, according to the Ottawa traditions, that the Iroquois of New York came upon this race of people and almost entirely annihilated them, and the Ottawa and Chippewa called this Island Michilimackinong in order to perpetuate the name of these unfortunate Indians.
     There were also a small tribe of Indians, beside the Chippewa, that resided on the north side of the strait whose principal village, was situated at the place now called St. Ignace, but the Ottawas and Chippewas call this place to this day "Naw-do-we-que-yah-mi-shen-ing," which is a compound name from "Naw-do-we," the name of the tribe who resided there, and "Na-yah-me-shen," point of land in water. And afterwards part of the Ottawas came over from their Island and resided with them, during the days of old Saw-ge-maw, who was one of the great warriors and leaders of the Ottawa. But afterwards Saw-ge-maw quarreled with them and broke up the confederacy and drove them off. Here, too, at about this time, part of the Ottawa left the country in anger because they were cheated out of one of the great feasts they were having on some particular occasion. Those went far west and joined the Sho-sho-nee tribe of Indians, whose country lies on the side of the Rocky Mountains, and consequently the Ottawa language is quite extensively spoken among that tribe of Indians to this day.
     The south side of the straits, which now constitutes Emmet, Cheboygan and Charlevoix counties, our tradition says, was exceedingly thickly populated by another race of Indians, whom the Ottawas called Mush-co- desh, which means, "the Prairie tribe." They were so called on account of being great cultivators of the soil, and making the woodland into prairie as they abandoned their old worn out gardens which formed grassy plains. It is related, this tribe was quite peaceable, and were never known to go on a warpath. The Ottawa of Manitoulin had joined hands with them as their confederates. They called each other "brothers." But on one of the western war trips of the great Saw-ge- maw, who existed about the time America was first discovered by white men, he met with great disaster, as many of his warriors were killed; so on returning homeward with his remaining survivors, they crossed Little Traverse Bay in a canoe and approached the shores of Arbor Croche at the place now called Seven Mile Point, where there was a large village of Mush-co-desh. Saw-ge-maw said to his few warriors, "Let us take our sad news to our relations the Mush-co-desh." So as they approached the shore they began to make an unearthly wailing noise, according to the custom of the Ottawa, which was called the death song of the warriors. When the Mush-co-desh heard them they said to one another, "Hark, the Ottawa are crying. They have been marauding among some tribes in the west; but this time they have been worsted-- good enough for them. See, they are coming ashore. Let us not permit them to land." So instead of preparing to join in their mourning, as would have been proper, they rashly determined to express their disapproval of the marauding expeditions and their contempt for those who engaged in them. Before Saw-ge-maw had fairly touched the beach, parties of Mush-co-desh ran down to the shore with balls of ashes wrapped up in forest leaves and with these they pelted Saw-ge-maw and his party as they came ashore. This treatment dreadfully provoked Saw- ge-maw, and the insult was such as could only be wiped out with blood. He told his warriors to pull homeward as quickly as possible. "We will come back here in a few days; we will not have to go so far again to look for our enemies." Arriving at Manitoulin Island, he immediately prepared for a great war. After they were completely equipped, they came back to the southern peninsula of Michigan, stealthily and carefully landing at the most uninhabited part of the shore. They then marched to one of the largest villages of Mush-co-desh, which was situated between Cross Village and Little Traverse, in a beautiful valley in the northern part of the township now called Friendship. Arriving late in the afternoon within view of the village, the Ottawa hid in ambush. One of the old women of the Mush-co-desh was going through the bushes looking for young basswood bark from which to manufacture twine or cord. She came right where the Ottawa were lying in ambush. She was terribly surprised, but the Ottawa persuaded her not to reveal their presence by telling her they would give her a young man as her husband, pointing to one of the best looking young warriors there. They told her, early in the morning they were going to fall upon the village and kill every one of the Mush-co-desh, but when she heard the war-whoop she must run to them and she should not be killed but be protected. The foolish woman believed and kept the secret. Early in the morning the war cry was heard, and she ran to the Ottawa to be protected, but she was the first one to be slain. It was indeed a terrible calamity for the Mush-co-desh. At the begining of the noise of massacre, the chief of the Mush-co-desh ran forward and screamed loud as he could, saying, "O! My father, Saw-ge-maw, what is the cause of your coming upon us so suddenly with death, as we have never wronged your race?" "Have you already forgotten" said Saw-ge-maw triumphantly, "that you have greatly insulted me on your borders? You have pelted me with ashes when I was lamenting over the loss of my braves." When the Mush-co-desh saw they could not prevail on Saw-ge-maw, nor could withstand an adversary so formidable and such well prepared warriors, they endeavored to flee, but they were overtaken and slaughtered. Only the swift-footed young men escaped, taking the sad message to other villages of Mush-co-desh, and as fast as the news reached them they fled with their women and children toward the south along the shore of Lake Michigan, and continued to fly, although they were not pursued by the Ottawa, till they reached the St. Joseph River, and there they stopped, and formed a union village, and began to cultivate the soil again.
     The tradition says this was the greatest slaughter or massacre the Ottawa ever committed. The inhabitants of this village were probably from forty to fifty thousand. There were many other villages of Mush- co-desh of minor importance everywhere scattered through the northern part of the southern peninsula of Michigan. Where this doomed village was situated is yet to this day distinctly visible, as there are some little openings and trails not overgrown by the forest.
     Soon after this the Ottawa abandoned their island and came over and took possession of the country of the Mush-co-desh. Most of them settled at the place now called Magulpin's Point, where the present lighthouse is situated, near old Mackinac. At the time the French settled in Montreal, Au-tche-a, one of the Ottawa prophets, told his people there were some strange persons living in this continent, who were far superior to any other inhabitants upon the earth. So Au-tche-a determined to search for these wonderful people and he persuaded five of his neighbors to accompany him in his undertaking. They started out, but they went a very roundabout way, and it was a long time before they came to the Ottawa river; then floating down they came out on the St. Lawrence. They were gone for more than a year. When they came where the white men were, they first saw a vessel or ship anchored in the middle of the St. Lawrence, which they thought was a monster waiting to devour them as they came along. But as they neared it they saw some people on the back of the monster. So Au-tche-a and his party were taken on board, and his little frail canoe was hoisted into the ship. They found some Stockbridge Indians there also, who spoke a dialect of their language. After exchanging all they had, and learning how to handle firearms, they started back again to the straits of Mackinac. The tradition says, they arrived at their village on an exceedingly calm day, and the water was in perfect stillness in the straits. The Indians saw the canoe coming towards the shore of the village, when suddenly a puff of smoke was seen and a terrific clash of sound followed immediately. All the inhabitants were panic stricken, and thought it was something supernatural approaching the shore. But again and again they witnessed the same thing, as it came nearer and nearer. At last they recognized the great prophet Au-tche-a and his party coming back from his long trip, having found his "Manitou" that he was looking after. The reader may imagine how it was, when Au-tche-a landed and exhibited his strange articles--his gun with its belongings, his axes, his knives, his new mode of making fire, his cooking utensils, his clothing and his blankets. It was no small curiosity to the aborigines.
     The Ottawa gradually extended their settlements towards the south, along the shore of Lake Michigan. The word Michigan is an Indian name, which we pronounce Mi-chi-gum, and simply means "monstrous lake." My own ancestors, the Undergrounds, settled at Detroit, and they considered this was the extent of their possessions. But the greatest part of the Ottawas settled at Arbor Croche, which I have already related as being a continuous village some fifteen miles long. But in the forest of this country were not many deer, and consequently when the winter approached most of the Indians went south to hunt, returning again in the spring loaded with dry meat.
     The Mush-co-desh were not long in safety in the southern part of the state. Intercourse had been opened between the French and the Ottawas and Chippewas on the straits of Mackinac and being supplied with firearms and axes by the French people, it occurred to the Ottawa that these implements would be effective in battle. Anxious to put them to the test, they resolved to try them on their old enemies, the Mush-co- desh, who had not yet seen the white man and were unacquainted with firearms. Accordingly an expedition was fitted out. As the Ottawa approached the village of their enemies, each carrying a gun, the Mush- co-desh thought they were nothing but clubs, so came out with their bows and arrows, anticipating an easy victory. But they soon found out that they were mistaken. As the Ottawa came up they suddenly halted, not near enough to be reached by any arrows of Mush-co-desh, but the Ottawa began to fire away with their guns. Poor Mush-co-desh; they suffered more than ever in this second crushing defeat. The Ottawa left only one family of Mush-co-desh at this time and these went west somewhere to find a new home. My father and my uncles in their younger days while they were making a tour out west, happened to come across the descendants of this nearly annihilated tribe of Indians. They had grown to nine lodges only at that time, and they visited them in a friendly manner. The old warriors wept as they were conversing with them on their terrible calamities and misfortunes and their being once powerful allies and closely related; for these few still remembered the past, and what had become of their ancestors.
After the Ottawa took complete possession of the southern peninsula of Michigan, they fought some more tribes of Indians, subdued them, and compelled them to form confederation with them as their allies. Such as Po-to-wa-to-mies, Mano-me-mis, O-daw-gaw-mies, Urons and Assawgies, who formerly occupied Saw-ge-naw-bay. Therefore the word Saginaw is derived from the name Os-saw-gees, who formerly lived there. They have been always closely united with the Chippewa and very often they went together on the warpath, except at one time they nearly fought on account of a murder, as has been herein related. Also the Shaw-wa-nee tribe of Indians were always closely related to them.
     But the Ottawa nation of Indians are always considered as the oldest and most expert on the warpath and wise councilors; and consequently every tribe of Indians far and near, even as far as the Manitoba country, out north, deposited their pipe of peace with the head chief of the Ottawa nation as a pledge of continual peace and friendship. Every pipe of peace contained a short friendly address which must be committed to memory by every speaker in the council of the Ottawa. If there was ever any outbreak among these tribes who deposited their pipe of peace with the head chief of the Ottawa nation, a general council would be called by the chiefs of the Ottawa, and the pipe of peace belonging to the tribe who caused the trouble would be lighted up, and the short address contained in the pipe would be repeated in the council by one of the speakers. When the cause of the outbreak or trouble was ascertained, then reconciliation must be had, and friendly relation must be restored, in which case they almost invariably succeeded in making some kind of reasonable settlement. This was the custom of all these people; and this is what formerly constituted the great Algonquin family of Indians.
     There are many theories as to the origin of the Indian race in America, but nothing but speculation can be given on this subject. But we believe there must have been people living in this country before those tribes who were driven out by the Ottawa and Chippewa, who were much more advanced in art and in civilization, for many evidences of their work have been discovered. About two hundred and fifty years ago, We- me-gen-de-bay, one of our noted chiefs, discovered while hunting in the wilderness a great copper kettle, which was partly in the ground. The roots of trees had grown around it and over it, and when it was taken up it appeared as if it had never been used, but seemed to be just as it came from the maker, as there was yet a round bright spot in the center of the bottom of it. This kettle was large enough to cook a whole deer or bear in it. For a long time the Indians kept it as a sacred relic. They did not keep it near their premises, but securely hidden in a place most unfrequented by any human being. They did not use it for anything except for great feasts. Their idea with regard to this kettle was that it was made by some deity who presided over the country where it was found, and that the copper mine must be very close by where the kettle was discovered. One peculiarity of its manufacture was that it had no iron rim around it, nor bail for hanging while in use, as kettles are usually made, but the edge of the upper part was much thicker than the rest and was turned out square about three- fourths of an inch, as if made to rest on some support while in use. When the Indians came to be civilized in Grand Traverse country, they began to use this "Mani-tou-au-kick," as they called it, in common to boil the sugar sap in it, instead of cooking bear for the feast. And while I was yet in the government blacksmith shop at the Old Mission in Grand Traverse, they brought this magical kettle to our shop with an order to put an iron rim and bail on it so that it could be hanged in boiling sugar, and I did the work of fixing the kettle according to the order.
     From this evidence of working in metals and from the many other relics of former occupants, it is evident that this country has been inhabited for many ages, but whether by descendants of the Jews or of other Eastern races there is no way for us to determine.

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