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Epidemical Condition of the Atmosphere at Detroit

Native American Nations | Thirty Years with the Indians

Epidemical condition of the atmosphere at Detroit--Death of Henry J. Hunt and A. G. Whitney, Esqrs.--Diary of the visits of Indians at St. Mary's Agency--Indian affairs on the frontier under the supervision of Col. McKenney--Criticisms on the state of Indian questions--Topic of Indian eloquence--State of American researches in natural science--Dr. Saml. L. Mitchell.

1826. September. Sickness, which often assumed a mortal type, broke out during this month at Detroit, and carried away many of its most esteemed citizens. Col. McKenney writes (Sep. 13th) that the Commissioners reached that place from Mackinac in ten days, and that an alarming sickness prevails--one hundred cases! Among the latter is Mrs. Judge Hunt, an esteemed lady.

Gov. C. (Sep. 14th) announces the death of Col. Henry J. Hunt, one of the most respectable citizens; a man who, for many years, has occupied a position of the highest respect and esteem. His honor, integrity, and general usefulness, urbanity of manners and kindness to all classes, have never been called in question, and his loss to society will create a vacancy which will long be felt. Called away suddenly, his death has produced a shock in all classes, from the highest to the lowest.

Edmund A. Brush, Esq., writes (Sept. 17th): "Our unhappy mortality prevails." On the 23d, he says: "Mr. Whitney has been lying at the point of death for the last ten or twelve days. We hope he begins to improve." These hopes were delusive. He died. Mr. Whitney had been abroad; he was an assiduous and talented advocate--a native of Hudson, N.Y.--was on the high road to political distinction--a moral man and a public loss.

I amused myself this fall by keeping notes of the official visits of my Indian neighbors. They may denote the kind of daily wants against which this people struggle.

Oct. 2d. Monetogeezhig complained that he had not been able to take any fish for several days, and solicited some food for himself and family, being five persons. The dress and general appearance of himself and wife and the children, nearly naked, bore evidence to the truth of his repeated expressions, that they were "poor, very poor, and hungry." He also presented a kettle and an axe to be repaired. I gave him a ticket on the Agency blacksmith, and caused sixteen rations of flour and pork to be issued to him.

3d. The petty chief, Cheegud, with his wife and two children, arrived from Lake Superior, and reported that since leaving the Taquimenon he had killed nothing. While inland, he had broken his axe and trap. This young chief is son-in-law of Shingauba W'ossin, principal chief of the Chippewas. He is one of the home band, has been intimate at the agency from its establishment, and is very much attached to the government. He attended the treaty of Prairie du Chien, in 1825, and the treaty of Fond du Lac, in 1826, and received at the latter a medal of the third size. He has always properly appreciated the presents given him, and by his temperate, consistent, and respectable course of life, merited attention. Directed a ticket on the shop and twenty rations.

6th. An Indian woman, wife of Sirdeland, a resident Canadian, in very low circumstances, and living in the Indian mode, requested a kettle to be mended. My rule, in cases of this sort, excludes Indian females who are under the protection of Canadian husbands from a participation in the presents distributed at the office. But it is proper to make exceptions, in some instances, where repairs of ironwork are solicited. Directed a ticket on the blacksmith.

13th. Issued to Waykwauking and family twelve rations.

16th. Shingwaukoance, The Little Pine (17th July, 1822, first visit), accompanied by twenty persons, visited the office. This is one of the signers of the Treaty of St. Mary of 1820, where his mark is prefixed to his French name, Augustin Bart. He told me he had come to visit me, attended with all his young men, and requested I would listen to what he had to say. He made a speech at great length, in which he recapitulated his good offices and exertions towards the Americans, from the time of Gov. Cass's arrival in 1820. He stated that a plot had then been formed to cut off the Gov.'s party, and that he and Mr. G. Johnston had been instrumental in thwarting the design. He was glad to see the fire I had lighted up here in 1822 was kept burning, that the Indians might come and warm themselves by it. He had now determined to come and live permanently on the American side of the river, and put himself under my protection.

He repeated his friendship, and gave a "parole" of blue wampum to confirm his words. One of his party then lighted a pipe and handed it to me to smoke in the usual manner. Caused tobacco and sixty rations of food to be distributed among his band.

20th. Oshawano solicited food, declaring that his boys had not been able to take any fish from the rapids for several days. This is an old man, and a chief resident at St. Mary's. I told him that it was not my practice, which he knew, to issue provision to the families of fishermen during the fishing season, and that I expected his children to supply him; that, besides, he was one of the persons who had visited the B. Post at D. Isd. during the last summer, and that he knew I made no presents of any kind to Indians who received presents there; that if he went to his B. father in the summer, when it was pleasant weather, he must also go in the fall and winter, when the weather was bad; that if they gave him presents of goods, they must also give him food. He looked very grave, and, after a short silence, said that he had got little or nothing at D.I. He said his home was here, and he was very poor, &c. Knowing, from personal observation, that he was suffering for food, I ordered twenty-six-rations.

21st. Cheegud came to say that he was about to go to his wintering grounds, and wished some provisions to commence the journey. This young chief has been welcomed at the agency, and is friendly to the American government. He attended the treaties of P.D.C. and F. du Lac; at the latter he received a medal. He has always appreciated attentions, and by his sober, consistent, and respectful course of life, merits the notice of the office. I gave him some necessary ironwork, a knife, tobacco, ammunition, provisions (18).

23d. Visited by Shingauwosh (4 p.)

24th. Akeewayzee (4 per.)

26th. Keewikoance and band, eleven persons. This is a chief residing on the lower part of the river St. Mary. Having visited him last spring, he gave me an ancient clay pot, such as the Indians used before the arrival of Europeans. He told me he was the seventh chief, in a direct line, since the French first arrived. He and his band plant some corn and potatoes upon an island. He appears a sensible discreet man, and has a good deal of the pride and dignity of the Indian character. He is in the British interest, and his feelings are all that way, being always received at D. I. with marked attention. He has a British medal, but wishes to keep on friendly terms here.

28th. Metosh came in the office and said: "My father, I am very poor; I have nothing, not even an axe to cut wood. Show me pity." Thirteen rations.

30th. Visited by Wayishkee, a chief, having a medal of the first class, formerly of La Pointe, in Lake Superior, and of an ancient line of chiefs, but for the last three years a resident of St. Mary's. He had a wife and nine children. Has been in the constant habit of visiting the office since its establishment; but it is only within the last year that he has given up visiting D. I. He is one of the signers of the treaty of St. Mary. He attended the treaty of F. du Lac last summer. Received a medal and flag from me in the spring. Is a good hunter and a kind and affectionate parent. Had all his children by one wife. Came to inform me that he was on his way to make his first hunt on Red Carp river, L. S. Gave him ironwork, &c.

30th. Neegaubeyun, The West Wind, a chief by descent of the home band; is a man about forty; has lost one eye; much given to intemperance, and generally badly clothed; will sometimes labor for whisky; visits D.I. every season. In consequence of his poor character and political bias, has never been recognized by me as a chief, nor honored with the marks of one. He said that he was poor, and did not come to trouble me often, and hoped I would show him charity. I told him he must not construe my charity into approbation of his conduct, particularly his visits to D.I., which were displeasing to me and had been forbidden by his American Father (3b.)

30th. Muckudaywuckooneyea. This is a young man about 18. His father was a steady friend to the American cause even during the late war, and many years before an Agent resided here. He had received a Jefferson medal at Detroit; was drowned in the St. Mary a few years ago. The son has been an irregular visitor at the office for the last four years, and is ambitious to be invested with the authority of his father, but possesses neither age, ability, or discretion. In consequence of his visiting D.I., contrary to my request and his promise, I took away his father's medal from him, in 1823, hanging it up in my office, and telling him when he was worthy of it, and not before, he should have it. His conduct of late has been more considerate, and his professions of friendship for the American government are profuse; but he has not ceased his Canada visits. Ten rations.

Nov. 5th. Ketuckeewagauboway. This being Sunday, I told him he knew very well that I never listened to Indians on the Prayer Day unless they were just come from a journey, &c. He went away, saying he had forgot, &c.

6th. Oshkinaway and brother, 18 p., of the British shore. Brought a present of some partridges.

7th. Metacosegay. This man resides the greater part of the time on the Canadian side of the river, but hunts often on the American shore. He resided many years ago with a French family at St. Mary, and has imbibed something of the French taste and manners, always wearing an ornamental hat, and making a bow on entering and leaving the office. He has been in the regular habit of visiting me from the year 1822, and generally applies for what is termed nwappo on setting out for his fall and winter hunts. His elder wife, for he has two, is a Sioux slave, taken in youth. (3, 12 r.)

7th. Nauwequay Wegauboway. (4, 20.)

9th. This day Bisconaosh visited me for the first time since my residence here. He came with his wife and two children. This man is of the ancient band of the Falls, but being strongly attached to the British government, has been shy of approaching me. This has been taken advantage of by Mr. E., a trader on the opposite shore, who told him the Americans would cause him to be whipped, with other idle stuff of that sort, if he came over. He stated these facts as the cause for his not coming earlier to see me, and said he was anxious to return to the seat of his forefathers, &c. Presented him with an axe, pair of spears, ice-chisel, knife, and a couple of flints, and with sixteen rations of flour, pork, and beans. 10th. Ketuckeewagauboway. This is a resident Indian of this place. He is a fisherman during the summer, and scarcely ever does more in the winter than to snare hares or kill partridges, which he exposes for sale. He also makes snow-shoes, &c. He is intemperate and improvident, wasting in liquor what would be useful to his family if laid out for provisions, &c. It is impossible to avoid issues to such persons occasionally. Advice and reproof he always takes well, acknowledges their justice with good nature, and is even facetiously pleasant. This man used formerly to come to the office intoxicated; but my undeviating rule of listening to no Indian in that state, has had good effect.

10th. Kewazee, a fisherman in the fall, a hunter in the winter, is the eldest son of the old hereditary chief Oshawano. Keeps himself well clothed, and supports his family of four persons comfortably in the Indian way. Having concluded to stop fishing for the season, he came to solicit some provision to go inland. This is one of the home band who adheres to the American government, and has entirely broken off all visits to D.I., even contrary to the practice of his father and all the other members of his family.

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Personal Memoirs of a Residence of Thirty Years with the Indian Tribes on the American Frontiers, 1851

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