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Incidents on the Sources of the St. Croix and Chippewa Rivers

Native American Nations | Thirty Years with the Indians

Council with the Indians at Yellow Lake--Policy of the Treaty of Prairie du Chien of 1825--Speech of Shaiwunegunaibee--Mounds of Yellow River--Indian manners and customs--Pictography--Natural history--Nude Indians--Geology--Portage to Lac Courtorielle--Lake of the Isles--Ottawa Lake--Council--War party--Mozojeed's speech--Tecumseh--Mozojeed's lodge--Indian movements--Trip to the Red Cedar Fork--Ca Ta--Lake Chetac--Indian manners.

1831. COUNCIL.--I pitched my tent and erected my flag on an eminence called by the Chippewas Pe-li-co-gun-au-gun, or The Hip-Bone. Accounts represented a war party against the Sioux to be organizing at Rice Lake, on a branch of the Chippewa River, under the lead of Neenaba, a partisan leader, who had recently visited Yellow River for the purpose of enlisting volunteers. He had appealed to all the bands on the head waters of the Chippewa and St. Croix to join, by sending their young men who were ambitious of fame in this expedition. Neenaba himself was an approved warrior who panted for glory by leading an attack against their old foe, the Dacotahs. It was still possible to arrest it or break it up. I wrote to the Indian Agent at St. Peter's. A message was dispatched by Kabamappa to Chacopee and Buffalo at Snake Rivers, with directions to forward it to Petit Corbeau, the leading chief of the River Sioux. I determined to hasten back so as to meet my appointment with the large band of Mozojeed at Lac Courtorielle, and to proceed myself to Neenaba's village. I stated my determination to the Yellow Lake Indians, and urged their concurrence in my plans, assuring them that I spoke the voice of the President of the United States, who was determined to preserve and carry out the principles of pacification which had been commenced and agreed to, as the basis of the general treaty of Prairie du Chien of 1825. He had spoken to them at that treaty by two men whom they all well know from St. Louis to Lake Superior--namely, by the Red-Head (so they call General William Clark) and their Great Father at Detroit (General Cass). He would not suffer their words to fall to the ground and be buried. I stood up to renew them. It was by peace and not war that they could alone flourish. Their boundaries were all plainly established by that treaty, and there was no sound pretence why one tribe should pass over on the lands of another. If he did pass, there was no reason at all why he should carry a hatchet in his hand or a war eagle's feather in his hair.

Shai-wun-e-gun-aibee responded in favorable terms as to the general subject. The old men desired peace, but could not always control their young men, especially when they heard that their men had been struck. His voice and hand would be ever on the side of his great American father, and he believed his hands were long enough to reach out and hold them still. He concluded by some complaints against their trader Dingley. Said that he had presented them a map of the Yellow River country, and wished them to give it to him. That he had ill-used some of them by taking away goods which he had before sold them, because they had not paid all.

MOUNDS, SO CALLED.--Before quitting Yellow River, I asked Kabamappa whether the Pe-li-co-gun-au-gun was a natural or artificial mound. He replied, that it was natural. There were three more of these elevations on the opposite side of the river. He knew nothing further of them. A large pine was growing on the top of one of them.

Having concluded the business with the Indians, I distributed presents of provisions, ammunition, and tobacco. I purchased a canoe of small draft from an Indian named Shoga, and immediately embarked on my return up the St. Croix. That night we lodged in our camp of the 31st. The next morning we were in motion by five o'clock, and reached the grand forks by nine. We entered and began the ascent of the Namakagun.

INDIAN MANNERS AND CUSTOMS.--We soon met a brother of Kabamappa, called the Day Ghost, and four other heads of families, with their families, on their way to the council at Yellow River. Informed them of what had been done, and gave them tobacco, whereupon they determined to re-ascend the Namakagun with us. There were ten persons. One of the young men fired at a flock of pigeons, hitting and killing two. A distance above, they went through a cut-off, and saved a mile or more, while we went round, showing their superior knowledge of the geography. At the great bends, the women got out of the canoes and walked. The old men also walked up. We reached their lodges about 4 o'clock. I exchanged canoes with Day Ghost, and gave him the difference. We encamped at a late hour on the left bank (ascending), having come about forty-two miles--a prodigious effort for the men. To make amends, they ate prodigiously, and then lay down and slept with the nightmare. Poor fellows, they screamed out in their sleep. But they were up and ready again at 5 o'clock the next morning, with paddle and song.

PICTOGRAPHY.--At 11 o'clock we landed, on the right bank, at the site of an old encampment, for breakfast. I observed a symbolic inscription, in the ideographic manner, on a large blazed pine--the Pinus resinosa. It consisted of seven representative, and four symbolic devices, denoting the totems, or family names, of two heads of families, while encamped here, and their success in hunting and fishing. The story told was this: That two men, one of whom was of the Catfish clan, and the other of the clan of the Copper-tailed Bear--a mythological animal--had been rewarded with mysterious good luck, each according to his totem. The Catfish man had caught six large catfish, and the Copper-tailed Bear man had killed a black bear. The resin of the pine had covered the inscription, rendering it impervious to the weather.

NATURAL HISTORY.--The nymphaea odorata borders the edge of the river. Dr. H., this morning, found the bidens, which has but two localities in the United States besides. He has also, within the last forty-eight hours, discovered a species of the locust, on the lower part of the Namakagun. The fresh-water shells on this river are chiefly unios. Wild rice, the palustris, is chiefly found at the two Pukwaewas, more rarely along the banks, but not in abundance. The polyganum amphibia stands just in the edge of the water along its banks, and is now in flower. The copper-head snake is found at the Yellow River; also the thirteen striped squirrel.

NUDE INDIANS.--The Indians whom we met casually on the Namakagun, had nothing whatever on them, but the auzeaun. They put on a blanket, when expecting a stranger. The females have a petticoat and breastpiece. When we passed the Woodpecker Chiefs party, an old woman, without upperments, who had been poling up one of the canoes, hastily landed, and hid herself in the bushes, when her exclamation of Nyau! Nyau! revealed her position as we passed. Two young married women had also landed, but stood on the banks with their children; one of the latter screaming, in fear, at the top of its lungs.

The men were much fatigued with this day's journey. They had to use the pole when the water became shallow. Yet they went about thirty-six miles. At night one of them screamed out with pains in his arms. We were up and on the river again at six the next morning (the 4th). The word with me was, PUSH; to accomplish the object, not a day, not half a day was to be lost, and the men all entered into the spirit of the thing. At half past nine, we reached our breakfast place of the 30th, and there gummed our canoes. We noticed yesterday the red haw, and pembina--the latter of which is the service berry. This day the calamus was often seen in quantity.

GEOLOGY.--Rapids were encountered at various points, at which there appeared large boulders of syenite and greenstone trap. No rock stratum appears in place, but from the size of the boulders, it seems probable that the trap formation crosses the bed of the Namakagun. There is no limestone--no slate. Small boulders of amygdaloid, quartz, granite, and sandstone mark the prevalence of the drift stratum, such as overspreads the upper Mississippi uplands. The weather was cloudy and overcast, producing coolness. I found the air but 64 deg. at 2 o'clock, when the water stood at 69 deg..

Some fish are caught in this stream, which serve to eke out the very scanty, and precarious subsistence of the Indians at this season. At the lodge of an Indian, whom we knew as the "Jack of Diamonds"--being the same who loaned us a canoe--I observed some small pieces of duck in a large kettle of boiling water, which was thickened with whortleberries, for the family supper.

PORTAGE TO LAC COURTORIELLE.--We reached the portage at two o'clock A.M., and immediately began to cross it, the men carrying all our baggage at one load. Just after passing the middle pause, the path mounts and is carried along a considerable ridge, from which there is a good view of the country. It is open as far as the eye can reach. Sometimes there is a fine range of large pines: in by far the largest space ancient fires appear to have spread, destroying the forest and giving rise to a young growth of pines, aspen, shad-bush, and bramble. Some portions are marshy. A deep cup-shaped cavity exists a little to the right of the path on the ridge, denoting it to be cavernous or filled with springs.

We saw evidences of Lieut. Clary and Mr. Woolsey's march and encampment on this height. We saw also evidences of Old Laporte's prowess in voyageur life and exploits, by a notice of one of his long pauses, recorded by Lieut. Clary in pencil, on a blazed tree.

LAKE OF THE ISLES.--On reaching the Lake of the Isles at three o'clock P.M., we found, by a little bark letter on a pole, that Lieut. Clary and Mr. Woolsey had slept at that spot on the 1st of August. All things had proceeded well. They were ahead of us but four days.

While the men were sent back to the other end of the portage after the canoes, I embarked on the lake in a small canoe found in the bushes, with Mr. Johnston, to search out the proper channel. We found it to draw to a narrow neck and then widen out, with six or seven islands, giving a very sylvan and beautiful appearance. We passed through it, then crossed a short portage that connects the path with Lac du Gres, and then returned to the south end of Lake of the Isles, where I determined to encamp and light up a fire, while Mr. Johnston was sent back in the little Indian canoe to bring up the canoes and men. While thus awaiting the arrival of the party, I scrutinized the mineralogy of the pebbles and drift of its shores, where I observed small fragments of the agates, quartz, amygdaloids, &c., which characterize all the drift of the upper Mississippi.

But Mr. Johnston did not return till long after sunset. I was growing uneasy and full of anxieties when he hove in sight in the same small Indian hunting-canoe, with Dr. Houghton and one voyageur, bringing the tent, beds, and mess-basket. They reported that the men had not yet arrived with the large canoe, and it was doubted whether they would come in in season to cross the lake. But they came up and joined us during the night.

The next morning (Aug. 5th) we crossed the portage at Lac du Gres before sunrise. This is the origin of the north-west fork of Chippewa River. The atmosphere was foggy, but, from what we could see, we thought the lake pretty. Pine on its shores, bottom sandy, shells in its bed, no rock seen in place, but loose pieces of coarse gray sandstone around its shores.

The outlet of this lake proved to be the entrance into Ottawa Lake--the Lac Courtorielle of the French--a fine body of water some ten miles long. It was still too foggy on reaching this point to tell which way to steer. A gun was fired; it was soon answered by Lieut. Clary and Mr. Woolsey from the opposite side of the lake. The sound was sufficient to indicate the course, and we crossed in safety, rejoining our party at the hour of early breakfast. We found all well.

OTTAWA LAKE.--We were received with a salute from the Indians. I counted twenty-eight canoes turned up on the beach. Mozojeed and Waubezhais, the son of Miscomoneto (or The Red Devil), were present. Also Odabossa and his band. The Indians crowded down to the beach to shake hands. I informed them, while tobacco was being distributed, that I would meet them in council that day at the firing of three guns by the military.

COUNCIL.--At eleven o'clock I met the Indians in council. The military were drawn up to the best advantage, their arms glittering in the sun. My auxiliaries of the Michico-Canadian stock and the gentlemen of my party were in their best trim. We occupied the beautiful eminence at the outlet of the lake. The assemblage of Indians was large, but I was struck by the great disproportion, or excess, of women and children.

Mozojeed, the principal man, was a tall, not portly, red-mouthed, and pucker-mouthed man1, with an unusual amount of cunning and sagacity, and exercising an unlimited popularity by his skill and reputation as a jossakeed, or seer. He had three wives, and, so far as observation went, I should judge that most of the men present had imitated his voluptuous tastes and apparently lax morals. He had an elaborately-built jaunglery, or seer's lodge, sheathed with rolls of bark carefully and skillfully united, and stained black inside. Its construction, which was intricate, resembled the whorls of a sea-shell. The white prints of a man's hand, as if smeared with white clay, was impressed on the black surface. I have never witnessed so complete a piece of Indian architectural structure, nor one more worthy of the name of a temple of darkness.

This man, who had effectually succeeded to the power and influence of Miscomoneto (or the Red Devil), had been present at the treaty of Prairie du Chien, in 1825, and heard Gens. Clark and Cass address the assembled Indians on that memorable occasion. I had been in communication with him there. He was perfectly familiar with the principles of pacification advanced and established on that occasion. It was the more easy for me, therefore, to revive and enforce these principles.

WAR PARTY.--Mozojeed's son was himself one of Neenaba's leaders in the war party, and was now absent with the volunteers which he had been able to raise in and about the Ottawa Lake village. He was directly implicated in this movement against the Sioux. Mozojeed's village was, in fact, completely caught almost in the very act of sending out its quota of warriors. They had, but a short time before, marched to join the main party at Rica Lake on the Red Cedar Fork of the Chippewa. He felt the embarrassment of his position, but, true to the character of his race, exhibited not a sign of it in his words or countenance. Stolid and unmoved, he pondered on his reply. Divested of its unnecessary points and personal localisms, this speech was substantially as follows:--

MOZOJEED'S SPEECH.--"Nosa. I have listened to your voice. I have listened to it heretofore at Kipesaugee. It is to me the voice of one that is strong and able to do. Our Great Father speaks in it. I hear but one thing. It is to sit still. It is not to cross the enemies' lines. It is to drop the war club. It is to send word of all our disputes to him.

"Nosa. This is wise. This is good. This is to stop blood. But my young men are foolish. They wish to go on the war path. They wish to sing triumphs. My counsels too are weak and as nothing. It seems like trying to catch the winds and holding them in my fists, when I try to stay their war spirit. How shall we dance? How shall we sing? These are their words.

"Nosa. I do not lift the war-club. My words are for peace. I helped to draw the lines at Kipesaugee six years, ago. I will keep them. My advice to my people is to sit still. You have shown, by bringing your flag here and hoisting it with your own hands in my village, that you are strong, and able, and willing. You are the Indian's friend. You encourage us by this hard journey through our streams when the waters are low. You have spied us out and see how we live, and how poor we are."

Waubezhais, the son of Miscomoneto, and bearing his medal and authority, then spoke, responding frankly. Odebossa, of the Upper Pukwaewa, spoke also favorably to my object, and thanking me for my visit to his village on the Namakagun, which he said, metaphorically, "had rekindled their fires, which were almost out."

All agreed that the waters were too low to go to the Lac du Flambeau, and that my proposed council with the Indians at that point must be given up or deferred. Besides, if the war party on the Red Cedar or Folavoine Fork of the Chippewa was to be arrested, it could only be done by an immediate move in that direction. I therefore determined to leave Ottawa Lake the same day. I invested Mozobodo with a silver medal of the first class, and a U.S. flag. Presents of ammunition, provisions, iron works, a few dry goods, and tobacco were given to all, and statistics of their population and of their means taken. For a population of eighteen men, there were forty-eight women and seventy-one children. Thirteen or fourteen of the latter were Mozojeed's. Red Devil's son's band numbered forty-nine men, twenty-seven women, and forty-six children. Odabossa's village consisted of eighteen men, thirty-eight women, and seventy-one children--making 406 souls, who were chiefly assembled at this point.

TECUMSEH.--I snatched this piece of history. During the late war Tecumseh's messages reached this place, and produced their usual effect. The Indians seized the post, took the goods, and burnt the building occupied as a place of trade. Mr. Corban, having notice from friendly Indians, escaped with his men to St. Mary's. This post stood opposite the outlet, being on the present site of Mozojeed's village.

MOZOJEED'S LODGE--This fabric is quite remarkable, and yields more comforts and conveniences than usual. It has also the mysterious insignia of a prophet. The faces of four men or gods are carved at the four cardinal points. A hole with a carved image of a bird is in front. Three drums hang on the walls, and many rattles. At his official lodge men are painted joining hands. A bundle of red sticks lies in one corner.

INDIAN MOVEMENTS.--I was informed by M. and W. that the Lac du Flambeau Indians were not on Chippewa River, and that the message from Yellow Lake had not reached them. That many of the Chippewas were at Rice Lake on the Red Cedar Fork. That they had received a message from Mr. Street, Indian Agent at Prairie du Chien, and were in alarm on account of the Menomonies.

TRIP TO THE RED CEDAR FORK.--We embarked at four o'clock in the afternoon in four canoes, one canoe of Indians to aid on the portages, and two canoes of the military--Lieut. Clary's command. Mr. B. Cadotte acted as guide as far as Rice Lake, the whole making quite a formidable "brigade," to use a trader's term. Our course lay down the Little Chippewa River. The water was very good and deep as far as the fish dam. There our troubles began. Our canoes had to be led along, as if they had been baskets of eggs, in channels made by the Indians, who had carefully picked out the big stones. We met a son of old Misco's, having a fawn and three muskrats recently killed. I gave him a full reward of corn and tobacco for the former, which was an acceptable addition to our traveling cuisine. It was observed that he had nothing besides in his canoe but a gun and war club, a little boy being in the boat. We descended the stream some seven or eight miles, and encamped on the right bank. It rained hard during the night. Next morning (6th) we were in motion at six o'clock, which was as early as the atmosphere would permit. An hour's travel brought us to the mouth of a creek, which led us in the required direction. It was a narrow and deep stream, very tortuous, and making bends so short that we with difficulty forced our canoes through. In two hours we came to the portage to the Ca Ta--a pond at the distance of 1916 yards, which we crossed at two pauses.

LAKE CHETAC.--Before the canoes and baggage came up, I crossed over to Lake Chetac. There is a portage road around the pond. After passing the first poze from it, the canoes may be put in a brook and poled down two pozes--then they must be taken out and carried 1600 yards to Lake Chetac. The whole portage is 5600 yards.

It was seven o'clock in the evening before we could embark on the lake. We went down it four miles to an island and encamped. The lake is six miles long, shallow, marshy, with some wild rice and bad water. Bad as it was, we had to make tea of it.

INDIAN MANNERS.--We found but a single lodge on the island, which was occupied by a Chippewa woman and a dog. I heard her say to one of our men, in the Chippewa tongue, that there was no man in the lodge--that her husband had gone out fishing. She appeared in alarm, and soon after I saw her paddle away in a small canoe, leaving her lodge with a fire burning. On awaking in the morning, I heard the sound of talking in the lodge, and, before we embarked, the man, his wife, and two children, and an old woman came out.

Four lodges of Indians, say about twenty souls, usually make their homes at this lake, which yields them fish and wild rice. But at present the whole tendency of the Indian population is to Rice Lake. The war party mustering at that point absorbs all attention.

1: He was named by the Indians from these two traits.

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

Thirty Years with the Indians


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