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Account of the Indians' Roving Disposition

 Native American Nations | Ottawa and Chippewa Indians of Michigan                    


     I will again return to my narrative respecting how the Ottawa used to live and travel to and fro in the State of Michigan, and how they came to join the Catholic religion at Arbor Croche. Early in the spring we used to come down this beautiful stream of water (Muskegon River) in our long bark canoes, loaded with sugar, furs, deer skins, prepared venison for summer use, bear's oil, and bear meat prepared in oil, deer tallow, and sometimes a lot of honey, etc. On reaching the mouth of this river we halted for five or six days, when all the other Indians gathered, as was customary, expressly to feast for the dead. All the Indians and children used to go around among the camps and salute one another with the words, "Ne-baw-baw-tche-baw-yew," that is to say, "I am or we are going around as spirits," feasting and throwing food into the fire--as they believe the spirits of the dead take the victuals and eat as they are consumed in the fire.
     After the feast of the dead, we would all start for Arbor Croche, our summer resort, to plant our corn and other vegetables. At the crossing of Little Traverse Bay at the point called "Ki-tche-ossening," that is to say, "on the big rock," all the Indians waited until all the canoes arrived, after which they would all start together in crossing the bay. When about half way across they would begin to salute Arbor Croche by shooting with guns, holding them close to the water in order that the sound might reach to each side of the bay, to be heard by those few who always made their winter quarters around Little Traverse Bay. Arriving at Arbor Croche, where our big wigwam would be waiting for us--of which I have spoken in previous chapters--the very first thing my parents would do would be to go and examine their stores of corn and beans. After all the Indians arrived and had settled down, they would again have a prolonged merriment and another feasting of the dead and peace offerings. Grand medicine dances, fire dances, and many other jubilant performances my people would have before they would go to work again to plant their corn. I distinctly remember the time, and I have seen my brothers and myself dancing around the fires in our great wigwam, which had two fireplaces inside of it.
     About in 1824, there was an Indian came from Montreal whose name was Andowish, and who formerly belonged to Arbor Croche. He was among the Stockbridge Indians somewhere near Montreal, and this tribe speak a dialect of the Ottawa and Chippewa languages, and most of them by this time had joined the Catholic church. So Andowish, by their influence, also joined the Catholic religion out there with the Stockbridge Indians. Coming back to Arbor Croche, where he formerly belonged, he began to teach some of his own relatives the faith of the Catholic religion, which some of them were very ready to receive, but he could not baptize them. Therefore, parties of Indians went to Mackinac Island, headed by the principal chief of the Seven Mile Point band of Indians, whose name was A-paw-kau-se-gun, to see some of their half- breed relations at the island, relating to them how they felt with regard to Christianity, and asking advice as to what they should do in the matter. These half-breed relatives promised they would do all they could to cause the priest to come up to Arbor Croche and baptize all those Indians who felt disposed to receive the religion. Therefore in 1825 Rev. Father Baden, an old priest, came up with his interpreters and landed at Seven Mile Point, and baptized quite a number of grown folks, and a great many children were taken into the Catholic religion. At this time, I was also baptized by Rev. Father Baden; I was small, but I distinctly remember having the water poured over my head and putting some salt in my mouth, and changing my name from Pe-ness-wi- qua-am to Amable. The mission was then established at Seven Mile Point, where a church was built with poles and covered with cedar bark. This was the very way that the first religion was introduced among the Ottawas, although everybody supposes that some white people or missionary societies brought the Christian religion among the Ottawa tribes of Indians at Arbor Croche.
     My uncle, Au-se-go-nock, had before this joined the Catholic religion. He was living at that time at Drummond's Island with the British people, where all the Ottawa and Chippewa used to go every summer to receive presents from the British Government. And when he learned that his people had joined the Catholic faith, he left his home at Drummond's Island and came to Arbor Croche expressly to act as missionary in the absence of the priest. Every Sunday he preached to his people and taught them how to pray to God and to the Virgin Mary and all the saints and angels in heaven. At that time printed books containing prayers and hymns in the Stockbridge Indian language, which is a dialect of the Ottawa and Chippewa languages, were brought from Montreal, and could be quite intelligently understood by the Ottawas. By this time many Indians began to be stationary; they did not go south, as heretofore, but remained and made their winter quarters at Arbor Croche.
     About 1827, after several councils, it was determined to remove the Mission from Seven Mile Point to Little Traverse, and a French priest whose name was Dejan arrived expressly to remain there and carry on the new mission established at Little Traverse. A log church was built at the new mission, which stood very near where the present church is now standing, and a log school house was built just where the Star Hotel now stands, and also a log house for the priest to live in, which is standing to this day nearest the church, but it has been covered with siding boards since. In the fall of 1827, my father left his subjects at Arbor Croche proper, now Middle Village, in charge of his brother, Kaw-me-no-te-a, which means Good-heart, as he was persuaded by other chiefs to come and establish himself where the mission was and send his children to school. There were only three Indian log houses at that time in Little Traverse, one belonging to my uncle, Au-se-ge-nock, one for Joseph Au-saw-gon, my father's messenger, and another to Peter Sho- min. But we and all other Indians lived in wigwams, and all the Indians were dressed in Indian style. Rev. Mr. Dejan brought with him one Frenchman from Detroit named Joseph Letorenue as school teacher, and two girls from Mackinac Island as domestic servants, and an old nun, whose real name I never learned, and knew only as "Sister." She was exceedingly kind to Indian children and we all liked her very much. The log school house was used as a dwelling as well as a school house, as all the boys and girls who attended school were kept there continually, same as boarding school. The larger boys and girls were taught household duties and to cook for the scholars. The children were kept quite clean. The French teacher took very great pains to teach them good manners, and they were taught no other but the French language. In the spring of the year each family of Indians contributed one large mocok [Footnote: A kind of box made of birch bark.] of sugar which weighed from eighty to one hundred pounds, which Priest Dejan would empty into barrels, and then go down to Detroit with it to buy dry goods, returning with cloth with which to clothe his Indian children. Rev. Mr. Dejan did not say mass on week days, only on Sundays. He visited the Indians a good deal during the week days, purposely to instruct them in the manners and customs of the white man, ordering things generally how to be done, and how the women should do towards their domestic callings, not to work out of doors, and to take good care of what belonged to their household. Mr. Dejan was a great friend of Col. Boyd, Indian Agent at Mackinac, and in the second year of the school, Mr. Boyd's two sons, James and George, wintered with the priest at the mission, and were very great friends to the Indians.
     In two years schooling the children progressed very much, both in reading the French language, and in learning the manners and customs of the white man. But, alas, this was carried on only two years. There was some trouble between Rev. Mr. Dejan and Bishop Reese of Detroit, consequently Mr. Dejan was removed from the mission, and Rev. Mr. Baraga was put in instead in the year 1830. He promised to do the same as his predecessor in regard to carrying on the Indian school at Little Traverse; but he did not. He did not give as good care to the children as his predecessor, and he did not teach them anything but Indian and the catechism. He, however, made and published a prayer book in the Ottawa language and a short Bible History. Before two years the boarding school was out of existence at Little Traverse, and Mr. Baraga went away to Lake Superior, where some time afterwards he was made Bishop. After he was in the Lake Superior country he published some more books, such as Odjebwe dictionary and Odjebwe grammar, which were very hard to understand to one unacquainted with the Indian language, and he also made a new catechism. Father Simon succeeded Mr. Baraga, and did about the same thing with regard to educating the Indian youths, as did also Father Pierce after Simon, and many others from time to time up to this day.
     The Indians were very strict in their religion at this time. They did not allow any drunkenness in their village, nor allow any one to bring intoxicating liquors within the Harbor. If any person, white or Indian, brought any liquor into the Harbor, by the barrel or in small quantities, and it came to the knowledge of the old chief, Au-paw-ko- si-gan, who was the war chief, but was acting as principal chief at Little Traverse, he would call out his men to go and search for the liquor, and if found he would order him men to spill the whisky on the ground by knocking the head of a barrel with an ax, telling them not to bring any more whisky into the Harbor, or wherever the Ottawas are, along the coast of Arbor Croche. This was the end of it, there being no law suit for the whisky.
     They used to observe many holidays, particularly Christmas, New Years and Corpus Christi. At the New Year's eve, every one of the Indians used to go around visiting the principal men of the tribe, shooting their guns close to their doors after screaming three times, "Happy New Year," then bang, bang, altogether, blowing their tin horns and beating their drums, etc. Early on the New Year's morning, they would go around among their neighbors expressly to shake hands one with another, with the words of salutation, "Bozhoo," children and all. This practice was kept up for a long time, or until the white people came and intermingled with the tribes.
     I thought my people were very happy in those days, when they were all by themselves and possessed a wide spread of land, and no one to quarrel with them as to where they should make their gardens, or take timber, or make sugar. And fishes of all kinds were so plentiful in the Harbor. A hook any where in the bay, and at any time of the year, would catch Mackinaw trout, many as one would want. And if a net were set any where in the harbor on shallow water, in the morning it would be loaded with fishes of all kinds. Truly this was a beautiful location for the mission. Every big council of the Indians was transacted in the village of Little Traverse.
     I will mention one or two more things which it might be interesting to my readers to know. Up to 1835 and some time afterwards, there was a very large double cedar tree, which appeared to have been stuck together while they were growing, but were two separate trees of the same size and height growing very close together, standing very near the edge of the water, and leaning very much towards the bay, almost like a staircase projecting far out into the bay. Under the roots of these trees issued a perpetual spring of water, which is now called Mr. Carlow's Spring, near the present depot. In the fall of 1835, I was clear at the top of those trees, with my little chums, watching our people as they were about going off in a long bark canoe, and, as we understood, they were going to Washington to see the Great Father, the President of the United States, to tell him to have mercy on the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians in Michigan, not to take all the land away from them. I saw some of our old Indian women weeping as they watched our principal men going off in the canoe. I suppose they were feeling bad on account of not knowing their future destinies respecting their possession of the land. After they all got in the canoe, just as they were going to start, they all took off their hats, crossed themselves and repeated the Lord's prayer; at the end of the prayer, they crossed themselves again, and then away they went towards the Harbor Point. We watched them until they disappeared in rounding the point.
     March 28th, 1836, a treaty was signed at Washington, not with the free will of the Indians, but by compulsion. That same year we received the first annuity at Mackinac Island, our trading post, $10 cash per head, beside dry goods and provisions. There was a stipulation expressed in the 7th clause of the 4th article of said treaty, that there was to be given to the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians of Michigan $150,000 worth of dry goods until all was paid out. There is said to have been paid out on the first payment in 1836, about $10,000, which would then leave a balance of $140,000. At this time the Ottawa and Chippewa held a big council and concluded to ask the Government for cash instead of dry goods; because they saw that there was a great deal of waste in distributing the goods among them, as there were lots of remnants, and much of it left after distribution which they never knew what became of. Therefore their belief respecting it was that the Government officials had appropriated to themselves some of these dry goods and given away freely to their white friends and relatives. After conclusion of the council, they came before the Indian agent, Hon. H. Schoolcraft, and presented their views and their request in this matter. He told them that he could not give them any conclusive reply upon this subject, but that he would make known their wishes to their Great Father at Washington, and would inform them thereafter. That was the last of it. In the next payment there were neither goods nor money instead, as they requested, and no reply ever came to this day. It was also stipulated that at the expiration of twenty-one years, $20,000 was to be given to the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, that is, one year after the expiration of the payment of their annuities. And where are those lawful promises gone to now? Alas! when we inquire of them to the head department they refer us to the third article of the Treaty of 1855, where it is worded, "That the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians hereby release and discharge the United States from all liability on account of former treaty stipulations, either land or money," etc. But this part of the stipulation was never explained to them at the Council of Detroit, as they would never have consented to it, and would not have signed the contract. We did not know anything about it, but some time after we saw it with our own eyes, printed in the pamphlet form of the contract, where our names had been already subscribed to it. Then it was too late to make any remedy in the matter.

Chippewa History | Ottawa History

Ottawa and Chippewa Indians of Michigan

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