Monday, March 6, 2017

A Short History of the Pottawatomie Indians


Me-Te-A, a Pottawatomie Chief. 
Pottawatomie as they appear to have been anciently known, are a branch of the 
Chippewas [Ojibwasj and trace their ancestral line back to the primitive family 
of the Algonqutns. The name, by common repute, about the middle of the sev- 
enteenth century, was understood to be a nation of tire-makers, the present form 
of the word being derived, etymologieally, from Pa-ta-wa, to expand or inflate the 
cheeks, as in the act of blowing a fire to kindle it, and mc. a nation, hence the 
name — from the apparent facility with which they kindled the council fire. 

The first notice we have of them was in 1641, when it is stated that they 
abandoned their own country (Green Bay), and took refuge among the Cbippewas, 
so as to secure themselves from their enemies, the Sioux, who, it would seem, 
having been at war with had well-nigh overcome them. In 1660, Father Allouez, 
a French Missionary, speaks of the Pottawatotuies as occupying territory 
extending from Green Bay to. the head of Lake Superior, and southward to the 
countries of the Sacs, Foxts and Miamis, and that traders had preceded him. 
Ten years later, they returned to Green Bay and occupied the borders of Lake 
Michigan on the north. Subsequently, about the beginning of the eighteenth 
century, they had traced the eastern coast of Lake Michigan, at the mouth of the 
river St. Joseph, where, and to the southward of Lake Michigan, a large body of 
them held possession toward the middle of the nineteenth century. Their occu- 
pancy of this territory by the Pottawatomies was at. first permissive, only, on the 
part of the Miamis, but, in the course of'time, their right was acknowledged by 
giving them a voice in the making of treaties, involving also the right of cession. 
Being somewhat migratory they have acquired, as a consequence, the character of 
being aggressive, while they quietly take possession of territory, the right to 
which is subsequently acknowledged. And, while it may be true that they sometimes 
occupied territory without permission, as a rule, it is true, also, that such 
change of locality is the result of forcible retirement from their own country, 
as was thefact upon their first removal from Green Bay. 

During the progress of the Nicholas conspiracy, in 1747, the Pottawatomies 
were generally on the side of the French against the English, as were the Otta- 
was. In a communication from M. de Lougueuil, Commandant at Detroit, to 
the Canadian Governor, giving in review the situation of civil and military affairs
in Canada in 1747,

While the conspiracy of Pontiac was in process of development, the Potta- 
watomies, with other tribes heretofore occupying relations of amity with the 
French, were visited by the agents of Pontiac, or by the chief in person, to secure 
their influence in the "furtherance of his plans. It required but little to arouse 
the feelings of these people in favor of their common ally, the French, and elicit 
the deep interest incident to the former relations existing between them. A 
fresh impetus was given to the current of sentiment prevailing amongst them, in 
the act of the surrender of the French garrison at Detroit to the English, which 
occurred on the 10th of November, 1760. At that place, the Pottawatomies and 
Wyandots were encamped below Detroit, on the opposite side of the river, and, 
seemingly, witnessed the transfer with indifference, preferring to await the issue 
of events speedily to follow. The mutteriugs of the impending storm were dis- 
tinctly heard in the early summer of 1751. 

Early in the spring of 1763, after the garrison at Fort Miami, on the Mau- 
mee, had been surrendered to the English, the commandant was warned of the 
contemplated uprising of the Indians. A conference of the adjacent chiefs, held 
at his suggestion, developed the true situation, an account of which was com- 
municated to the English commandant at Detroit. This latter officer, resting in 
confidence upon the quiet demeanor of the Pottawatomies surrounding the post, 
discredited the report. He was soon, however, made only too conscious of his 
criminal disbelief. In the gatherings of the tribes which followed, the Pottawat- 
omies were in the front rank, anxious to participate in the coming conflict. 

On the 25th of May, of that year, the old post at St. Joseph fell into the 
hands of the conspirators, the Pottawatomies bearing Pontiac's order for the sac- 
rifice of the garrison. No further impulse was required to insure the prompt 
execution of the order. Two days later, the same determined band, in the 
further execution of orders, captured the fort at Kekionga, by the methods used 
in Indian warfare — treachery, with the accompaniments of human sacrifice. 

Passing to the results of the expedition of Gen. Wayne, in 1794, the Pot- 
tawatomies "following the course of events, participated in the conference and 
treaty at Greenville,'" in August, 1795, and allied themselves with the promoters 
of peace along the frontiers of the Northwest. They maintained that relation, 
with few exceptions, until the period of Tecumseh's effort at. confederating the 
tribes, and his subsequent alliance with Great Britain, in 1S1 2, during which 
time their peace propensities were conveniently laid aside. 

After the close of that war, amicable relations were again resumed, and, on 
the 18th of July, 1S15, the Pottawatomies concluded a treaty or peace with the 
United States, which was agreed to be perpetual. 

Metea was a war chief of the Pottawatomies, who, in the course of his career 
achieved a somewhat enviable notoriety. His tribe, during the greater part of the 
last century, inhabited the region to the northward of the present site of Fort 
About the period of the war of 1812, Metea was at the zenith of his power and 
influence, among the kindred tribes. " His villages were on the Little St. Joseph 
river, one on the table-land where Cedarville now is, near the mouth, but on the 
north side of Cedar Creek ; and the other about seven miles from Fort Wayne, 
on the north side of St. Joseph, on a section of land granted by the Miami 
Indians at the treaty held in 1826, at the mouth of the Mississinewa, at Paradise 
Springs (Wabash) to John B. Bourie, which section was described so as to 
include Chop-a tie village, perhaps better known as the ' Bourie Section.' On 
the 10th of September, 1812, when Gen. Harrison's army was forcing its 
march to raise the seige which the Indians were then holding over Fort Wayne, 
Me-te-a, and a few of his braves, planned an ambush at the Five Mile Swamp, 
where Wayne's trace crossed it, and perhaps where the present county road 
crosses it, five miles southeast of this city. Having made an ambush on both 
sides of the road, in a narrow defile where the troops would have to crowd 
together, they laid in wait for the army; but Maj. Mann, a spy of Gen. 
Harrison, with a few avant courier*, discovered it in time to save the effusion of 
blood in the army. Metea, having located himself behind a tree, left his elbow 
exposed as it laid over the breech of his rifle, resting on his left shoulder. This
 Maj. Mann discovered, and instantly took aim, and firing, broke the arm of the 
brave chief; and. discovering that he had not killed him, he sprang off in hot 
pursuit after Metea, who gathered up his swinging and crippled arm, fled with 
a loud 'Ugh ! ugh !' and. by the hardest effort, escaped to Fort Wayne in time 
to advise "the besieging Indians of the approach of Gen. Harrison's army, at 
which they prepared to leave, and left that afternoon. 

" The arm of the chief healed up, but the bone never knit, which left it 
entirely useless. He often told over the incident of his wound, and chase by 
Maj. Mann, and gave him great praise for being a brave and athletic man. .It 
was supposed that if Mann's men, who were with him as spies, had been as quick 
and courageous as he was himself, that Metea would have paid the penalty of that 
ambuscade with his scalp. 

" He was a brave, generous, and intelligent Iudian, who is described by 
those who knew him well, to have been not only an orator, but a powerful reasoner 
and practical man, especially at the treaties in which he took part. In addition 

He lived in this vicinity, as is known, from 1800 to 1827, in May of 
which hitter year, he came to his death by poison, said to have been surrepti- 
tiously administered by some malevolent Indians who were unjustly incensed at 
him for his adherence to the terms of the treaty of 1826, made at the mouth of the 
Mississinewa. The poison was -opposed to have been the root of the Mayapple. 

He, the night before his death, he was believed to have been poisoned, and, in the 
the morning, found dead, his tongue having swollen'to such an extent as to have 
protruded far through filling it so as to prevent breathing. He was 
then buried on the sand-hill overlooking the St. Mary's and between where Fort 
Wayne College now stands, at the west end of Wayne street and the west end of 
Berry street. * 

" In that unmarked spot sleeps, in an undisturbed state, all that was mortal 
of the Pottawatie chief Metea, who, for half a century or more, it is thought, 
prior to May, 1827, had been an occupant of this soil, which had been reclaimed 
with such an indifferent spirit on the part of the whites, as that they nearly for-get
 that it was once Indian territory, and since which death, on the spot where 
stood his and the Indians' beloved Ke-ki-ong-a I blackberry patch), has sprung 
up abeautiful city. But here comes a musing spirit; their day if past, their fires are 
out ; the deer no longer bounds before them ; the plow is iii their hunting-grounds
 the as rings through the woods, once only familiar with the rifle's report and the' 
war-whoop; the bark canoe is no longer on the river; the springs are dry; civil- 
ization has blotted out that race, 

'"And with his frail breath, his power has passed away, 
His deeds, his thoughts, are buried with his clay.' " 


was another noted chief of the Pottawatomies— noted especially for his exhibi- 
tions of cruelty and revenge. He often indulged in liquor, and when thus 
excited, his appearance and manner were those of a demon, giving loose rein to his 
vicious temper. He was, however, reputed to be a brave and efficient warrior. 

" The year 1812," says Schoolcraft, " was noted as the acme of the outburst 
of every malignant feeling which appears to have been in the heart of Western 
Iudians. The black reverse of the American arms at Detroit, Hull's surrender 
— the horrid massacre of the retiring American garrison of Chicago, who were 
butchered like so many cattle on the sandy shores of Lake Michigan— the wild 
howl of the tribes along the whole frontiers, came like the fierce' rushing of a 
tornado, which threatens to destroy entire villages. Among the elements of this 
tornado was the wild samgium, or war-whoop of Wau-bun-see. He was a war 
chief of some note at Chicago, distinguished for his ferocious and brutal character." 
An exhibition of this is given in connection with a dispute between two of 
his squaws. One of them, to gain her point, went to the chief and accused the 
other of abusing his children. The accused one was peremptorily brought before 
him. Her he ordered to lie down upon the ground on her back, and directed 
the accuser to dispatch her with a tomahawk. A single blow smote the skull. 
" There," said the savage, " let the crows eat her," and left her unburied until 
persu i.lcd to do otherwise. Then he directed the murderess to bury her. This 
she did, but so shallow that the wolves dug up and partly devoured the body.