Godasiyo the Woman Chief
At the beginning of time when America was new, a woman chief named Godasiyo ruled over an Indian village beside a large river in the East. In those days all the tribes spoke one language and lived in harmony and peace. Because Godasiyo was a wise and progressive chief, many people came from faraway places to live in her village, and they had no difficulty understanding one another.
At last the village grew so large that half the people lived on the north side of the river, and half on the south side. They spent much time canoeing back and forth to visit, attend dances, and exchange gifts of venison, hides, furs, and dried fruits and berries. The tribal council house was on the south side, which made it necessary for those who lived on the north bank to make frequent canoe trips to consult with their chief. Some complained about this, and to make it easier for everybody to cross the rapid stream, Godasiyo ordered a bridge to be built of saplings and tree limbs carefully fastened together. This bridge brought the tribe close together again, and the people praised Godasiyo for her wisdom.
Not long after this, a white dog appeared in the village, and Godasiyo claimed it for her own. Everywhere the chief went the dog followed her, and the people on the north side of the river became jealous of the animal. They spread stories that the dog was possessed by an evil spirit that would bring harm to the tribe. One day a delegation from the north bank crossed the bridge to the council house and demanded that Godasiyo kill the white dog. When she refused to do so, the delegates returned to their side of the river, and that night they destroyed the bridge.
From that time the people on the north bank and those on the south bank began to distrust each other. The tribe divided into two factions, one renouncing Godasiyo as their chief, the other supporting her. Bad feelings between them grew so deep that Godasiyo foresaw that the next step would surely lead to fighting and war. Hoping to avoid bloodshed, she called all members of the tribe who supported her to a meeting in the council house.
“Our people,” she said, “are divided by more than a river. No longer is there goodwill and contentment among us. Not wishing to see brother fight against brother, I propose that those who recognize me as their chief follow me westward up the great river to build a new village.”
Almost everyone who attended the council meeting agreed to follow Godasiyo westward. In preparation for the migration, they built many canoes of birch bark. Two young men who had been friendly rivals in canoe races volunteered to construct a special water craft for their chief. With strong poles they fastened two large canoes together and then built a platform which extended over the canoes and the space between them. Upon this platform was a seat for Godasiyo and places to store her clothing, extra leggings, belts, robes, moccasins, mantles, caps, awls, needles and adornments.
At last everything was ready. Godasiyo took her seat on the platform with the white dog beside her, and the two young men who had built the craft began paddling the double canoes beneath. Behind them the chief’s followers and defenders launched their own canoes which contained all their belongings. This flotilla of canoes covered the shining waters as far as anyone could see up and down the river.
After they had paddled a long distance, they came to a fork in the river. Godasiyo ordered the two young canoeists to stop in the middle of the river until the others caught up with them. In a few minutes the flotilla was divided, half of the canoes on her left, the others on her right.
The chief and the people on each side of her began to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the two forks in the river. Some wanted to go one way, some preferred the other way. The arguments grew heated with anger. Godasiyo said that she would take whichever fork her people chose, but they could agree on neither. Finally those on the right turned the prows of their canoes up the right channel, while those on the left began paddling up the left channel. And so the tribe began to separate.
When this movement started, the two young men paddling the two canoes carrying Godasiyo’s float disagreed as to which fork they should take, and they fell into a violent quarrel. The canoeist on the right thrust his paddle into the water and started toward the right, and at the same time the one on the left swung his canoe toward the left. Suddenly Godasiyo’s platform slipped off its supports and collapsed into the river, carrying her with it.
Hearing the loud splash, the people on both sides turned their canoes around and tried to rescue their beloved chief. But she and the white dog, the platform, and all her belongings had sunk to the bottom, and they could see nothing but fish swimming in the clear waters.
Dismayed by this tragic happening, the people of the two divisions began to try to talk to each other, but even though they shouted words back and forth, those on the right could not understand the people on the left, and those on the left could not understand the people on the right. When Godasiyo drowned in the great river her people’s language had become changed. This was how it was that the Indians were divided into many tribes spreading across America, each of them speaking a different language.
Low Dog (Sunka Kucigala) was a young Oglala at the time of his transfer to the Standing Rock Agency in the summer of 1881, giving his age as 34 [born ca. 1847]. William Garnett refers to him as an “upstart”. He surrendered in 1881, he lived on the Standing Rock Reservation (not Cheyenne River). He was still on Standing Rock as late as 1920.
This powerful and respected warrior, born in 1846, became a war chief at age 14. In 1876 he joined Sitting Bull’s war party on the Little Bighorn. A Minicauju Chief; he fought against Reno and Custer; his full brother was killed in the battle. Low Dog‘s account of the battle is one of history’s best known.
“At the time we Oglalas had no thought that we would ever fight the whites. Then I heard some people talking that the chief of the white men wanted the Indians to live where he ordered and do as he said, and he would feed and clothe them. I was called into council with the chief and wise men, and we had a talk about that. My judgement was , why should I allow any man to support me against my will anywhere, so long as I have hands and so long as I am an able man, not a boy.
I said, Why should I be kept as a humble man, when I am a brave warrior and on my own lands? The game is mine, and the hills,and the valleys, and the white man has no right to say where I shall go, or what I shall do. If any white man tries to destroy what is mine,or take what is mine, or take my lands, I will take my gun, get on my horse, and go punish him.”
“Why should I be kept as a humble man, when I am a brave warrior and on my own lands? The game is mine, and the hills, and the valleys, and the white man has no right to say where I shall go, or what I shall do. If any white man tries to destroy what is mine,or take what is mine, or take my lands, I will take my gun, get on my horse, and go punish him.”
I called to my men:
“This is a good day to die. Follow me.”
When the fighters saw that the women and children were safe they fell back. By this time my people went to help them, and the less able warriors and the women caught horses and got them ready, and we drove the first attacking party back, and that party retreated to a high hill. Then I told my people not to venture too far in pursuit for fear of falling into an ambush. By this time all the warriors in our camp were mounted and ready for fight, and then we were attacked on the other side by another party. They came on us like a thunderbolt. I never before nor since saw men so brave and fearless as those white warriors. We retreated until our men got all together, and then we charged upon them. I called to my men, “This is a good day to die: follow me.” We massed our men, and that no man should fall back, every man whipped another man’s horse and we rushed right upon them. As we rushed upon them the white warriors dismounted to fire, but they did very poor shooting. They held their horses reins on one arm while they were shooting, but their horses were so frightened that they pulled the men all around, and a great many of their shots went up in the air and did us no harm. The white warriors stood their ground bravely, and none of them made any attempt to get away. After all but two of them were killed, I captured two of their horses. Then the wise men and chiefs of our nation gave out to our people not to mutilate the dead white chief, for he was a brave warrior and died a brave man, and his remains should be respected.
Then I turned around and went to help fight the other white warriors, who had retreated to a high hill on the east side of the river. . . . I don’t know whether any white men of Custer’s force were taken prisoners. When I got back to our camp they were all dead. Everything was in confusion all the time of the fight. I did not see Gen. Custer. I do not know who killed him. We did not know till the fight was over that he was the white chief. We had no idea that the white warriors were coming until the runner came in and told us. I do not say that Reno was a coward. He fought well, but our men were fighting to save their women and children, and drive them back. If Reno and his warriors had fought as Custer and his warriors fought, the battle might have been against us. No white man or Indian ever fought as bravely as Custer and his men. The next day we fought Reno and his forces again, and killed many of them. Then the chief said these men had been punished enough, and that we ought to be merciful, and let them go. Then we heard that another force was coming up the river to fight us . . . and we started to fight them, but the chief and wise men counseled that we had fought enough and that we should not fight unless attacked, and we went back and took our women and children and went away.
This ended Low Dog’s narration, given in the hearing of half a dozen officers, some of the Seventeenth Infantry and some of the Seventh Cavalry—Custer’s regiment. It was in the evening; the sun had set and the twilight was deepening. Officers were there who were at the Big Horn with Benteen, senior captain of the Seventh, who usually exercised command as a field officer, and who, with his battalion, joined Reno on the first day of the fight, after his retreat, and was in the second day’s fight. It was a strange and intensely interesting scene. When Low Dog began his narrative only Capt. Howe, the interpreter, and myself were present, but as he progressed the officers gathered round, listening to every word, and all were impressed that the Indian chief was giving a true account, according to his knowledge. Someone asked how many Indians were killed in the fight, Low Dog answered, “Thirty—eight, who died then, and a great many—I can’t tell the number>—who were wounded and died afterwards. I never saw a fight in which so many in proportion to the killed were wounded, and so many horses were wounded. “Another asked who were the dead Indians that were found in two tepees five in one and six in the other—all richly dressed, and with their ponies, slain about the tepees. He said eight were chief killed in the battle. One was his own brother, born of the same mother and the same father, and he did not know who the other two were.
The question was asked, “What part did Sitting Bull take in the fight?” Low Dog is not friendly to Sitting Bull. He answered with a sneer: “If someone would lend him a heart he would fight.” Then Low Dog said he would like to go home, and with the interpreter he went back to the Indian camp. He is a tall, straight Indian, thirty-four years old, not a bad face, regular features and small hands and feet. He said that when he had his weapons and was on the war-path he considered no man his superior; but when he surrendered he laid that feeling all aside, and now if any man should try to chastise him in his humble condition and helplessness all he could do would be to tell him that he was no man and a coward; which, while he was on the war-151;path he would allow no man to say and live.
He said that when he was fourteen years old, he had his first experience on the war-path: “I went against the will of my parents and those having authority over me. It was on a stream above the mouth of the Yellowstone. We went to war against a band of Assiniboins that were hunting buffalo, and I killed one of their men. After we killed all of that band another band came out against us, and I killed one of them. When we came back to our tribe I was made a chief, as no Sioux had ever been known to kill two enemies in one fight at my age, and I was invited into the councils of the chief and wise men. At that time we had no thought that we would ever fight the whites. Then I heard some people talking that the chief of the white men wanted the Indians to live where he ordered and do as he said, and he would feed and clothe them. I was called into council with the chief and wise men, and we had a talk about that. My judgment was why should I allow any man to support me against my will anywhere, so long as I have hands and as long as I am an able man, not a boy.
Little I thought then that I would have to fight the white man, or do as he should tell me. When it began to be plain that we would have to yield or fight, we had a great many councils. I said, why should I be kept as an humble man, when I am a brave warrior and on my own lands? The game is mine, and the hills, and the valleys, and the white man has no right to say where I shall go or what I shall do. If any white man tries to destroy my property, or take my lands, I will take my gun, get on my horse, and go punish him. I never thought that I would have to change that view. But at last I saw that if I wished to do good to my nation, I would have to do it by wise thinking and not so much fighting. Now, I want to learn the white man’s way, for I see that he is stronger than we are, and that his government is better than ours.”
“My forefather kindled the first fire at Detroit; from thence,
he extended his lines to the head waters of Scioto;
from thence, to its mouth; from thence, down the Ohio,
to the mouth of the Wabash, and from thence to Chicago, on lake Michigan.
I have been the last to sign this treaty; I will be the last to break it.”
Hailed as the last Chief of the Miami Indians, he was born in 1747 near Devil’s Lake, northwest of Churubusco in Whitley county, Indiana. Little Turtle was the son of the Miami chief Acquenacke and a Mahican mother. His grandfather, Osandiah, was chief at the time of the Battle of the Johnston farm (as it is now called) in 1763. When the tribe ceded their last Indiana reservation in 1838 to the Government, they gave Me-Shin-Go-Me-Sia (Michikinikwa) ten sections of land in Grant County, Indiana
He led the confederation of Indians that defeated General Arthur St. Clair, at Fort Recovery on November 3, 1791. His force inflicted the worst defeat ever suffered by the U.S. Army at the hands of native Americans. St. Clair’s army consisted of 1300 soldiers. In the battle, 602 were killed and about 300 wounded. The Indian force consisted of approximately 1000 warriors. Only 66 Indians were killed in this battle! It was the greatest defeat the Americans ever suffered at the hands of the Indians. Even worst than the loss suffered at the Battle of Little Big Horn or Custer’s Last Stand. Custer only lost about 210 men compared to St. Clair’s loss of 602 killed! Me-she-kin-no-quah lived the village of Ke-ki-ong-a’. Kekinonga means blackberry patch. This was the Miami capitol (Ft. Wayne, IN).
He fought later against United States militias that had been punishing his and other tribes for raiding settlements in the Northwest Territory. He led defeats of Gen. Josiah Harmar’s and Gen. Arthur St. Clair’s troops in the early 1790s. Little Turtle and his warriors were not beaten until 1793, when Gen. Anthony Wayne and his garrison routed the Miami at the battle of Fallen Timbers in August 1794. This defeat effectively put an end to two decades of warfare. The battle site is now a state park southwest of Toledo, Ohio.
In 1795 Little Turtle signed the Treaty of Fort Greenville, ceding Indian lands in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan by a confederacy of Indians known as the Northwest Indian Confederation. The confederation included Miami, Chippewa, Iroquois, and others. Afterward, Little Turtle advocated peace and kept his people from joining Tecumseh’s confederacy. Little Turtle also encouraged his people to abstain from alcohol, to develop new farming techniques, and to be vaccinated against smallpox. He met with George Washington in Philadelphia in 1797. His portrait was painted by Gilbert Stuart before Little Turtle died on July 14, 1812, in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Oral history has it that Little Turtle didn’t like to see people being enslaved and mistreated, so he would capture the blacks and bring them back to his village at Kekeonga (present day Fort Wayne, Indiana). There, the blacks lived with the Miami Indians. Little Turtle left a will because of all the property he had acquired through the treaty process. In his will, he bequeathed these black people to his daughters and sons-in-law. No one has been able to do research to find out exactly what the situation was. Since he captured them and brought them back to Fort Wayne, the way he handled it in his will may have just been his way of making certain that his family was going to insure their continued freedom. There is nothing in the written record to indicate that they were used as slaves by Little Turtle and there is no written record of what happened to them after Little Turtle’s death.
Documentation can be found at the Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Library, 302 E. Berry St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802 Tel: 219-426-288.
“Father you have heard the observasions of my Brother Chief Pottawottama.
It gives us great pleasure that the Great Spirit who made us both has permitted
us to take you by the hand at the Great Council of the sixteen fires.
Father, we have confidence, in our Interpreter, he is a great advantage
both to us and to you, as through him we have the means of communicating with,
and perfectly understanding each other.
Father, it has again fell to my lot to make known to you the wish of your children.
I was in hopes that my brethren the Great Chiefs would have spoken
for themselves, but by their desire I have undertaken to speak for them.”
Cree Chief Once the European settlers came to Western Canada, the way of life for the aboriginals was threatened and Big Bear, a Cree Chief, fought, through protests of peace to make things better for his people. He was branded a troublemaker. This is his story and the story of his people, an account of one man’s losing battle against authority. Big Bear had fought the authorities by word, his people fought with bullets and both lost. By 1887, Big Bear’s people were scattered throughout the country, most of his family was in Montana, he died alone in January of 1888.
Click Image to view complete Mural by Glen Scrimshaw
It’s August 181h, 1876, on the Carlton side of the North Saskatchewan, the day for signing Treaty #6, between the Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba and the Northwest Territories, Alexander Morris and the Ruling Chiefs. Artist, Gus Froese has superimposed upon this mural three Indian chiefs who tower over the proceedings, but are not actually a part of it. To the left is Chief Beardy, who signed the Treaty ten days later on his own turf, then Chief Big Bear and Chief Poundmaker, who also were not part of the original signing. The whole event takes place under a foreboding sky, which hints of conflict yet to come.
Race to Be ChiefChief Big Bear, laying on his deathbed called together his two sons, Dark Claw and his younger brother Wild Horse. knowing that he would go to the great hunting ground in the sky soon he told them “Soon one of you will become chief, but in order to do so you must pass a test. The chief knew that Dark Claw only wanted to kill but his younger son Wild Horse wanted peace more than anything. The honor of being chief mostly fell to the older son, but Big Bear did not want to give it to his eldest son. Your test shall be go to the over the moutain, down the mighty river, to a clearing, there is a spring that has the purest and sweetest water I have ever tasted.
I was a boy there until the white man drove us out. Dark Claw’s eyes opened wide with anger at the mention of the white man. Bring me back some water from that spring so I may drink one last time before I die.A mischievious grin came on Dark Claw’s face as he looked at his younger brother. Dark Claw was much bigger than Wild Horse. He was faster but not as smart. He thought this would be an eazy way to become chief. He would follow his brother and wait for him to bring back the water, and then he would kill him and take the prize to Big Bear, and become chief. You will leave at sunrise and the first to return with the water will be chief. That night as Dark Claw went hunting, Big Bear called his son to his side. Wild Horse, I do not have to tell you of your brother’s ways. I fear for your safty my son. If you return with the water then I know you have outsmarted your brother. If he returns with the water then I will know that you are dead. Be careful my son. I cannot give one more help than the other so you must find a way. On your own.
The next morning before the sun rose Dark Claw set off. Wild Horse carefully packed things he might need in a deerskin bag and left. The hike up the moutain was a trecherous one. Three or four times times Dark Horse almost lost his balance on the small pebbles that were sliding in his wake. Clouds covered the sun and it began to get very dark. Wild Horse knew it was going to rain so he took shelter in a small cave just off the path. Dark Claw had passed that way not more than an hour ago, He was constantly on the lookout for some where to hide to ambush his brother once he returned.
(Cree Movie)Big Bear, like Louis Riel, was one of the leaders of the Metis and Plains Indians who tried to unite and press John A. Macdonald’s government for native rights. In 1876, Big Bear refused to sign a treaty he believed would sacrifice his people’s rights in exchange for a reserve. But with buffalo gone and the Cree facing starvation, the treaty was signed in 1882. Big Bear lost control of some of his warriors which resulted in Wandering Spirit and his men killing nine settlers at Frog Lake, north of today’s Lloydminster, and burning Fort Pitt near the Alberta-Saskatchewan border. The warriors were eventually hanged and Big Bear was found guilty of treason and sent to Stony Mountain penitentiary near Winnipeg. After two years, he was released to the Poundmaker reserve near North Battleford, Sask., and died a year later.
Part of the poem THE FROG LAKE MASSACRE
© Copyright Sandie Johnson, 1992. All rights reserved.
|Chief Big Bear was a friend of the whites,
often trading furs for food
at Fort Pitt and Fort Edmonton.
Big Bear, as befitting a chief, was generous.
He shared with his people
whatever goods and supplies came into his hands
Big Bear viewed himself
as a giver of goods among his people,
seeing that no one suffered from hunger
lack of shelter or of clothing.As an okimaw,
Big Bear’s greatness
was measured in wealth and goodness,
not by what he had,
but by what he gave away.
By this measure,
Big Bear was rich.
But, as a minor chief,
he was obscure,
and many writers of the time
do not even mention him.
The picture at the top of this page and the one it is linked to at alittlehistory.com are cut from “Mistahi maskwa (Big Bear ca. 1825-1888), a Plains Cree chief” – one of a number of photographs of Cree chiefs who were involved in North West Rebellion of 1885, in leg irons, photographed outside the North-West Mounted Police barracks, Regina, Sask., 1885. I always wondered why Big Bear looked so sad and angry in the only picture I have ever seen of him. Descriptive record of this photo.
Quoted from the Article TWO CREE BEAR SOLDIERS: “Rarely is it mentioned that these photos were taken during or after their time of captivity. By no means should this be taken as emblematic of their usual dress.”
Dempsey, Hugh A. Big Bear: The End of Freedom.
Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1984.
Dion, Joseph F. My Tribe The Crees.
Calgary, Alberta: Glenbow-Alberta Institute, 1979.
Fine Day. My Cree People. Invermere, B.C.:
Good Medicine Books, 1973. Heritage House Publishing Company Ltd.
Frog Lake Massacre. Surrey, B.C.:
Frontier Books, 1984. Lusty, Terry; Allen Jacob; and Vi Sanderson.
Back to Batoche: 100th Anniversary. Edmonton, Alberta:
Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta, 1985.
Lusty, Terry, and Sandie Johnson.
“New York Museum Has Major Cree Medicine Bundle.”
Windspeaker (newspaper), Edmonton, Alberta, January 9, 1987.
Mandelbaum, David G.
The Plains Cree: An Ethnographic, Historical, and Comparative Study.
Regina, Saskatchewan: University of Regina,
Canadian Plains Research Center, 1979.
Interview with He Dog, Oglala, S.D. July 7, 1930
(Thomas White Cow Killer, Interpreter)
Interview with He Dog, at Oglala S.D. July 13th, 1930
(Interpreter, John Colhoff)
Interview with He Dog, Oglala, SD, July 7, 1930
(Interpreter, Thomas White Cow Killer)
Interview with He Dog, Oglala, SD July 13, 1930
(Remembrances of Crazy Horse)
He Dog School History
(Located on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation)
Born in the spring of 1840 on the headwaters of the Cheyenne River near the Black Hills, He Dog was the son of a headman named Black Stone and his wife, Blue Day, a sister of Red Cloud. His youngest brother was Grant Short Bull. By the 1860s, He Dog and his brothers had formed a small Oglala Lakota band known as the Cankahuhan or Soreback Band which was closely associated with Red Cloud’s Bad Face band of Oglala.
He Dog and his relatives participated in the Great Sioux War of 1876-77. After the treaty commission failed to persuade the Lakota to give up the Black Hills, the President had an ultimatum sent in January 1876 to the northern bands to come in to the agencies or be forced in by the army. He Dog was encamped with the Soreback band on the Tongue River when the message was delivered. He Dog’s brother, Short Bull, later recalled that the majority of the northern Oglala resolved to head in to the Red Cloud Agency in the spring, after their last big buffalo hunt. In March 1876, He Dog married a young woman named Rock (Inyan) and with part of the Soreback Band, stopped briefly with the Northern Cheyenne encamped on the Powder River in Wyoming Territory. On the morning of March 17, 1876, a column of troops under Colonel Joseph J. Reynolds attacked. “This attack was the turning point of the situation,” Short Bull later recalled. “If it had not been for that attack by Crook on Powder River, we would have come in to the agency that spring, and there would have been no Sioux war.”
During the summer of 1876, He Dog participated in Battle of the Rosebud and Battle of the Little Bighorn. He also fought at Slim Buttes in September 1876 and Wolf Mountain in January 1877. He finally surrendered at the Red Cloud Agency with Crazy Horse in May 1877. Following the killing of Crazy Horse, He Dog accompanied the Oglala to Washington, D.C. as a delegate to meet the President.
He Dog and other members of the Soreback Band fled the Red Cloud Agency after its removal to the Missouri River during the winter of 1877-78.. Crossing into Canada, they joined Sitting Bull in exile for the next two years. Most of the northern Oglala surrendered at Fort Keogh in 1880 and were then transferred to the Standing Rock Agency in the summer of 1881. He Dog and all the northern Oglala were finally transferred to the Pine Ridge Reservation to join their relatives in the spring of 1882.
He Dog lived the remainder of his life on the Pine Ridge Reservation. He served as a respected Indian judge and later in life, was interviewed by a number of historians, including Walter Mason Camp, Eleanor Hinman and Mari Sandoz. He died in 1936.
click image for larger version
Edward S. Curtis Photo
Homage to Mildred I. Cleghorn
Ft. Sill Chiricahua/Warm Spring Apache leader; a stateswoman, a mother,
a great-grandmother, an elder, a teacher, a prisoner of war, a proud Apache.
by: Pax Riddle
A last sigh on her lips,
Her spirit released,
The world becomes blurred, unreal.
There’s Grandmother smiling,
Extending her hand,
Knowing they would meet.
Now they are flying,
Above the clouds,
The assurance of her grasp.
Up, up they fly
Toward the brilliant light
Sparkles and shimmers,
Wraiths dance into sight.
The phantoms transform
People? HER people
As many as stars.
The first people,
dance and sing,
Their voices rise anew.
They’re the old ones,
The chaste ones,
Unsullied by whites
Their enigmatic whispers
Heard only at night.
Choctaw and Cherokee
Yakama and Cree,
Apache and Chippewa,
Kiowa and Creek.
Oh, how they dance,
Five hundred drums
Heartbeats of nations,
Beating as one.
With beauty and grace
Like fronds in a current,
Shawl swaying in space.
Moving so stately
She watches her feet,
Lifting her eagle fan
To each honor beat.
Grandfather is singing,
He leads the drum
His resonant voice
Soars to new heights.
Now they beckon
With faces of light
They are her relations
Who fought the good fight.
Cousins and aunts,
Freed from the fetters
Of earthly life.
Then countless others
She knows are her flesh,
Tied by a sacred cord.
To First Man and First Woman,
They show her the crimson road.
Now they embrace her,
Such rapture and peace
It’s the end of her journey,
Sacred circle complete.
She turns now to face us,
And speaks with her eyes.
Oh, what radiant feelings of love.
The Last War Chief of the Senecas
Chief Cornplanter, or “the corn planter” to the Senecas, was born in the little town of Conewaugus on the Genessee River in New York state. Although the exact date of his birth is not known, it was somewhere between the years 1732 and 1740. Cornplanter was a half breed, the son of a white man and an Indian royaneh, a memeber of a Seneca noble family and a hereditary matron of the Wolf clan. There has always been some question as to whether his father was an Englishman, John O’Bail, or a Dutch trader, John O’beel or Abeel. It is most probable that the latter is correct. At any rate, his father hailed from the Mohawk Valley.
Cornplanter’s English name came down as John O’Bail. He was the earliest settler in Warren County, Pennsylvania, and a contemporary of George Washington. They became close friends during the Revolutionary War. Cornplanter was often referred to as one of the most valiant warriors of his tribe, of superior sagacity and eloquence. He first fought with the British during the war as chief of the Seneca Nation, but when his people were deserted by their British allies he took part in Indian treaties with the American government. For his help during the ensuing Indian war he was given land in several locations.
In 1789 the recommendation was made that Chief Cornplanter be given a grant of 1500 acres of land in western Pennsylvania. By act of the Pennsylvania assembly passed February 1, 1791, he was granted lands for which the patents were issued March 16, 1796. The final gift, an area of about 700 acres, was the Cornplanter Grant, located in Warren County about three miles below the southern boundary of New York state. There were three separate units in this grant, Planter’s Field and the town of Jennesedaga on the mainland along the Allegheny River, and two adjacent islands, Liberality and Donation. This land was a partial recognition to Cornplanter for his services to the state, and he settled on the grant with his family, remaining there until his death in 1836. Chief Cornplanter was awarded the distinction of a biography in the “Encyclopedia Britanica” as one of Warren County’s two most famous men.
Above information from Quo Vadis Bed and Breakfast in Franklin, PA
who have a Chief Corn Planter Room!
“In the summer of 1779, Brant along with Butler’s Rangers, units of the British Army from Ft. Niagara, and war parties from the Seneca, Mohawk, Onondaga, and Mingos attempted to stop the rebel Brigadier General Sullivan. Sullivan had been sent to destroy Iroquois villages by General Washington as reprisal for Indian and Loyalist raids. Unable to stop this army of 5000 men Brant, Old Smoke, Corn Planter and Lt. Colonel John Butler fought a desperate delaying action in order to allow the escape of many refugees, both Native and non-Native.”
The First signature on the DEED from the six nations of indians to the state of Pennsylvania, January 9, 1789, is:
Senecas: Gyantwachia, or the Corn-planter,and again, on ARTICLES OF AGREEMENT between the chiefs, etc., of the six nations of indians and the commissioners of Pennsylvania, January 9, 1789, the First signature is
Senecas: Gyantwachia, or the Corn-planterCornplanter Forest District in Forest County, PA, is “named in honor of Chief Corn Planter, a famous Indian Chief of the Seneca tribe. He was instrumental in maintaining peace between the new American government and the League of the Iroquois between 1784 and 1812.”
And a final bit of curious information: A “Sterling Berry Spoon” with Chief Corn Planter’s image engraved thereon sold for $135.00 on 2 March 2001, at Chadwick Bay Auction House.
John Abeel (ca. 1752 – February 18, 1836), known as Gaiant’wake (Gyantwachia – “the planter”) or Kaiiontwa’kon (Kaintwakon – “By What One Plants”) in the Seneca language and thus generally known as Cornplanter, was a Seneca war chief and diplomat. As a chief warrior, Cornplanter fought in the French and Indian War and the American Revolutionary War. In both wars, the Seneca and three other Iroquois nations were allied with the British. After the war Cornplanter led negotiations with the United States and was a signatory of the Treaty of Fort Stanwix (1784). He helped gain Iroquois neutrality during the Northwest Indian War.
In the postwar years, he worked to learn more about European-American ways and invited Quakers to establish schools in Seneca territory. Disillusioned by his people’s poor reaction to European-American society, he had the schools closed and followed his half-brother Handsome Lake’s movement returning to traditional Seneca way. The United States government granted him about 1500 acres of former Seneca territory in Pennsylvania in 1796 for “him and his heirs forever”, which became known as the Cornplanter Tract. It was flooded in 1965 by the Kinzua Dam, and most of the remaining residents were relocated to the Allegany Reservation of the federally recognized Seneca Nation of New York.
Red Shield and Running Wolf
In years past the Sioux and the Crows were enemies, and only through heroic action could a young person of one tribe become the friend or lover of a young person of the other tribe. Such was the story of Red Shield, the daughter of a Sioux chief, and Running Wolf, the son of a Crow warrior.
Red Shield first heard of Running Wolf from a Sioux woman who had been captured by the Crows and then later was permitted to return to her people. This woman had lived as a servant with Running Wolf’s family during the time when the boy was growing up.
“He was a lazy boy,” the Sioux woman told Red Shield. “His father had to drive him out of bed every morning by rapping his shins with a stick. One morning he scolded the boy very hard and told him that he should be out hunting deer for the family. That morning, as soon as the father left the tepee, Running Wolf came to me and asked if I would make a buckskin mask for him. And so I made him a mask, and he spent the day painting it with white clay and fastening deer horns to it. Before sunrise the next morning he was the first one out of bed. He took his father’s gun and knife and rode away on a horse, with two led horses behind him. He went out to a little lake near their village, fastened his horses in the woods, and then went down to a place where animals come to drink. When the sun rose some deer came there, but they did not run away because they thought the boy was a deer. He killed two, loaded them on the led horses, and brought them home just as his father was waking up.”
“Was Running Wolf’s father pleased by this?” Red Shield asked.
“Oh, yes. He told his son that he had done well, and should divide the venison with their neighbours. But that was not the end of it. The next morning the boy went back to the watering place and returned with two more deer, and the morning after that he did the same.” The Sioux woman smiled. “That time his father told him to stop or he would begin to smell like a deer.”
“And what did young Running Wolf say to this?”
“He said nothing, but he began sleeping late again, until one morning his father rapped him on the shins and scolded him for being lazy. His father told Running Wolf that he could no longer use the family’s horses, that if he wanted a horse to ride he would have to go out and take one from the Nez Perces. That morning, as soon as his father went hunting, Running Wolf came to me and asked if I would make him a new pair of moccasins. I did this for him, and he spent the day decorating them with paint and beads in some special way. At sundown he left the tepee with his gun, not saying a word to anyone. Next morning he returned with twenty horses that he had taken from the Nez Perces.”
“His father must have been much pleased by this,” said Red Shield.
“Oh, yes, after the boy gave him ten of the horses, the father sang praise songs for him all day. But that was not the end of it. That night Running Wolf went out again, and next morning he brought back forty horses and gave them all to his father. And the next night he captured fifty horses, all of which he gave to his father. And still a fourth night he went and this time he brought back eighty head of horses, giving them all to his father! Oh, I can tell you, Running Wolf’s father had a hard time herding all those horses. ‘Stop! stop!’ he shouted at his son. ‘You have listened too well to what I told you.’ ”
Red Shield laughed. “I think I like this young Running Wolf, even if he is a Crow,” she said.
“Oh, but he soon grew up after that,” the Sioux woman said. “After his father died, his mother and I made a new tepee for him, and then I was told that I could return to my people. Running Wolf painted his tepee black, tied feathers to the door, and laid war bonnets and other finery around the inside to signify that he intended to become a mighty warrior.”
Not long after Red Shield heard these stories about Running Wolf, her father announced that the Sioux would be going out for their summer buffalo hunt. The tribe camped in a narrow valley down which some of their hunters would drive the buffalo while others waited in concealment on either side to kill them as they passed. It was a busy time for Red Shield and the other women, young and old, for they helped in the skinning of the buffalo and then stretched the hides out to dry in the sun.
One afternoon while half the Sioux hunters were out searching for a buffalo herd, an alarm suddenly spread through the camp. “Crow horse thieves are coming! Look to the horses!” As soon as the men drove the horses in, it was the duty of the women and children to guard them while the warriors went out to protect the camp from the Crow raid. Red Shield mounted her spotted pony and joined the other women. Far up the level valley she could see the dust of the oncoming Crows as they raced toward the line of defending Sioux. A moment later she heard the sharp war cries of the contending warriors.
She saw one of the Crow warriors on a black horse break through the Sioux line and come charging toward the horse herd she was helping to guard. Not far behind him, two Sioux warriors galloped in pursuit. As the Crow came nearer she could see that he wore four eagle feathers in his hair. Fastened behind his belt was a streamer of black leather long enough to trail on the ground. His horse’s mane and tail were whitened with clay. He carried a black-handled spear decorated with bunches of crow feathers, and this weapon was pointed straight at Red Shield. She held her spotted horse steady, defying the onrushing Crow, and at the last moment he reined in the black horse so that the point of the spear was only an arm’s length from her body.
The young Crow’s face was painted with streaks of black and white. For a moment he glared at Red Shield, his eyes very bright, and then he threw back his head and laughed. By this time his pursuers had caught up with him. One of the Sioux put an arrow to his bow but missed; then both of them closed in upon the Crow with their war clubs raised, ready to strike.
Dancing his black horse in a circle, the Crow used his spear to knock first one and then the other Sioux off their mounts. His horse pawed the earth, then sprang like a cat into the Sioux horse herd. Before Red Shield or her companions could move, the Crow had cut six horses out of their herd and was chasing them off down the valley.
Angry and frustrated because she could do nothing to stop the daring Crow, Red Shield watched him go. Then the young man turned and waved a farewell to her. Above the pounding hooves she could hear his laughter, and her indignation turned to grudging admiration.
A group of Sioux warriors swept by intent upon pursuit, but Red Shield’s father called them back. “Too many of our hunters are away,” he said. “We are too few to risk leaving our women and children and the horse herd open to another raid.”
“Did you see that Crow!” cried an old Sioux medicine man. “He and his horse are under some powerful magic.”
The Sioux woman who had once been a captive among the Crows spoke up from the front of her tepee. “I know that one,” she said.
“What name does he go by?” the medicine man asked.
“Yes, who is he?” demanded Red Shield’s father.
“Running Wolf, he is called.”
Red Shield, who still sat on her spotted horse, whispered to herself: “Running Wolf! I knew he must be Running Wolf”
Not long after that the Sioux returned to their village on the Missouri River. It seemed to all the young men in the tribe that the chief’s daughter, Red Shield, had suddenly become a great beauty, and one by one they came by the chief’s tepee to ask if she would marry them. Red Shield’s father encouraged her to choose one of the suitors for a husband, but she wanted none of them. One evening after she had rejected a handsome young warrior, her father demanded to know why she was so obstinate.
“Because I do not love him!” she cried, and in a fit of anger she threw her supper into the fire.
“If you love someone else,” her father said patiently, “then tell me his name.”
“I love only Running Wolf,” she replied. “I want to marry him.”
“You cannot marry Running Wolf He is a Crow, and the Crows are our enemies.”
Her father thought that would put an end to it, but days passed without Red Shield saying a word, and she ate so little that she began to grow thin. At last he realized that his daughter was determined to marry Running Wolf or else will herself to die.
“Very well,” the chief said, “at least you are a woman of courage. You do not know if Running Wolf wants you for a wife, but you are determined to test him.”
The next morning the chief brought around two fine horses, a mule, and some packs filled with moccasins and other presents. He summoned the Sioux woman who had once been a captive of the Crows and told her to go with Red Shield until they found the Crow camp where Running Wolf lived. They started out and at the end of three days they sighted the Crow tepees along a little stream. They rode into a thick wood where they fastened their horses and the pack mule. Red Shield painted herself carefully and dressed in her best clothing. By this time night had fallen, but a full moon was rising above the trees.
“It’s time for me to go into the Crow camp,” Red Shield said.
“Remember to look for a black tepee,” the Sioux woman reminded her. “You will see a bunch of eagle feathers fastened to the end of one of the poles.”
“If I don’t return,” Red Shield whispered, “you will know that Running Wolf does not want me for a wife and that I am a prisoner of the Crows as you once were.”
“I will wait for you,” the Sioux woman said.
Red Shield walked out of the woods and entered the bright moonlight which flooded the Crow camp. In the middle of the camp she found a black tepee with eagle feathers fastened to the top of one of the poles. No one noticed her as she walked to the open entrance.
Inside some young men were talking and smoking around a campfire. Red Shield was certain that one of them was Running Wolf. She sat down outside the entrance. After a while the young men began to leave, one or two at a time, paying no particular attention to her presence.
Then Running Wolf came out to stretch himself and yawn.
The moonlight was full on his face, and Red Shield felt her heart beat strongly. He saw her then, and said in Crow, “Come in,” but Red Shield understood not one word of Crow and she neither answered him nor moved. Running Wolf shrugged and went back inside, and Red Shield heard him say something else. The voice of an old woman responded.
Red Shield arose then and went into the tepee. The fire had died to a few coals and she could see only the shadowy forms of Running Wolf and his mother. She went close to the fire and sat down as though to warm herself.
This time the old woman spoke to her in Crow. “Take off your moccasins and rest.” But of course Red Shield did not understand. “Build up the fire so that we can see this young woman,” said Running Wolf. His mother placed some dry wood on the coals, and a blaze sprang up to light the inside of the tepee.
“This is not a Crow woman!” cried Running Wolf’s mother.
“No,” he said. “But I know who she is. Only one time have I seen her but her face has been in my dreams many times since. She is Sioux.”
Red Shield raised her head, and made signs to tell them she could not understand what they were saying, but that she had a friend nearby who could speak for her. At last Running Wolf understood, and he followed her across the camp clearing into the thick woods where the Sioux woman was waiting with the horses and mule. Running Wolf remembered the former captive of his boyhood, and when they returned to his tepee the Sioux woman and his mother had a happy reunion.
“Why do you and this daughter of a Sioux chief come into our camp?” the mother asked.
“She is Red Shield,” replied the Sioux woman. “She has brought many presents. She has come to marry your son, Running Wolf”
“And what does my son, Running Wolf, have to say to this? To marry one of the enemy?”
Running Wolf looked at Red Shield. “I knew she was beautiful, and she showed courage that day I took horses from the Sioux. Now she has shown more bravery than I would have dared, by coming into the camp of her enemies alone. I want her for my wife. ”
While the Sioux woman was bringing in the packs of presents, Running Wolf’s mother went through the camp. “Come and look at my son’s wife!” she cried. “One of the enemy’s children has come to marry him!” All the Crows in camp came to see Red Shield, and all said she was very good-looking and a young woman of great bravery.
Early the next morning the Sioux woman started back on the long journey to the Missouri River to tell the girl’s people that she was safe and was now the wife of the Crow warrior, Running Wolf. A few days later Red Shield’s father, the Sioux chief, sent two messengers to the Crow chief, telling him that he and many of his relatives were coming to pay the Crows a friendly visit.
For this event the Crows moved their tepees to a larger plain beside a lake, camping in a tight circle so as to leave room for the visitors. The Crow chief told Running Wolf to put his black tepee in the place of honour in the centre. When the Sioux arrived, the Crows surrounded them and watched them put up their tepees. After this was done, Red Shield took Running Wolf to welcome her parents, and they all exchanged many presents. Running Wolf brought several guns and the horses he had taken from the Sioux and gave them to Red Shield’s father.
For four days and nights the Sioux camped with the Crows and the tribes danced together every evening. After the Sioux returned to the Missouri River, Running Wolf and Red Shield and several of their friends visited them from time to time, and in the moons of pleasant weather, her Sioux father and mother came to visit their daughter, and later on to see their grandchildren. In both tribes, the young Crow warrior and his Sioux wife were regarded as hero and heroine, and their people lived in peace for a time.