Page images

pronounced that he would become a brave man, and prove an inveterate enemy of the Sioux.

The border warfare in which the father of the infant warrior was constantly engaged, early initiated him in the arts and ceremonies pertaining to war. With the eager interest and love of novelty of the young, he listened to their war songs and war stories, and longed for the time when he would be old enough to join these parties, and also make himself a name among warriors. While quite a youth he volunteered to go out with a party, and soon gave convincing proofs of his courage. He also early learned the arts of hunting the deer, the bear, the moose, and all the smaller animals common to the country; and in these pursuits, he took the ordinary lessons of Indian young men, in abstinence, suffering, danger and endurance of fatigue. In this manner his nerves were knit and formed for activity, and his mind stored with those lessons of caution which are the result of local experience in the forest. He possessed a tall and commanding person, with a full black piercing eye, and the usual features of his countrymen. He had a clear and full toned voice, and spoke his native language with grace and fluency. To these attractions, he united an early reputation for bravery and skill in the chase, and at the age of twenty-two, he was already a war leader.

Expeditions of one Indian tribe against another, require the utmost caution, skill, and secrecy. There are a hundred things to give information to such a party, or influence its action, which are unknown to civilized nations. The breaking of a twig, the slightest impression of a foot print, and other like circumstances, determine a halt, a retreat, or an advance. The most scrupulous attention is also paid to the signs of the heavens, the flight of birds, and above all, to the dreams and predictions of the jossakeed, priest, or prophet, who accompanies them, and who is entrusted with the sacred sack. The theory upon which all these parties are conducted, 1s secrecy and stratagem: to steal upon the enemy unawares; to lay in ambush, or decoy; to kill and to avoid as much as possible the hazard of being killed. An intimate geographical knowledge of the country, is also required by a successful war leader, and such a man piques himself, not only on knowing every prominent stream, hill, valley, wood, or rock, but the particular productions, animal, and vegetable, of the scene of operations. When it is considered that this species of knowledge, shrewdness and sagacity, is possessed on both sides, and that the nations at war watch each other, as a lynx for its prey, it may be conceived, that many of these border war parties are either light skirmishes, sudden on-rushes, or utter failures. It is seldom that a close, well contested, long continued hard battle is fought. To kill a few men, tear off their scalps in haste, and retreat with these trophies, is a brave and honourable trait with them, and may be boasted of, in their triumphal dances and warlike festivities. To glean the details of these movements, would be to acquire the modern history of the tribe, which induced me to direct my enquiries to the subject; but the lapse of even forty or fifty years, had shorn tradition of most of these details, and often left the memory of results only. The Chippewas told me, that this chief had led them seven times to successful battle against the Sioux and the Outagamies, and that he had been wounded thrice—once in the thigh, once in the right shoulder, and a third time in the side and breast, being a glancing shot. His war parties consisted either of volunteers who had joined his standard at the war dance, or of auxiliaries, who had accepted his messages of wampum and tobacco, and come forward in a body, to the appointed place of rendezvous. These parties varied greatly in number; his first party consisted of but forty men, his greatest and most renowned, of three hundred, who were mustered from the villages on the shores of the lake, as far east as St. Mary's falls.


It is to the incidents of this last expedition, which had an important influence on the progress of the war, that we may devote a few moments. The place of rendezvous was La Pointe Chagomiegon, or as it is called in modern days, La Pointe of Lake Superior. The scene of the conflict, which was a long and bloody one, was the falls of the St. Croix. The two places are distant about two hundred and fifty miles, by the most direct route. This area embraces the summit land between Lake Superior and the upper Mississippi. The streams flowing each way interlock, which enables the natives to ascend them in their light canoes, and after carrying the latter over the portages, to descend on the opposite side. On this occasion Wabojeeg and his partizan army, ascended the Muskigo, or Mauvais river, to its connecting portage with the Namakagon branch of the St. Croix. On crossing the summit, they embarked in their small and light war canoes on their descent westward. This portion of the route was passed with the utmost caution. They were now rapidly approaching the enemy's borders, and every sign was regarded with deep attention. They were seven days from the time they first reached the waters of the St. Croix, until they found the enemy. They went but a short distance each day, and encamped. On the evening of the seventh day, the scouts discovered a large body of Sioux and Outagamies encamped on the lower side of the portage of the great falls of the St. Croix. The discovery was a surprise on both sides. The advance of the Chippewas had landed at the upper end of the portage, intending to encamp there. The Sioux and their allies had just preceded them, from the lower part of the stream with the same object The Foxes or Outagamies immediately fired, and a battle ensued. It is a spot indeed, from which a retreat either way is impracticable, in the face of an enemy. It is a mere neck of rugged rock. The river forces a passage through this dark and solid barrier. It is equally rapid and dangerous for canoes above and below. It cannot be crossed direct After the firing began Wabojeeg landed and brought up


bis men. He directed a part of them to extend themselves in the wood around the small neck, or peninsula, of the portage, whence alone escape was possible. Both parties fought with bravery; the Foxes with desperation. But they were outnumbered, overpowered, and defeated. Some attempted to descend the rapids, and were lost. A few only escaped. But the Chippewas paid dearly for their victory. Wabojeeg was slightly wounded in the breast: his brother was killed. Many brave warriors fell. It was a most sanguinary scene. The tradition of this battle is one of the most prominent and wide spread of the events of their modern history. I have conversed with more than one chief, whe dated his first military honours in youth, to this scene. It put an end to their feud with the Foxes, who retired from the intermediate rice lakes, and fled down the Wisconsin. It raised the name of the Chippewa leader, to the acme of his renown among his people: but Wabojeeg, as humane as he was brave, grieved over the loss of his people who had fallen in the action. This feeling was expressed touchingly and characteristically, in a war song, which he uttered after this victory which has been preserved by the late Mr. Johnston of St. Mary's, in the following stanzas.

On that day when our heroes lay low—lay low,

On that day when our heroes lay low,
I fought by their side, and thought ere I died,

Just vengeance to take on the foe,

Just vengeance to take on the foe.

On that day, when our chieftains lay dead—lay dead,

On that day when our chieftains lay dead,
I fojgnt hand to hand, at the head of my band,

And here, on my breast, have I bled,

And here, on my breast, have I bled.

Our chiefs shall return no more—no more,

Our chiefs shall return no more,
Nor their brothers of war, who can show scar for scar,

Like women their fates shall deplore—deplore,

Like women their fate shall deplore.

Five winters in hunting we'll spend—we'll spend,

Five winters in hunting we'll spend,
Till our youth, grown to men, we'll to war lead again,

And our days, like our fathers, we'll end,

And our days, like our fathers, we'll end.

It is the custom of these tribes to go to war in the spring and summer, which are, not only comparatively seasons of leisure with them. but it is at these seasons that they are concealed and protected by the foliage of the forest, and can approach the enemy unseen. At these annual returns of warmth and vegetation, they also engage in festivities and dances, during which the events and exploits of past years are sang and recited: and while they derive fresh courage and stimulus to renewed exertions, the young, who are listeners, learn to emulate their fathers, and take their earliest lessons in the art of war. Nothing is done in the summer months in the way of hunting. The small furred animals are changing their pelt, which is out of season. The doe retires with her fawns, from the plains and open grounds, into thick woods. It is the general season of reproduction, and the red man for a time, intermits his war on the animal creation, to resume it against man.


As the autumn approaches, he prepares for his fall hunts, by retiring from the outskirts of the settlements, and from the open lakes, shores, and streams, which have been the scenes of his summer festivities; and proceeds, after a short preparatory hunt, to his wintering grounds. This round of hunting, and of festivity and war, fills up the year; all the tribes conform in these general customs. There are no war parties raised in the winter. This season is exclusively devoted to securing the means of their subsistence and clothing, by seeking the valuable skins, which are to purchase their clothing and their ammunition, traps and arms.

The hunting grounds of the chief, whose life we are considering, extended along the southern shores of Lake Superior from the Montreal River, to the inlet of the Misacoda, or Burntwood River of Fond du Lac. If he ascended the one, he usually made the wide circuit indicated, and came out at the other. He often penetrated by a central route up the Maskigo. This is a region still abounding, but less so than formerly, in the bear, moose, beaver, otter, martin, and muskrat. Among the smaller animals are also to be noticed the mink, lynx, hare, porcupine, and partridge, and towards its southern and western limits, the Virginia deer. In this ample area, the La Pointe, or Chagoimegon Indians hunted. It is a rule of the chase, that each hunter has a portion of the country assigned to him, on which he alone may hunt; and there are conventional laws which decide all questions of right and priority in starting and killing game. In these questions, the chief exercises a proper authority, and it is thus in the power of one of these forest governors and magistrates, where they happen to be men of sound sense, judgment and manly independence, to make themselves felt and known, and to become true benefactors to their tribes. And such chiefs create an impression upon their followers, and leave a reputation behind them, which is of more value than their achievements in war.

Wabojeeg excelled in both characters; he was equally popular as a civil ruler and a war chief; and while he administered justice to his people, he was an expert hunter, and made due and ample provision for his family. He usually gleaned, in a season, by his traps and carbine, four packs of mixed furs, the avails of which were ample to provide clothing for all the members of his lodge circle, as well as to renew his supply of ammunition and other essential articles.


On one occasion, he had a singular contest with a moose. He had gone out, one morning early, to set martin traps. He had set about forty, and was returning to his lodge, when he unexpectedly encountered a large moose, in his path, which manifested a disposition to attack him. Being unarmed, and having nothing but a knife and small hatchet, which he had carried to make his traps, he tried to avoid it. But the animal came towards him in a furious manner. He took shelter behind a tree, shifting his position from tree to tree, retreating. At length, as he fled, he picked up a pole, and quickly untying his moccasin strings, he bound his knife to the end of the pole. He then placed himself in. a favourable position, behind a tree, and when the moose came up, stabbed him several times in the throat and breast. At last, the animal, exhausted with the loss of blood, fell. He then dispatched him, and cut out his tongue to carry home to his lodge as a trophy of victory. When they went back to the spot, for the carcass, they found the snow trampled down in a wide circle, and copiously sprinkled with blood, which gave it the appearance of a battlefield. It proved to be a male of uncommon size.

The domestic history of a native chief, can seldom be obtained. In the present instance, the facts that follow, may be regarded with interest, as having been obtained from residents of Chagoimegon, or from his descendants. He did not take a wife till about the age of thirty, and he then married a widow, by whom he had one son. He had obtained early notoriety as a warrior, which perhaps absorbed his attention. What causes there were to render this union unsatisfactory, or whether there were any, is not known; but after the lapse of two years, he married a girl of fourteen, of the totem of the bear, by whom he had a family of six children. He is represented as of a temper and manners affectionate and forbearing. He evinced thoughtfulness and diligence in the management of his affairs, and the order and disposition of his lodge. When the huuting season was over, he employed his leisure moments in adding to the comforts of his lodge. His lodge was of an oblong shape, ten fathoms long, and made by setting two rows of posts firmly in the ground, and sheathing the sides and roof with the smooth bark of the birch. From the centre rose a post crowned with the carved figure of an owl, which he had probably selected as a bird of good omen, for it was neither his own nor his wife's totem. This figure was so placed, that it turned with the wind, and answered the purpose of a weathercock.

In person Wabojeeg was tall, being six feet six inches, erect in carriage,

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »