1816 Tanner

John Tanner [1780-1847?] was on his way to the home of his birth parents when he visited Detroit after 30 years among the Indians. Tanner was captured at age 9 and adopted into his Indian captors family. By the time he was returning home he could no longer speak English hence his trouble in finding and speaking to Governor Cass.

Major Puthuff, the United States Indian Agent, at Mackinac, gave me a birch bark canoe, some provisions, and a letter to Gov. Cass, at Detroit. My canoe was lashed to the side of the schooner, on board which I sailed for Detroit, under the care of a gentleman, whose name I do not recollect, but who, as I thought, was sent by Major Puthuff expressly to take care of me on the way. In five days we arrived, and the gentleman telling me to wait until he could go on shore and return, he left me, and I heard no more of him. Next day I went on shore by myself, and walking up into the street, I stood for some time gazing around me. At length, I saw an Indian, and going up to him, asked who he was, and where he belonged. He answered me, "An Ottawwaw, of Saw-ge-nong." "Do you know Gish-kaw-ko?"said I. "He is my father." "And where," said I, is Manito-o-geezhik, his father, and your grandfather?" "He died last fall." I told him to go and call his father to come and see me. He called him, but the old man would not come.

Next day, as I was again standing in the street, and looking one way and the other, I saw an old Indian, and ran after him. When he heard me coming, he turned about, and after looking anxiously at me for a few moments, caught me in his arms. It was Gish-kaw-ko; but he looked very unlike the young man who had taken me prisoner so many years before. He asked me, in a hurried manner, many questions; inquired what had happened to me, and where I had been since I left him, and many such questions. I tried to induce him to take me to the house of Gov. Cass, but he appeared afraid to go. Finding I could not prevail upon him, I took Major Puthuff's letter in my hand, and having learned from the Indians in which house the governor lived, I went toward the gate, till a soldier, who was walking up and down before it, stopped me. I could not speak English so as to be at all understood; but seeing the governor sitting on his porch, I held up the letter towards him. He then told the soldier to let me pass in. As soon as he had opened the letter, he gave me his hand, and having sent for an interpreter, he talked a long time with me. Gish-kaw-ko having been sent for, confirmed my statement respecting the circumstances of my capture, and my two years residence with the Ottawwaws of Saw-ge-nong.

The governor gave me clothing to the amount of sixty or seventy dollars value, and sent me to remain, for the present, at the house of his interpreter, more than a mile distant, where he told me I must wait till he could assemble many Indians and white men, to hold a council at St. Mary's, on the Miami, whence he would send me to my relatives on the Ohio.

I waited two months or more, and becoming extremely impatient to go on my way, I started with Be-nais-sa, the brother of Gish-kaw-ko, and eight other men, who were going to the council.


Prepared for the Press by Edwin James. New York: G. & C. H. Carvill, 1830: 239-140.

See Also:

Benson, Maxine. Schoolcraft, James, and the "White Indian." Michigan History 1970 54 (4): 311-328.

First, John T. Return to "Civilization": John Tanner's Troubled Years at Sault Ste Marie. Minnesota History 1986 50 (1): 23-36.

Miles, William. John Tanner - Man without a Race. American Book Collector 1970 20 (6): 12-15.