One Indian's Story

The following account of a Potawatomi woman whose Indiana village was relocated in September 1838 was recorded many year's after the event by Simon Pokagon. Simon was the son of Leopold Pokagon. Father and son both served as the leader of what became known as the Pokagon band of the Potawatomi. In the closing years of the nineteenth century, Simon became concerned that the Potawatomi's traditional beliefs and contemporary stories were being lost. To preserve them he attempted to record and print as many of the tribe's stories as possible. This story appeared in Queen of the Woods, which was published in 1899 after Simon Pokagon's death.

Native American Woman

On the morning of that sad day at Twin Lakes, of which you speak, Sin-a-gaw, my husband told me that a stranger had been around, informing all the Au-nish-naw-bay-og (Indians) that our Christian priest wished all the tribe to meet him at Au-naw-ma-we gaw-ming (wigwam church), and desired me to go with him. But being au-keezee (sick), I remained at home. He faithfully promised me he would be back by the middle of the afternoon; but night came on, and neither he nor any of those I had seen going to church in the morning had yet returned. I felt impressed, deep down in my heart, that something awful had happened.

As I was sadly brooding over my thoughts, the door was wide open flung, and in came a little boy of the white race, who was a playmate of au-nish-naw-be o-nid-gan-is (Indian children), and who loved Sin-a-gaw, my husband, and me. As he rushed into our wigwam, all out of breath, he was crying, "Murder! murder! murder! O dear, dear!" He could say no more, falling exhausted on the floor. In a few moments he raised up, and stammered out, "O dear, dear! Lots and lots of white men I never seed before, all dressed in blue, have got all the Injuns in the church tied together with big strings, like ponies, and are going to kill all of um. Oh dear, dear! Do run quick and hide!" I said, "Hold on, Skiney. Do tell me if you saw Sin-a-gaw among them?" He replied, "O dear! Yes, me did; and me hear somebody say, "Skiney, come here," and it was Sin-a-gaw. And he talk low, and say to tell you to hide in the big woods a few days, then go to the old Ot-ta-wa trapper's wigwam, and if he not get killed, meby he get loose and find you. Do run quick! Dear, dear, they will get us! Me do wish I could kill em all." I gathered up what few clothes I had and left our home, never to return. I ran across the great trail to your wigwam; no one was there. I heard several going past on the run. I heard some one speak in a heavy voice. It was Go-bo. I never heard him talk excited before. He said the whole country was alive with white warriors catching Au-nish-naw-bay-og, to kill or drive them toward the setting sun. All doubts of Skiney's story were now removed. I ran north into a desolate swamp, which I had been taught from infancy was the home of jin-awe (rattlesnakes) and maw-in- graw-og (wolves), and there hid myself in the hollow of a fallen sycamore tree. It was an awful ne-tchi-wad te-be-kut (stormy night); wolves howled in the distance, as if following on my track; me-she-be-she (a panther) near by me screamed like a woman in dire distress. In the morning Loda, that girl was born! [the narrator was pregnant. Loda was her daughter.] I there remained one week, keeping aw-be-non-tchi (the infant) wrapped up as best I could. On the morning of the seventh sun I started northward to find the old trapper. I was weak and hungry, as all I had eaten while there was a small piece of jerked venison not larger than my hand, and a few beechnuts; but, thanks to the Great Spirit, I found in my journey an o-me-me (a young pigeon) so fat it could not fly. I sat down on a log and ate it raw. It tasted good, an gave me strength. In four days I reached the old trapper's wigwam, where myself and child were kindly cared for. I there first learned the fate of my people, and was told tchi ki das-sos (that you were trapped) in the church with many others, and driven far westward. Late in wintertime my husband returned, and found my and our little one. He had traveled on foot and alone across the great plains from far beyond the "father of waters," [Mississippi River] and was so broken down in health and spirits that he seemed all unlike himself. He sought to gain new life by drinking "fire-water" more and more; but alas, in a few years it consumed him, and he faded and fell, as fall the leaves in autumn time.

I have lived since then among the Ottawas up the great Sebe. ..