Monday, November 8, 2010

The Legend of Chief Wabasis' Lost Treasure - 115

Chief John Wabasis wandered home many times along the Plainfield-Sheridan Indian Trail without incidences meaning he was never waylaid by drunken Indians who threatened to kill him if he left his homestead. He was good at confusing any individuals who might be watching or trailing him. No self respecting Indian chief walked the beaten path. Often as individuals or groups they'd simply disappear into the forests similar to how the Viet Cong in the Vietnam War of the 1960's simply vanished into the jungle.

Sorry to say too many Americans in these post 911 era days travel the same route to and from work or play each day and this becomes way too convenient for terrorists who study the certain behaviors of individuals when planning terrorism. Going the same way on asphalt every day isn't good. We become predictable. Never go the same way day after day. Every once in a while pull a 'crazy Ivan' to see if anyone follows. If Russian submarine commanders can pull crazy Ivan's why don't you?

Wabasis lived with his own family group comprised of his wife Cononona born in 1813 with his children Chinquana (m) b. 1832, Macadefsequa (m) b. 1833, NowCon (m) b. 1838, Post (m) b. 1845, Shanabaqua (f) b. 1843, Wabindags (m) b. 1840 and John Wabasis born 1807.

Four children were born when he was in isolation on his farm in Oakfield Township and Wabasis' name appears on many things; Wabasis Avenue, Big Wabasis Lake, Little Wabasis Lake, Wabasis Creek and later Wabasis Lake Airport, Wabasis Lake Campground, Chief Wabasis Potato Growers Association, the White Swan Cemetery and White Swan School which up until the 1890's was the best public school in northeastern Kent County.

For such a man described as a scoundrel and thief by Indians the settlers placed him in high regard. John Wabasis was a rich man and not a poor Indian for he owned many of the Flat River islands and land in Ionia County -- deeded land he inherited from his adopted father Chief Wobwindigo and his foster father Chief Cobmoosa all Odawa Indians of the Flat River tribes. Wabasis received his adopted fathers share of treaty monies which angered other tribes who thought he should give them shares the chiefs received.

Mukatasha's tribe lived just northeast of Wabasis and they hounded him hoping he'd show them where he hid their share of the treaty monies which had only been dispersed twice since the treaty was signed in Washington, D.C. on March 28, 1836. When the treaty was signed the Indians and arrangements were made for payment for land north of the Grand River, the remaining Potawatomies were to leave on the Trail of Tears for Missouri, the Odawa's and Chippewa's were given a few years to leave for reservations at Pentwater, Mt. Pleasant and Traverse City. Many Indians never got a chance to leave the Grand River and Flat River areas because of a small pox epidemic, which killed hundreds of Indians around 1837. The epidemic nearly wiped out Wobwindego's tribe. When white settler sickenesses broke out the tribes scattered and in fact Chief Wobwindigo died of small pox in 1837, a year after returning from Washington.

What the Indians didn't know was that although they signed the treaty that guaranteed them an income for 20 years, the legislature attached an amendment which stipulated that the Indians remove themselves within five years. They were being encouraged and later forced to move north to the reservations. Only Wabasis' tribe in Kent County would remain along with Mukatasha's group in Montcalm County. The Indians who signed the treaty never saw this amendment and the last of the Indians moved out around 1864. Chief Mukatasha and Big Chief Ne-ogg-ah-nah planned to murder Chief Wabasis for nearly 25 years and they carried out Wabasis' death sentence when they tricked him into leaving his deeded parcel and attending the Green Corn Festival at Prairie Village (Blythefield Country Club) in Plainfield Township in 1863.

One can only wonder why the Indians couldn't figure out sooner where the man who supposedly robbed them of the tribes treaty monies and inheritance money hid the treasure? Wouldn't you think that after watching Wabasis' comings and goings for years that they'd have found the treasure? They plied the Chief with firewater, drank it with him in excess, but try as they might they couldn't get Wabasis to spill beans where the treasure could be found and they couldn't when he was murdered. Liquor has loosened the tongues of many. If whiskey and rum couldn't loosen his tongue is it possible that none existed or could it be speculative that maybe it didn't exist on his property, but was buried elsewhere. I find it strange that when his supposed Indian brothers got him drunk he refused to say where the kettles of gold and silver were hidden. Wabasis wife and children could leave and return without harm. John lived under the threat of 'death' if he went beyond one mile from his domicile or lake. He was not just banished to his farm as the current legend states.

Currently nobody has ever found the treasure troves of Chief John Wabasis and none will if they concentrate their searches on government property. Nobody has shown any tangible proof to support their claim they've found the kettles of gold and silver. The search area has been expanded and the treasure could lie anywhere within one mile of the entire Wabasis Lake area, which includes 8 other lakes and terrain befitting mountain goats and rattlesnakes. Over the last 138 years local folks had tweaked the legend so much they shrank the containment area down to a fraction of its original size so that it could only be buried along the western shores of Wabasis Lake.

On the contrary this isn't the only possible burial spot!

The Indians were the ones who said Wabasis sold the land north of the Grand River, but that's a misnomer (Indian legend). All he did was help the Federal government and the powers that be in Washington along with President Andrew Jackson procure the sale of Odawa lands for the Treaty of Chicago 1821 and Treaty of 1836. Wabasis was only 14 years old, but wiser than most of his peers in 1821 and was invaluable during the Treaty of 1826 and 1833. He had gained stature within the tribes for his peaceful demeanor. Wabasis was never a treaty signer, but many have confused his name with that of "Wabasuh, a Kaskaskian chief," that inhabited south central Illinois.

U.S. Census records of 1850 showed that Wabasis was born 1807 to 1810. His wife was recorded as three years younger (1813). However according to personal records kept by family members it was 1807, but it makes no difference since John Wabasis name doesn't appear on any treaties. He was born to a French Canadian woman who may have arrived during an Indian War. Unknown is what happened to her but John was adopted by Chief Wobwindigo (WabiWindego means 'white giant) in the early 1820's and was highly respected by the chief's three sons; Shog-wo-ge-no, A-can-go, Ash-kel-be-gosh. Wobwindigos village was comprised of 300 Odawa Indians. After Wobwindigo's death sub-chief "Cobmoosee, the giant walker", under Chief NoonDay of the Grand Rapids tribe, became Wabasis' foster father. Cobmoosa was the son-in-law of Wobwindigo having had married three of his daughters after the deaths of each one. Cobmoosa had six wives total before he confessed his Catholic religion in the 1820's.

When the treaty was signed it was the remaining tribal members who decided that it would be John Wabasis who would make the trip to Grand Rapids for their shares of treaty money and he did that for two years, but he angered the Indians when they didn't get their fair share. That is when they banished Wabasis to live out his remaining years at Wabasis Lake. Wabasis' farm was deeded to him by the Federal government as half-breed compensation for keeping Indians like Mexicini and Saubo from starting an Indian uprising or war with Washington. This is why the U.S. Army was dispatched into Michigan hauling two four-pound cannons that fell thru Grand River ice in 1836 in Ionia County when the Twin Sister cannons were headed down the Mississippi River to Sam Houston waiting in Texas to win the Battle of San Jacinto and beat Santiana back into Mexico liberating Texas. Back to our main story.

Half-breeds received greater sums, but for shorter years. Still those who trusted Wabasis to bring them their share had not left a forwarding address and he wasn't going to go looking for them. Many of them died during the small pox epidemic up and down the Grand River. The government wasn't in the habit of giving Chief Wabasis the shares of other Indians. The different chiefs were supposed to have appeared for payment and not a proxy.

Well its getting late and I'm tired so tune in next time for the early life and times of Chief John Wabasis. Once you get the real picture then you can decide where to look for Wabasis' lost treasure.

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