Chief John Wabasis' life was intermingled with some of the greatest Indian Chief's of the Flat River and Grand River tribes. He was well accepted in the 'rapid' villages all the way down to Grand Haven and beyond to the "Skunk water city" of Chicago and Wisconsin tribes north of their Grand River, too. Wabasis over the years had gained the respect of everyone he met whether white or red and always extended his hand of friendship.
Indian populations rose and fell with the changing seasons. During Wabasis' childhood he spent many summers in the villages near lakes, such as Wabasis Lake, the largest body of water in northeastern Kent County. The fishing was good and where life was easy for his squaw Cononoma to raise agricultural crops. To Indians this was the norm, but the various Indian tribes always knew when it was time to retire to the old villages at the mouths of the Flat, Thornapple and Rogue River connections to the Grand River. In winter the villages increased in population, not just from the tribes residing near lakes, but from the 'snowbirds' from the Mackinaw region. Prairie Village at Plainfield swelled to nearly 1000 as did at the 'rapids' and 400-800 at the villages at Ada, Lowell, Ionia, Lyons, Muir. It was a bee-hive of activity.
The Indians of the 1800's were similar to all the 'snowbirds' now who flew the coop before December and descended upon the extreme southern states; Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Anyplace warmer will suffice where snow is but a memory. They consider this a true tropical paradise, but to the Ottawas and Chippewa Indians living in the northern wilderness from Traverse City to Sault Ste. Marie in the 1820-1840's, their 'tropical paradise' was anywhere along the Grand (Wastenong) and Kalamazoo ('Boiling waters')Rivers.
Indians in the Summer lake villages knew exactly when to leave, because 90 days after the first ground fog appears in July is the meteorological forecast for when to expect the first killing freezes and crops would be harvested before that date as they prepared for the journey southward. They wanted to be canoeing southward on Lake Michigan in October and not during the turbulent days of November gales.
Indians from northern Michigan preferred living where it was moist cold, where temperatures fluctuated from -20 to + 50 degrees in winter. To them this was the tropical paradise they sought. The cold in the north above the Straits of Mackinaw is a dry bitter cold with many days below zero. That's because in the Upper Peninsula, the land is ravaged by the savage and bitter winds that sweep across the continental U.S. and the winter season lasts longer; 8 months as opposed to the 5-6 months in southern Michigan. It was intolerable weather for women and children even for the most seasoned trapper and trader. Life on Mackinaw Island or Sault Ste. Marie was cruel and many soldiers; British, French and Americans suffered many hardships and starvation in the forts during winter months. Those Indians who retired to the Grand and Kalamazoo Rivers felt warmed. To them life along these rivers was good, but in our minds (2010) we'd rather like living in Palm Beach. The Grand and Kalamazoo Rivers were their 'Winter Havens'.
The Indians would pack themselves in 30-foot long birch barke canoes; the men at the helm seizing command of the canoes forward movements while the women and children paddled strenuously. Indian squaw's and children did most of the arduous paddling. The only time the men paddled was in 'War' canoes. The notion that the squaws and children did nothing is poppycock and far removed from how Hollywood depicts Indian movements to wintering grounds. Everyone was expected to provide for themselves; to educate themselves and work for benefit of family and tribe. Children worked and played little; just the opposite of today. Our children are full of the "I wants" but do nothing to help the family unit. It's gimme' this and when they don't get what they feel they deserve they show disrespect by saying "Well, why did have me? I didn't ask to be born!" The Indian units 200 years ago were leagues ahead of us in proper training and raising children. When children today don't get what they 'demand' isn't it any wonder that they show disrespect and turn out as prodical children? Indian families were stircter, yet sometimes cruel, but they didn't treat their parents with ill regard.
The Indian women and children learned to raise and harvest crops and dry fish caught by the men at area lakes; to carry water which they hauled from lakes and streams. They had no irrigation sprinklers or potable water tanks. Southern Michigan weather was brutal, the hot, humid extremes made it necessary to keep the crops well hydrated and this is why the migrating Indians returned to Mackinaw in summer. Braves were the hunters scouting for game, fishing and fur trading provided them with the staples of Indian life. The men killed the critters, but it was the squaws and children who dressed them out and carried them back to camp. Men were treated as 'kings'. Thousands of Ottawas, Chippewas and Potawatomies migrated down Lake Michigan and entered the Grand River. No wintering villages on the Muskegon; the winter weather was too hostile, but when the Dogwoods bloomed in May, the Indians migrated northward back to the Mackinaw region, because they didn't like the heat and humidity of southern Michigan climate, but loved the warm days and cool nights.
Once the canoes came ashore at Grand at Kalamazoo winter villages, the entire families would disembark. The women would find the 'family kettle' that had been hibernating in a secret place for the summer. The men would build a 'bark home' and all would set in for a warm Winter of dried corn and venison. In the Spring the men speared Sturgeon and Muskellunges in the rivers and creeks and when the birds began returning and the Dogwoods bloomed the tribes trickled down the river to the mouths of the rivers for their annual get-together before returning to Mackinaw or wherever they spent the summer months. According to Indian legends Easter (the first sign of Christianity in the Indians 1800-1870) was seen when the white flowers were streaked with red. This they said was 'Christ's blood shed for them' and it was time for them to migrate northward.
Upon Chief Kewaycooshcums death it was then customary that before any pow-wows or get together parties, the braves were to surrender all of their axes, knives, spears and large clubs to their respective wives should they embibe in alcholic celebratory drinking. This the squaws thought was the safest way to protect family and others; only headaches and hangovers, no deaths or injuries from brandishing weapons while drunk. When clear minds prevailed the spouses returned their weapons. Rev. Isaac McCoy's fruits of labor had come full circle, but not until ten years after he left the Grand River Valley mission at the 'rapids'.
Wait just a minute' minute. Did you understand the part about the 'family kettle.' Every family unit had a kettle that was hidden for winter safekeepping when they returned. Each family had their own 'cook pot' or kettle so don't just go believing the only "kettle" hidden was the one Wabasis buried the treasure in. It is a misnomer to believe that the only 'pot o' treasure' out there contains his buried treasure. Finding the right 'kettle' is the key to understanding if it was Wabasis' hidden pot or that of another Indian family. The area around Wabasis Lake was the ancestral homeland of 5-8 different villages within a mile of Wabasis Lake. That's upwards of 500 Indians from the 1800-1860 era. Lots of treasure hunters are mistaking the legend of Chief Wabasis' if they think the chief and region was the bearer of one kettle. Sorry to say, no Indian would ever bury his money near his own domocile and Mucktasha and Chief Neogamah from Plainfield had reportedly spyed on Wabasis for nearly 24 years without Wabasis tipping off the burial site. How can this be if Wabasis was banished to live on the west end of Wabasis Lake since 1836, but he wasn't banished here that year, but not until 1850?
Old Joe Cizaukas, the Lithuanian immigrant, who was the once the former owner (1986) of the Frederik Meijer Pickerel Lake Park in Cannon Township, was considered an Indian. He said he didn't believe in bank investments and buried lots of his money he got from selling Christmas trees in Mason jars and burying them in discreet places. By the way, you'll end up in jail if sheriff deputies catch you with metal detectors in that Kent County park. To find it without modern marvels think like an Indian - you can't because Indians were smarter than you and he was smarter than Wabasis.
That's one reason why the bulk of Chief John Wabasis' lost treasure is still missing. You've still got a chance of finding it. He was a shrewd, intelligent Indian who knew exactly where to hide the kettle from prying eyes, but it wasn't the 'family kettle' of Indian treasure he buried. The treasure was in a white man's kettle, not his 'family kettle' that is supposedly buried somewhere along the shores of Wabasis Lake or within one mile of it. Too many twisted rumors made legend have left it in this vicinity, but that's an inaccurate assumption and I'm going to let you hang out with that thought until next time. I've left a cliffhanger -- a legend alteration is about to be exposed giving you time to put on your thinking bonnet. I brought you to the precipice of understanding the true nature of Wabasis, but it's a long way down should you fall off the cliff that overlooks Wabasis Lake.
My halo still flickers! I'm snickering like that idiot Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrain in the Hollywood produced series, 'The Dukes of Hazzard'.