Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Legend of Chief Wabasis' Lost Treasure - 124

John Wabasis was the Grand and Flat River tribes peacemaker and was instrumental in negotiating the Treaty of 1836. He made sure no Indian wars with settlers broke out and it was an uphill battle especially when Max Sauba, the rattlesnake, was expounding his hatred of incoming settlers and the US government at tribal meetings. Young warriors wanted to fight against the missionaries and Washington and they put pressure on the chiefs, but Wabasis kept the chiefs peaceful. To fight would mean many deaths and Wabasis knew the Indians would not win. Incoming settlers supported Wabasis viewpoints and as such Wabasis was highly esteemed among them. Being educated also gave him respect.

Wabasis greeted settlers with firm handshakes and welcomed them to the new territory. Among many Indians this feeling wasn't shared. Those against the settlement invasion remembered their grandfathers past dealings with Washington - ' they speaketh with forked tongue'.

Because Wabasis and many other half-breeds were educated the President Andrew Jackson and Congress decided that respected half-breeds get a larger share of annuity payments as services rendered for keeping the peace and the various chiefs in the Grand River valley shared this opinion. Half-breed Ottawas like Wabasis and Boshaw were to be highly rewarded for their valuable service to Washington, but these Indians never sold anything and their names aren't among the signees of any treaties. When the Indians who purchased lands were given free firewater, they were often beaten, robbed and killed and thrown off their deeded land. They found American justice worthless and this is exactly what the warrior half-breeds were using against the chiefs judgements - to make the case for War with settlers.

President Andrew Jackson got letters from McCoy and Slater informing them that the only way to stop an Indian versus settler war was to remove the Indians for their own safety. Preferably west of the Mississippi, but Washington and Congress decided in 1834 to change the way Indians were paid in exchange for selling their land north of the Grand River and use of the Indian Removal Act would pave the way for Indian resettlement. Many of the oldest Indians said 'Beware' of signing treaties with white men who walk among them with Bible in one hand and firewater in the other hand. Old memories die hard and a case in point about Christianizing the Indians happened west of Long Island in the early 1740's.

A young Jesuit missionary named David Barnardt was invited by British American settlers to push into the interior of the country to bring Christianity to the wild savages. Barnardt being fresh out of seminary school wasn't exactly excited with his new missionary post by going into the wilds of New York, Maryland and Virginia and other mountainous areas of Appalachia south to North Carolina. This area was known as the 13 British American colonies. Going beyond these states was Indian territory that Britian and France were fighting over until the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1763, which made all lands west of the 13 colony states to the Mississippi River, the British Indian Territories.

Twelve years later (1774) the American Tea party would start the Revolutionary War - an effort to overthrow the British and Paul Revere, riding his horse yelled, "The British are coming!" As Andy Griffith told Opie and his friends about history "Get ur' guns because we is gonna' have us a revolution." Now take that rope off my neck!

Barnardt sailing across the Atlantic Ocean was fed a daily diet of horror stories about Indian savagery - namely the Senecas, Shawnee and Delawares and various other tribes. He was going to establish contact and Christianize the Indians in advance of pre-settler occupation. All that Barnardt heard while being wracked with seasickness was how the Indians tortured their unwelcome captives. He contemplated quitting his missionary post before he set one foot down on British-American soil and exploring the wilds of Applachia. He was a humble man who doubted whether or not he was cut from the right cloth. He kept mumbling in his dilerium that he wasn't worth anything - no salt.

All that Barnardt lacked was confidence. He was fresh out of seminary and 'wet behind the ears'. He lacked personal confidence and self-esteem and he wondered why he never heard of British American Indian atrocities. But would you have pursued a missionary post had you heard the horror stories before you started your journey? He wrote down the stories in his personal diary and what he wrote showed his frame of mind as being poor and chock full of doubts.

From the time he first set foot in America until he left for the wilds he complained loudly he didn't want to go, but within a week he changed his attitude slowly. The scenery was breathetaking and he was greeted with open arms in some villages, not all, in those he got a lukewarm reception for these Indians had already been engaged in bad blood with settlers.

When he became sick with dysentary and got so weak he thought he was going to die, a Catholic Indian befriended him and brought him some herbal tea to make him well again. When stronger he broke camp and returned to England and told other seminary students about his travels and within two years after funding he returned America and was seeking an Indian guide to take him back into the wilderness to set up a Catholic mission. He built his mission and taught them the Ten Commandments and Christianized many Indians in the region, but incoming settlers started stealing, killing and robbing converted Indians, taking their land, burning their villages and possessions and telling the Indians to get out. It was their land now, the treaties were signed, but not by every tribe, because finding them all was like looking for needles in a haystack.

1749 saw the tribes on Long Island being forced off their lands. They too, didn't understand what gave the settlers the right in the name of Christianity to steal, rob and kill them and British American laws didn't protect them. It was like they had no rights and they thought the same rights that applied to settlers should be applied to them, too. British American laws were used against them. Even to shoot in defense of themselves and property any Indian that harmed, injured or killed a settler was quickly hung or shot to death in the name of civilization and the Indians were again called 'unruly savages'.

Since 1750 the words "missionaries and settlers speaketh with forked tongue" and this phrase spread thru the wilderness to distant tribes like wildfires from past the mighty Mississippi River country to the Great Lakes region. Barnardt was so overcome with grief and sorrow at the plight of the Indians that he returned to England several years before the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1763. That treaty redistributed the Indian country from the Great Lakes southward to the Gulf of Mexico. This treaty was supposed to have confined white settlements to all areas east of the crest of the Appalachian Mountain range, but it was worthless to the Indians. This was the "Proclamation Line" that divided the 13 original colonies from the British Indian Territory.

Already in 1762, the Indians in southeast Michigan were frustrated with the dictatorial British rule of government and were planning to toss the British out of the Great Lakes and upper Ohio River valley. At secret council meetins' in the Ottawas village opposite Detroit, local tribal leaders and others from as far away as Lake Superior met to discuss war. The Indians angered by British rule longed for the French traditional ways including religion. So in April 1763, Chief Pontiac summoned tribal leaders of the Potawatomies living two miles south of Detroit and the Ottawas and Wyandots living across the river from Ft. Detroit, a well fortified British garrison.

In a secret hut, Pontiac told young warriors about his vision-inspired message about a Delaware Indian prophet who was telling the Indians to drive out the British so they could return back to their own traditional and cultural lifestyles. Pontiac in defiance of the British rammed his message into the tribal leaders who sought action, not empty words, and they all outlined a course of action to overthrow the British garrison at Detroit. Surely it'd be easy to overrun a fort that numbered only 120 souls with 400 dedicated warriors. Pontiac's plan was to go inside the fort for a... oops, time to stop. Just when the story nears the climax I stop... you can look up the ending yourself. You'd probably like to "Hang me, hang me from a rope from the highest tree" as Roger Miller sang.

"Oh, fudge!" Pontiacs plan was to go inside the fort sit down with the commandant drinking firewater and pull kill them, but an Indian woman in love with a British soldier disclosed the trickery afoot the day before Pontiac's ruse. Major Gladwyn, the commander of the post, adorned with an Indian blanket stepped up to an Indian chief, threw aside the blanket disclosing his concealed musket. Pontiac, the brave man, taken by surprise turned pale and trembled and tried pinning the blame for his indescretion on others, but his compulsive guilt was evident and Gladwyn dealt him a severe reprimand (embarassed him) in front of the others and told him to never come inside the fortress again. Pontiac and his followers left, but immediately laid seige to the fort until the Treaty of Paris (1763) was signed and then Pontiac left and lived among the Kaskaskian Indians in south central Illinois. He tried to start an Indian/settler war near St. Louis in 1764-65, but was killed by a disgruntled Kaskaskinian. Pontiac's death was avenged by Northern Indians who laid seige on and nearly exterminated Illinois tribes. Fifty years later it was Davey Crockett who told the Kaskaskia's to keep peace with incoming settlers, but they too, learned that white men 'speak with forked tongue'.

Next time the nuts and bolts about John Wabasis' Lost Treasure.

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