Friday, December 17, 2010

The Legend of Chief Wabasis' Lost Treasure - 126

John Wabasis was instrumental in making sure no bloodshed ever occurred between the incoming settlers and Ottawa, Chippewa and Potawatomi Indians. His mentors were the most powerful chiefs of the Grand River Valley. Wobwindigo was his adopted father, Cobmoosa his foster father. Sub-chief Kewaycooschum and Noonday commanded all Indians in the watershed areas of the Washtanong, meaning "rapids" (Grand), Quab-quasha, meaning "current stream (Flat), and Kekezoo, meaning "boiling waters" Kalamazoo River.

Others were Nabbunegeezhug, son and sub-chief of Noonday and Shenogah, the son and sub-chief of Wobwindigo in 1827. About 1830 John Wabasis married one of Cobmoosa's daughter named Cononoma and to them a daughter named Macadefequa was born in 1832 and son Chinquana in 1834 in Wobwindigo's Village at the mouth of the Flat River. Unknown is when they moved to the ancient Indian village on the western shore of Wabasis Lake.

Area surrounding Wabasis Lake supported five different villages and one village west of Twin Lake. The oldest ceremonial site was the old cremation pits; from the Mound Builder era in north-central Grattan Township. The later was 5000-6000 b.c. because of an Indian princesses' skeleton unearthed near 9 Mile and Wabasis Lake when the road was under construction in 1910. Her wrists had copper band or bracelets (mineral mined from the U.P.) and her most prized possessions were trader items; jewelry (seashells found off the coast of South Carolina arranged in a circle around her head) signifying she was someone of importance).

John Wabasis was fluent in English and well liked among white men. Any wonder when Cobmoosa was known for his conservative ideas, majestic style, honest principals and was 'the heart of oak among his people'. Before he was converted to Christianity he had mastered six wives and 3 of which were sisters and daughters of Chief Wobwindigo. Three wives at the same time? Many men these days can't master one!

As the principal peacekeeper Wabasis did much of his traveling by canoe opposite of Cobmoosa who walked everywhere. Cobmoosa's biggest fear was traveling by canoe. Forget it, he walked everywhere. It took him days sometimes weeks to get to a council meeting. He was hydrophobic. That's why they called him "The Big Walker." He had an obssessive fear of water.

Wabasis appeared at many tribal council meeting during 1834 and 1835. He had to because of the renegade half-breed Indians who were threatening to riot and make the Grand River run red with spilled settler blood. The tiny hamlet of Kent at the 'rapids' was growing by leaps and bounds and Wabasis knew he had to keep pressure on the bigger chiefs to not start any wars. He knew they couldn't win and much bloodshed wasn't in the best interests of the Indians. Still he was surprised when U.S. Army detachment swooped in and escorted the chiefs away to Washington to negotiate the selling of their lands.

Washington was hoping that by rounding up the principal chiefs they could force the Indians to sign and if they failed to sign onto the treaty they could refuse to return them to Michigan and ship them off to Missouri reservations and the Indians in Michigan would be none the wiser. Kewaycooshcum felt something wasn't right with the forced arrangements and traveled with the chiefs. Kewaycooshcum was an Indian witness. He had already signed the Treaty of 1826 and was already receiving annuity payments and the Indians could only sign one treaty. Wabasis never signed any treaties.

Some counter that Wabasis did sign a treaty, the Treaty of Chicago, on Sept. 26, 1833, at the Skunk Water Place. The name Wah-bou-seh is the English interprestation for, but that was a variant name of Wabonsee or Waubaunsee who was a Kaskaskian Indian living in south-central Illinois. English names for Indians were often miss-spelled. Washington forced Indian removal to west of the Mississippi once the Indians signed the Treaty of 1821, but many Indians refused to leave and that is why it took more than 30 treaty signings from 1816-1833 to force them out to western reservations. Why because not all Indian tribes within the areas south of the Grand River signed the various treaties.

John Wabasis with name translation in English was Wa-ba-si or Wabahsee meaning "Little White Swan". He was born to a French Canadian Fur Trader and Indian mother therefore his skin complexion showed he was more white than dark skinned. That's presumably why so many white settlers trusted John. John Wabasis helped negotiate the Treaty of Chicago, but received no payments for treaties until the Treaty of 1836 was ratified by Wobwindigo, Cobmoosa, Mexicinini, Muccatay and Mukutayoguot (Blackskin tribes) and Noonday's tribes. He never actually sold anything except potatoes and corn he raised on his garden plot at Wabasis Lake.

Next time we'll pick up Wabasis Trail at Plainfield's Prairie Village. Oops, lest I forget there is no #125. I hit the wrong key and published only the title. Fumble fingered today. Sorry.

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