Monday, January 3, 2011

The Legend of Chief Wabasis' Lost Treasure - 130

"If Chief Wabasis' lost treasure pot hasn't been found near Wabasis Lake for nearly 150 years where is it hidden?" The pot or kettle containing his stash is real, but it is buried in two different places. At today's gold prices it'd be worth about $750,000. He was a smart Indian; full of wisdom to know you don't put all your money in one account or place when you feel threatened by those who have a penchant for killing you and stealing the wealth you have hidden. Old Indian Joe of Cannonsburg put his money in mason jars and buried it. Banning Wabasis to live the remainder of his years on his own garden plot at Wabasis Lake wasn't in the best interest of his immediate family or those who wanted him dead. It sure wouldn't to those who wanted their money or would it?

Knowing the relationships of the Indians and who respected Wabasis more, well that's what kept Wabasis alive for 24 years, more years than the disgruntled wanted to put up with. Not all the Indians thought Wabasis was a scoundrel and thief, for the most popular chiefs stayed out of fray and kept the peace with settlers and removed to reservations in Missouri or Michigan. Wabasis never sold the land, but peacefully helped the Grand River valley tribes and Federal government settle their differences with a treaty that meant no bloodshed.

What Wabasis wasn't privy to was the fact that Congress had changed the way Indians were being paid in 1834. When Wabasis appeared to pick up the Indian payments for the Blackskins and Ottawas in 1838, he was suprised to learn that each head of the families must appear for payment - no proxies. He could only pick up his share, that as a head of his family unit and since he was a half-breed he was awarded higher pay than if he was a full chief who signed the treaty. When Chief Wobwindigo died in 1837, he got another share as the adopted son of Wobwindingo and another as the foster son of Cobmoosa and the shares of his mother, too. The various chiefs got paid about $2000.00 yearly who invested those sums in settler futures; steamboats and freight businesses of early Grand Rapids.

The Treaty of 1836 left the Grand River Ottawa tribes vulnerable to forced removal. McCoy felt they should be removed to Missouri or anywhere west of the Mississippi, but this was never formally ratified, so Congress wrote an amendement after the treaty was signed placing the Indians in Michigan reservations, but for five years and after 1841 they must move west. They got no permanent status.

When the chiefs got wind of the 'forked tongue' decisions by Congress and President Polk they immediately filed suit claiming that President Andrew Jackson's treaty with them was broken by Washington bureaucrats and they began pressuring the Federal government to negotiate a new treaty that guaranteed them permanent reservation status in their traditional territories in Michigan. As a result of this conflict some Indians thought it fruitless to engage the Federal government and either moved while those who stayed died of white settler diseases before they could collect one government payment. As sickness spread so did the various Indian families who disappeared into the wilderness or buried in Indian cemeteries. These families didn't receive their payments until a census showed where they took up residence.

As for Wabasis he returned to Grand Rapids to pick up his treaty monies each May. Those pesky Blackskins who were always threatening him with death if he left his banishment property weren't very good at watching him only because they were loafers and derelicts, but they were always the first to condemn Wabasis as a traitor and thief.

Yes, Wabasis was the selected one to bring the chiefs money, but it was the Federal government who changed the way the Indians would be paid. The Indian agents didn't allow proxies to pick up payments for other heads of families and neither were Indians who were loafers going to be paid. The government had placed certain standards on the Indians and they were to adhere to the provisions of payment as the treaty stipulated. When Wabasis returned with the money and as Indians appeared for payment, the amount he doled out was far below what they expected.

Those who were disappointed and became irate protested, but Wabasis didn't cave in to their demands. He insisted "That's all there is, there wasn't anymore!" When Wabasis wouldn't capitulate and furnish additional gold coinage, the newly elected Chief Neogamah of the Prairie Village at Plainfield in association with Chief Mucktasha banished Chief Wabasis to live on his 40-acre garden plot at Wabasis Lake for the remainder of his life. They classified him as a scoundrel and thief and should he leave any Indian could kill him wherever he was found. This all happened before 1842.

Wabasis retired to his garden plot and never ventured more than one mile from Wabasis Lake. So instead of confining himself to his property he had access to more than 12 square mile of land or water upon which to bury a 'pot or kettle of gold and silver' where he could save some cash, but this isn't where the bulk of the treasure is hidden. Sure Wabasis always had some coins in his hands or rustled them in his pockets for 24 years, but he never tipped off the Blackskins where it was hidden. The Blackskins in the vicinity were renegades and instead of farming chose to panhandle incoming settlers for food and supplies. Wabasis watched the years pass, the cemetery fires dwindling and, so too, did Indian families trickle by heading towards a reservation at Mt. Pleasant.

A new treaty was signed in 1855 and within the next five years all Indians living north of the Grand River must relocate to a reservation at Mt. Pleasant, Pentwater or Petoskey. This treaty provided for individual Indian occupancy of lands in 4 adjoining townships in Oceana and Mason counties. Single, sole Indians, received 40 acres and heads of families 80 acres. All the Grand River Valley Indians left in 1859. A virtual sea of approximately 3000 Indians went down the Grand River and U.S. government vessels took them up to Pentwater as Wabasis and family stayed encamped on Stephen Towers property until his death. Mucktasha and Neogamah roamed freely and always anticipated that Wabasis would accidentally show them where he hid his pot or kettle of gold and silver and that they'd recover what they thought he was stealing from them. Mucktasha was so lazy he never went to Grand Rapids to get his monies still waiting for him. He always countered he wanted nothing to do with whitemen.

Thousands of Indians left for Pentwater and Petoskey Bay and within two years the Indians on the reservations heard the Civil War had started between the North and South and the U.S. government was seeking Indian fighters. In the deep south the Cherokees of Arkansas were enlisting and word came that some of the Indians old white settler friends living at Prairie Village had enlisted and were seeking Ottawa Indian fighters, since they were accustomed to living with Indians. Area red men and white men joined the Union Army together.

Martin House, the bother of Andrew House enlisted at Grand Rapids and called upon his Ottawa Indian friends to enlist and serve with him in Co. F, 6th Michigan Cavalry, and he was killed at the Battle of the Wilderness in May 1863. Martin was at ease fighting alongside Co. K, which was made up almost entirely of Ottawa Indians from the Petoskey Bay Indian Reservation. Company K's flag in the Capitol in Lansing shows the most tattered of all Michigan military Civil War flags. The screams of Indian fighters (Cherokees and Ottawa Indians) was terrifying to white soldiers as they battled to survive a blazing forest fire. This is where guerilla warfare earned its reputation.

Serj. James Cowan, a friend of Chief Wabasis, who lived about 2 miles west of Wabasis' plot saw the guerilla warfare of area Union Ottawas Indians from Michigan and Cherokee Confederates from Arkansas fight each other through walls of flaming forest fires during the Battle of the Wilderness. Cowan was killed in action May 1864, but in his letters to home he said that Union Indians were buried on the same battlefields together with white men. When he received word that Chief Wabasis was killed off his garden plot he couldn't fathom why Neogamah and Mucktasha could foster so much hatred for such a well respected Indian. Cowan grew up with Wabasis' kids and knew Wabasis as an honest, well respected man. How could so much violence be perpetrated against him from the disbanded renegades living in northeast Oakfield and Greenville areas at a time when the sobs and wailings of grief stricken families could be heard on still nights drifting over the countryside after receiving news from the war department on the loss of sons, grandson's and husband's on distant southern battlefields.

Although forced onto reservations the Michigan Indians fought side-by-side with farming friends and those who once forced them into exile, but who still joined the Union Army. Time was nearing an end for Wabasis. He knew the day would come when if by chance he sneaked away and were found out that he left his farm he could be killed, but he always disappeared into the bush and traveled just out of sight along the Plainfield-Sheridan Indian trail. The days and year slipped away, and he saw the pilgramages of Indians leaving the area and yet over the years he managed to slip away unnoticed to pick up his annuity payments and return unscathed. Surely he could leave now that the Indians had left until one day when Mucktasha appeared and ... that's all for today.

You must read - #131 for Wabasis demise and why the majority of the treasure is outside the Wabasis Lake area. Ponder this statement, "Each family had its own kettle, but Wabasis had two separated by twenty years and within lies two secrets to why the treasure hasn't been found and where you might start your search.

4 comments:

  1. there is sopposed to be a buried or sunken treasure grand river landing near lansing michigan but cant find information on it thanks jon macvean

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  2. Is there any young children who lost their lives on the land by chance? I was camping there last week and thought I say a young shadowy boy in a plaid shirt with suspenders at night??? Just curious

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  3. Plaids shirts have been around since the mid-1700's, but not manufactured in America since before the Civil War. Plaid shirts originate from Welsh and Scotland heritage. Daisy Duke, the bombshell actress in the Dukes of Hazard brought it back in fashion in 1979 and what man could resist any woman who wore it. John Fogerty lead guitarist for the rock & roll group Creedance Clearwater Revival wore his trademark plaid shirts during concerts starting in the mid-1960s. You didn't see a ghost. Can't see ghosts except with infrared photography or sense them with EMF, but reportedly can hear them mumble with sensitive hearing devices. Ghosts and angels move around us - where and at what time is left to their bidding.

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  4. Interesting history. Do you think a pot maybe in the water?

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