Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Legends of Chief Cobmoosa & Pres. A.J. - 14

        Cobmoosa and Meccissininni were quite different in how they approached the customs of Washington.  Cobmoosa when visiting made no bones about the fact he would always be Indian and dress like an Indian and be nothing less than Indian. 
        Meccissininni was just the opposite. 
        He always tried dressing like the pale faces and went so far to hide his skin.  On the brightest hot summer days it was a strange scene to see an Indian chief walking in Grand Rapids shielding his facial skin from the sun with a raised umbrella.  Tanning skin further he did not like.  You could say he wasn't comfortable in his own skin.
        Meccissininni, the young chief was accompanied to Washington by Rev. Slater, Louis Campau and Rix Robinson, while Cobmoosa helped Chief Wobwindigo.  They all traveled together as did many other chiefs from the whole treaty region.  Tribes in the far north weren't infected with the small pox epidemics, but it sure was running rampant in the Grand River valley and Wobwindigo was suffering from it.  Some Indian statistics say upwards of 4000 had died from 1831-1837.
        Young Chief Mecissininni was about 45 years old, but he knew enough about the white settlers to travel like the white brethren and dress like a pale face.  Gen. Jackson was not impressed with Mecissininni upon their first contact and yet to humor Mecissininni the President had his tailors make him a good suit of clothes and insisted that Mecissininni tell him what kind he would prefer.
        Since "General Jackson was Chief of his people and he was Chief of the red men" it would be he thought appropriate if he had a suit like the General.  It was a black frock coat, black satin vest, black pantaloons, silk stockings, and pumps; but the best was what Gen. Jackson wore at the time.  A white bell-crowned hat with a weed on it.  What Mecissininni didn't understand was Jackson was in mourning after the death of his wife.  The weed was a badge of mourning and Meccissininni placed one on his hat which Gen. Jackson and his entire Cabinet were not amused.
        Meccissininni wore his outfit home and wherever he went he was delighted with the warm receptions he received in different cities on his return home.  Jackson held his tongue and the initial Treaty of 1836 was signed.  Gen. Jackson had made plans for the event the Chiefs did not sign in Washington  - they'd be arrested taken by military escort to the reservations.  Those who didn't sign would never return to their villages to stir up trouble with settlers.
        When Meccissininni returned home to his village, the Indian council met to hear the specifics of the treaty where this new eloquent orator gave his assessment of the treaty.  Washington purchased the land and they were to remove west of the Mississippi River what he thought would be a certain amount of years; (Congress forgot to add a removal date on the treaty) where new land would be given to them on reservations.  Several other Chiefs balked and didn't like this arrangement and were opposed to leaving the lands of their fathers.  Meccissininni then delivered his most eloquent speech in support of it as did Cobmoosa, Wabasis and Chief Wobwindigo.
        In his remarks Meccissininni said he would rather like to remain here and be buried where his forefathers were buried.  His people would fair better if he went west of the Mississippi with them so they wouldn't become treated poorly because of association with pale faces.
        In 1841 Mecissininni was invited to a Fourth of July celebration and after an oration he was called upon to toast the day and said, "The pale faces and the red men - the former a great nation, and the latter the remnants of a great people; may they ever meet in unity together, and celebrate this great day as a band of brothers."
        A time later Meccissininni  bartered for some goods at a provisional store on the west side of the Grand River near where the old ferry crossed.  He asked for credit and would pay at the next annuity payment.  After the next payment time the Chief stopped to settle his bill.  He told the grocer he must put up a paper, send it to his home, and he would pay it.  He wanted to do business like white people.
        The grocer made out his bill and appeared at the Chief's house.  He was ushered in with all politeness imaginable and the bill was paid, but he told the grocer he want a receipt.  The grocer showed him his presents and while doing so Mecissininni donned his suit which Gen. Jackson had presented him, then brushed his hair back and began imitating the walk of Gen. Jackson and took long strides back and forth across the room.  He then stepped short and quick to imitate Vice-President Martin Van Buren.  After watching this for an hour he pleasantly left and Meccissininni gave him a polite invitation to call again.  The President and Washington's atmosphere had impressed the Chief. (continued).

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