Monday, September 21, 2015

Legends of Chief Cobmoosa & Pres. A.J. - 24

       Cobmoosa despite being slowed by age took it upon himself to make sure no small skirmishes broke out between Indians or arriving settlers.  He welcomed settlers, farmers, timber spectators, missionaries and priests with firm handshakes, the same as Chief John Wabasis - his foster son.  Chief Wobwindigo was Wabasis' adopted son, but both Cobmoosa and Wabasis were half-breed Indians and eventually son-in-laws of Wobwindigo.  Wabasis married a daughter named Cononama and Cobmoosa married three daughters simultaneously, that is, before becoming a Christian.
       Jean Boshaw of Chief Hazy Cloud village was Cobmoosa's go-between half-breed, too.  He was fast to get to trouble spots. 
       From 1836-1855 many Indians remained and took up farming until Washington decided it was time to settle the Treaty of 1836 for Indian displacement to reservations.  Accordingly all Indians north of the Grand River were given five years to leave, but Cobmoosa wanted to make sure they left around 1858.
       Cobmoosa was 87 years old when he signed his name on the treaty, and yes, indeed he was known as the "Last Ottawa Chief of the Grand and Flat River bands."  No longer could the Indians remain on their birthplace lands or wander as free spirit Ottawas or mixed breeds.  The Indians didn't know what to expect as they traveled to Pentwater, Traverse or Mt. Pleasant reservations.
       Cobmoosa along with other Indians would meet several times at Indian council meeting to discuss departure of the main body and they all agreed it was time to make preparations for departure in the summer of 1858.  Several hundred Indians gathered in Ionia and set off for Detroit to pick up their last annuity payments.  When the men trickled back to Ionia they made hundreds of canoes for passage to Grand Haven then by steamers to Pentwater.
       One day the residents in the Ionia area were getting concerned with the large influx of Indians and were intimidated by the numbers swelling into town.  Fearing an Indian uprising was beginning several residents in town began ringing the church bells that summoned townsmen back from the outside farms.  Ringing church bells meant imminent danger and their families might be in jeopardy and rushed back to town to render aid, but such was not needed.
       When they returned they saw hundreds of Indians trickling into town and found the Indian encampment where the Ionia Free Fair is today getting larger as each day passed.  The bonfires at night cast an orange glow over the Grand River Valley.
       Then one morning Cobmoosa ordered 300 canoes be put in the water and loaded with all the possessions of 800 Indians for the journey to Grand Haven.  Wabasis and his family were not among them - he wouldn't risk loosing his life by leaving his wife.  He feared the renegades were watching so they could collect on his death warrant.  His people left room for Cobmoosa, but he refused to leave with them.  He told his friends and family members he would be along shortly, but he sort of fibbed and was maybe hoping to die so he could be buried in the river valley before he had to walk to the reservation.  Little did they know he wouldn't arrive until 1862. 
       Cobmoosa assured them he made other arrangements and needed time to stay and finish up he still needed to be taken care of.  He told them not to worry.  He did indeed leave and he kept his promise to President James Buchanan and did abide by treaty requirements for resettlement at Pentwater. (continued).

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