Lake Maxinkuckee Its Intrigue History & Genealogy Culver, Marshall, Indiana

Nees-wau-gee The Indian Chief  

A Dead Indian Chief.
A Dead Indian Chief, Aubbeenaubbee.

Among the very first things the writer of this remembers was going to this village, or near it, to see the temporary burial place of an Indian chief. That region of country was at that time an unbroken wilderness. The Indian had been killed in a fracas with one of his tribe, and before burying him permanently his relatives and associates had fixed him up in his finest clothing, with a headdress gaily ornamented with colored feathers, and his face painted yellow, red and black. He was placed against a large tree in a sitting posture, and around him was built "a large pen made of poles, the space between the poles being sufficiently wide to permit a perfect view of the "good Indian" therein! A great many trinkets of various kinds were placed around him, and be sat there, grim and ghastly, tomahawk in hand, as if waiting the approach an expected enemy!

The Good Nees-wau-gee.

This good old Indian chief, Nees-wau-gee, was the friend of all the early white settlers, and, while he remained, frequently visited and became much attached to many of them. He took a fancy to, and formed a warm attachment for a sprightly young man of the neighborhood, just then in his teens, but long since passed over into the "happy hunting grounds." The old chief had a charming daughter about the age of 'the young man, and from his actions it was clear that he would not have objected to a match between them. He took the young man with him on one occasion, introduced him to his dat1ghter, and had his French cook prepare an extra meal in his honor. The table was furnished with dishes made of silver worth many hundred dollars, and the bill of tare was elaborate and delicious. The young man was seated by the side of the charming young squaw, and after saying grace in his peculiar way, the chief, turning his visitor, said, laughingly: "Maybe so you want a wife ?" About that time there was a good deal of blushing, and hemming and hawing," and it is quite probable, if there had been a hole down through the floor of the cabin sufficiently large, the young man would have suddenly crawled out and run home for dear life! At that time he was inexperienced in the mysteries of courtship (something which, however, he learned later on), and. knowing little about Indian customs, he did not know but the old chief had inveigled him into his tent under the guise of friendship for the purpose of compelling him to marry his daughter, nolens volens. But other topics of conversation were introduced, and the subject dropped, much to the relief of the blushing young couple. When the young man was ready to return home the chief presented him with two sacks, containing saddles of venison, squirrels, pheasants, ducks and fish, as an evidence of good will; and as he mounted his horse, the entire family assembled to bid him goodbye. About a year from that time the good old chief disposed of his reservation to the government, and with his little band started west to the reservation provided for them.

At the council in July 1837 at Lake Kee-wau-nay (now Lake Bruce) he gave a heart- rending speech on why the Indians did not want to go west. The artist George Winter attended this council in 1837 and sketched him, spelling his name as Nas-waw-kay .
    “Now Father, everything I say comes from the heart. We wish our money to be paid here not west of the Mississippi. You have been speaking of our miseries and wretchedness. Your counsels have brought these miseries on us. By your advice the very lands on which we expected to terminate our existence have been sold from us.

    “Father, we do not see why it is that we should be requested to go west and live long. Man’s life is uncertain, and ere we reach that country, death may overtake us. I see not how our natural existence should be prolonged by going west. ..”

This picture was painted by George Winter after he attended the treaty council at Lake Kee-wau-nay (now Lake Bruce) in 1837 in Fulton County, Indiana. The three Potawatomi chiefs are I-o-wah, Nas-wau-kee, an Mes-quaw-buck with the pierced nose. Nas-wau-kee wore this white counterpane coat when speaking at the treaty council. Winter sold paintings which have ended up at museums across America. This oil painting was presented to the Wisconsin Historical Society by Edward P. Hamilton of Two Rivers, Wis., as part of the collection of his father, Henry P. Hamilton. Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Historical Society, image ID 2975.

Nees-wau-gee was a quiet, peaceable chief, and made friends with all the white settlers in all the region round about. When the time came to leave he was determined to go peaceably, as he had agreed he would. ' In August 1837, the day before he started he sent word to all the white settlers to come to his village as he wished to bid them farewell. A large number assembled and through an interpreter he said substantially:

    "My White Brethren: I have called you here to bid you farewell. Myself and my band start at sunrise tomorrow morning to remove to an unknown country the government of the United States has provided for us west of the Missouri river. I have sold my lands to the government and we agreed to leave within two years. That time is about to expire and according to the agreement we have made we must leave you and the scenes are and dear to all of us. The government has treated us fairly, and it is our duty to live up to that contract by doing as we agreed, and so we must go. The white settlers here have been good and kind to us, and in leaving them it seems like severing the ties of our own kindred and friends. We go away and may never return, but wherever we may be- wherever our lot in life may be cast we shall always remember you with sincere respect and esteem.
The old chief was visibly affected, and tears were seen to flow from his eyes. All the people present took him by the hand and bade him a final adieu as well as most of the members of his band. Early the next morning, with their personal effects packed on their ponies, they marched away in single file, following the Indian trail along the east shore to the south end of Maxinkuckee lake, thence southwest to Chief Kee-wau-nay’s village (Kewanna), and on to Logansport where they joined the other bands and immediately proceeded on their long and wearisome journey westward to Kansas. The removal was called an emigration by the U.S. government and began Aug. 23, 1837, led by George Proffit. On the trip Proffit recorded that Nas-waw-kay was sick with cholera for three days. The group of 47 Potawatomi arrived in Kansas Oct. 23.

Nas-waw-gee called for a priest so Father Christian Hoecken came and established St. Mary’s Mission at Sugar Creek, where the Potawatomi lived until 1848-49. His name is carved on a historical marker at Sugar Creek as Nesfwawke. His name is not found in the Sugar Creek burial records 1838-1849 but three pages are missing.

His name is spelled several different ways - Six treaties have Nas-wau-kee’s name spelled several different ways, which he signed with an X. Winter spelled it several ways, mostly Nas-waw-kay but also Knas-waw-kay. The family prefers the spelling Nas-wau-kee. The spellings of American Indian names in historic documents usually have hyphens. -
  • He signed the treaty of 1826 with his name spelled Nasawauka.
  • His name was spelled Nas-wau-kee (Nees-Waugh-Gee, Nees-wau-gee) within the treaty of October 26, 1832, but as Nas-waw-kee in the signature line at the end of the treaty.
  • The next day, Oct. 27, 1832, he was given one section of land and his name was spelled Nas-wau-kee.
  • He signed three treaties in 1836: his name was spelled Nas-waw-kee on April 22 and Nas-waw-kay on August 5.
  • At the treaty of Sept. 23, 1836, the name Nas-waw-ray was spelled yet another way.

Among other notable facts about Nees-wau-gee (sometimes spelled "Knee-swau-gee," "Nas-waw-kay," and other spellings), he was selected by the Potowatomie as their chief orator during the Council of Kewannee in 1836, which took place at today's Bruce Lake, between Logansport and Lake Maxinkuckee. At the time, the Indian village on that lake was Chief Kewannee's.

Artist George Winter attended the Council of Kewannee and heard Nees-Wau-Gee speak. He wrote:
    “Nas-waw-Kay… is dressed in a white counterpane coat with cape. His figure was erect --- though an elderly man. His complexion very dark. Hair longer than the Indians generally wear it. It fell in flowing locks over shoulder…His appearance was very striking and imposing. chief_knee_swau_gee.jpg
    “Before speaking was commenced, Nas waky and the principal chiefs left their position, and advanced to Col. Pepper… with a belt or wampum and shook the Officials by the hand. I was honored with the same courtesy, being among them. “…Nas-waw-kay advanced and delivered…his reply (to Col. Pepper’s speech). Every time the speaker made a statement that they wished to be impressed upon the (government) agents’ minds, the aboriginal gutteral exclamation was given. Sometimes one of the Indians would back up the utterance by exclaiming ‘eque in’ (That is so). “The harrangue was interesting. Nas waw kay’s manner was emphatic. At times very graceful. His speech was NOT favorable to the wishes of Co. Pepper. The Col. assured me that it was truly quite a diplomatic effort.”

Family connections

Nas-wau-kee had at least two daughters. One was married to Joseph Barron in 1837, as mentioned by George Winter at the Lake Kee-wau-nay council. His other daughter was married in January 1838 at Sugar Creek by Father Hoecken, the missionary who ministered to and worked with the Potawatomi from Indiana. He came to Sugar Creek at the request of Nas-wau-kee and married Nas-wau-kee’s daughters.

Nas-wau-kee had a maternal niece named Togah or Dogah (spelled Doga by George Winter), who received rights to a reservation in the October 27, 1832, treaty. (The treaty was held at the Tippecanoe River north of Rochester, Indiana.) Article III of the 1832 treaty says “To To-gah, a Potawatomi woman, one quarter section.” It is reported that Togah was cheated out of her reserve, and the government sold her land to white people when the land patent was pending. Her maternal nephew was Michale Edwards of Oklahoma, great- great- grandfather, Thomas Wezoo aka Wesaw. He sought to right this grievous wrong but was never able to do so in his lifetime.

Nas-wau-kee also had two nephews. M’joquis and Iowa (also spelled I-o-wah). You can read more about Doga, M’joquis and Iowa in the George Winter journals. Winter painted portraits of Iowa and Nas-wau-kee as they were considered headmen and chiefs of the Wabash Potawatomi.

Nas-wau-kee had a brother, Quash-qua, who also received a reservation in the October 26, 1832, treaty negotiations and was located at Lake Maxinkuckee beside Nas-wau-kee’s reservation.

Nas-wau-kee’s sister was married to Chief Aubbeenaubbee who negotiated the October 26 and 27, 1832, treaties. He was awarded 36 sections of land at this treaty on October 26 and 10 sections October 27, equaling 46 square miles, making him the biggest landowner in several counties.

The Mackety family descends from Nas-wau-kee and Dogah through Thomas Wezoo (Wesaw). His Civil War record states he was born Thomas Wesaw. His name likely migrated to “Wezoo” from his association with Wezo Motay Wesaw, an ancestor. Thomas Wezoo is the father of Elizabeth Wezoo, who married Albert Mackety. Albert Mackety was the early 1900s leader of the Nottawaseppi Huron Potawatomi band located at Athens, Michigan. - - Chief Nas-wau-kee Family Honored By Shirley Willard, Fulton County Historian

NOTE: Michale Edwards of Oklahoma attended the dedication of the Chief Nas-wau-kee historical marker at Culver in 2011.

HISTORY OF MARSHALL COUNTY 1908 BY Daniel McDonald pg. 7 & 8

An Early History of Lake Maxinkuckee (1905, Levey Bros. & Co. Indianapolis) Daniel Mc Donald, Maxinkuckee Lake Assoc. pg. 16 & 17

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