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Notes from

"Trail of Death: The story of the forced removal of Potawatomi Indians from Indiana to Kansas in 1838"

Video, 1992, 27 minutes, color. Available from Wayne Harvey Video Publications, South Bend, Indiana, 219-234-5670.

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On this monument (Indian head with bonnet) is the following inscription:

"In memory of Chief Menominee and his band of 859 Potawatomi Indians, removed from the reservation September 4, 1838 by a company of soldiers under General John Tipton authorized by Indiana Governor David Wallace."

Menominee band; walk ended Nov 4, 1838.

Documented through letters of catholic missionary/priest Benjamin Marie Petit and journal written for the government by Jesse C. Douglas. Twin Lakes area of north central Indiana. Fulton County Historical Society, Rochester, Indiana helped reconstruct history. Group of Potawatomis/descendants organized revisitation of route traveled by Menominees in 1838. Monuments were erected by local organizations (e.g., Scouts) along the route tell the tale.

Early accounts describe Potawatomi people as:

  • stocky
  • liked practical jokes
  • women modest
  • most activities (games) had spiritual significance
  • wore hair long except during war when they shaved their head except for a small scalp lock
  • women, single braid down their back; considered tribal historians
  • both made jewelry, excelled in beadwork
  • polygomous, single male marrying two or more sisters
  • cross-cousin marriage encouraged
  • domed wigwams (woven brush); winter more tightly constructed
  • farmed wild rice, maple syrup, corn
  • men expected to develop close relationship with sisters' sons
  • grave a hollowed out tree or four foot grave (illus. low lying box)
  • believed departed soul traveled to the west, assisted by Chibiabos
  • entrance of French: dependance on trade goods enriched and destroyed Potawatomi culture

President Andrew Jackson, second annual message to Congress, Dec 6, 1830: "It gives me great pleasure to announce to congress that the benevolent policy of the government steadily pursued for nearly thirty years in relation to the removal of the Indians beyond the white settlements is approaching to a happy consumation. Two important tribes have accepted to provisions made for the removal at the last session of congress and it is believed their example will induce the remaining tribes also to seek the same obvious advantages. Doubtless, it will be painful to leave the graves of their fathers. But what do they do more than our ancestors did or their children are now doing."

Treaty on banks of Tippecanoe River, In Oct 26, 1832. US reserved 22 sections of Indiana land for Potawatomi bands of Menominee, Natake, Muchke_____ and Papinowe. In 1836 these tribes ceded these lands and promised to move west of Miss, but Chief Menominee refused to sign.

In 1837, a 26 yr old priest B. M. Petit came to work among Potawatomi. Fond remembrances. Tried unsuccessfully to interfere with removal.

After two year limitation, Indiana Governor David Wallace appointed General John Tipton to raise troops to force removal. Because of exaggerated reports of Indian conduct, Tipton easily raised volunteer troops.

Meeting at Menominees in July 1838, Chief again refused to move and said: "The President does not know that your treaty is a lie, that I never signed it. He does not know that you made my young chiefs drunk and got their consent and pretended to get mine. He does not know that I refuse to sell my lands, and still refuse. He would not by force drive me from my home, the graves of my tribes and my children who have gone to the great spirit, nor allow you to tell me your braves will take me, tied like a dog, if he knew the truth. My brother the president is just, but he listens to the words of the young chiefs who have lied, and when he knows the truth he will leave me to my own. I have not sold my lands; I will not sell them. I have not signed any treaty and will not sign any. I am not going to leave my lands and I don't want to hear anything more about it."

Aug 30, 1838, Tipton arrived, gave noticed with volley of shots, took Indians present prisoner, collected others. 839 prepared to depart the next morning. Petit remembrance.

Memonimee refusal, taken captive and put in a caged wagon. "What becomes of him, no one knows."

Before they left, soldiers burned village.

Douglas journal:

  • Sept 4 departed.
  • Sept 5, 51 found unable to continue, child buried.
  • Monument: "In 1838 some 800 Potawatomi Indians, being forcibly removed from Marshall County to Kansas, camped along this road, the LaGrange-Logansport State Road. On this 'trail of death', scores of Native Americans suffered and died. The mother of Chief We-wiss-sa, said to be over 100 years old, died near here on September 12, 1838."
  • Logansport, Sept 6-9, four children died, 300 cases of sickness reported, medical hospital erected. Monument: Potawatomi Encampment Trail of Death. On this site in the fall of 1838 they celebrated a mass, received aid for the sick and buried their dead.
  • Sept 16, Petit rejoins group in Danville on invitation of Gen Tipton. Petit: "when we left Danville, we left behind six graves."
  • Monument: Trail of Death—Pyatt's Point. Sept 21, 1838, about 800 Potawatomi Indians camped at Pyatt's point during a forced march from Twin Lakes, Ind. to the reservation on the Osage River, Kansas. One woman, three children were buried during this stop.
  • Near Illinois river, Petit struck with fever, died in St. Louis on Feb 10, 1839.
  • Monument: Paris, MO, Oct 15.
  • Nov 4, arrived at final destination near Osawatomi, KS.
  • Nov 5, Chief Kapishke: "We have now arrived at our journey's end. The government must now be satisfied. We have been taken from our homes affording us plenty and brought to a desert, a wilderness, and are now scattered and left as a husbandman scatters his seed."

St. Mary's Mission. St. Philippine Duchesne Memorial Park.

Group of Jesuits established Sugar Creek Mission, 1839-1849.

"Of the 859 Potawatomi forced to leave their homes in Indiana, less than 700 arrived in Kansas. They had traveled 618 miles, suffering untold physical and emotional abuse. Over half of those who died where children."

Descendants of Menominee band are in present day Citizens Band and Prairie Band.

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bode'wadmimo speak Potawatomi
mzenegenek books
nizhokmake'wen resources/help
eagle aloft nIshnabe'k The People
Home Page: news & updates
BWAKA - about us

Text and graphics copyright © Smokey McKinney 1997

A Kansas Heritage Group site.