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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html


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Chapter II. — Inter-epochal History of the Lake Tribes, and of the Expulsion of Indians who Preceded the Algonquins.

PRIOR to the flight of the Wyandots from the St. Lawrence, a nation, of Algonquin lineage, called by old writers Utawawas, and Atawawas, and by modern ones, Odawas, and Ottawas, resided on the chain of islands, in Lake Huron, called Manatoulines, or Islands of the Great Spirit. Portions of this nation participated in the early wars in Lower Canada, and were taught the truths of the Christian religion by the missionaries. The parent tribe had, for a long period, dwelt on the islands of the Great Spirit, and the lake itself was, in consequence, called Odawa lake. At the same period, another leading tribe, of adverse lineage, called the Assegun, or Bone, Indians, resided on the upper parts of the lake. Their council fire and tribal seat were established on the island of Michilimackinac. They occupied Point St. Ignace, and also the north shores of the lake, as low down as the influx of the St. Mary's river; and they likewise extended their possessions westward and northward along the shores and islands of Lake Michigan.

To their position on the Manitoulines, the Ottawas refer, as the oldest traditional point in their history. Personal bravery, united with the power of performing miraculous or extraordinary feats, through the influence of necromancy, were the great objects of attainment, and formed a theme for boasting among their heroes. The origin of the tribe they attribute to a renowned personage, whom they called Sagirna. Sagima had been celebrated, during his prime, for deeds of prowess and wisdom, and for his great spiritual power. But he was now tottering under the weight of accumulated years; his brethren had classed him as an Akiwazi, or one long above ground; and he was soon destined to take his long anticipated journey to the symbolical land of the dead, or Indian paradise. Sagima resided with his wife, and had four sons, namely, Wau-be-nace, Wauba, Gitchey Wedau, and the youngest, named after himself, Sagima. It is of the feats of the latter, who was the favorite son, that tradition speaks; for he was not only the pride of his parents, but was also endowed with all the intrepidity, wisdom, and magical power of his father. In his youth, he was noted for his eccentricities, and fool-hardy exploits; when he reached the period of manhood, he evinced great powers of endurance, frequently fasting ten days, and,

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after tasting a little food, again renewing his fast; and, when his future guardian spirit was revealed to him, it was the Great Serpent, or Gitchie Kinabik, who lives under the ground and water.

At this time, the Asseguns began to trespass on the territory of the Manatoulines, and killed some of their people. A war with this tribe was the result. Accompanying the warriors, at first as a young volunteer, and concealing the great powers he felt conscious of possessing, Sagima performed feats which drew all eyes upon him. He soon became an efficient warrior, and, in the end, the deliverer of his country. In this contest, the Manatoulines were aided by the Odjibwas, or Chippewas of English history. The first great battle with the Bone Indians, was fought on the peninsula, called by the French, Detour. Sagima then pursued his enemies westward to their entrenchments, on the north shore, near some mounds and bivouacks, the remains of which are still to be seen, northward of St. Ignace. From this position he dislodged them, and took possession of the territory up to Point St. Ignace, where the war terminated, and the Asseguns, crossing the strait to the headland, called Piqutinong, the locality where
old Fort Michilimackinac was subsequently built by the French, there formed a village. Having conquered the country of St. Ignace, the Odawas gradually withdrew from the Manatoulines, and located their tribal seat at St. Ignace. The following spring, the Asseguns crossed over and killed an Ottawa woman, who was planting corn. Sagima raised a war party, and crossed the strait to the Assegun village, which was found to contain only old men, women, and children, the warriors having gone up the Sheboigan, a river ten miles to the eastward. Sagima followed their trail, discovered their canoes hid in the overhanging bushes, and waylaid them in a shallow, sandy bay. The returning Asseguns were attacked at a disadvantage, and a dreadful massacre followed.

After this defeat, the Asseguns fled to the eastern shores of Lake Michigan; but they were finally pursued south to the banks of the Washtenau, called by the French, Grand river. This formed the limit of the Ottawa conquests, and thence they returned to their tribal seat at St. Ignace. The Chippewas, who had been their confederates in this war, settled on Grand Traverse Bay, and at some other locations to the westward, where the two tribes still reside in intercalated villages.

During the prosecution of this war, on the shores of Lake Michigan, the Ottawas and Chippewas became involved in a quarrel with a tribe called, by early writers, Mascoutins, a term, apparently, derived from the phrase Mush-co-dains-ug, or Little Prairie Indians. These Indians appear to have allied themselves with the Bone Indians. Chusco, an aged Ottawa, conversant with their traditions, attributes to them the old cleared fields, and the mounds on the Michigan coast, particularly those on Grand river. 254 From this period the Asseguns and Mascoutins were confederates. The Ottawas and Chippewas, as soon as practicable, pursued them beyond Washtenau river to Chicago, whence they

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fled towards the south and west; hence, no further trace of them can be found in the Indian traditions. 255

In an official report of the Indian tribes, made to the government of Canada, in 1736, the Mascoutins are designated as occupying the locality south of Green Bay, and are rated at eighty warriors, which would indicate a population of 400 souls. Bouquet and Hutchins, in their tables, formed in 1764, report them as occupying the same locality, and state their numbers at 500. 256 Modern estimates make no mention of the tribe. In traits and habits, the Mascoutins closely resembled the Kickapoos, and they may possibly have been absorbed in that very nomadic, prairie-loving tribe.

Regarding the Asseguns, referred to in their traditions, as the predecessors of the Algonquins on the upper waters of Lake Huron, it would be hazardous to offer any conjecture, except it be founded on philology, their name appearing to assimilate with the French term, Osages, and they being evidently of the Dakotah or Iroquois stock.

To the events preceding the Assegun wars, we can add no chronology. It seems certain that they occurred prior to the flight of the Wyandots to the lakes, in 1649; for when, in this year, the latter reached the Manatouline group, they found it vacated by the Ottawas, and located their residence on it; hence, as before mentioned, the lake received the name of Huron. Having been allies of the Ottawas, and other Algonquins in the St. Lawrence valley, they were welcomed as friends. Their residence on the island of Michilimackinac, under Adario, in 1688, is mentioned by all the early writers; and, although they were obliged, for a time, to take shelter among the Chippewas of Lake Superior, the growth of the French colony of Detroit enabled the latter to invite them to locate themselves in that vicinity, where, for so long a period, they have occupied a conspicuous place, as the umpire tribe.

By this transfer of the Wyandots to the Lakes, the Algonquin tribes were, in reality, strengthened; for they came thither as friends. By the prior expulsion of the Asseguns and Mascoutins, the wide lake basins had been cleared of all tribes who were adverse to their rule; and they had secured the free use of their lakes, as well as of their hunting grounds. They now began fearlessly to cross the broad waters in their canoes, and soon felt themselves established in the magnificent geographical empire of the great lakes. From the northern limits of Lake Huron, through the straits of St. Mary to Lake Superior, and from Michilimackinac, around the far-spreading shores of Lakes Huron and Michigan, thence, eastwardly to Detroit, and southwardly to the Ohio, there were no languages spoken but those which were derived, more or less recently, from the Algonquin. This generic language was of mild and easy utterance, and possessed a full vocabulary, containing but few sounds not readily enunciated by either the French or the English. The members of these tribes were people of good stature, and pleasing

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manners, who readily adopted European modes of conducting their traffic, and of transacting business. They borrowed from the French the complimentary term, Bon jour, on meeting, having, in their own language, no equivalent for that of good-day. If we consider the Algonquin group, which extended south from the site of Chicago to Kaskaskia, and the junction of the Ohio, and north to the Crees, or Kelistenos, of the Lake of the Woods, we find a singular agreement of character. There was no tribe, in all the broad expanse of country named, which did not, with equal ardor, recognise the French manners as the type of civilization and religion.

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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=schoolcraft6.html
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