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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


February 22, 2003 - Issue 81


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An Old Indian Chief

A newspaper article from the Milwaukee Sentinel - August 8, 1895
credits: submitted by Timm Severud (Ondamitag)

Little Pipe Now Said to be in His 108th Year
His Ancestors Killed In Deadly Indian Feuds
Now a Poor Farmer he Regretfully Regales the Past Glories of His Race - Stories are told of his Prowess, His Scrupulous Honesty and His Ability to Repeat and Imposition.

Chief Little PipeCUMBERLAND, Wis. Aug. 8 - Probably the most remarkable Indian character in northwestern Wisconsin in the present time is an old Chippewa Chief, generally known as "Little Pipe". His age is not definitely known, but according to the best information obtainable, Chief Little Pipe is now in his 108th year. He is still in robust health, and stands six feet tall, is very erect, weighs 180 lbs. and is robust as a roebuck. He is known to have resided in this region for the past seventy years, and through tradition tell us that previous to 1825 his hunting grounds were near Fairbault, Minnesota, yet the Indian records of the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation would indicate that he was born in northwestern Wisconsin about the year 1788. His mother died at this reservation two years ago, age 120 years. She had visited her son many times, and from her it was learned that Chief Little Pipe is the oldest son in an illustrious family, whose real name is 'Wyaquagezik', in English 'Head Cloud'. The name of Little Pipe or Bunga Pewaggan in Chippewa originated among the fur traders in northwestern Wisconsin who called the young brave's father 'Big Pipe' on account of the big pipe he smoked. The boy was called Little Pipe to distinguish him from his father and the name has since adhered to him.

From the musty records and legends of the Chippewas we learn that young Wyaquagezik was very early made the chief and medicine man of a branch of the Chippewas who inhabit the region drained by the headwaters of the St. Croix River. It appears that Chief White was the head of a similar band of the Chippewas inhabiting land further east, and the honors of chieftain, which he bore, were coveted by an ambitious brave named Pequet. About eight years ago, during an annual dance near Red Cedar Lake. Pequet entered Chief White's tent at the dead of night and burying his hunting knife in the old chief's bosom, sending him to the happy hunting grounds. John White the old Chief's son hearing a disturbance, and being anxious about his father's safety, got up and started towards his father's tent. He was met on the way by Pequet who immediately drew up his rifle and shot him dead. Now through this the mantle of the worthy old chief's power fell on Pequet's shoulders. He soon discovered that 'uneasy lies the head that wear's the crown," for he knew well that the old chief's youngest son, Joe White, sought revenge upon him and his life was in constant danger. Joe watched his chance and before many years passed the usurper Pequet was no more. It will be remembered that Joe White met a similar fate at the hands of Game Wardens Martin and Hicks, who were tried for his murder at Shell Lake some months ago, and acquitted. Thus the honors of the chieftainship of the branch of the Chippewa fell upon Wyaquagezik, or Little Pipe who was next of kin to both White and Pequet.

Dennis Kirby, a Frenchman now residing in this vicinity, was one of the first white men to penetrate the wilderness, which is now Barron, Burnett, Polk and Washburn counties. He came here forty years ago and tells weird stories about the Indians. He says that Chief Wyaquagezik was then the same in appearance as he is today, and that he was feared and respected by Indians far and wide. He was then monarch of all he surveyed and his word was law with the red man. He was the central figure at the war dances and he gloried of his own undisputed power. Mr. Kirby says his given name was Pogenish and he collaborates the legendary history above related. He says that in the 1850s game was very plentiful in this territory and Chief Wyaquagezik had plenty of money. He was a noted hunter and trapper and he rode a canoe and speared fish with wonderful dexterity. As recent as the winter of 1878-9 the old chief killed 18 bears and sold the meat and skins to the loggers for a good price, which he invested in three tracts of land, which he still owns.

Many interesting stories are told in which Chief Wyaquagezik figured conspicuously. The following anecdote, which illustrates the resentful nature of the Indian, is told at the expense of ex-Mayor, James Bracklin of Rice Lake. About thirty years ago, when Mr. Bracklin was foreman of the drive on the Menomonie (Red Cedar) River, for the Knapp, Stout & Company of Menomonie, old Chief Wyaquagezik came to the camp to buy a paper of saleratus*. Mr. Bracklin, bent on a little fun, emptied out the saleratus and put flour in the paper and sold it to poor 'Lo' for 25 cents. Not many days after, the old chief brought to the camp a thirty pound pickerel and wanted to trade it for meat and flour. Mr. Bracklin gave him a good trade, thinking he would treat his crew to a rarity, but no sooner had the old Indian disappeared with his booty than the cook announced that the fish was a floater, and decayed and had been dead for many days. It was a frosty morning and the fraud had not been detected, and the old chief got his revenge, greatly to the delight of the woodsmen.

During the winter of 1873-4 Thomas Lawler, now of Menomonie, then one of the Knapp, Stout & Company's foremen in their logging operations near Granite Lake in this County, ran a notable race on snow shoes with Chief Wyaquagezik, which will never be forgotten by the army of woodsmen who witnessed it. Lawler was a famous snowshoe runner and frequently boasted about his skill. It was some how leaked out that the old chief's early training on snowshoes had not been neglected, and the boys were determined to have some fun. With each man being confident of his ability to outstrip the wind, a contest was easily arranged. Lawler put up a quantity of tobacco as a forfeit in case he should be beaten, and the race came off according to advertisement. The distance run was eighty rods and when Chief Wyaquagezik reached his goal, Lawler was about sixty rods out. He surrendered his belt to the old chief amid a demonstration that would have done credit to a modern football victory.

Old hunters and loggers claim that many years ago Chief Wyaquagezik was the best shot with a rifle in the state and they often tell the story this way - S.P. Barker once secured a wild goose for his dinner. Mr. Barker had a trading post in the southern part of the county in early times, traded with the Indians for furs, ginseng berries, etc. Wyaquagezik came into the post one day with a big bundle of beaver pelts, at a time when numerous flocks of wild geese were flying over. Mr. B. said to a bystander, "Now we will see if Wyaquagezik is as sure a shot with a rifle as they say he is. There comes a comes a flock flying high." Then turning to the chief said, "I want that big gander in the lead of the flock for my dinner. I want the head snipped off: don't shoot him through the body and spoil the meat, or I will not have it. Here is a $10 greenback if you do a good job." He held the bill so the Indian could see he meant business, at the same time slyly winking at the crowd. The old chief seized his gun, took deliberate aim, and Mr. Barker had the 'big gander' minus the 'top of its head' for dinner. The Indian tucked the X in his belt and went on his way, while Sam remarked to the boys, 'I swear, this is a fine 25 pound goose, but $10 is a powerful high price for it after all.' During the winter of 71 Wyaquagezik killed a pair of moose on the west bank of Vermillion Lake on land now occupied by John Fahlstrom as a farm. These were the last moose ever killed in Barron County.

As a rule, it may be said that Chief Wyaquagezik is strictly honest and reliable and a man of his word. Though now in poor circumstances he can borrow money wherever he is known, and so sacred does he regard his honor that he never fails to return the money on the day named.

The wife of this venerable old chief is still living at the age of 85 years and they have one son and seven daughters, two of the latter being wives of well to do farmers of this township. The old chief and his squaw still prefer to live alone in a primitive lodge about four miles from this city on the shore of Beaver Dam Lake and surrounded by timber. Wyaquagezik still hunts and fishes and still frequently comes to town to barter game for provisions. He is welcomed in nearly every house in town, where he feels at liberty to entry without ceremony. People are very kind and generous to him, but he evidently depreciates the advent of civilization and the decline of the red man's glory. It has vanished before the snorting locomotive, the screeching sawmill, and the more diligent and less chivalric white man.

There is a degree of pathos in the fading glory of the Indian chief, which is nowhere more forcibly illustrated than in the case of Chief Wyaquagezik, whose career has been an illustrious one and whose waning course reminds us that, 'slowly and sadly poor Indian climbs the distant mountain and reads his doom in the setting sun.'


* editor's note: saleratus - n. sodium bicarbonate; baking soda

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