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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


April 5, 2003 - Issue 84


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Indian Chief Recalls Days When Superior Was Scene of Bloody Battles

FROM: Superior Telegram - February 17, 1915
credits: submitted by Timm Severud (Ondamitag)

Indian Chief Recalls Days When Superior Was Scene of Bloody Battles Between Red Warriors

An Indian who visited the site of Superior before the white man came and when it was the battlefield and hunting ground of the tribes which then inhabited this region is in Superior today in company with the special Indian commission which is investigating the rights of the claimants to shares in the funds of the La Pointe Chippewa tribe. Chief Blackbird, had of the La Pointe band of Chippewas is the man in question. According to his reckoning he is 79 years old.

Chief Blackbird was interviewed at the Hotel Superior by a Telegram reporter this morning. As the chief speaks no English and the reporter is not versed in the Chippewa dialect, the interview was carried on with the aid of Dr. W.M. Wooster, a member of the commission, and one of the Indians with the party who acted as interpreter.

"I came here first with the chiefs when I was a little boy, so high (designating his height with one hand) to attend a council of all the Indians around here called to consider the plan to have the Indians further west," said the chief. The council was held shortly after the signing of the Treaty of 1842 by which the Indians ceded Superior and the surrounding territory to the Federal government. Indian Commissioner Rice represented the government at the council.

"There were Indians living all around this country, but the only village near where Superior is now was at the entry to the harbor," went on Blackbird. "What is now the heart of the city then was covered with scrubby Norway pine trees and much of it was swamp."

Scene of Bloody Battles
According to Chief Blackbird, Superior was the scene of many bloody battles in the early days, especially fights between the Chippewa and the Sioux tribes, which then disputed the ownership of the territory between the Mississippi River and Ashland. At one time the Sioux succeeded in driving the Chippewas as far east as the Apostle Islands, the Chippewas taking refuge on Madeline Island. Later, after the Chippewa's recovered their strength, they rallied and drove the Sioux back across the Mississippi River, which they never crossed again. A big battle here in which several hundred Indians participated, took place about 1860, according to Chief Blackbird.

Shortly after the big fight there was a small battle between the tribes, where Spooner is now located. A band of Chippewa hunters had gone on an expedition as far west as the Mississippi River where they were discovered by the Sioux who raised a band of warriors and pursued them, catching up with them near Spooner where a severe engagement took place.

Chief Blackbird did not participate in this particular fight but was on the band of Chippewas, which hastened to reinforce the band at Spooner and aided in driving the Sioux back across the Mississippi.

Blackbird is the son of a chief of the same name, who was chief herald to the famous Chief Buffalo, head of all the Chippewas at the time of the Treaty of 1854. Chief Buffalo, himself, was a half-breed, being the son of old Chief Buffalo and a young English woman who was captured by the Indians in one of their raids on the white settlements. This raid was followed the outbreak of an epidemic among the Indians, which caused the death of many women. Unable to get wives among their own people some of the young Chippewas invaded the white settlements and captured half a dozen white girls. This occurred about 1800 according to Chief Blackbird.

At his home at Odanah, Chief Blackbird has a big British flag, which was presented to his father by British authorities in Canada, when old Chief Blackbird and a number of others visited there. This visit is believed to have taken place about the time of the war of 1812. Dr. Wooster, one of the commissioners, tells how this old British flag, together with an American flag, was carried at the head of a procession of Indians at Odanah last September.

The chief saw his first railroad train 54 years ago when he walked from Ashland to the Fox River, then the terminus of the Wisconsin Central. From there he took the train to Washington. He has visited the capital several times since.

A painting of the Rocky Mountains hanging in the Hotel Superior lobby interested the chief greatly. Through an interpreter he asked Dr. Wooster whether the Rockies were bigger than the Allegheny Mountains, which he had seen a number of times. When he was informed that they were hundreds of times larger, he expressed a wish to see them before he died.

"But the Sioux live out there," said Dr. Wooster.

"I am not afraid of the Sioux," remarked the Chief briefly in his native dialect, drawing himself up to his full height.

Chief Blackbird has promised D.F. Barry, Superior's well known photographer of famous Indians, that he will sit for a picture before he returns to Odanah. He has also expressed a desire to see Mr. Barry's collection of Indian relics.

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