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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


May 17, 2003 - Issue 87


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The 1824 Murder of Mr. Finley and Party at Lake Pepin

From the book 'History, Traditions and Adventures in the Chippewa Valley'
By William W. Bartlett
(Chapter 1 - The Sioux-Chippewa Feud - pages 50-52)
credits: submitted by Timm Severud (Ondamitag)

Since the execution of the Indian at Fond du Lac (Lake Superior) in 1797, by the northwestern traders for killing a Canadian 'coureur du bois', the life of a white man had been held sacred by the Ojibways, and one could traverse any portion of their country, in perfect safety, and without the least molestation. In the year 1824, however, four whites were killed by the Ojibways, under circumstances so peculiar as to deserve a brief account.

An Ojibway name Mub-o-beence, or Little Broth, residing on the shores of Lake Superior near the mouth of the Ontonagon River, lost a favorite child through sickness. He was deeply stricken with grief, and nothing would satisfy him but to go and shed the blood of the hereditary enemy of his tribe the Sioux. He raised a small war party, mostly from the Lac du Flambeau district, and they floated down the Chippewa River to its entry, where, for several days they watched without success on the banks of the Mississippi, for the appearance of the enemy. The leader had endured hardships, and came the great distance of five hundred miles leader had endured hardships, and came the great distance of fie hundred miles to shed blood to the manes of his dead child, and long after his fellows had become weary of waiting and watching, and anxious to return home, did he urge them still to continue in their search. He had determined not to return without shedding human blood.

Early one morning, as the warriors lay watching on the shores of Lake Pepin, they saw a boat manned by four white men land near them, and proceed to cook their morning meal. Several of the party approached to strangers and were well received. The white men consisted of Mr. Finely, with three Canadian boatmen, who were under the employ of Mons. Jean Brunet, of Prairie du Chien, and Indian trader. They were proceeding up the Mississippi to Ft. Snelling on some urgent business of their employer, and Mr. Finley had with him a number of account books and valuable papers.

The Brunet mentioned above is the one who later built a trading post on the Chippewa River and after whom Brunet Falls was named.

The assault and massacre of these men was entirely unpremeditated by the Ojibway war part, and contrary to the wishes of the majority. They had paid them their visit and begged some provisions, receiving which, they retired and sat down in group on a bank immediately above them. The leader here commenced to harangue his fellows, expressing a desire to shed the blood of the white men. He was immediately opposed, on which he commenced to talk of the hardships he had endured, the loss of his child, till, becoming excited, he wept with a loud voice, and suddenly taking aim at the group of white men, who were eating their breakfast, he fired and killed one. Eight of his fellows immediately followed his example, and rushing down to the water-side, they quickly dispatched the whole party and tore off their scalps. Taking the effects of the victims, they returned toward home.

At Lac Courte Oreilles, they attempted to dance the scalp dance before the door of J. B. Corbine, the trader, who immediately ran out of the house, and forcibly deprived them of the white men's scalps which they were displaying, ordering them at the same time to depart from his door. The trader was supported by the Indian village, and the murderers now for the first time were beginning to see the consequences of their foolish act, skulked silently away, very much crest fallen.

The remains of the murdered white men were soon discovered, and the news going up and down the river, a boatload of fifty soldiers was sent from Prairie du Chien to pursue the murderers. At Lake Pepin they were met by three boats laden with troops from Ft. Snelling, and the party, including volunteers numbered nearly two hundred men. Mons. Jean Brunet was along, and had been most active in raising this force. They followed the Ojibway war trail for some distance, till, coming to the place where the warriors had hung up their usual thanksgiving sacrifices for a safe return home, a retreat was determined on, as the party had not come prepared to make a long journey, and it was folly to thing of catching the murderers, scattered throughout the vast wilderness, which lay between Lake Superior and the Mississippi.

The matter was subsequently left in the hands of the traders among the Ojibways. Truman A. Warren, the principle trader of the Lac du Flambeau department, demanded the murderers, at the hands of the chiefs of this section of the tribe. The celebrated Keesh-ke-mum had died a short time previous, and had left his eldest son Mons-o-bo-douh to succeed. This man was not a whit behind his father in intelligence and firmness of character. He called a council of his band, and insisted on the chief murderers being given up by their friends. He was opposed in council by a man noted for his ill-temper and savage disposition, who even threatened his life if attempted to carry his wishes into effect. A brother of the man had been one of the ringleaders in the murder and now stud by his side as he delivered his threats against the young chief. As they again resumed their seats, Mons-o-bo-douh arose, drawing his knife, he went an laid hold of the murderer by the arm and intimated to him that he was his prisoner. He then ordered his young men to tie his arms. The order was immediately obeyed, and accomplished without the least resistance from the prisoner or his brother, who was thunderstruck at the cool and determined manner of the chief.

Shortly after, two more of the murderers were taken, and Mons-o-bo-douh delivered them into the hands of the trader. The leader of the party, who lived on the shore of Lake Superior, was secured by Mr. William Holliday, trader at L'Anse Bay. The four captives were sent to Mackinac, and fined to jail. While orders were pending from Washington respecting the matter of their trial, they succeeded in making their escape by cutting an aperture through the logs which formed their place of confinement. They were not recaptured.

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