Brewett, A Celebrated Miami Chief

A Celebrated Miami Chief

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History of the Indian Tribes of North America, with Biographical Sketches and Anecdotes of the Principal Chiefs . . . By Thomas L. McKenney and James Hall. Philadelphia, F. W. Greenough [etc.] 1838-44.

"This was a young chief of the Miami tribe, more particularly distinguished for the gorgeous decoration of his person and the magnificence of his dress than for any extraordinary endowments of mind or exalted attributes of character as a warrior. He had carefully cultivated a taste for the most fantastic finery in which the younger chiefs of the Miami tribe so enthusiastically delight, and the portrait of this Indian may properly be considered as a fair specimen of the intense interest entertained by compeers of his own rank, for gaudiness of dress, and richness and costliness of apparel.

No modern dandy, fresh from the fashionable tailor's hands and from whom all his graces and greatness are derived, could be more fastidiously particular in his outward adornment, appropriate more pains, or cherish more pleasure in the perfection of his personal appearance than did the young chieftains of this opulent Miami tribe. It is a weakness which not only aboriginal but more civilized men not unfrequently exhibit.

This sketch of his features and form was taken in 1827 at the treaty of Massinnewa, on the Wabash River, when nearly three thousand Indians of the Miami and Pottowattomie tribes had assembled for the avowed purpose of ceding to the government of the United States large portions of their lands.

The commissioners appointed to treat with them were Governor Cass of Mishigan, Governor Ray of Indiana, and General Tipton, then the Indian agent at Fort Wayne but more recently a United States Senator in Congress. On that occasion more than two millions of acres of choice and fertile lands were obtained for a comparatively small consideration, and yet the Indians were apparently satisfied, as it furnished them temporarily with supplies they so much needed and with the means of gratifying a vanity of appearance that their chiefs so sedulously cherished.

The acquisition of those lands by the government was of great importance to them, as by the treaty the Aboriginal owners were removed, and masses of civilized settlers soon substituted in their stead. The likeness of this young chief was not taken on account of any extraordinary qualities he possessed or any brilliant incidents or important events of his life, but purely out of regard to his personal general appearance which was handsome and prepossessing in a pre-eminent degree. This rendered him conspicuous at the treaty ground and captivated the attention of those who were present.

At the treaty he was accompanied by his wife, a young and interesting female who constantly attended him and appeared to entertain for her husband the most ardent affection and the most devoted love. On their first arrival he seemed fully to reciprocate the soft and endearing sentiments of his bride, but, alas, their connubial joys and domestic peace and comfort were ere long destined to be blighted and destroyed by the versatile spirit and unfaithfulness of feeling of the husband.

For before the treaty had been concluded, another beauty had dawned upon his vision and her charms almost effaced from his faithless soul the lovely image of his first wedded wife. He had fixed his affections upon a young Miami squaw whom, according to the laws of polygamy acknowledged by his tribe, he determined to introduce to his house as a second wife. After acquiring information of this, a mighty change was soon perceptible in the interesting countenance of his lately much loved bride, and ere he brought his second wife to his home, his repeated periods of absence, his occasional careless coldness of manner, and the unfeeling reserve with which his replies to her were marked too soon confirmed in her the suspicions her agonized feelings had entertained.

Still, with all a woman's fondness, and with the most endearing smiles and kind attentions, she endeavoured to divert him from his purpose and to win him back to his wonted love to her, but in vain. His hear had wandered from the object it once adored and the more brightly the flame of her affections burned, the more indifferent he became until the dreaded announcement was made to her distracted heart that another wife was to grace her husband's arms, which, like that of Napoleon to Josephine at their separation, carried mildew and misery to her soul. Bursting into tears, she left her house and wended her lonely way into the deep recesses of the forest to weep over the treachery and cruelty of man.

After marrying the second, Brewett apparently divided his care, attention, and affection equally between his wives and seemed in public to esteem them alike, but the smiles that once played so pleasantly on the face of the first loved bride had fled forever, and the broodings of sadness and sorrowful thought had shed their dark umbrage over her beautiful brow. The pangs of disappointed love and blighted hope had deeply entered her soul; she had given her whole heart to her husband and she could not brook a rival in that heart's delight.

The two wives seldom spoke to each other and when they did it was only in monosyllables, evincing that there was no affection between them. The second, however, durst not, either by word, look, or action, give evidence of satisfaction at the triumph she could not otherwise than feel. The grief of the first wife was observed by all for-

She pined in thought,
And with a green and yellow melancholy-
She sat like patience on a monument-
Smiling at grief.

Her heart was too heavy with the weight of its woe for this. At times Brewett would be seen regarding her with a piteous and pained look as if a feeling of remorse had hastened on his soul for his unkind and cruel treatment; his first wife them appeared to him in all her pristine loveliness and worth and with the sweetness of an early love and beaconings of bliss.

On these repentant occasions he would take her hand and fix his dark and piercing though handsome eye on hers as if to read her inmost soul-and so he did. For he met not the soft and tender glance that erst had beamed with love and joy at his gaze, but in its stead a mirror dark and solemn reflecting but too truly the sorrows of the soul within. He fathomed a grief whose fountain knew no change, and then would rush from her presence and endeavour to find relief from the tortures of an upbraiding conscience in the seclusions of retirement and solitude.

In this state matters continued until the close of the treaty, in which in no otherwise was he distinguished with the exception of the pomp he assumed. At the termination of the business that had called the tribes together, he left for his home. The unhappy though handsome Brewett was then seen with his two wives wending his way on horseback along the shores of the rapid Wabash towards his distant wigwam in the wilderness, there to witness the wasting of the flower he had planted in his bosom and which, in a whim of fancy for another, he had plucked and thrown away to die. What was his after-destiny the historian had not been told."

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