Kaa Nun Der Waaguinse Zoo, The Berry Picker, A Famous Chippewa Chief

Kaa Nun Der Waaguinse Zoo
The Berry Picker
A Famous Chippewa 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.

"The spot where this chief resides is nearly two hundred miles from the northwestern part of Fond du Lac, on the extreme verge of Lake Superior in North America. His father, whose name was Men-dow-min, or the Corn, married the daughter of Me-no-quet, another member of the same tribe.

The Berry Picker was the eldest of three children and at an early age evinced a savage and morose disposition. His father, in order to curb his temper, often refused or neglected to take him either to the war or hunting excursions in which he was engaged; but at the age of fifteen, the youth, unwilling to be restrained, actually forced his way into the camp of the enemy, unknown to his father, who was then on his return from the engagement bearing a scalp.

The following incident relating to this chief occurred at a very early period of his life and at the same time evinces, in some measure, the system usually adopted by the Indians in training their children by inuring them to hardships and enabling them to endure pain or torture without grief or murmurs.

An English gentleman travelling through the Indian country, and being overtaken by a storm, stopped with his interpreter for shelter at the wigwam of Men-dow-min. Seated in a circle around the fire along with the proprietor of the hut were several other chiefs engaged in smoking with two squaws and three or four children, which party was joined by the traveller and his interpreter, who were anxious spectators of whatever occurred.

The Berry Picker, who was then but three years old, in his juvenile play stumbled over the stranger's foot, and falling towards the fire, burnt his finger slightly. Upon his crying out on account of the pain his father endeavored, but unsuccessfully, to soothe and quiet him when, to the astonishment of the Englishman, he thrust his own finger into the embers and holding it to the child said, "See, my child, I do not cry — it is not brave to cry — be a chief as your father; see, he does not cry."

This practical example appeared to have its required effect even with this child of tender age, as instantly his weeping ceased and his lips were closed, and he looked up into the face of his sire with even more than his usual boldness. In his after-life it appeared as if this incident had not been lost in the formation of his character, as a more determined and desperate man never encountered danger nor braved a foe.

In the year 1825 he was present at the great council at Prairie du Chien where, although the presence of commissioners and the United States' troops prevented him from exercising his malignant feelings toward the Sioux and other tribes with whom he was at variance in acts of open hostility, he never failed to take every occasion which opportunities presented to show his animosity.

Another incident which exhibits in a very strong manner the marked ferocity and malignity of his character, and in which the life of a distinguished and talented citizen of the United States might have been sacrificed, occurred at the period just referred to.

At the termination of the treaty, when every article had been satisfactorily arranged, the commissioners had decided upon giving the various assembled tribes an entertainment at which they would preside. On this occasion, upwards of one hundred head of cattle were slaughtered and vast quantities of flour and pork were added for the feast.

A general belief, as well as desire, was expressed by the Indians assembled, that their hospitable entertainers would not be sparing in the distribution of "father's milk" as they sometimes term whiskey. Aware of this desire, Governor Cass, one of the commissioners, had provided a barrel on the ground and after the repast was finished, a small cup of this liquor was handed round to each chief.

They soon requested more, when a similar allowance was repeated, but becoming inspired by its influence and insisting upon a still further supply, the commissioner rose up and overthrew the cask, spilling the whole of its contents upon the ground. The Indians stood aghast at this spoliation of their esteemed beverage and at what appeared to them a wanton and woeful waste.

Governor Cass, considering this a proper time to remonstrate on the folly of drinking spirits to excess and on the evil consequences which ensued from a pernicious practice which has attained such a destructive height amongst them, told them "that whatever regret they might feel for the loss, for himself he had none; that what he had done showed the little value he attached to it, and that it was from a regard to them alone that he had wasted the beverage."

The chiefs all retired, sullen and discontent, and the Berry Picker especially, who, casting at the commissioner a savage and malignant glance, muttered some expressions not distinctly heard by the interpreter, but which it was afterwards understood contained a threat of assassination. This he endeavored to carry into effect whilst the latter was ascending the Fox River by snapping his rifle at him, which, however, fortunately missed fire, when the revengeful chief made his escape into the woods.

The Berry Picker is full six feet in height and is drawn exactly according to his appearance at the treaty. His head is embellished with feathers to which are suspended pieces of red cloth. A circle of green is painted round his eyes and his hair hangs loose on his shoulders. He wore a cloth apron in front, with red cloth leggings and moccasins, and in his right hand carried a hunting spear."

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