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Great Chief at St. Louis
Posted By Dennis Partridge On In Missouri,Native American | No Comments
The great chief at St. Louis having sent word for us to come down and confirm the treaty, we did not hesitate, but started immediately that we might smoke the peace pipe with him. On our arrival we met the great chiefs in council. They explained to us the words of our Great Father at Washington, accusing us of heinous crimes and many misdemeanors, particularly in not coming down when first invited. We knew very well that our Great Father had deceived us and thereby forced us to join the British, and could not believe that he had put this speech into the mouths of those chiefs to deliver to us. I was not a civil chief and consequently made no reply, but our civil chiefs told the commissioner that, “What you say is a lie. Our Great Father sent us no such speech, he knew that the situation in which we had been placed was caused by him.” The white chiefs appeared very angry at this reply and said, “We will break off the treaty and make war against you, as you have grossly insulted us.”
Our chiefs had no intention of insulting them and told them so, saying, “we merely wish to explain that you have told us a lie, without any desire to make you angry, in the same manner that you whites do when you do not believe what is told you.” The council then proceeded and the pipe of peace was smoked.
Here for the first time, I touched the goose quill to the treaty not knowing, however, that, by the act I consented to give away my village. Had that been explained to me I should have opposed it and never would have signed their treaty, as my recent conduct will clearly prove.
What do we know of the manners, the laws, and the customs of the white people? They might buy our bodies for dissection, and we would touch the goose quill to confirm it and not know what we were doing. This was the case with me and my people in touching the goose quill for the first time.
We can only judge of what is proper and right by our standard of what is right and wrong, which differs widely from the whites, if I have been correctly informed. The whites may do wrong all their lives, and then if they are sorry for it when about to die, all is well, but with us it is different. We must continue to do good throughout our lives. If we have corn and meat, and know of a family that have none, we divide with them. If we have more blankets than we absolutely need, and others have not enough, we must give to those who are in want. But I will presently explain our customs and the manner in which we live.
We were treated friendly by the whites and started on our return to our village on Rock river. When we arrived we found that the troops had come to build a fort on Rock Island. This, in our opinion, was a contradiction to what we had done, “to prepare for war in time of peace.” We did not object, however, to their building their fort on the island, but were very sorry, as this was the best one on the Mississippi, and had long been the resort of our young people during the summer. It was our garden, like the white people have near their big villages, which supplied us with strawberries, blackberries, gooseberries, plums, apples and nuts of different kinds. Being situated at the foot of the rapids its waters supplied us with the finest fish. In my early life I spent many happy days on this island. A good spirit had charge of it, which lived in a cave in the rocks immediately under the place where the fort now stands. This guardian spirit has often been seen by our people. It was white, with large wings like a swan’s, but ten times larger. We were particular not to make much noise in that part of the island which it inhabited, for fear of disturbing it. But the noise at the fort has since driven it away, and no doubt a bad spirit has taken its place.
Our village was situated on the north side of Rock river, at the foot of the rapids, on the point of land between Rock river and the Mississippi.
In front a prairie extended to the Mississippi, and in the rear a continued bluff gently ascended from the prairie.
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