It was while Major Zachary Taylor was located at Prairie du Chien that he received from Old Gray-headed Decorah a peace pipe now in the State Historical Museum at Madison, Wis. This calumet is a fine specimen, the head is of catlinite inlaid with lead polished to look like silver. The stem, or wooden handle, is about three feet long, rather rudely carved.
Mrs. J. H. Kinzie described him as “The most noble, dignified, and venerable of his own or indeed of any other tribe. His fine Roman countenance, rendered still more striking by his bald head, with one solitary tuft of long silvery hair neatly tied and falling back on his shoulders; his perfectly neat, appropriate dress, almost without ornament, and his courteous manner, never laid aside, under any circumstances, all combined to give him the highest place in the consideration of all who knew him.”
Mrs. Kinzie further states: “The noble Old Day-kau-ray came one day from the Barribault to apprise us of the state of his village. More than forty of his people, he said, had now been for many days without food, save bark and roots. My husband accompanied him to the commanding officer to tell his story, and ascertain if any amount of food could be obtained from that quarter. The result was the promise of a small allowance of flour, sufficient to alleviate the cravings of his own family. When this was explained to the chief he turned away. ‘No,’ he said, “if his people could not be relieved, he and his family would starve with them,” and he refused for those nearest and dearest to him the proffered succor until all could share alike.” During the winter of 1832-33 food was scarce at Fort Winnebago, and the Indians suffered severely.
Old Day-kau-ray delivered an address on education to the agent, Mr. Kinzie, at a conference held with the Winnebago chiefs in 1831, in regard to sending the children of the Indians away to school. The following quotation is from his speech.
“The white man does not live like the Indian; it is not his narure ; neither does the Indian love to live like the white man. This is what we think. If we change our minds we will let you know.”
The known sons of Old Dekaury were:
(1) Little Decorate
(2) Spoon Decorate
Big Canoe, or One-eyed Decorah, a son of Chatpost-kaw-kah, told George Gale about 1855 that he had but one brother, Waukon Decorate. One-eyed Decorah’s Indian name was Wadge-hut-ta-kaw, or the Big Canoe. The signature, Watchha-ta-kaw, (by Henry M. Rice, his delegate) is attached to the treaty of Washington, October 13, 1846, and is undoubtedly that of One-eyed Decorate.
He was born about 1772, and was fifteen years of age when his father settled at La Crosse. He aided in the capture of Mackinaw, July 17, 1812, and was with the British in the attack on Fort Stephenson, August 2, 1813, near Fremont, Ohio, and with McKay at the capture of Prairie du Chien. It is said that he signed the treaty there in 1825. The act for which he became celebrated was the capture of Black Hawk and the Prophet, in 1832. Black Hawk’s force was pursued by General Atkinson, who completely defeated him August 3, 1832. The famous Sauk leader and the Prophet escaped to the northward and sought refuge among some Winnebagoes, whither they were followed and captured by One-eyed Decorah and Chaetar (another Winnebago), who delivered him to General Street (a former Winnebago agent) at Prairie du Chien, August 27, 1832. On this occasion One-eyed Decorah made the following speech:
“My father, I now stand before you. When we parted I told you I would return soon, but I could not come any sooner. We had to go a great distance. You see we have done what you sent us to do. These (pointing to the prisoners) are the two you told us to get. We have done what you told us to do. We always do what you tell us, because we know it is for our good. Father, you told us to get these men, and it would be the cause of much good to the Winnebagoes. We have brought them, but it has been very hard for us to do so. That one (Black Hawk) was a great way off. You told us to bring them to you alive; we have done so. If you had told us to bring their heads alone, we would have done so, and it would have been less difficult than what we have done. We would not deliver them to our brother, the chief of the warriors, but to you, because we know you, and we believe you are our friend. We want you to keep them safe; if they are to be hurt, we do not wish to see it. Wait until we are gone before it is done. Father, many little birds have been flying about our ears of late, and we thought they whispered to us that there was evil intended for us; but now we hope these evil birds will let our ears alone. We know you are our friend because you took our part, and that is the reason we do what you tell us to do. You say you love your red children; we think we love you as much as, if not more than, you love us. We have confidence in you and you may rely on us. We have been promised a great deal if we would take these men-that it would do much good to our people. We now hope to see what will be done for us. We have come in haste; we are tired and angry. We now put these men into your hands. We have one all that you told us to do.”
(↵ returns to text)
- Wau-Bun,” pg. 89.↵
- Same reference as above, pg. 484.↵
- Smithsonian Report, 1885, part 2, pg. 128.↵
- A Wisconsin pioneer who in 1851 removed to the copper Mississippi region where he was judge, state senator, etc. founding the village of Galesville and the academy there at. He wrote a history of the Winnebago Indians, which is still in manuscript form in the Wisconsin Historical Society’s possession.↵
- “Red Men of Iowa,” pg. 160.↵