Nesouaquoit, A Fox Chief
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Nesouaquoit, being interpreted, means, the Bear in the forks of a tree. The portrait before the reader was taken at the city of Washington, in the winter of 1837, Nesouaquoit being, at that time, about forty years of age. He is full six feet high, and in his proportions is a model of manly symmetry. He is a Fox Indian, and the son of the famous chief Chemakasee, or the Lance. This chief is yet living, but being old and superannuated, has retired from the chieftainship of his band, having conferred upon his son Nesouaquoit, all his authority and dignity.
In 1812, soon after the United States had declared war against Great Britain, the agents of that kingdom, then among us, sought to draw the band, of which Chemakasee was chief, into an alliance with them. A council was held, at which a proposal to this effect was formally made. Chemakasee answered, by saying, ” We will not fight for the red coats, but we will fight against them.” This laconic response being final, a strong excitement was produced, which threatened not only the peace, but the lives, of Chemakasee’s band. To relieve them from this perilous situation, the United States government directed that they should be removed to a place of security, and protected both against the British and their Indian allies. General Clark, being charged with this order, caused them to be removed to Fort Edwards, where they were kept, and fed, and clothed at the expense of the United States, till the termination of the war. The band numbered then about four hundred souls.
After the war, Chemakasee, instead of returning to his former position, and renewing his relations with the Sauk and Foxes of the Mississippi, determined to avoid the one and decline the other so he sought a country by ascending the Missouri, until, arriving at La Platte, he settled on that river, near the Black Snake hills, where he continues to reside.
In 1815, a treaty was concluded between this band and the United States; the third article of which stipulates, that a just proportion of the annuities, which a previous treaty had provided to be paid to the Sauk and Fox Indians, should be paid to the Foxes of La Platte. By some strange oversight, this provision of the treaty had been overlooked unintentionally, no doubt, by the government, whilst the age and infirmities of Chemakasee, it is presumed, caused him to forget it. An arrearage of twenty years had accumulated, when Nesouaquoit, having succeeded to the chieftainship of his band, resolved to ascertain why the government had so long delayed to fulfill this stipulation. He first held a conference with the agent; but this officer had no power over the case. He then resolved to visit Washington, and plead the cause of his people before his great father; and, if he should fail there, to present it to Congress. But he had one great difficulty to overcome, and that was to raise the money to pay his expenses to Washington. To accomplish this he opened a negotiation with a Mr. Risque, of St. Louis, who agreed to pay his expenses to Washington and home again, for “three boxes and a half of silver” equivalent to three thousand five hundred dollars. That he might be punctual in paying the loan, he ordered his hunters to collect furs and peltries of sufficient value, and have them ready for the St. Louis market, in time to redeem his pledge for the return of the money. This being done, he started upon his mission. Arriving at Washington, he explained the object of his visit. This he did in a firm and decided manner. The authorities recognized his claim, and he was assured that the provisions of the treaty in favor of his people, though so long overlooked, should be scrupulously fulfilled, and respected in future. Having attained the object of his mission, he returned home, highly pleased with the result.
This chief is, perhaps, the only Indian of whom it can be said he never tasted a drop of spirituous liquor or smoked a pipe! Of many thousands, and perhaps hundreds of thousands, it might be truly affirmed, that they never tasted a drop of spirituous liquor, but that was before this bane of the Indians had found its way into their country; but, with this single exception, we believe it can be said of no Indian he never smoked a pipe! It is certainly remarkable that, in the present abundance of these aboriginal luxuries, Nesouaquoit should have the firmness to abstain from both.
His antipathy to whisky extends to those who sell it. He will not permit a whisky dealer to enter his country. Indeed, when-ever a trader, not informed of the determined purpose of this chief to keep his people free from the ruinous effects of whisky, has strolled within his borders, he has been known to knock in the heads of his casks, and with the staves beat him out of the country. Though thus temperate, and free from the exciting influence of whisky and tobacco, Nesouaquoit is known to be as brave an Indian as ever made a moccasin track between the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.
This chief has seven wives, who live, as Indian wives generally do, in the most perfect harmony with each other. He is remarkable for his generosity, giving freely of what he has to all who need assistance. To those who visit his lodge he is represented as being most courteous; and this exterior polish he carefully preserves in his intercourse with his people. But his aversion to traders is perfect. He has long since formally interdicted marriage between them and the women of his band. So stern is his resolution on this point, that no union of the kind has been known since he succeeded to the rank of chief. In his deportment towards the whites he is most friendly, but he maintains his own rights with firmness and dignity.