Peace between the British and Americans
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Soon after I returned from my wintering ground we received information that peace had been made between the British and Americans, and that we were required to make peace also, and were invited to go down to Portage des Sioux, for that purpose. Some advised that we should go down, others that we should not. Nomite, our principal civil chief, said he would go, as soon as the Foxes came down from the mines.
They came and we all started from Rock river, but we had not gone far before our chief was taken sick and we stopped with him at the village on Henderson river. The Foxes went on and we were to follow as soon as our chief got better, but he rapidly became worse and soon died. His brother now became the principal chief. He refused to go down, saying, that if he started, he would be taken sick and die as his brother had done. This seemed to be reasonable, so we concluded that none of us would go at this time. The Foxes returned. They said, “we have smoked the pipe of peace with our enemies, and expect that the Americans will send a war party against you if you do not go down.” This I did not believe, as the Americans had always lost by their armies that were sent against us. La Gutrie and other British traders arrived at our village in the fall. La Gutrie told us that we must go down and make peace, as this was the wish of our English father. He said he wished us to go down to the Two River country to winter, where game was plenty, as there had been no hunting there for several years.
Having heard the principal war chief had come up with a number of troops, and commenced the erection of a fort near the Rapids des Moines, we consented to go down with the traders to visit the American chief, and tell him the reason why we had not been down sooner. When we arrived at the head of the rapids, the traders left their goods, and all of their boats with one exception, in which they accompanied us to see the Americans. We visited the war chief on board his boat, telling him what we had to say, and explaining why we had not been down sooner. He appeared angry and talked to La Gutrie for some time. I inquired of him what the war chief said. He told me that he was threatening to hang him up to the yard arm of his boat. “But” said he, “I am not afraid of what he says. He dare not put his threats into execution. I have done no more than I had a right to do a. a British subject.”
I then addressed the chief, asking permission for ourselves and some Menomonee, to go down to the Two River country for the purpose of hunting. He said we might go down but must return before the ice came, as he did not intend that we should winter below the fort. “But,” he inquired, “what do you want the Menomonee. to go with you for?”
I did not know at first what reply to make, but told him that they had a great many pretty squaws with them, and we wished them to go with us on that account. He consented. We all went down the river and remained all winter, as we had no intention of returning before spring when we asked leave to go. We made a good hunt. Having loaded our trader’s boats with furs and peltries, they started to Mackinac, and we returned to our village.
There is one circumstance that I did not relate at the proper place. It has no reference to myself or people, but to my friend Gomo, the Pottawattomie chief. He came to Rock river to pay me a visit, and during his stay he related to me the following story:
“The war chief at Peoria is a very good man. He always speaks the truth and treats our people well. He sent for me one day, told me he was nearly out of provisions, and wished me to send my young men hunting to supply his fort. I promised to do so, immediately returned to my camp and told my young men the wishes and wants of the war chief. They readily agreed to go and hurt for our friend and returned with plenty of deer. They carried them to the fort, laid them down at the gate and returned to our camp. A few days afterward I went again to the fort to see if they wanted any more meat. The chief gave me powder and lead and said he wanted, me to send my hunters out again. When I returned to camp, I told my young men that the chief wanted more meat. Matatah, one of my principal braves, said he would take a party and go across the Illinois, about one day’s travel, where game was plenty, and make a good hunt for our friend the war chief. He took eight hunters with him, and his wife and several other squaws went with them. They had traveled about half the day in the prairie when they discovered a party of white men coming towards them with a drove of cattle. Our hunters apprehended no danger or they would have kept out of the way of the whites, who had not yet perceived them. Matatah changed his course, as he wished to meet and speak to the whites. As soon n the whites saw our party, some of them put off at full speed, and came up to our hunters. Matatah gave up his gun to them, and endeavored to explain to them that he was friendly and was hunting for the war chief. They were not satisfied with this but fired at and wounded him. He got into the branches of a tree that had blown down, to keep the horses from running over him. He was again fired on several times and badly wounded. He, finding that he would be murdered, and, mortally wounded already, sprang at the man nearest him, seized his gun and shot him from his horse. He then fell, covered with blood from his wounds, and immediately expired. The other hunters being in the rear of Matatah attempted to escape, after seeing their leader so basely murdered by the whites. They were pursued and nearly all of the party killed. My youngest brother brought me the news in the night, he having been with the party and was slightly wounded. He said the whites had abandoned their cattle and gone back towards the settlement. The rest of the night we spent in mourning for our friends. At daylight I blacked my face and started for the fort to see the chief. I met him at the gate and told him what had happened. His countenance changed and I could see sorrow depicted in it for the death of my people. He tied to persuade me that I was mistaken, as he could not believe that the whites would act so cruelly. But when I convinced him, he said to me, ‘those cowards who murdered your people shall be punished.’ I told him that my people would have revenge, that they would not trouble any of his people at the fort, as we did not blame him or any of his soldiers, but that a party of my braves would go towards the Wabash to avenge the death of their friends and relations. The next day I took a party of hunters, killed several deer, and left them at the fort gate as I passed.”
Here Gomo ended his story. I could relate many similar ones that have come within my own knowledge and observation, but I dislike to look back and bring on sorrow afresh. I will resume my narrative.