Correspondence of the Washington Union.
Death of the Great War Chief
Your readers, or many of the good people of the metropolis, at least, will recollect this venerable man. He was the principal war chief of the Pottawatomie nation, and was here on a visit with the delegation who came here from Council Bluffs last fall to see their great father the President of the United States.
Returning home in December, having reached Wheeling, they found that winter had set in in good earnest. All hope of getting to St. Louis by water was abandoned — the river was entirely frozen up. The party therefore took stage, being very anxious to get back to their nation, and recount to them the result of their long journey and important visit to their great father. The road was very icy; and passing along not far from Marietta, in Ohio, one of the stages turned over, and injured several of the Indian chiefs. Amongst the rest, Waw-bon-see received some serious injuries. Being old and infirm, he could not recover; but, with his characteristic firmness and intrepidity, this truly brave man held on, and continued his journey until he reached Booneville, in the State of Missouri, where he died. And thus the scene closes with this extraordinary son of the wilderness, whose life had been signalized for his many acts of daring and bravery. The very name of this “great brave” was conferred upon him in consequence of one of his daring deeds. It was this:
In one of their war expeditions, he and his little party found themselves most unexpectedly in close contact with a superior party of Sioux*, then their deadly enemies. A council was held by the Pottawatomie war party during the night, and it was unanimously decided that some decisive blow must be struck before the approaching morning should expose them to their enemies, who were superior to them in numbers. It was soon decided. This lion-hearted man, who is now the subject of these few lines, came forward, and with the brief but determined tone of a brave warrior, said he would undertake the execution of the plan. It was, that he should steal into the lodge of the unsuspecting Sioux at the still hour of the night, and, single handed, he was to deal out fatal blows to the whole of them, well knowing that if he failed, or made a misstep, and aroused them out of their slumbers, he and all his comrades must perish. Thus nerved to the fearful and doubtful issue, this brave is seen creeping stealthily into the camp of the Sioux just as the dawn of day, when sleep is most profound. He is successful — every one of his enemies sink under the well-aimed blows of his unerring tomahawk; and thus did he secure to himself this proud name, which, for more that two-thirds of a century, has been a terro to his and other surrounding nations. Waw-bon-see signifies, in the Pottawatomie tongue, the “dawn of day.” It was just at that time that he destroyed the Sioux. Hence his name, which he ever afterwards was known by.
But Waw-bon-see, the great brave of the red men, is no more. He had seen his hundred winters; had been in many wars, both with the white and the red man, and was always foremost in battle. He was highly respected by his nation, not only for his courage, but for his just and wise counsels; he was alike distinguished both in the battle-field and in the cabinet, and his loss will be deeply deplored by his people.
It is to be regretted that he could not have reached his home and his nation once more, as he was returning after having enjoyed several personal and most agreeable and interesting interviews with the President of the United States, the honorable Secretary of War, and the honorable Commissioner of Indian Affairs, with whom he and all the other chiefs were much pleased. But the good old man has been gathered to his fathers, and it is to be hoped that his spirit has gone to the fine hunting-grounds, which the red men believe to be in wait for all their brave and good warriors beyond the grave. E.
N.B.–The other chiefs had recovered from their slight injuries, and were, when last heard of, at Westport, in Jackson county, Missouri, and getting on very well towards their villages at Council Bluffs.
Republican Compiler (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) Feb 23, 1846
*Wikipedia gives a different account of the Sioux incident.
As a young man, Nah-Ke-ses set out to avenge the death of a close friend. He used the cover of a misty morning to sneak into an Osage village where reportedly he single-handedly killed several fierce Osage warriors before they could sound an alarm. Nah-ke-ses was then named “Wabaunsee” or “Little Dawn.” Once when asked why, “Waabaansii” responded, “When I kill an enemy he turns pale [waabaanzo], resembling the first light of the day [waaban].”
Potawatomi Web has tons of information, including maps and pictures. Great site.
The Ledger-Sentinel has this to say about where Wabaunsee’s village was located:
Waubonsee was the principal war chief of the local Potowatomi and lived at his permanent village near Aurora. In fact, in the Treaty of 1829, Waubonsee was granted five sections of land-3,200 acres-located “…on Fox River of the Illinois, where Shaytees Village now stands.”
It has been said for years that Waubonsee’s village was located at Oswego, but it now seems clear his permanent village was indeed located well north of Oswego in the Big Woods near Aurora. What has confused things was that old settlers reported to the Rev. E.W. Hicks, the county’s first historian, that Waubonsee had a “camping ground” near Oswego. It seems a natural jump from “camping ground” to village, but it’s too far a jump. The Potowatomi, Ottawa, and Chippewa all broke up into small family groups each winter and each family group had a winter camp. Many of these winter family camps were on the Illinois River but some were also on the Fox. One of Waubonsee’s may have been at Oswego. The early settlers probably took for granted that everyone knew the Indians broke into family groups for the winter and so took no further pains to explain the significance of Waubonsee’s “camping ground.”
Newsfinder has “A Potawatomi Story.”
This story is really two stories that come from the Native American peoples of Wisconsin. The first story is a Potawatomi story of the origin of humans, and the second concerns the Potawatomi, Ojibwe, and Ottawa peoples.
You can read the story at the link.
The Kansas Collection has other information about the Potawatomi people, including “two great battles with the whites.”