An old Easter song

I was struck by this song. The lyrics are from an old Ojibwe hymnal that someone was kind enough to put online. I was especially struck by this word, Maamoyawedaa.

In Hebrew, Hallelu jah is an imperative: (all of you) Praise the Lord!

I asked my husband Neaseno what this word Maamoyawedaa would translate out to be. He said it would mean something along the lines of, You and Your Name are greater than anything else. However, it means so much more culturally that cannot be translated into English. What an incredible expression of Praise to the Lord!  

I last heard this song on Easter Sunday, and our worship team added a bridge: He is not dead, He is Alive! My hope is found in Jesus Christ! I added this bridge in because it is so fitting. But I wrote it in Potawatomi. I hope that’s ok. 

–Zagjewekwe nin se wdekweyomen o Neaseno

35 Christ the Lord Is Risen Today

Gii’-aabijiibaa Jesus, oo maamoyawedaa! 

Ambe wawizhendandaa, oo maamoyawedaa! 

Gaa-kichi-wiisagined, oo maamoyawedaa! 

ji-onji-giishpinaninang, oo maamoyawedaa!

Nagamotawaadaa Christ, oo maamoyawedaa! 

ishpiming nemadabid, oo maamoyawedaa! 

jiibegamigong gaa’-asind, oo maamoyawedaa! 

Giinawind gaa’-onjined, oo maamoyawedaa!

Ogodagiziwinan, oo maamoyawedaa! 

gibimaaji’igomin, oo maamoyawedaa! 

iwidi ogimaawi, oo maamoyawedaa! 

endazhi-nagamotawind, oo maamoyawedaa!

Oh cho mbosit….Nesh je ebmadzet!!!!

Ebgosénmayan se o Jesus!

Gode Neshnabek ngotek egi pabmadsewat kiwednon

Early 20th century community life at McCord and Skunk Hill:

 An ethnohistorical perspective on traditionality, authenticity, and affluence

Larry Nesper, University of Wisconsin

          This following is the preliminary statement of a work in progress.  At the moment it is an effort in the direction of exploring the significance of McCord and Skunk Hill,  two interacting late nineteenth/early twentieth century off-reservation multi-tribal communities in northern Wisconsin for how we think about American Indian social, economic, political and cultural development in the face of normative processes of tribalization and the attendant reservation-centric imagining of Indian life in the state. The communities were 90 mile apart.  I am also interested in documenting the relationship between traditionality and relative affluence, as it appeared for a short period of time in the early twentieth century in Wisconsin as a commentary on the early twenty-first century critique cultural that authenticity may be compromised by material affluence.  This paper is an attempt to offer ethnohistorical evidence for the reverse: that the particular ritual system plays a role in motivating a deeper engagement with external economic forces.  Most distinctively, these villages were less at the immediate mercy of aggressive assimilative federal Indian policy than were the villages on the reservations, the most power constitutive force shaping Indian life at the time (Goldberg-Ambrose 1994).   Indeed, their very existence appears to have been a creative and resistant response to federal policy.  They seem to have been more affluent than their reservation confreres by virtue of their ability to practice a de facto political and economic self-determination.  For example, the village of McCord had more sugar boiling arches than any other Indian-associated site in the entire state of Wisconsin (Thomas 2004). Before the market crash of 1929, they were using commercially produced sugar maple tapping equipment, clear evidence of Indian-controlled, near industrial level maple sugar production for exchange. Several individuals held land in fee having purchased it from the logging companies that were interested in the land only for its timber.   Similarly, Indian people at Skunk Hill, held land in fee simple and produced country foods for the market.  Both communities also sponsored cultural events and encouraged tourism.  The Big Drum or Drum or Dream Dance is remembered as an important aspect of life in these villages.

            What, then, is the relationship between their economic and social articulation with the dominant society and their internal symbolic practice?  Were these communities simultaneously both more religiously vibrant and more affluent by virtue of their multi-ethnicity and their distance from the sources of and deleterious effects of federal power?   And what is the relationship between these communities and the reservation communities in their hinterlands?

          This study is inspired by the work of two Wisconsin state archaeologists, John Broihahn and Robert Birmingham.  Broihahn has been documenting the surface archaeology of McCord and brought my attention to these “refugee settlements” when he gave a guest lecture in an Indians of the Western Great Lakes class in 2005.  I have since come upon the work of his predecessor in the position, Robert Birmingham who wrote the National Register of Historic Places nomination for Skunk Hill as well as several essays about these communities.  Birmingham regards these communities as “ceremonial communities” that emerged due to oppressive conditions on the reservations and at a time when federal Indian policy was aggressively coercing assimilation.  Here I attempt to extend this insight and show how the communities positioned themselves between the reservation communities and the non-Indian communities in a network of relationships enacting an indigenous modernity characterized by a simultaneous commitment to a new form of traditional religion and a deeper economic engagement with the dominant society that was feasible on the reservations.

          Both Birmingham and Broihahn recognize that the Drum Dance, or Big Drum, or Dream Dance was significant in these communities, as they point out the centrality of the dance circles and dance houses in the settlements.  They imply that these structures are testimony to the traditionality of the community, and I would agree.  However, I seek to show that it was via this religious movement that a transformation in the mode of social reproduction in these communities was accomplished.   The movement shaped and was reflective of a deeper political and economic engagement with the dominant society.

Historical Context

          McCord in Oneida County and Skunk Hill in Wood County Wisconsin were the centers of several late nineteenth/early twentieth century multi-tribal off-reservation Indian communities with Prairie Potawatomi cores. Potawatomi had been important people  in the region for a long time.  Clifton (1998: 26) writes that the Potawatomi in the early 17th century, living in “their protohistoric estate on the western shore of Lake Michigan, lived in summer villages” of about 200 persons “…in open lands—small prairies, near forest edge, adjacent to a substantial streams, where there were loose sandy or sandy-loam soils to be easily worked, in an area picked for good hunting and fishing.” By 1700, they occupied all three strategic connections between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi at Rock Island on the tip of the Door Peninsula, at Chicago, and the St. Joseph/ Kankakee River portage and sought to dominate the other tribes vis-à-vis French calling themselves the elder sons of Onontio (ibid: 46, 63).  By the end of the eighteenth century they had expanded at the expense of the Illinois tribes and were trading with the Spanish at St Louis, and were living in more than 100 villages (Clifton 1978: 726).  With the ascent of American power in the Great Lakes after the War of 1812, came flight north for groups that would become the Forest Potawatomi already in Wisconsin and removal for many of the southern Potawatomi, the forebears of the residents of Skunk Hill and McCord. 

          During the proceedings at the Treaty of Chicago in 1833, Leopold Pokagan, a local Potawatomi leader, rehearsed a local distinction in responding to American treaty commissioners, referring to “Wood Indians” and “Prairie Indians,” that is, two different kinds of Potawatomi. The former responded to American colonization by attempting to engage it, employing a strategy of “adaptive resistance,” having helped establish the Michigan Road between Chicago and Detroit, for example, in order to facilitate commerce (Secunda 2006:57-59).  After a period of some success in the 1820s and 30s, they would be forcibly removed to Kansas.  Most of the ancestors of the people living at Skunk Hill and McCord, however, were Kansas Prairie Potawatomi,  “a post-removal amalgam” made up of the removal era Tippecanoe River Valley villages of Mesquawbuck, Monoquet, Neswaukay and Keewaunay,  “many of them unabashed militants, who favored removal to the adaptive resistance undertaken by the bands along the Michigan Road”(ibid: 80).  Indeed, Alponse Gerend (1932: p) notest that Che-Chaw-Kose, mentkioned in the Treaty of 1832 signed at Tippecanoe, lived for a time at Skunk Hill and was buried there Did their experience with reservation life in Kansas cause them to re-evaluate their earlier strategy of nativistic resistance and realize a version of this “adaptive resistance” in Wisconsin upon their return to the edge of their original tribal estate?

Sketches of McCord and Skunk Hill

          Publius Lawson (1920) and Charles Brown (1928) both place the Skunk Hill Potawatomis on the Prairie side of the opposition.  McCord is a settlement that grew out of Skunk Hill, the center of a community that may date back to 1866 (Jones 1923:16).  Originally from the area around Chicago,  part of the community and their forebears had made the trip to Kansas taking the removal option, only to be allotted–which they resisted.  The effects of this policy may have provided the motivation for the return migration. In 1899, the agent wrote that most of the reservation had been allotted and the allotments had been leased out.   He wrote that the leasing was responsible for  “the total demoralization of a considerable portion of the Indians in the agency” (ARCIA 1899: 205).  A year later he would refer to the practice as “a mistaken policy” causing Indians to acquire the “habits of indolence and dissipation” (ARCIA 1900:254).  Earlier he had written that the Prairie band was largely uncooperative with the efforts to civilize them, taking up the drum dance, “which seems to have driven all practical ideas from the minds of men,…its practice intensifies and increases his disregard for his fellow men.” R.M. Cook, superintendent of the Pottawatomie school, agreed with the agent’s appraisal:   “The dance practiced by the tribe discourages education” (ARCIA 1897:161).  It was for this reason, perhaps, that Clifton (1998:382) characterized the drum dance as a ”full-scale, organized protest movement.” 

           According the Winnebago /Potawatomi headman White Pigeon (Wahb-me-me) most of the 70 members of the community had been at Skunk Hill since about 1906, had bought tracts of land and were farming, though few could speak English.  The settlement covered approximately 20 acres (Gerend quoting Fish).  They had money coming in from those leased allotments in Kansas. Having not had a proper chief for more than half a century, they were led by “Mr. Shon, and  John Nu-wee (Lawson 1920:106-107). Both attended the Fourth Annual meeting of the Society of American Indians held in Madison in 1914.  “Mr. Shon,” whom White Pigeon indicated was dead since about 1915 may have been Mr. John Young, aka Nsowakwet, listed as 69 years old on the 1909 Potawatomi Tribal Roll. Young was responsible for bringing the Drum Dance to the Kansas Potawatomi and assisted them in fighting allotment (Clifton 1998: 393). A contemporary German-American settler remembered John Young as literate in English “and could even speak a few word of German” (Gerend 1932:1). He is said to have used a pipe that could hold a full quarter pound of tobacco (ibid).  He would leave Skunk Hill in 1899, move to Perkinstown for a time, then on to McCord where he would die and be buried.

          According to Gerend, (archives) John Nuwee was also ultimately from the Chicago area. He is 60 years old on the 1910 census. He had an allotment in Kansas and owned the land he lived and was buried on at Skunk Hill between 1914 and 1927.   John Nuwi “was considered rich by other Indians,” according to Gerend, and the guardian, or custodian, of the five large sacred drums which were always used during the Indian ceremonies.”  Approximately 140 contiguous acres of the settlement at Skunk Hill was owned held in fee simple by six Potawatomi Indian people, all of whom appear on the Kansas Potawatomi Allottee Roll and most of whom made their purchases on the 16th of June 1914 from C.E. and Bertha King.


           The timing of the purchases may have been related to a government effort to get them to move north and join the Forest County Potawatomi.  The Marshfield Herald of November 1, 1913 reports that “two government agents broached the subject of removal of this tribe to parts of the state, where farms will be provided for them.”  And though “(t)here are but few of them left, something less than forty families…the Indians are loath to leave the rendevous (sic) on the bluff.”  Ahnomoquah held the largest piece of land, about 25 acres and bought it from the Arpin Lumber Company four years later  (See Map X). According to Gerend, the community was abandoned when John Nuwi died in 1926.

          The community at Skunk Hill immediately before the land was purchased by some of its residents appears as 21 households and just under 80 people on the 1910 census.  Of the 47 men and 31 women, three men and three women were Ojibwe .  Twenty-six of the Potawatomis were born in Kansas. The others were all born in Wisconsin, some of whom had lived in Wood County for a long periods of time at other settlements.  There was one Kickapoo man and one Winnebago woman. Eight of the children were from the two Ojibwe/Potawatomi marriages. Eight Potawatomi people reported that they could speak English as did the Winnebago man and an Ojibwe man. Fourteen of the Potawatomi had been allotted by this date. There were nine unmarried men over the age of 22 in the community, another measure of the difficulty of things in Kansas and their hopes for Wisconsin. 

          So for them to rather suddenly appear at Skunk Hill is not entirely surprising.  The Grand Rapids Tribune of September 12, 1906:

          The settlers out in the town of Arpin were somewhat surprised some time ago when several Indians appeared in that vicinity and claimed that a large portion of the town of Arpin was the property of Indians and that it was their intention to take possession of the same.  It is said that altogether there were some hundred and fifty Indians came there and laid claim to eleven square mines of territory in the neighborhood of what is known as Skunk Hill.  They also stated that about seven hundred more were coming and that they intended to take possession of the whole tract, as it had been set aside years ago as an Indian reservation and that the white man had appropriated it unlawfully.

          Several farmers would consult attorneys who, in turn, contacted the General Land Office, which assured them that there was no reservation and that their letter would be forwarded to the Department of the Interior. 

          That they are alleged to have claimed it as their ancestral property may be related to its unusual geology. Powers Bluff is “a broad based dome-like ridge with its longest axis extending in a southeast-northwest direction….(I)ts highest point is probably between 300 and 400 feet above the surrounding land of the immediate vicinity…(The)..formation appears to be a very fine-grained pinkish quartzite (Weldman 1907:82-83). It can be seen for miles.  I would hazard to suggest that it has been known by Indian people as both a good place to pray, higher places being particularly attractive for such purposes.  Indeed, Gerend writes, “Standing out prominently at the rocky crest of Skunk Hill is a jut of rock about which, I was informed, a legend has been woven by the Indians.  It was known as the ‘Spirit’s Chair’” (Gerend 1932).

          Within the season, the returning immigrants hosted a ceremony that attracted “Indians from all over the state,”  apparently announcing their intentions regarding permanent presence to both the local “settlers” as well as the indigenous communities.  The article went on to say that “(o)ne of the numbers who spoke English well, said that the reason they gathered at this out of the way place was that many years ago the Indians owned a tract of land 30 square miles in that vicinity.”  Within a few years, over a hundred Winnebago people moved into the county settling on Hemlock Creek in Seneca Township where some bought land (Jones 1923:24).

          The Sheboygan Press article of May 17, 1932, drawing upon the writing of Alphonse Gerend, employs a curious phrasing that speaks to how Indian people used the land.  “During the festive days, when the religious dance was in progress, Skunk Hill still resembled a typical Indian village,” suggesting it was only when ceremonies were underway that Skunk Hill “resembled a typical Indian village.”  He notes that it is in May and July that people gather, some from considerable distances.

(Elaborate religious practices)


          These Indian people regarded the region as a commons and harvested local resources for both subsistence and for the market.  They used “grasses and reeds for the baskets and mats…, wild fowl…wild rice and fish and cargoes of beaver, fox, mink and rat…squash and corn, deer (Jones 1923: 19). They harvested ginseng, slippery elm, blue berries, and maple sugar for exchange as well.

          There is no mention of Indian people gathering ginseng in Lee’s (1998) MA thesis on the development of the ginseng industry in Marathon County that might shed light on their engagement with the emerging industry in the region.  However, Alphonse Gerend (1932) notes that a certain Mr. Brinkman bought almost $3000 worth of ginseng root from the Indians for which he paid $2.00 per pound.” This is clearly large-scale production and represents a phase of the industry’s development that antedates the emergence of ginseng farms. It also represents Indian people’s resistance to domination at the point of production as they clearly controlled the terms upon which they labored autonomously organizing themselves for the activity. 

           Much the same can be said of slippery elm, “a Native American plant that made its way into medical circles as a result of Pioneer / Native American contact,  and referred to in Anishinaabemowin as ozhaashigob aniib (GLIFWC 1993: 410). Of slippery elm gathering we read Gerend (1932) on the Indians at the nearby Indian Farms near Rozellville:

          Often they could be seen taking slippery elm bark to the traders.  This bark was carried in bundles which were hung over the backs of the ponies.  The bark, which was gathered in large quantities, sometimes was taken as far as Colby, Medford and Dancy, a distance of many miles, and there were no trails to these places.

          He notes that they also gathered evergreens, deer hair, and venison and sold them to traders.

          They worked in the cranberry  marshes as pickers since the period after the Civil War. Dave Engel (2002:22) writes of Dodge P.  Blackston, editor of The Berlin Courant, who in turn writes of the cranberry craze in 1870-71:  “

          The Indians Blackstone says, have picked many berries.  The government sale of the marshland will be a great loss to them.  ‘The wigwams of the Indians are scattered through the timber about the marshes.  The trails of their ponies are numerous, running hither and thither to the different cranberry patches.  They carry their berries to market on their ponies, tying a two-bushel bag to each side of the saddle.’”  Quoting New Yorker Amanda Wales Engel (ibid, 28) goes on: “Indians come in great numbers at the opening of the blueberry season and remain until after the cranberry season during which they are hired as pickers.  To her dismay, they camp without asking permission,  grounds owned by herself and her husband and pitch tents wherever and whenever they choose.  By 1875, “it is impossible to find a marsh without an owner whose title is recorded” (ibid:35).

          A local enclosure movement is underway with the predictable effects.

          An issue of The Berlin Courant in 1874 has journalists describes crowds of immigrant and Native American pickers flocking to the Sacket and Carey marshes (37) .  In September, there are “thousands of Pickers” Arpin marsh expects to yield 1200 bushels…a lively crowd of Indians and other pickers congregating at Bearss Marsh…to pass the time.  EP Arpin watches the nearby Indian tents and marvels at the children coming out barefooted, wearing calico dresses (38).

          In the Nov 6, 1876 issue of  The Berlin Courant a certain FAJ visits Wood County marshes:  “To those who think the game of life is a game the noble Red man does not understand, let me refer life in Wood Co., during the cranberry harvest.  Yet they are good pickers, and if watched carefully are indispensable to the cranberry grower and will be for many years to come.”  The next year, 1877,  Bearss Marsh becomes an international village of 2000 with the harvest with about 200 Winnebago, Menominee and Potawatomi.  It was an industry dependent upon the railroad to deliver labor and ship their produce.

          According to Jones, (1923:24, emphasis added) after a pow-wow in the first part of August,

          “almost the entire Indian population of Wood County resorts to the Wood County cranberry marshes, where they are employed during the cranberry-raking season. At some of the several large cranberry marshes in this county only Indians are employed raking cranberries.  During the raking season, which lasts about two weeks, the Indians live in tents and wigwams at the marshes.  After the day’s work is completed, the hours are spent at games, dances or other amusements.  In the fall many go hunting, and in the winter they often hunt or trap, either at home, or else visit distant hunting grounds.”

          The local Indian population was joined by other Indians from further afield. In an article entitled “Winnebago Indians Quite Numerous,” from the Grand Rapids Daily Reporter, September 12, 1908 we read:

          Since the cranberry growers have commenced picking their berries this week a large number of Winnebago Indians have passed through this city on foot with every kind of vehicle imaginable.  They come from every reservation in the State and bring their entire families along and make this season of the year a camping time in which they enjoy the pleasure and profit both at the same time.  Our readers have probably noticed a large number in our city at different intervals this past week.

But by 1903, growers were paying rakers $1.50/day plus board and 40 cents a bushel for hand pickers, a good picker picking three bushes a day (Engel 108, 110) and the wage was attracting immigrants who were displacing Indians from this work. In 1903, there were 1500 pickers in the county, about 100 of whom were Indians. Earlier nearly the entire crop was picked by Indians (Engel 118).

          Paige Raibmon (2005: 105) writes that the hops pickers on the Northwest Coast were “importing elements of potlatches to the fields” at the same time as these Great Lakes Indians were importing elements of their traditional symbolic practices into the cranberry marshes.  “Gambling, horse racing, canoe racing and trading were all typically present at potlatch gatherings and hop fields alike,” she adds.  These gatherings for work and play “perpetuated links between extended families” (ibid:109.  Much the same is going in Wisconsin at approximately the same time.

          Wood County was important in the development of Wisconsin’s cranberry industry as most of the 100,000 acres that make it up were unsuitable for agriculture until the land was drained.  By the early 1920s, the county produced half of the entire state’s cranberry crop, picked in a two-three week season starting about September 1 and requiring about one person for every two acres under cultivation, the growers providing sleeping, cooking and dining facilities (Jones 1923:106).  The industry required a great deal of labor for a short period of time and so attracted Indian people as migrant laborers.

          Paige Raibmon (2005:98) writes of aboriginal labor in the hops harvests in the Pacific Northwest.  It was “part of a larger indigenous network of economy, politics and society that ensured Aboriginal survival” into which they “wove their own agendas.” Clearly, the very same pattern of adaptation and articulation is present here.


          McCord in southwestern Oneida County began to form in the 1890s on lands that had been cutover by the lumber industry, and lasted until well into the 1940s as a community of about ten families.  More typical of a Woodland Indian settlement than Skunk Hill, McCord’s organizing geographical  feature was the Little Somo River representing considerable continuity with earlier settlement patterns. Sasso and Wilder (1998: 192-3,) write that early nineteenth century Potawatomi settlements in southeastern Wisconsin “exhibit a marked preference for well-drained locations adjacent to or with one mile of significant water resources…(and)…a notable preference for locations with ready access to a variety of vegetational zones.” John Broihahn writes that “Wisconsin Historical Society Archaeologists have documented domestic, work and communal structures at 35 locations at McCord.” These include earthen berm building bases, collapsed log residences, an collapsed octagonal  dance house, dance circles, cemeteries and ten maple sugaring arches, (Broihahn 2007: 4) “the greatest concentration of archaeological remains of boiling arches at an American Indian community in Wisconsin” (Thomas 2004: 104).

          With the assistance of Joe Jackson, who was born at McCord and lived there until he was 13 years old in 1942, we have been able to partially reconstruct the social organization of the community at the time of his childhood.  Mr. Jackson descends from Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe people on his father’s side and Kansas Potawatomi people on his mother’s.  Three of the nine marriages we have been able to document show this pattern, while four are both Ojibwe-Ojibwe, and two Potawatomi-Potawatomi.  No male Potawatomis had Ojibwe wives. Approximately 45 people made up the settlement living in 16 separate households in 1942, though there is reason to think that the settlement had been much bigger earlier in the century.  We have identified more than 500 individuals with a connection to McCord or one of the outlying settlements over the course of the first three decades of the twentieth century by examining tribal rolls, census data, local newspapers.

          An Indian settlement of approximately 40 families lived in log cabins on Indian Village Road and attended schools in Tripoli.  They were expert hunters and fishermen and worked in the woods and served as guides.  By 1938 they had left the area for the cities or the reservations.  Many of these Indians were gifted artists and craftsmen (Bruso et al 1987:99).

 By 1907, John Young and John De Bon, both leaders of the community, and both Kansas Potawatomi, had purchased 120 acres with nine of the households on their land including the dance house.

          Not only had the settlement lost population by the early 1940s, it appears that it was considerably poorer.  Mr. Jackson recalls how tough life was, for example, as it was tough for many people between the market crash and the early years of World War II.

Indian people hunted deer on the cutover lands and fished the Little Somo River.  They also did some gardening.   Mr. Jackson remembers that a cousin (Bernard Daubon)  worked at the CCC camp in Tomahawk.  Families picked blueberries to sell and women did craft work.  When the Wisconsin Land and Economic Inventory undertook to map the entire state, it would be two McCord residents, Joe Jackson’s father Ben and brother-in-law, James Amour, who would map seven of the sections in Towships 36N, R4E and R5E, measures of both their familiarity with the landscape and their entrepreneurial spirit.  By the time the Jacksons left McCord for Milwaukee, at least two of the village’s residents owned automobiles.

          Ten years before, Indians at McCord were also actively involved in marketing distinctively Indian commodities in several registers.  The Tomahawk Leader of August 20, 1931 carried a page one article entitled “Indian Wedding Here Sunday,” then went on to describe the anticipated ceremony between a local Potawatomi resident of McCord and a member of the Lac du Flambeau Band, it reported the availability for sale  of beadwork, baskets and canoes. Perhaps as significantly, page five held a paid advertisement.

          R. C. Barnes, identified as the announcer and interpreter, was Russel Barnes, son of a prominent land-owning Potawatomi Indian woman from Skunk Hill.  Chief Anwash was likely FrankAnwash, Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe married to Obweg, Kansas Potawatomi woman. 

          They must have also marketed their maple sugar but this would have come during the winter and moved through channels that were less public.  A single bucket that still site in the woods on the site of McCord contains 230 industrially manufactured metal taps for harvesting sugar.  One hundred and forty pails explicitly and apparently exclusively used for catching the sap, as well as 50-60 cans of different sizes used for the same purpose, have been found at five different locations within the site. We take these numbers to be significant and conclude from it that maple sugar production was an important dimension of McCord’s economy. Matthew Thomas (2004:104) concludes, “At this point in time, this (McCord) is the greatest concentration of archaeological remains of boiling arches at an American Indian community in Wisconsin.”  There is some evidence of the economic significance of these arches.

          May 2, 1901 Prentice News Calumet notes that the postmaster at McCord reports that “Indians shipped to Tomahawk consigned to DC Jones, 550 lbs of maple sugar of superior quality.” And ten years later, in the July 28, 1911 issue: “The Indians are busy picking and selling blueberries throughout this vicinity.”  As there were more than 8800 people living in Oneida County  at this time, the inclination to McCord as “isolated,” in “seclusion” distracts us from the conclusion that McCord was located where it was partially because of the proximity of non-Indian people who were its market for country foods.

          The same can be said of Skunk Hill.  Though there is no direct evidence for such levels of sugar production, however, Gerend (1932)  writes that at Indian Farm, fifteenmiles north of Skunk Hill, “they often had a sugar dance at which from 400 to 500 Indians would gather for a week’s pow wow.”  There were many opportunities for selling the product of their labor in the cranberry marshes as well as the other country foods and craft items in a county that had 25,000 residents in 1900. They also received money for their leased allotments.  In August of 1907, Indian Agent Williams, of the Nemaha Indian Reservation in Kansas, came to Pittsville (near Skunk Hill)  to disburse about $15,000 in allotments of $348.59  for each of the 43 people paid.   Two days later the paper reported that there were “(q)uite a few Potowatomie Indians…in the city today spending some of the good money they received from Uncle Sam…”

          Earlier, I referred to these communities as linked, that is, that movement between Kansas, Skunk Hill and McCord was common,  as well as movement between the Wisconsin reservations references being made to Indians visiting in the local newspaper.  Notices such as the following are typical:

          A band of Skunk Hill Indians dressed in their best attire, gaudy to say the least, passed through here Tuesday for McCord where they will celebrate the Fourth.

          Indian Albert Dies at Skunk Hill

          Several loads of Skunk Hill Indians traveling by team, passed through here Monday on their way to McCord, where they will take part in the annual tribal dance.

Describing the magnitude of the dances at Skunk Hill, Gernend (1932) writes that “Some come by rail and alightas t Arpin,…a few come by automobile and some come with teams all the way from McCord and Laona.”

          Baseball teams at Skunk Hill played games against towns nearby and occasionally non-Indian residents of the nearby towns had picnics at Skunk Hill where they spent time “climbing the rocks and visiting with the Indians.”   Lac du Flambeau also played baseball with a team in Tomahawk.


          Scholars from at least Durkheim and OjibWeber to the Comaroffs have made strong cases for the argument that religious frameworks condition the sensibility of economic practices and macrohistorical conditions, in turn, shape those frameworks.  All of the tribes whose members made up the communities at McCord and Skunk Hill– Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Menominee and Ho-Chunk– had some version of the Medicine Dance, a pan-tribal ritual complex that likely emerged in the late 17th century refugee village of Chequamegon (Hickerson 1970:51-63)  involving the transmission of esoteric knowledge to initiates for payments usually in the form of non-Indian trade goods and the magical killing and revival of adepts.  This

           “powerful, semiprofessional ritual elite organized as a hierarchical, loosely bureaucratized, semisecret sodality…conducted rituals dealing with problems of illness that had reached epidemic proportions; they concerned themselves with problems of social control within the tribe, managing deviant warriors and chastising overly ambitious I


; and they served to bind together the scattered clan-villages into a larger solidary unit, the tribal society (Clifton 1998:264).

            Ojibwes referred to it as the Midewiwin and it is the religion of expansionist societies on the ascent though the historical context was complicated.  Unprecedented sickness and death, population movement, and access to material wealth as well as the presence of powerful spiritual competition in the form of Christian missionaries provided a motivation for part-time spiritual specialists who had formerly competed with each for followings to cooperate. The midewiwin facilitated and entailed the development of both religious stratification and political alliances by transforming goods procured in the fur trade which were given as gifts and payments  in the context of the ceremony into indigenous spiritual and social power and prestige, some of which was deployed in warfare.  All of these societies experienced periods of efflorescence in the 18th century characterized by increased affluence and political significance. 

          The Drum or Dream Dance, by contrast, is compensatory and inward looking.  And the Drum Dance was important at both Skunk Hill and at McCord.  “It is a development of the reservation period,” writes Rohrl (1972: 219). This is to say that it is the religious practice of societies losing their relatively autonomous power of self-determination and reproduction, their own ‘laws of motion,’ as they become articulated with the dominant society as dependent peripheries (Jorgensen 1978). Frances Densmore (1913:142) offers a useful distinction:

The Mide chiefly has regard for the individual; its aim is to secure health and long life for him, and its instructions concern his own character.  Its percepts regarding the relation of man to his neighbor (so far as observed) are connected with the cure of illness and general rectitude of his conduct.  The “religion of the drum” inculcates a developed and broadened sense of responsibility and concerns peace between peoples who have been at enmity.”

          After a few paragraphs about the Midewiwin among the Potawatomi, Smith (1933: 31) writes of the Drum Dance: “The second is the Dream dance which has been so thoroughly described by Dr. S. A. Barrett and is well understood as a sacred ceremonial dance which is not performed in secret.  In fact, the whites are often invited to be present.”  This is significant by contrast to the Midewiwin, which was so concerned about secrecy.  In their presence, the few whites able to understand Ojibwe would hear Indian people assure themselves that this religions was “as sacred as the religion of the whiteman” and in “everyway equal” to it, (Barrett 305) and “regardless of race, creed, or station” such observers are  received in a “kindly manner,” (311)

          Slotkin (1957: 13) contrasts the Midewiwin and the Big Drum, seeing the former as esoteric and expensive and the latter as exoteric and relatively inexpensive.  His wife, who was with him in the field in the late 1940s, wrote of the power of the drum to constitute a collectivity: “The effect of the group drummers beating and singing together gives me a sense of the group solidarity which is wholly absent from the-[another] rite,” no doubt, referring to the Midewiwin (ibid:15).  Slotkin notes that the Big Drum differs from Peyotism,  another competing and current revitalization movement that is on the ascent in being less “individualistic and contemplative.” (ibid:14).   The Big Drum is centripetal: leveling cultural and social distinctions between tribal communities as it foregrounds their commonalities in opposition to the non-Indians whose presence has become so consequential for Indian people.   The geopolitical context of the emergence of this new symbolic practice is the post-Civil War period wherein Indians were both militarily defeated and no longer seen as assimilable to the American body politic as culturally distinctive groups. The Indian prophet of this movement made peace between the Sioux and the Chippewa, rivals since the late 17th century, and communicated to them that they had more in common than they had differences.

          Indians had been killing each other and people lived in fear, normatively.   It was a widely shared and rather robust way of life.  Slotkin quotes an account of the new religion’s origin:

          Well, that Spirit stopped that. “My children, Indians stop doing this! This is not good! Stop doing it! If one of you is somewhere where you see another, you should think of him [or her] as being the same as your own brother, brother or sister—when you meet with different tribes, somewhere…

          I go anywhere.  I return.  I go to see Chippewa, Potawatomi, Winnebago; no one ever captured me: I always return again here to the Menomini settlement…

          Before there was the Drum, he (presumably the Indian) did not sleep well; he was always afraid of something; he constantly thought that someone would kill him. (ibid 14 my emphasis).

          Note the monotheistic “Spirit,” the racial term “Indians” and the message of brotherhood between those previously convinced of fundamental difference.

 The message that indigenous cultural and political differences were no longer relevant to non-Indians was realized as an indigenous religious movement that transmitted and reproduced a particular form of social relations.  The movement concords with the racial polarization and essentialization that the end of Reconstruction and the beginning of Jim Crow represented.  The Drum Dance was a regional manifestation of then-century and half-long social and cultural process well documented by Greg Dowd (1992) for east of the Mississippi. But it had a very particular character and was particularly appropriate mode of adaptation. 

          The Mide presumes a society that is intact as it focused on enhancing the power of individuals; the Drum Dance appears a cure for a society that is not.  It emerges in the late nineteenth century, a difficult time for all of the tribes.    “The next half century of their history, thereby, is a record of a loss of political and economic autonomy,…” Clifton (1998:347)  of the Potawatomi in the second half of the nineteenth century.   “The history of the Ojibwa people for the last half of the nineteenth century is bleak, cultural and economically,” writes Thomas Vennum (1982:25).  Felix Keesing ( 1987:148-193) writes of similar conditions among the Menominee and Lurie (1978: 702-705) for the Winnebago (Ho-Chunk)  Like the other tribes in the region, their relationships to the sources of power that had made their autonomous lives fulfilling were now fully mediated by the now more centralized post-Civil War American law and economy with bands settled on the treaty-created reservations, exploitation of game by Indian people off of those reservations interdicted by newly emerged states, and federal policy seeking to erase their distinctive cultures and societies via policies of assimilation.

          No longer able to reproduce internal relations with all of the generative power accrued from the practice of warfare,  former enemies exchange the knowledge and practice of peace in the form of the Drum Dance. With both warfare and the Drum Dance, however, generative and reproductive power inhered in the human body.  In the case of the former it was actual body parts.  In the latter, power was transferred in the “person” of the drum that was transferred from one group to the next.  The dance was given to a Wana’nikwa, a young Dakota woman,  in a dream wherein she was instructed to have a drum and drumsticks of a particular kind made, appoint officers and enact a liturgy of songs, dancing and feasting (Barrett, Skinner, etc).  Summarizing his informant, Skinner (1924: 224, emphasis added)  writes:

          The rule of the drum was visiting  and not war.  People had to love one another; if they did not, the Thunderers would bring their lives to an end.  Dancing and the giving of presents were to supplant fighting.

          The transition was legitimized in the traditional manner of originary dream visitation.  The integrity of Great Lakes Indian communities, would now be reproduced via reciprocal relations of gift exchange, the embrace of the Christian ethic of universal love, and a reimagining of the relations between humans and deities that included a greater emphasis upon monotheism.  In his description of ceremonies at Lac Courte Oreilles, Barrett (1911:322) writes “blankets, quilts, clothing, tobacco, foods etcetera”  were presented to visitors, typically for their chief to redistribute. Doing ethnographic work among the Menominee in the middle of the twentieth century, Slotkin (1957: 31)  writes that older members of the dance regard the Great Spirit as “relatively remote,” by contrast to the younger members who “concentrate on the Great Spirit and know little about the lesser spirits; this is a result of white Christian influence.”  Of the ethical transformation, Slotkin  (1957: 39) writes that the injunction to treat others like family members is traditional but, “the distinctive contribution made by the Pow wow [Dream Dance] is believed by its members to be that it extended this behavior from fellow tribesmen to people of other Indian tribes as well.”  One of his informants told him that “The Pow Wow people should be good and kind and love one another, being one person” (ibid: 43).  Skinner (APAMNH 173) also writes that “It (the Dream dance) is a rival of the medicine lodge, and , although there are no rules to that effect, many Indians do not care to belong to both.” 

          One of the ways in which the community expressed this love was by using the drum as a focus and means of organizing insurance rather like the friendly societies in Jamaica  and elsewhere.  Densmore (1932: 154) writes: “An important property of the drum is the fund of money, contributed to it during a ceremony or gathering.  This is the in the nature of an insurance fund, for use in case of illness or misfortune.” At the ceremony Barrett observed at Whitefish in 1911, a young man’s dream was retold wherein he was instructed to marry a local widow and look after her children. With all parties present, a transfer of blankets, quilts, clothing, tobacco and other objects” (317) was made from the family of the widow and her former husband, to the young man, then redistributed amongst all those gathered. At the same ceremony, the needs of a disabled man were met via a dance and collection the proceeds of which were given to a local (Indian) merchant who would, in turn, attend to the man and his family. (318-19).

            Threatened with the increasingly hegemonic force of a Protestant capitalism, atomizing Indian communities received and transmitted a model of communitarianism that placed soon-to-be commoditized traditional beliefs, ethics and practices  in a theological and ethical frame familiar and acceptable to the dominant society. In an electronic conversation with Ernie St. Germaine, himself in possession of dozens of Big Drum songs, he wrote the following in response to a reading of this draft:

          “In effect, Shinabe put on that tchii dewe’igan was more or less a pow wow, just a           celebration. He did so to fool chimokiman, in order to be able to practice his spiritual beliefs.”

 In her account of the transfer of a drum from Lac du Flambeau to the Menominee, Frances Densmore identifies 29 persons in the drum party then lists them according to their roles, note, in relationship to the drum, understood and regarded as a person:

          The chief of the settlement; the owner of the drum; the speaker; the aid (oc´kabe´wîs); the manager of the dancing hall or circle; five men who take care of the drum; the man who takes care of the drum pipe (used by the drummers): the man who takes care of the warrior’s pipe (used by the dancers); the chief drummer and singer; four leading drummers and singers (one being seated at each “leg” of the drum); four leading women singers (seated behind the leading drummers); four assistant women singers (seated between the leading women singers); four leading dancers (said to be ‘one for each ‘leg’ of the drum”).

          Ruth Landes wrote about the Prairie Potawatomi Big Drum in 1936 when she spent some time among them in Mayetta Kansas:

          “Cult ritual focused attention preeminently on the drum, regarding it as a materialized, personified mystery.   Cult hierarchy was organized in its terms and symbolism flowered around it.  Every eye was fixed on the drum, whether individuals sang, danced, ate, addressed the crowd, or idled.  To do otherwise carried the worst disrespect.  In the drum house, people tiptoed.  When discussing the drum, people employed the active mode and personal turns of speech.  Visionaries dreamt of it” (Landes, 1970: 242).

          Writing about the movement in the early twentieth century, Thomas Vennum (1982: 80) concludes that the drum societies “reflect fairly accurately the social structure of the community,” including women being “subservient to the offices held by males” (ibid: 82)  that “the congregational aspects of the drum dances should be stressed” (ibid: 81).  He (1982:74) concludes that “what is clear is that the number of (drum) societies within a given community and the number of tribes practicing the Drum dance increased and a pattern of giving away drums in any direction emerged.”  That is to say, that long-standing ethnic differences between Indian people were now subordinate to the racial difference between Indians and whites, and the communities would take as their organizational core the model of the drum societies.

          Samuel Barrett (1910: 267) observed Big Drum ceremonies at Whitefish near the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation during the summer of 1910, at exactly the time that the McCord was coalescing.  He write of drum transfers from one community to the next as involving a “friendship dance”  wherein the receivers of the new drum give the donors “very substantial presents” of “ponies and other chattels which if they were to be brought in the open market, would cost a good many dollars.”

          Ruth Landes worked among Potawatomi people in Kansas during the Depression, shortly after McCord and Skunk Hill had likely reached their apogees of significance as off-reservation inter-community ceremonial sites in the region. She reports that Potawatomi in Kansas in the 1930s named, married and buried by Drum, that is, the Big drum was the master symbol that facilitated these rites of passage (1970: 250-58).  With the George Amour memoir of life at McCord so clear about the importance of the Big Drum in this community, there is little reason to doubt that Landes description of such doings in Mayetta would not hold for McCord and Skunk Hill.

          The Big Drums that would come to play such an important role in shaping life in Kansas originated with a drum transfer from McCord with John Young (Nsowakwet) playing an instrumental role (Clifton 1998: 393).  John Young’s family was originally from the Chicago area and had lived at Skunk Hill earlier in his life. In about 1899 he moved to Perkinstown then to McCord (Gerend manuscript, 105).


          Like Kwakwaka’wakw at the same time half a continent away, leading individuals at Skunk Hill and McCord, especially but also at the other Drum Dance centers in the upper reaches of the Wisconsin River valley, “were utilizing capitalistic practices to support a ritual economy outside of European (in this case, American) control” (Masco 65). They did this by using the commons to produce country foods at near industrial levels, McCord having the highest density of sugar boiling arches in the entire state of Wisconsin, commoditizing cultural performances and by producing crafts for touristic consumption. 

          The villages represent a phase in Wisconsin and Indian history wherein native people attempted to fashion an indigenously organized collective modern life fully articulated with the dominant society.  They sought and partially succeeded in negotiating the terms of that relationship unencumbered by federal agents who were seeking to implement an individualized solution to the problem of social and cultural difference.  The Big Drum, or Dream Dance was the central institution in this articulation. It was a modular, evangelical, indigenous monotheistic movement that entailed its adherents in a complicated network of reciprocities within and between communities.  These communities both cooperated and competed for the prestige of hosting ceremonies with leaders such as John Nuwee and John Young at their centers.. As such, the movement required and rewarded lucrative relationships of exchange with the non-indian communities.  For a period of time, lasts two to three decades, multi-tribal Indian communities away from the reservations, but also mediating between them, effervesced both religiously and materially.

References Cited

ARCIA  Annual Report to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs

Barrett, Samuel.  1911. The Dream dance of the Chippewa and Menominee Indians of Northern Wisconsin.   Bulletin of the Public Museum of the City of Milwaukee.  Volume 1, Article IV.

Brown, Charles. 1928.  Papers in the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Bruso, Lelah, ed. Oneida County Centennial History Edition, 1887-1987.

Clifton, James.  1969.  “Sociocultural Dynamics of the Prairie Potawatomi Drum Cult,”  Journal of the Plains Anthropologist, Volume 14, number 44, part 1: 85-93.

_____________1998.  The Prairie Potawatomi: Continuity and Change in Potawatomi Indian Culture, 1665-1965.

Densmore, Frances, 1910.  Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology Volume 45. Chippewa Music. 

Densmore, Frances 1932.  Menominee Music. Smithsonian Institution bureau of Ethnology Bulletin 102.  Washington Government Printing Office.

Dowd, Gregory 1992.  A Spirited Resistance: The North American Indian Struggle for Unity, 1745-1815. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press

Engel, Dave. 2004.  Cranmoor: The Cranberry Eldorado.  Rudolf, Wisconsin: River City Memoirs-Macrocarpon.

Gerend, Alphonse 1932 “Traditions and Customs of the Once Powerful Tribes that Roamed Over the State of Wisconsin,” The Sheboygan Press, May 28, 1932.

____________. Native American Photographic Albums, ca. 1920, Wisconsin Historical Society Archives.

Goldberg-Ambrose, Carole. 1994.  Of Native Americans and Tribal Members: The Impact of Law on Indian Group Life, Law and Society Review 28 (5): 1123-48

Hickerson, Harold 1970  The Chippewa and Their Neighbors: A Study in Ethnohistory

Jones, George.  1923  History of Wood County

Jorgensen, J. C. 1978. A century of political economic effects on American Indian so- ciety, 1880-1980. J. Ethnic Stud. 6: 1- 82.

Kohl, Johann Georg 18xx.  (CHECK Chippewa Indians of Lake Superior.  Minnesota Historical Society Press.

Lawson, Publius V. 1920.  The Potawatomi, The Wisconsin Archaeologist 19 (2): 41-116.

Lee, Sharon Wai-Seung 1998. Evolution of the “shang” (American ginseng) industry in Marathon County, Wisconsin.  University of Wisconsin-Madison. MA thesis.

Murphy, Lucy Eldersveld  2000.  Gathering of Rivers: Indians, Métis, and Mining in the Western Great Lakes, 1737-1832.

Raibom, Paige.  2005.  Authentic Indians: Episodes of the Encounter  from the Late-Nineteenth-Century Northwest Coast. Durham and London: Duke University Press

Vivian Rohrl, “Some Observations on the Drum Society of the Chippewa Indians,” Ethnohistory Vol. 19, No. 3 (Summer, 1972), pp. 219-225

Sasso, Robert F. and Michelle Wilder.  1998.  “A Preliminary Assessment of Nineteenth Century Potawatomi Agriculture and Land Use Practices in Southeastern Wisconsin,” Wisconsin Archaeologist 79(1):185-207.

Secunda, W. Ben.  2006  “ To Cede or Seed? Risk and Identity Among the Woodland Potawatomi During the Removal Period,” Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology 31(1): 57-88.

Skinner, Alanson.  1924. The Mascoutens, or Prairie Potawatomi Indians.  Bulletin of the Public Museum of the City of Milwaukee.  Volume 6, No. 1:1-262.

Slotkin, J. S.  1957.  The Menomini Powwow: A study in Cultural Decay, Milwaukee Public Museum, Publications in Anthropology, no. 4

Thomas, Matthew 2004. Where the forest meets the farm: a comparison of spatial and historical change in the Euro-American and American Indian maple production landscape.  PhD dissertation. UW-Madison.

Vennum, Thomas. 1982. The Ojibwa Dance Drum: Its History and Construction. Smithsonian Life Series Number 2. Smithsonian Institution Press. Washington, D. C.

Weldman, Samuel  1907.  The Geology of North Central Wisconsin, Bulletin XVI, The Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey, E. A. Birge, Director. Published by the State.

Wissler, Clark 1916  Societies of the Plains Indians, Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History, Volume XI.  New York.


What was that was being validated in this Great Lakes version of NW coast potlatching? 

How was Big Drum a means of domesticating the threat that the wage economy (Raibom 104)  presented to the political leadership?  Was it the status of the community and the leaders within it?

EVIDENCE for off-reservation ceremonial

May 18, 1912 Marshfield Herald reports that the annual Medicine Dance of the Wisconsin Chippewa was held at Sugar Camp.

  In his memoir of life at McCord, George Amour writes that people settled at McCord so “the could enjoy some economic stability and continue the practice and preservation of their religion, customs and traditions.” (My emphasis and I note the order of his reasons).

  “Tah-qua-kik: Continuity and Change at the Community on a Hill,” nd,  manuscript; “Stray Bands and Dream Dancers: Indian Farms and Potawatomi Settlement in Central Wisconsin During the Late 19th and Early 20th Century,” nd, manuscript prepared for the Norwest Regional Planning Commission, Spooner, Wi.; “The Rozellville Indian Community: Historical Background,” 2004, manuscript.

  In May of 1919, improvising an appropriation of Western concepts he appears to think his auditor could appreciate, Simon Kahquados, speaker of the Wisconsin Potawatomi told Publius Lawson (1920: 42) that the Potawatomi “are the chosen people. They are the accepted ones. They believe they are the leading tribe by divine right.”

  Alphonse Gerend (1932:9) wrote that “The older Potawatomis at Skunk Hill often referred to themselves as the Chicago Potawatomi.” As “chicog,” is the Potawatomi word for “skunk,” the name Skunk Hill is effectively a transformation of “Chicago.” Indeed, Gerend got John Nuwi to write out the names of places phonetically: “’Sh-kok-ko’ stands for the name Chicago.  According to his (John’s) version and that of other Indians interviewed, the meaning of the term is ‘skunk’” (Gerend,  WHS archives).  More than twenty years before the issue of the name of this locality emerged in the local paper.

A certain Max Petersen had taken up the cause of informing the general public that the original name of this “young mountain” is “Power’s Bluff,” as “the [non-Indian] people of that locality do not seem partial to the name Skunk Hill,” (Pittsville Record, October 28, 1909) the name preferred by Indian people when they spoke English. When they spoke Anishinabewmowin, they seemed to refer to the community as Tah-qua-kik translated as “daagwaagiig…it is fall (autumn)” by Ernie St Germaine, personal communication July 16, 2008.

  Now, Ho-Chunk.  White Pigeon was married to a descendent of Glory-of-the-Morning (Lawson 1920:108), an early 18th century Ho-Chunk female chief, (see Murphy 200:28-29)

  Items Taken From the Pittsville Record, The Marshfield Herald, October 10, 1914.

  John “Louie” sold this land for $125 to H.F. Roehrig in 1927.  The Indenture was signed and sealed in the presence of Skunk Hill community member Russell Barnes and attested to by an “X”  as  “his mark,” with the notary writing in the name “John Louie.” Jones (1923:12) lists some of the Potawatomi who lived at Indian Farms and includes a “Nwee or John Louis,” no doubt the same person.

  The Pittsville Record of October 14, 1909 reports that “(t)he U.S. government has bought this land of these Indians in Nebraska and in exchange purchased the skunk hill tract, paying the tribe, in quarterly installments, the difference between the land purchased the price of the land north of here.

  I can’t reconcile Gerend’s claim that Nuwi died in 1926 but John “Louie” sells the land that John Nuwi lived in as a widower in 1927.

  Was the area a tribal borderlands?  Gerend (1932) notes  that fifteen miles north Skunk Hill was another settlement called The Indian Farm, located a miles south of the Eau Plaine River, “known in the Chippewa dialect as ‘She-sheg-e-ma-we-she-can-sebe,’ or the Soft Maple River.”

  “Indian” Albert Wyotten, who mostly resided in Kansas, died at Skunk Hill early in 1914, on “his last visit in the country he roamed when a boy, 50 years ago” (Marshfield Herald, January 10, 1914). Dying in 1914, in his nineties, Wabeshgo for example “has been a resident of Wood county for over forty-three years” (Marshfield Herald, October 24, 1914). 

  “Gathering for Religious Dance,” The Daily Reporter, (Grand Rapids, Wi.) October 13, 1906

  Planet Botanic   HYPERLINK “”  visited July 18, 2008.

  Gerend (1932)  writes that “they sold most the blueberries and cranberries that they picked.” A local resident reportedly “bought 50 quarts (a washtubful) from the Indians for $1.50…when the Indians returned from Dancy,”

  WISCONSIN, Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990. Compiled and edited by Richard L. Forstall, Population Division, US Bureau of the Census, , DC  20233

  Potowatomies Paid Off, The Daily Reporter, (Grand Rapids, Wi.) August 1, 1907

  Potowatomies Visit Grand Rapids Today, The Daily Reporter, August 3, 1907

  Marshfield Herald. May 6, 1911; May 20, 1911; October 28, 1911; November 18, 1911

  Marshfield Herald, July 5, 1915

  Marshfield Herald January 10, 1914

  Marshfield Herald, July 17, 1915

  The Marshfield Herald, September 11, 1915.

  For Ojibwe, see W. J.  Hoffman, “The Midewiwin or ‘Grand Medicine Society ‘ of the Ojibwa,” Bureau of American Ethnology. Seventh Annual Report to the Smithsonian Institution, 1885-1886, pp. 145-300.  Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press; Ruth Landes, The Ojibwe religion and the Midewiwin, 1968, Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, and Michael Angel, Preserving the Sacred: historical Perspectives on the Ojibwe Midewiwin.  For Potawatomi, see  Publius Lawson, The Potawatomi, p 70  in The Wisconsin Archeologist 19:2 James Clifton, Potawatomi, p. 734 in Handbook of North American Indians: The Northeast.  Smithsonian Institution, Robert Ritzenthaler, The Potawatomi Indians of Wisconsin, p 152 in Bulletin of the Public Museum of the City of Milwaukee, 19:3.  For Ho-Chunk, see Robert Hall,  “The Winnebago Medicine Rite” in Archaeology of the Soul: North American Indian Belief and Ritual, University of Illinois Press. For Menominee, see W. J Hoffmann, The Menominee Indians.  BAE Fourteenth Annual Report to the Smithsonian Institution, 1892-93, Pt 1 3-228.

  Georg Kohl estimates that the entrance fee for joining the Ojibwe Midewiwin in the middle of the nineteenth century was in the tens of thousands of dollars.

  George T. Amour, last resident of McCord, in his page and one-half long “A Personal Account, My Birthplace: The McCord Indian Village,” mentions the Big Drum or Dream Dances three times

  Wissler (1916: 869) writes of the plains societies in the late nineteenth century from whence the Dream Dance originates as a transformation of the Grass Dance.  It was “ a period of great economic readjustment…With this new life their social ideas and machinery were decidedly out of joint…many young men were so overwhelmed by the vacuity of the new life that they took to suicide or other less direct ways of throwing their lives away.  In our opinion this status afforded unusual conditions for the assimilation and diffusion of new traits…

  “The warpath was acclaimed as a tremendous restorative, both for the individual, who desired to live again, and for the groups, which thus regained its energies.”  (Landes 1970:  256-6)

  The gender of the recipient is not insignificant: White Buffalo Calf Woman gave the pipe to the Dakota.  Algonquians thus knew that they were receiving a genuine and legitimate Dakota ceremonial complex. My emphasis

  The agent in Kansas reports of the Potawatomi in 1889, “As it is, there is very much time and money wasted in useless visiting, and I have observed that the northern Indians, whether on the reservation for the purposes of a visit or permanent residence, are inclined to be troublesome and insubordinate” (ARCIA 1889: 216, emphasis added).

  Beverly Anderson gave a talk at the African Studies Sandwich Seminar on April 16, 2008 titled “Friendly Societies in Jamaica,” that described some of the same activities that can be seen in the drum societies of the Upper Great Lakes area.

  Rohrl (1972: 219) writes that the dance “appears to function as a means of maintaining traditional beliefs and customs.”

Enendemyan ngom

Good afternoon folks. I haven’t felt the urge to write too often of late, though I do have a lot on my mind. I have been somewhat hampered due to some treatment I am doing for prostate cancer. I have not shared this with too many folks as I am a private person. Though I do covet the prayers and well wishes of friends and family, whenever I have been ill, I have kept those in the know, so to speak, to a handful of people I can trust.

The cancer I am going through is stage one, so it has not become an issue for me, though a year ago I almost died from blood clots in my lungs and heart, brought on by this cancer. After extensive tests by a team of health professionals, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, stage 1.

Now I am being treated with radiation therapy for 9 weeks, or 44 sessions of radiation therapy. It has become necessary to see to this treatment to its duration and emerge the victor over this disease. I am confident God wants me around for a while yet, so there are no worries for me. I have always been a man of faith since I was a child, having been reared by two parents who loved God and taught me those basic principles of faith, to believe in Him, who is my God.

I recently lost a very dear friend who has been my single sole encouragement to continue trusting in God for all things, including my healing and beyond. He taught me the most important thing was to trust God and be ready to meet him in death, if that is what he decides for me. Some folks are healed miraculously from such things, while others seem to have to wait. I waited on the words of this wise man to counsel me in the ways of belief in such matters, for I lost both my parents in death, father in 1983 and mother in 2013.

I am still alive and doing very well health wise, according to that same team of health professionals who diagnosed me. My heart condition is doing well, COPD is being managed rather aggressively, and this cancer thing is now under wraps too. My friend, Moses Hightower had been ministering to me for well over a year on matters of faith, as I had said. I am a 17 year survivor of triple by pass heart surgery, diagnosed with COPD in 2003, suffer with PTSD, and have been dealing with the issues of this prostate cancer for well over a year now.

Brother Hightower went home to be with our Lord on June 8, this month, 9:37 AM PST in the morning. I shall miss him as he was a mainstay of faith for me for some time. Losing people that taught me the oracles of faith I have today, started by my parents so long ago, but continued by my loyal friend and brother, I now feel buoyed up by their faith, so to speak.

I shall continue to believe and post the language and cultural teachings I am familiar with now that I have given this some ample time to jell for me. I actually miss speaking of my language and cultural ways, so it shall help me to talk freely about many things that influence us all in these trying days. Bear with me as I write and share some truths of our ways and our language. I look forward to sharing then friends and students of this language and these, our cultural ways.

Nin se Neaseno.

Old words, old things

Some of the old Prairie Potawatomi language

Also known as Mascoutens/Mshkwedens

Seasons and Months

Spring Munokumi or M’nokumet

Summer Ni’pin

Autumn Tukwagik or Tukwaguk

Winter Aptu’po or Pontesi

January Tcimko’kisus or Big bear moon

February Nabina-kisus or Sucker moon

T’kuni-kisus or wolf moon

T’konia-kisus or snow moon

March Tcitca-kisus or Crane moon

April P’kon-kisus or bark peeling moon

May Temin-kisus or strawberry moon

June Skuminuk-kisus or raspberry moon

July N’bina-kisus or midsummer moon

August Nipitasu-kisus or ripening moon

September Mishawa-kisus or elk moon

P’suksi-kisus or deer moon

October Amino-kisus or rutting moon

November Thiketcakon-kisus or Kupetina-kisus

Freezing moon

Pokta’min-kisus or cranberry moon

December M’ko-kisus or bear month

The Pantheon

Ketci Munito or The Great Spirit/The Big Spirit/Etc.

Tcipu’mame or Power of the Power (translated by Wa’puke)

Spirits of the Four Directions

Wasaiyapamwi’tut or The man who carries the light for us, also called


Sha’ota or the Deity of the South, he is brother of the preceding

Takapauwitu’t or The God of the West, also referred to as The man who keeps the Earth moist.

He is often identified or confused with Tcibia’bos, the brother of the culture hero, Wi’saka, who rules the realm of the dead.

Pontesa or Aponke; He who keeps the cold for us, the God of the North.

He is called Wa’boso, the White Hare/Great White Hare and figures in the cosmogenic myth.

There are many old words and old ceremonies that are not even done any longer in this present day. The Neshnabek were a deeply spiritual people that had ceremonies for most everything in life, including arising in the morning and each time they walked upon the ground. They considered their Mother Earth and living viable creation that should be respected and dealt with in a sacred manner. I recall many of those early morning ceremonies the old people did before they would venture out among the people.

I was told once that I should have a song to sing each time I arose from sleep to begin the day. That song should reflect a deep appreciation for being able to awaken and breathe the fresh air once again. I was to also begin the day with fresh spring water, after a prayer of thanksgiving to the spring it came out of, and to pour a little of it out on the ground before I took a drink. It was to demonstrate to the God how grateful I was to drink fresh spring water and to be able to move and breathe.

I remember how appreciative I was for life in general in those days. Those old folks that raised me had much to teach in the way of being thankful for all things, good or bad in my life. Many of them always had a song to sing and it was never a sad song but filled with joy and expectancy. They were glad to be alive and happy to be walking on top of the Earth Mother, Segmekwe is what they called her. They referred to the Earth also as Akiwitu’t, or the God of the Earth.

I have listed some of the old language from the Mascoutens, or Mshkwedens, a word many of the early white writers could not even pronounce correctly. It refers to the Prairie People, for they used to burn the grasses of the prairies at one time in the early Spring. They lived on those prairies of Southern Wisconsin and Illinois for many years before they were asked to remove themselves to the Kansas/Southeastern Nebraska areas and the Northwestern Missouri prairies as well, finally ending up in the Northeast corner of present day Kansas today.

I shall be listing some more of the old ways and old language in due time here on this site. I have not been feeling too good of late but am slowly recovering from a very serious health problem.

Nin se Neaseno embyegeyan shote.


My family, with my dad in the middle on the Grandfather Water Drum, and his mother and father to his left behind him, as you look at the picture. The rest of the folks pictured are relatives, uncle to his right as you look at the picture and his wife behind him. His cousin is to his immediate right at the far end. The children (5) of them are all cousins.

I share these pictures on this site so folks can know who I am related to and to give recognition to those elders who had the greatest influence on me as I grew up among our community members. My family was Mide and Wabeno practitioners and they all lived pretty much separate from other groups that did not practice those old ways.

To be surrounded by these elders and the teachings they gave me is evidence of who I am today. I have often said that no one can say they have achieved anything in this life without the help of someone else. I would be nothing without my elders for I walk upon the legacies of their teachings and the ceremonies they introduced me to. My ggreat grandfather was the Mide Chief that served several tribes and he passed on the teachings to his son who was my grandfather and then my dad, ultimately to me.

None of this was done in English. The languages were Potawatomi, Menominee, and Ojibwe. Even the Winnebagoes came and participated with us in those days. I often feel so humbled as to who my family were to the Neshnabek of Northern Wisconsin and wanted only to please my elders and the God who governed our ceremonies. When one walks in those legacies, one cannot help but feel awed and humbled at the tremendous responsibilities of such an undertaking.

To learn all the songs along with each ceremony is a lifelong task and all of it done in the context of the languages mentioned. These days I feel such nostalgia when I roam the lands they once occupied and farmed, making their living from the fields or the woods as loggers. The old foundations to many of the buildings are still there and rings through to my spirit (jibaum), whenever I have an opportunity to go there. No one lives there anymore and nothing grows there any longer, but the trees and foliage have taken over, as though they are the silent sentinels of all we believed and practiced at one time. I feel humbled sharing this with you, the readers.

Iw enajmoyan.

Donald Neaseno Perrot

Nin mine ode ngyéyom…Zhikwés Marion Young Perrote

This is Neaseno, and his mother, Marion Young Perrote, Zhikwés. She is directly descended from Nsoakwet John Young, and along with her husband, Waubenose Donald Amob Perrote Sr, raised this little man on the Bluff near Arpin, WI. In this mixed community, she spoke Potawatomi and Winnebago to her children, and they did not use much English until Don Jr. was in school.

As her name indicates, this fierce little woman was a stalwart in my husband’s life, raising her children with dignity and grace, and always remembered the importance of her identity as a Potawatomi and the importance of her language.

When this beautiful woman combined her efforts with my husband’s, they were able to teach me the basic rudiments, tone, and cadence, of this language. Many a day I would spend on the phone with her, practicing speaking this language, until she grew too tired to do so anymore. She had such a beautiful soul, and stood on her faith in Christ with a fierceness that matched her name.

My husband’s parents, Waubenosé and Zhikwés, provided the upbringing, support, and knowledge that formed and shaped my husband. He was raised speaking many languages and learned to live and operate in a culture that in these modern times is considered foreign on the very soil where it was cultivated for thousands of years. We remember our elders today and how we walk following their footsteps. They made many sacrifices to keep and pass on what we hold dear today.

nin se zagjewekwe

Ahau nwi mbyege nomek…..

Yes, both of my parents were highly instrumental in giving me all the rudiments of being Neshnabe. They taught me it was more than looking like a Neshnabe, sounding like one in spoken language, acting like one, but being one of the heart. My dad used to say such simple things, which I still hear in the silence since he left. He once told me to seek the God, not the gift. If I would seek the Giver, and not the gift, I would always have him in my heart. That became of paramount interest to me over the years. I can know everything about my culture and its roots, but if I don’t have the Spirit deep within me, I have nothing.

I have sought that more than anything else in this world and have been privileged to being given all the rest of anything I ever wanted to know, simply because I sought the Giver first……making sure of the relationship I had with him, Mamogosnan.

Ahau, iw enajmoyan, nin se Neaseno.

Nin se o n’os; Waubnose Donald Amob Perrot, Sr.

This is my father. He has been gone from me for many years now, since September of 1983, which is about 36 years. There is not a day that goes by that I do not miss him. He taught me much about being a man and the responsibilities that go with being a man. I learned how to speak this language from him and my mother, along with the many other older peers of my upbringing.

They both taught me about our Native Potawatomi cultural ways, those of being Neshnabe, and the many ways of our people. I learned to fast, Mkedekewen, and the various ceremonial customs of our people, and all the specific ceremonies from him. I learned all the songs and how to sing them properly, for there is a proper way to sing our sacred songs when one makes a noise unto the GOD. He taught me much about the material culture along with the spiritual culture of our group. He was Potawatomi, Menominee, Winnebago and French, and could speak those various dialects, along with Ojibwe. The only language he did not speak fluently was French. My mother was Potawatomi and some Winnebago and she could speak those dialects also.

Everything I know as a Bodewadmi nene, I learned in our language, not in English. The language was preeminent in all that we did as a family, and as a group of Native People living with the land and by the land. We grew much of what we ate and hunted the rest, often fishing the rivers and streams close by. Those were the best times of my life.

All of that changed somewhat when I became school age, as the elders wanted me to attend the schools that were local to us, and not go off to some Indian School. My elders wanted me to learn English and some of the ways of our neighbors, so I would be able to survive in this world when I became a man and moved from the community I grew up in. Those school years were some of the hardest I endured but I learned this English language and much of the ways of the whites surrounding us. I grew to love the Sports I was introduced to and many of the studies I had to do. I especially loved to read the many books I came to know and learned much of this American culture from reading.

It has been a good life and I am truly thankful for all those elders who taught me all that I know of my Bodewadmi cultural ways, including this language I love so much. I want to introduce some of those elders I have come to value throughout my years as a Neshnabe, from time to time, on this site. For now, this is my dad whom I loved and still miss him from the depths of my soul.

Ahau, nin se Neaseno.

Nemewgishek nagdewendemwenen

Language is such a beautiful thing. We use it to communicate our situations, our hopes, our disappointments, our surprises, our feelings, our dreams, our joys, and so many other things. I was traveling along with my family today and the thought occurred to me about idioms in the English language and how they might sound in the Potawatomi tongue.

For example, how would I express the terms, Oh my word? Or my goodness? Or Kick the bucket? Hang one’s head?

Oh my word: Hau nin kedwen! or Oh my goodness: Hau nin mnones! Kick the bucket: Degshkan i zindi! Hang one’s head: Ndegodon se iw dep!

Those are just a few things I thought on but one can see when one attempts to use them in the Potawatomi vernacular, they make no sense. We say, Watiya, or simply Teya as men, and women might say, Mamkatgemek. We might even say, ngi mamkazyan ektot o shkenwe: I am amazed at what that young man said. We might say something like, ngi mamkadendem egi zhechkewat gi nenwik: I was surprised at what those men did. Shkwenwewze is another word to register surprise, meaning he/she is surprised. Nminawenma; to be amazed by someone, or nminawendan; to be amazed by something.

Just those few thoughts today….

Here are a few examples of what English idioms look like in the Potawatomi vernacular.


Nagdon i debazimgek mine egajdeyak – Follow the straight and narrow

Noch mesgeso ngot peneshi etkwenayek, nish je peneshiyek shi mtegoskik – A bird in the hand is worth more than two in the bush

Nagdon i gjash Follow your nose

Gego zgebdemoken i nech eshmegwyenDon’t bite the hand that feeds you

Ebwawabmayek, ebonenmayekOut of sight, out of mind

Gete’ skongemgok wjebyewakHe’s from the old school

Meyew esek shi eje kgadzimgek.Road to riches

Ge’te ziwtagen yaweHe’s an old salt

Gego shewebdene i wjashHe has nose trouble

Mayosek mine nemoshek eshe gmowekRaining cats and dogs

Mano geshgeshnowek nemoshek nebatthekLet sleeping dogs lie.

GmyanesYou’re bad!

Nde myanes – I’m bad!

Nde myanes se i ken – I’m bad to the bone

Ni je she shpemekWhazzup?

Cho she gego apje – Nothing much.

Gwi gbe’ gotth ge’ men ngojiWe’ll just hang out somewhere

Mnekwewgemek ojeBar fly!

Nde keweziyemMy old man.

Nde demopiMy cute little old lady.

Gshate wbetot – hot to trot

Eshe bmebset o andek  – as the crow flies

Eje pkwenek shkwede shi temget – where there’s smoke, there’s fire

Bwamshe dapkwnet gwich bemades ngot dbegen she bmesen shi wmeksenek – Before you judge your fellow man, walk a mile in his moccasins

Nej nebyagewen temget shi bmetsebek – The handwriting’s on the wall

Keko gimotken bkan nene edatDon’t steal another man’s castle

Ekenid bsek wigedo shech gadeHaste makes waste

Keko shegwaskneken shi egishakwnegek – Don’t jump to conclusions

Keko zgeptemken i nej eshmegweyenDon’t bite the hand that feeds you

Mayosek mine nomoshek she gmeyaRaining cats and dogs

Eshi gyebigwet o bebishagnegweBlind as a bat

Demagmeshi bimskwegen – monkey wrench

Demagmeshi mijem  – banana

Kego moken siksek i dodoshabo –  don’t cry over spilled milk

Moyen nsheke shna gwi mo – cry and you cry alone

Shomigwe nwiyen ké gwi wich shomigwe nwim Smile and the world smiles with you

Ni wepodan i myewI’ll hit the road

Nwi o baskzan i ébmanmek I’m going to go shoot the breeze

Mbiwe shna o – he’s all wet

Gi ngeton I wdep – he/she lost his head

Kego myano doneshéken – don’t bad mouth me

Gawa she ngi ski bwe we ewi shabshkemanI just barely squeaked through

Negdosha mingoyen gego kanabdemwaken i wdonDon’t look a gift horse in the mouth

Wewene she wchemyamget shi negdosha wdonekStraight from the horse’s mouth

Kego gemaken gde bidimek bwamshe bashka’wewatDon’t count your chickens before they hatch

Éyaptepok – an old saying –  that time of winter

Mjemendem –  keep in mind (sing)

Mjemendemok –  Keep in mind (pl.)

Gda mjemendamen shna – we should keep it in mind

Kche  –  big huge large

Mojiw debewyawe  – he’s a poop head

Pejagdebewyawe –  he’s a dick head

Mgabewze  –  he/she is huge/fat

Mgabewzik  – they are huge/fat

Génokét  –   liar

Géno Yashmojet  – liar

Jo she wi chikwado jayek ni tadownenHe’s not playing with a full deck

Nebiwet kwese yaweHe/she’s a wet hen

Shegnos kajmoshi wjashikHe/she’s lying through his/her nose

Genosimgek yajmownen –  tall tales

Wge kibengwegen i dbandewen  – he/she is blinded by love

Batashen shi shpemek –  he/she is stuck up

Apje shna shpemek she bimskwenwiHe’s all screwed up

Ngi geskago embge gsedeyan –  I was caught flat footed

Ngi geskago emskwenjiyan –   I was caught red-handed

Gego shna she yawe   – he/she is something else

Gego shna gdaw  – You’re something else

Ahau i ye i etetebasiyan: Ok, that’s how I roll!