Honored Potawatomi Families at Trail of Courage

Since 1988 a different Potawatomi family is honored at the Trail of Courage each year, a family who had ancestors on the Trail of Death or who signed treaties in Indiana. Honorees have included descendants from the following families.

1988 Wamego - William O. Wamego, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and other descendants of Chief Wamego (also spelled Wymego) who was on the Trail of Death. Bill Wamego attended the Trail of Courage nearly every year from 1983 to 1993, prior to his death in December 1993. He traveled with the Rochester (Indiana) Heymakers to perform dances of frontier Indiana at the Charles Dickens Festival in Rochester, England in 1984. He traveled on the Trail of Death Commemorative Caravan in 1988 and 1993, reciting Chief Menominee’s speech to the gatherings of people who hosted the caravan at night.

1989 Burnett - Tom Hamilton, Leesburg, Indiana, and family, descendants of Abram Burnett, a full blood Potawatomi who acted as interpreter on the Trail of Death and was later known as the biggest strongest man in Kansas. Burnett was the same age as Father Benjamin Petit and after the Trail of Death traveled with him from Kansas to St. Louis, Missouri, where Petit died. He became a chief in Kansas and is buried at Burnett’s Mound in Topeka, Kansas. Tom Hamilton made the map of the Trail of Death and took videos of the Trail of Courage and all four the Trail of Death caravans. Tom and his family sponsored the Trail of Death marker at Battle Ground, Indiana.

1990 Metea - Howard LaHurreau, Fort Wayne, Indiana, descendants of Chief Metea. A revered elder, LaHurreau taught many people about Potawatomi and wrote several books, which were published by the Potawatomi Nation of Canada.

1991 Aubbeenaubbee - Martha Caporal, Leiters Ford, Indiana, had been told that Aubbeenaubbee was her ancestor but in the summer of 1991 she discovered he wasn’t so there was no family of Aubbeenaubbee to attend.

1992 Citizen Band Potawatomi - this was to honor all the families in the Citizen Band who had been known as the Mission Band in Indiana but were forcibly removed in 1838. In 1861 they signed a new treaty and became UP.S. citizens, hence the name Citizen Band. Because 1992 was the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus, Sister Virginia Pearl and Shirley Willard wrote an Apology to the American Indians. Over 2,000 people signed the Apology. A copy of it was carried by canoe down the Tippecanoe River from the Trail of Courage to the Feast of the Hunter’s Moon at Lafayette, Indiana, the following weekend. The original copy is in the Fulton County Museum, Rochester, Indiana.

1993 Slavin and Pearl - Joe Slavin and Sister Virginia Pearl and family, descendants of a little girl named Teresa on the Trail of Death. She grew up and married James Slavin in Kansas. Teresa lived at St. Mary’s Mission at Sugar Creek, Kansas, for the next 10 years after the Trail of Death. There she met Rose Philippine Duchesne, who was named “She Who Prays Always.” In 1988 Philippine Duchesne was canonized a saint. A drawing of St. Philippine and little Teresa was on the badge for the Trail of Death Commemorative Caravan. Badges were given to all the participants in the caravan, hosts, sponsors of the Trail of Death historical markers and people who attended the gatherings along the Trail. Sister Virginia Pearl and her brother Bob Pearl traveled all the way from Indiana to Kansas on the four commemorative caravans.

1994 Wabaunsee - Paxico Wabaunsee was rescued by the Trail of Death Commemorative Caravan of 1993 when he was stuck in the flooded Sugar Creek in Linn County, Kansas, on his way to welcome the 1993 caravan to Kansas. His ancestor was Chief Wabaunsee, a fierce warrior who later helped his brother Black Partridge rescue the John Kinsey family at the Fort Dearborn (Chicago) massacre in 1811. Paxico or Pack was a first cousin of Bill Wamego and they hadn’t seen each other since 1929 when they met up at Sugar Creek on the caravan. Sadly, Pack passed away in 1994.

Signs for Potawatomi Memorial Village at the Trail of Courage Living History Festival, 1996. The photo at the left shows the front and the photo at the right shows the back. The names listed are the honored Potawatomi families at the annual Trail of Courage. (Photos by Helen Depew, Oklahoma City, member of the Bourassa family.)

1995 Vieux - Susan Dannenberg Campbell and family, descended from Chief Louis Vieux, whose wife Shad-Note was a daughter of Chisago, a headman in Indiana who on the Trail of Death. Vieux operated a ferry over the Vermilion River near Louisville, Kansas, near the famed Louis Vieux elm, until recently the biggest elm tree in the world. Vieux served on the combined Citizen Band and Prairie Band business committee, represented them in Washington, D. C., and was the first to sign the treaty of 1861 which created the Citizen Band of Potawatomi by giving them land in Oklahoma and citizenship. Susan Campbell and Bill Wamego’s children sponsored the Trail of Death marker in front of the court house at Rochester, Indiana. Susan and her husband Eric traveled with the caravan in 1993, 1998 and for a day and a half in 2003.

1996 Bourassa - Daniel Bourassa was the first name on the muster roll of the Potawatomi on the 1838 Trail of Death. He was connected to the Bourassa family of Quebec, Canada, traders and voyageurs in Canada, Michigan and Indiana.

1997 Navarre - Pierre Navarre was the first white settler in South Bend, Indiana, and considered to be its founder. His cabin, built in 1820, still stands in Leeper Park, South Bend. Pierre was an agent of the American Fur Company when he moved to Indiana form Michigan in 1820. He established the first trading post on the St. Joseph River in Indiana and married a Potawatomi woman. He was removed to Kansas in 1840 but returned to South Bend, where he died in 1864. Most of his children went to Kansas. Navarre descendants sponsored the Trail of Death marker at Stillwell, Kansas.

1998 - William Polke & all Trail of Death descendants going on the caravan. In 1782 at age 7 Polke was kidnapped by Indians and forgot how to speak English. He was in the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811 under General William Henry Harrison. Later he was a missionary to the Indians at Niles, Michigan. Polke was the first white settler of Fulton County, Indiana, and first postmaster of its tiny first village, Chippeway. He surveyed the Michigan Road and built the first frame house north of the Wabash River in 1832, the white house that now stands on Fulton County Historical Society grounds. Polke was the conductor on the Trail of Death and appointed Father Petit to take care of the sick. Larry Prichard, Lynn, Indiana, comes to the Trail of Courage Living History Festival as a descendant of William Polke. The Potawatomi families going on the Trail of Death caravan in 1998 included Sister Virginia Pearl, Bob Pearl, Jim and Eileen Pearl, George Godfrey, Tom Hamilton, George Wesselhoft, Susan and Eric Campbell, Barbara and Howard Kline, also historians Shirley and Bill Willard, and Dolores Grizzell.

1999 - Kabanseh and Optageshic (also spelled Aptakisic) ancestors of Galen Kabance, Pittsburg, Kansas, whom we met on the 1998 Trail of Death caravan. Chief Optageshic (Half Day) was a treaty singer and on the Trail of Death but Kabanseh was not. Galen Kabance sponsored the Trail of Death marker at Lexington, Missouri.

2000 Menominee - Jim Thunder, former chairman of the Forest County Potawatomi in Wisconsin, is a descendant of Chief Menominee. Thunder was a teacher of Potawatomi language at the Hannahville Potawatomi Reservation in the Upper Peninsula, Michigan. Because he and his cousin Don Perrot were both teaching at the same school, they could not get away the same year, so Don was honored the next year. We had searched for years for descendents of Chief Menominee but did not find them in Kansas. Instead they were in Wisconsin and Michigan. Chief Menominee was a Catholic convert and invited missionaries to build a chapel in his village, from which they would preach to the inhabitants. He refused to sign the 1836 treaty selling his land to the whites and thus was taken prisoner and transported from his reservation in a horse-drawn jail wagon. There were 869 Potawatomi, 286 horses and 60 wagons, under the charge of William Polke, Rochester, Indiana, the federal conductor. Father Benjamin Petit accompanied them. Menominee died at St. Mary’s Mission at Sugar Creek, Kansas, in 1841, age 50.

2001 - Menominee descendant Don Perrot and George Winter the frontier artist. Evelyn Ball’s granddaughter, Cecily Schneider, descendant of George Winter, and husband Michael, Lafayette, attended. Perrot is a Prairie Band Potawatomi whose great grandfather was an uncle of Chief Menominee. He was teaching Potawatomi at the Hannahville Potawatomi Reservation school in the Upper Peninsula, Michigan. Now he is retired and living at Dowagiac, Michigan.

2002 - Edna Carpenter and Badger Wahwasuck - former chairman of Prairie Band Potawatomi. Edna Carpenter, Kewanna, Indiana, is of Potawatomi descent. She and her family have participated in the Trail of Courage since 1976, when they took part in the re-enactment march from the Tippecanoe River to Mud Creek, the camp site for the Trail of Death where the first death occurred. Edna and Chet celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in 2001. Badger Wahwasuck, Kansas, was to attend the festival but family illness prevented it. His design of a yawning badger was on the Trail of Courage badge to honor him.

2003 Mas-saw - Potawatomi chieftess at Lake Kee-wau-nay was sketched by George Winter at the treaty of 1837. Winter records that he stayed at Mas-saw’s log cabin while he sketched the Potawatomi at the treaty council. She was the great grandmother of Jim Thorpe - World’s Greatest Athlete. Shirley Willard’s blue Potawatomi dress is patterned after Mas-saw’s dress as pictured by George Winter. At the end of the Trail of Death caravan in 2003, Shirley and her husband Bill were adopted by the Potawatomi families, thus becoming honorary Potawatomi.

2004 - George Godfrey and his Bergeron family. George’s mother was Helen Bergeron, a Citizen Band member. George was living in Maryland in 2004 but has since retired and moved to Springfield, Illinois. George’s letter to the HowNiKan, tribal newspaper of the Citizen Band of Potawatomi, in 1988 started the Trail of Death commemorations, including the caravans every five years. George’s ancestor, Watch-ke was on the Trail of Death and is noted for having made the trek on foot from Indiana to Kansas and back on three different occasions. The town of Waukesha, Illinois, is named after her. George has traveled on all four commemorative caravans and has served as Head Man Dancer and /or Emcee at the Indian dances at the Trail of Courage Living History Festival the third weekend of September, Rochester, Indiana.

2005 - Chief Shipshewano - Rudy Vallejo, East Moline, Illinois, did the eagle dance and was Head Man Dancer at the Trail of Courage. He and friends sponsored the Trail of Death marker at Mill Creek, east of Quincy, Illinois. Chief Shipshewano’s village was located north of Rochester at the present-day site of Shipshewana, Indiana. It is recorded that he was removed form his village to Kansas but grew lonely and despondent and was allowed to return to his village, where he died. A marker on a hill near Lake Shipshewana records this story.

2006 - The honored family was the descendants of Chief Keesis. Chief Keesis was the spokesman for the Potawatomi of the Wabash at the 1795 Greenville Treaty. He entered into negotiations with General Anthony Wayne on behalf of his people.

2007 - The honored family was Smokey McKinney, Prairie Band Potawatomi, descendant of Smoke, who owned a cornfield of 2 acres in Indiana and probably was on the Trail of Death. Smokey lives and works at Haskell Indian Nations University, Lawrence, Kansas.

2008 - Tracy Locke and her 10 year old daughter Erin Locke, Lafayette, Indiana, was honored. Their ancestor was Chief Abram Burnett, who lived at Menominee’s village and went on the Trail of Death in 1838. His story can be found in Gary Wiskigeamatyuk’s web site www.wiskigeamatyuk.com. Gary, also a descendant of Chief Burnett, works at Knott’s Berry Farm performing the hoop dance 4 times a day 5 days a week. He sent the eagle feather that was presented to Shirley Willard during the 2007 Trail of Courage. He and his wife Rosie designed the badge for 2008 the Trail of Courage, which shows Chief Burnett in traditional garb with a necklace of bear claws.

2009 - Eddie Joe Mitchell, Mayetta, Kansas, was honored as a descendant of Chie We-wis-sa, who was on the 1838 Trail of Death. We-wis-sa was sketched and painted in oil by artist George Winter in 1838. Winter recorded that We-sis-wa’s mother was 100 years old and died on the Trail of Death when they camped at Lafayette, Indiana. Eddie Joe with his brother-in-law Thomas Wabnum and nephew Marshall, traveled with the 2008 Trail of Death Commemorate Caravan from Indiana to Kansas. They are in several pictures in the caravan report in this website. Eddie Joe demonstrated making roaches and other regalia and drums at the Trail of Courage.

2010 - The Potawatomi Trail of Death Association was honored. George Godfrey, president, told history of the Potawatomi, mentioning that there are 8 bands today and they have an annual Gathering with the different bands taking turns hosting it.

2011 - Michale Edwards, Moore, Oklahoma, is gathering her family, the descendants of Doga and Chief Naswaugee, to come. Doga was mentioned in the George Winter book. Chief Naswaugee’s village was at Lake Maxintuckee, Culver, Indiana.

2012 - Edna Howell Carpenter for her 100th birthday. Edna was born Nov. 9, 1912, in Morocco, Indiana, of Potawatomi descent. She married Chester Carpenter on June 11, 1931. Chet, of Cherokee descent, died in 2010. Edna and Chet Carpenter were honored at the Trail of Courage in 2002 for their 71st anniversary.

2013 - John Anderson was 13 years old at the time of removal. His descendant David Anderson designed the logo used by the Potawatomi Trail of Death Assn for its historic highway signs.

Each year the honored family is presented a Key to the City of Rochester or a Key to Fulton County, special gifts during the Indian dances, and a brief family history is published in the Rochester Sentinel and in FCHS publications.

See the Fulton County Historical Society’s web page at www.fultoncountyhistory.org for more pictures and information.

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This page updated Sep 7, 2013.