Early Life Among the Indians
Copyright 1891 B.G. Armstrong & T.P. Wentworth, Ashland, WI.
1892 Press of A.W. Bowron, Ashland, Wis.


Chapter XIII.

Three Prominent Chippewa Chiefs, Buffalo, Hole-in-the-Day, Es-ke-bug-a-kush - The Most Noble of the Trio - Hole-in-the-Day as a Warrior - A Chief's Daughter


I see by the history of T.E. Randall, entitled "A History of the Chippewa Valley" and written by him in 1875, at Eau Claire, Wisconsin that Chief Hole-in-the-Day of the Uppers Mississippi Chippewas, was in his estimation the greatest chief of the Chippewa tribe. The facts are that Hole-in-the-Day was a great warrior but was far from being a peaceable Indian. I also find in Warren's history that he seemed to think that chief Flat Mouth (Es-ke-bug-a-kush) was a great chief, which I admit. He was a good warrior but did not set the good example that Chief Buffalo did. Of course it is probable that a long acquaintance with different Indians leads men to form a very fixed opinion. I was well acquainted with all three of these chiefs. Hole-in-the-Day and Flat Mouth were continually on the warpath committing bloody butcheries upon their enemy, the Sioux, whenever there was an opportunity, and if no good opportunity presented itself, they would make one, while Buffalo, on the contrary, while Buffalo, on the contrary, never went on the warpath and would only agree to fight when it became actually necessary to repel an invasion, and his Battle at the Brule River was one of these very cases. Hole-in-the-Day and Es-ke-bug-a-kush were stirring up strife about the Mississippi River and a party of Sioux started for the peaceable portion of the Chippewas expecting to catch them napping and wreak upon them the revenge they had failed to get from the fighting Chippewas that were with Hole-in-the-Day and Flat Mouth. "Sherman-like to the sea" they had cut around the warlike portion of the Chippewas and would have annihilated the peaceables had not Buffalo got word of their coming in time to meet them at the Brule. The general character of Buffalo was as different from that of Hole-in-the-Day and Es-ke-bug-a-kush as daylight is from darkness. Buffalo always set a good example, was a very temperate man in all things and was very industrious; a man of immense frame and an iron constitution. I have heard many stories related of him when he was young and related by the people of his own tribe. They claim he was a great hunter and the best bow and arrow shot of his time. It was said that in his prime he shot the swiftest arrow of any man then known. His practice was to frequently give his people good advise, more like a father to them than a domineering chief. After the treaty of at Prairie du Chien and the Chippewa country had been set apart for them, war parties and peace parties was the only thing upon which they were not perfectly agreed. Hole-in-the-Day headed the contingent while Buffalo was the leader of those inclined to perpetual peace. The peace party were in the ascendancy in numbers all the time from that treaty forward. Mr. Randall, who had short experience with Hole-in-the-Day, was doubtless honest in the opinion he had of him as a wise chief and peaceable inclined, but that was not his general character. Mr. Warren, whose history of the northwest I claim to be the best of any that has come to my observation, was born in La Pointe, Madeline Island, Lake Superior, and up to the time he was ten years old saw more or less of Buffalo, but the next ten years of his life were spent at school in the east, and on his return to the country of his nativity he associated himself principally with Chief Es-ke-bug-a-kush, and it appears that this individual dictated a great part of the history which his book contains. As to myself, from 1840 to the death of Buffalo, I was almost his constant companion and it would be natural for me to know more of Buffalo than Warren could have known of Flat Mouth and I could write a good deal about the bloody battles of the Sioux and Chippewas that Indians have told me but do not care to do so as Warren has entered upon that subject quite exhaustively and as he learned it from a fighting chief. I claim to know the Indian character as well as any man now living. Mr. Warren was a good man intellectually and otherwise and every word he wrote he believed to be true. He died before the completion of his work.

While writing about chiefs and their character it may not be amiss to give the reader a short story of a chief's daughter in battle, where she proved as good a warrior as many of the sterner sex. In the 1850's there lived in the vicinity of Rice Lake, Wisconsin, a band of Indians numbering about 200. They were headed by a chief named Na-nong-ga-bee. This chief, with about seventy of his people came to La Pointe to attend the treaty of 1854. After the treaty was concluded he started home with his people, the route being through heavy forests and the trail one which was little used. When they had reached a spot a few miles south of the Namekagon River and near a place called Beck-qua-ah-wong they were surprised by a band of Sioux who were on the warpath and then in ambush, where a few Chippewas were killed, including the old chief and his oldest son, the trail being a narrow one only one could pass at a time, true Indian file. This made their line quite long as they were not trying to keep bunched, not expecting or having any thought of being attacked by their life long enemy. The chief, his son and daughter were in the lead and the old man and his son were the first to fall, as the Sioux had of course picked them out for slaughter and they were killed before they dropped their packs or were ready for war. The old chief had just brought the gun to his face to shoot when a ball struck him square in the forehead. As he fell, his daughter fell beside him and feigned death. At the firing Na-nong-ga-bee's Band swung out of the trail to strike the flanks of the Sioux and get behind them to cut off their retreat, should they press forward or make a retreat, but that was not the Sioux intention. There was not a great number of them and their tactic was to surprise the band, get as many scalps as they could and get out of the way, knowing that it would be but the work of a few moments, when they would be encircled by the Chippewas. The girl lay motionless until she perceived that the Sioux would not come down on them en-masse, when she raised her father's loaded gun and killed a warrior who was running to get her father's scalp, thus knowing she had killed the slayer of her father, as no Indian would come for a scalp he had not earned himself. The Sioux were now on the retreat and their flank and rear were being threatened, the girl picked up her father's ammunition pouch, loaded the rifle, and started in pursuit. Stopping at the body of her dead Sioux she lifted the scalp and tucked it under her belt. She continued the chase with the men of her band, and it was two days before they returned to the women and children, whom they had left on the trail, and when the brave little heroine returned she had added two scalps to the one she started with. She is now living, or was, but a few years ago, near Rice Lake, Wisconsin, the wife of Edward Dingley, who served in the war of rebellion from the time of the first draft of soldiers to the end of the war. She became his wife in 1857, and lived with him until he went into the service, and at this time had one child, a boy. A short time after he went to the war news came that all the party that had left Bayfield at the time he did as substitutes had been killed in battle, and a year or so after, his wife, hearing nothing from him, and believing him dead, married again.

At the end of the war Dingley came back and I saw him at Bayfield and told him everyone had supposed him dead and that his wife had married another man. He was very sorry to hear this news and said he would go and see her, and if she preferred the second man she could stay with him, but that he should take the boy. A few years ago I had occasion to stop over night with them. And had a long talk over the two marriages. She told me the circumstances that had let her to the second marriage. She thought Dingley dead, and her father and brother being dead, she had no one to look after her support, or otherwise she would not have done so. She related the related the pursuit of the Sioux at the time of her father's death with much tribal pride, and the satisfaction she felt at revenging herself upon the murder of her father and kinsmen. She gave me the particulars of getting the last two scalps that she secured in the eventful chase. The first she raised only a short distance from her place of starting; a warrior she espied skulking behind a tree presumably watching for some one other of her friends that was approaching. The other she did not get until the second day out when she discovered a Sioux crossing a river. She said: "The good luck that had followed me since I raised my father's rifle did not now desert me," for her shot had proved a good one and she soon had his dripping scalp at her belt although she had to wade the river after it.

 

Contributed and used with permission on this site by Timm Severud. The Lac Courte Oreilles Historical Preservation Office created this reproduction.Timm Severud manually typed it in and some minor changes to text have been made from the original, to correct spelling mistakes, and slight grammar mistakes. There is no copyright on this book or this reproduction. Feel free to use and share with others. Enjoy what I consider the best historical biography I have ever read. T.L.S.

 

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