Published February 15, 1995
MORE “QUEEN OF THE WOODS”
Kodunda’s story of the White Man’s treachery
“On the morning of that sad day at Twin Lakes, Sinegaw, my husband told me that a stranger had been around informing all the Indians that our Christian priest wished all the tribe to meet him at the wigwam church and desired me to go with him. But being sick I remained at home. He faithfully promised he would be back by the middle of the afternoon. ... When none of the people I had seen going to church in the morning returned, I felt deep in my heart, that something awful had happened.
“As I was sadly brooding over my thoughts, the door was wide open flung, and in came a little boy of the white race, who was a playmate of the Indian children and who loved Sinegaw, my husband and me. He was out of breath and crying, ‘Murder! Murder! Murder! O dear, dear!’
“In a few moments he continued, ‘Lots of white men I never seed before, all dressed in blue, have got all the Injuns in the church tied together with big strings, like ponies, and are going to kill all of um. O dear, dear! Do run quick and hide!’
“‘Hold on Skinney,’ I said.’Tell me if you saw Sinegaw among them?’
“He replied, ‘O dear! Yes, me did; and me hear somebody say, Skinney, come here, and it was Sinegaw. And he talk low, and say to tell you to hide in the big woods a few days, then go to the old Ottawa trapper’s wigwam, and if he not get killed, meby he get loose and find you. Do run quick! Dear, dear, they will get us! Me do wish I could kill um all.’
“I gathered up what few clothes I had and left our home, never to return. I ran across the great trail to your wigwam; no one was there. I heard people going past me on the run. Someone spoke in a heavy excited voice. It was Go-bo. He said the whole country was alive with white warriors catching Indians, to kill or drive them toward the setting sun. All doubts of Skinney’s story were now removed. I ran north into a desolate swamp, which I had been taught from infancy was the home of rattlesnakes and wolves, and there I hid myself in the hollow of a fallen sycamore tree. It was a stormy night; wolves howled in the distance, a panther near me screamed like a woman in distress. In the morning
Lonidaw was born! I there remained one week, keeping the infant wrapped up as best I could.”
Kobunda goes on to tell how she traveled north for four days to find the trapper’s wigwam, kept alive by eating a small piece of jerked venison, a few beechnuts, and a pigeon so fat it could not fly. There she finally learned the fate of her people and thought that her old neighbors, the Pokagons, too, were driven westward.
“Late in winter,” she continues, “my husband returned and found me and our little one. He had traveled on foot and alone across the great plains from far beyond the ‘father of waters,’ and was so broken down in health and spirits that he seemed all unlike himself. He sought to gain new life by drinking ‘fire-water’ more and more. Alas, in a few years it consumed him and he faded and fell, as fall the leaves in autumn time. I have lived since among the Ottawas up the great sebe (river). I learned of them to do all kinds of hark and braid work, by which Lonidaw and I have supported ourselves. Although she came to me in the most desolate wilderness of sorrow, yet she has been my only joy and hope. I often think the circumstances under which she was born, amid the screams of birds of prey, and the cries of beasts, and songs of singing birds, had much to do with her wonderful gifts. She can imitate all creatures from the mouse to the elk, from the bee to the swan.”
Finally, while the mothers are renewing their acquaintance, Simon and Lonidaw talk together and he learns why they are camping along the river. “We are making mats and rugs to sell to white people,” she said. “The finest flags and rushes we have ever found grow on a marsh close by. I walk along the river because of the beautiful scenery and so that my deer will have good feeding grounds.” He also learned that their old friend, the trapper, was coming to take them back home any day.
THE OLD TRAPPER’S STORY OF BETRAYAL
He did come and they all had a feast together. The trapper remembers Simon’s father Leopold and recalls the time that he went with the other chiefs to the great father of the United States in Washington (Martin Van Buren), who had sent for them to come there. They were all dressed in ornamented buckskin, wearing fine, beaded moccasins and caps trimmed with eagle feathers. Then he tells how they were kept there in Washington all winter, how the great white chief gave them beds, and fed them with great feasts and wanted to buy their land for his own people. But they said they would not sell nor leave their homes.
“And we all rejoiced when they came home we spat our hands, shouting ‘Me-no! me-no! me-no! (Good! good! good!) But the following fall, war chiefs of the white men came on horseback dressed in blue with buttons of gold and talked big, telling us the great father in Washington had bought our land and that we were to leave for Kansas.”
“We all stood on the river’s shore, and there shaking hands, goodbye said, as they stepped into the boat. As I was pushing the craft off the shore, a strange desire deep down in my heart came welling up, alluring me to give the maid a parting good-by kiss; but through fear I hesitated. Not because of her mother or mine or the old man - because in our race we are not laughed at and tormented as though it were a crime to fall in love. But there stood the jealous deer watching every move.” Listen in next week [Feb. 16, 2023] at this same time to see what happens!