Pokagon Indiana State Park
Chapter title – History of the Park
The Potawatomi tribe lived in the region now occupied by Pokagon The original name of the park was to be Lake James State Park, however that was changed to reflect the history and heritage of the Potawatomi tribe that had inhabited the region. State Park. The name of the park derives from two tribal leaders, Leopold and Simon Pokagon, that led the tribe in the early 1800’s.
Potawatomi Tribe in Indiana
The word “Potawatomi” derives from the Ojibwe word, “Boodewaadamii,” which means “Keeper of the Fire.” This name is in reference to the alliance between the Potawatomi, Ojibwe and Ottawa tribes, referred to as the Council of Three Fires. The tribe speaks a form of Algonquian, which makes the tribe akin to the Delaware, Kickapoo, Menominee, Miami, and Sauk and Fox tribes.
Early in the Seventeenth Century, the Potawatomi tribe lived in southwestern Michigan. Iroquois expansion during the Beaver Wars with the Iroquois in the Seventeenth Century drove them out. This war was fueled by Dutch and English desire for furs, which were abundant in the northern regions. The tribes of the Iroquois League initiated a series of wars to expand their territory into the Great Lakes area in the Seventeenth Century. The wars displaced many tribes, including elements of the Shawnee, the Huron, Odawa, Ojibwe, Mississaugas, Potawatomi, and the Miami. The forced migration left Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and parts of the Ohio country almost depopulated of native tribes. Sometime around 1687 the Algonquin tribes of the Great Lakes area struck back against the Iroquois and began taking back their lands. During this period, the tribe moved into the Green Bay area. During the middle part of the Eighteenth Century, they expanded into what is now northern Indiana. The Potawatomi villages in Indiana were Abercronk, Ashkum, Aubbeenaubbee, Checkawkose, Chekase, Chichipe Outipe, Chippoy (Chipaille), Comoza, Elkhart (Miami), Kethtippecagnunk (Wea), Kinkash, Macon, Massac, Mamotway, Maukekose, Menominee, Menoquet, Mesquawbuck, Metea, Moran, Mota, Muskwawasepeotan, Pierrish, Rum, Tassinong, Tippecanoe, Toisa, Wanatah, Wimego, Winamac, and Wonongoseak.
Each member of a tribal community belonged to a clan, which is a group of families. Clan relatives raised the children, imparting them with the traditions of the clan. Normally, one of the clan leaders became the village chief. Among the Potawatomi, the village chief could be either a man or woman.
Potawatomi women wore long deerskin dresses, the men breechcloths, leggings, and deerskin shirts. Both men and women wore moccasins to protect the feet. Many men wore a leather headband with one or two feathers stuck in the back. Some men also wore otter-fur turbans. Both men and women had long hair, but during times of war, the men would shave their heads Mohawk style. The tribe used both wigwams and rectangular lodges as houses. Wigwams were oval huts constructed from woven reeds. The wigwams served as winter homes in the hunting camps. They built the lodges using bent saplings and covered them with birch bark. The tribe lived in these lodges in the summer when they occupied their villages. They also used birch bark to build canoes. They would also build dugout canoes. For overland travel, the tribe used dogs to pack supplies. The tribe migrated frequently after the soil in their gardens became depleted. Men cleared the fields for planting, hunted and served as warriors to protect the tribe. Women tended the garden and raised the children. In the fall, the men hunted buffalo. After this hunt, the tribal members left the villages and formed smaller hunting camps.
The Potawatomi women grew corn, beans, squash, and tobacco. They also gathered wild rice, nuts, berries and other fruits for the tribe. Men hunted whitetail deer and elk. They used traps and snares for smaller game like rabbits, squirrels and birds. In the spring, they tapped sugar maple trees and boiled the sap to make maple sugar. They also grew medicinal herbs in their gardens.
September 02, 1838 – Father Benjamin Petit Requested Permission to Accompany Potawatomie West on Trail of Death
Benjamin Petit (April 8, 1811 – February 10, 1839)
The son of Chauvin Petit and his wife, Benjamin was native to Rennes, in Brittany, France. After graduating from the University of Rennes law school, he practiced as an attorney for three years before deciding to enter the priesthood. After graduating from the Seminary of Saint Sulpice in 1836, he left France to perform missionary work in the United States among the Amerindian tribes. Assigned to the Catholic Diocese of Vincennes, Indiana, Vincennes Bishop Simon Bruté ordained him as a priest on October 14, 1837 in Vincennes. Petit took up his mission among the Potawatomie at Twin Lakes, Indiana in November 1837. He managed to learn their language by June, 1838. Beloved by his new charges, the Potawatomie called him “Chichipe-Outipe” (Little Duck). General John Tipton and his militia troops showed up unexpectantly on August 29, 1838 to remove the Potawatomie to Oklahoma. Members of the tribe entreated the priest to accompany them on their perilous journey. On September 2, Petit requested Bishop Brute for permission to accompany the tribe. The bishop at first refused, but relented on September 7.
On January 9, he started back to Vincennes. Terribly sick and with open sores that drained his strength, he made it as far as St. Louis and the Jesuit Seminary there. The fathers in the seminary cared for him the best they could, but he died of the fever on February 10, 1839. His remains are interred under the Log Chapel at the University of Notre Dame.</br=””>
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