History of the Butterfly, Part 101: More on Poweshiek

Professor Leonard F. Parker (no relation to Henry) wrote a history of Poweshiek County, Iowa.  (I have heard some grumbling about this book—some people do not hold it in high regard.  Leonard does let his opinions come through, and he does not have a high regard for the Native Americans).  Here is his account of Chief Poweshiek”

“The chief for whom this county was named was a Fox.  He was born, it is said, on Iowa soil, about 1797.  His name signifies ‘the roused bear.’  He seems to have been a strong, well built man and in later years to have been very heavy, weighing some two hundred and fifty pounds.  He was not ordinarily a ‘roused bear.’  It required something important to arouse him, but excited, he was a man of power and energy.

The first notice we have of him came from Rev. Cutting Marsh, a missionary of the American board among the Stockbridge Indians, who then resided near Green Bay, Wisconsin.  They were christianized by the labors of Jonathan Edwards while living in Massachusetts, and their religion ‘bore transportation’ to Green Bay.  They wanted to reach the Iowa Indians and sent a deputation to them to induce them to accept a teacher and a preacher.  Mr. Marsh accompanied them and reported the results of the mission to the Sacs and Foxes in 1834, just after the Black Hawk Purchase.  He wrote: ‘Poweshiek’s village is on the Red Cedar, a branch of the Iowa, about ten miles from its mouth.  Poweshiek is second chief among the Foxes.  The village contains about forty lodges, and four hundred souls, as Poweshiek informed me.  He sent one of his young men to inform me I could stay at his lodge, and assigned me a place in it.  He is about forty years of age, savage in appearance, and very much debased, as well as all his band.  Still he was more willing to converse than either of the chiefs before mentioned.  I inquired about the instruction of his young men.  He replied that he would like to have two or three educated for interpreters, but he did not want schools, for he wished to have his young men warriors.  I inquired if he should not like to have his young men make farms.  He answered they could work with a hoe, and did not want a plough; they chose rather to hunt for a living than cultivate the ground.  He said: ‘The Great Spirit made us to fight and kill one another when we are a mind to.’  I showed some young men specimens of Ojibwa writing, and asked if they would not like to have some one come and teach them.  They answered, ‘we do not want to learn; we want to kill Sioux’”

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About the roused bear

Nature photographer from central Iowa.
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