The History of the Butterfly, Part 110: Pow-E-Shiek

No comprehensive history of Chief Poweshiek exists.  There are a number of historical writings that mention him, however.

You may remember that Poweshiek became a chief by default, when a number of the Meskawki leaders were massacred by Sioux warriors after travelling to an appointment for a peace treaty that was cancelled.

An oral history was written down by some individuals, and was transcribed by Bertha Waseskuk, in The Worlds between Two Rivers, edited by Bataille, et. al.

“Na-E-Di-A was chief of the Mesquakie Nation and he had his principle village on the present site of Davenport, Iowa, just across the river from where Black Hawk made his unsuccessful stand.  After the Sac warrior was defeated, and another treaty was forced on him, the United States Government invited the Mesquakie  chiefs to come to Washington D.C., to go over existing treaties and arrange for settlement under their terms.  Mesquakie historians show that sixteen chiefs, warriors, and principle speakers undertook the journey.  Somewhere along the way, the group was attacked by a large band of Menominee Indians.  The ambush seemed, at the time, to be without reason.   Later, however, it was apparent that the ambush had been planned.

Some of the important Mesquakie treaties were lost in the affray.  It was thought then that the United States government was a party to the plan.  After the ambush seven of the original group returned.  All the chiefs, however, had been killed.  A temporary chief had to be chosen, for the sons of those that were killed were all minors and were not ready to take up leadership of their people.  As the pipe was passed around the council to determine who should act as chief, a woman (Ma-Que-Ka) accepted it and named her brother Pow-E-Shiek to be temporary chief.  Thus he became chief in name only, rather than by heredity as is the custom among the Mesquakie.  Bad judgement often causes hardship for a people.  At a time when the reins of this tribe should have been kept taut, they were thrown into the one who put personal glory ahead of duty.  The temporary leader, along with the Sac chief, Keokuk, signed away a great territory without permission from all  their tribesmen.  They then made their way to Kansas with those who would follow them.”


About the roused bear

Nature photographer from central Iowa.
This entry was posted in American Indians, Iowa History, Keokuk, Powasheek, Poweshiek, The History of the Butterfly and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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