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George Winter [1810-1876]  mentions Nas-wau-kee in his Journal (for the year 1837, but internal evidence suggests it was actually written later):

Judge Edmond’s court, Long Room, Washington Hall, Logansport, 1837

“Knas-waw-kay” was an exception to the aboriginal fashion. He wore his hair unusually long, gracefully falling over his shoulders in courtly style.

His coat was long in the skirts, reaching nearly to his moccassins & nearly concealing his scarlet “leggings”, and was made of a coarse white counterpane, the waist of which was girdled around with a red silken sash, which gave a pleasant effect of color. “Knas-waw-kay” was a very tall dignified Indian.  [page 5] <http://earchives.lib.purdue.edu/u?/gwinter,1301>


Winter also described Nas-wau-kee when he acted as the Potawatomi spokesman for a Council in July 1837 at Lake Kee-wau-nay (now Lake Bruce).

He was dignified in his manner; tall in stature; he had no turban, but his long and flowing hair fell with much grace upon his shoulders. He is far from being handsome, yet he is a remarkable looking Indian. [Winter summarizes Nas-wau-kee’s remarks to Col. Abel Pepper and the other Indian Agents:]

“Now Father, everything I say comes from the heart. We wish our money to be paid here not west of the Mississippi [ . . . ]You have been speaking of our miseries and wretchedness. Your counsels have brought these miseries on us. By your advice the very lands on which we expected to terminate our existence have been sold from us [ . . .] You now speak to us about going west. We have heard you often to the same purpose. We recollect the talk at Max-ee-nic-kuc-kee [ . . .] You spoke on the subject of removal; you said we should not be driven away; we were glad to hear it, and we hope your views remain unchanged. We did not specify one year or two, when we should leave [ . . .] A little space of time is left us, and we wish to enjoy it; after that we will follow your advice.

“Father, we do not see why it is that we should be requested to go west and live long. Man’s life is uncertain, and ere we reach that country, death may overtake us. I see not how our natural existence should be prolonged by going west. . .” (Journals and Indian Paintings, pages 105-107).


Winter gave a longer account of Nas-wau-kee in his diaries, in this version compiled for HowNiKan, the newsletter of the Citizen Band Potawatomi, in 1988 (Vol. 10, No. 1), pages 7-8:

There may be much of fiction and a dressing up of Indian character, to redress the tome of sensational morbidity. Nas-waw-kay was solid, strong, real, and not requiring effort of fancy or imagination to invest his character with interest. Nas-waw-kay had not been placed in those days of great historical events to make him an illustrious peer withothers, or he would have had appeared through an auspicious opportunity that would have called his great powers into the highest requisition. I regret that but three of his speeches are in my possession. They relate to the emigration, but they evince intellectual ability.

At the time of his sitting for his portrait, I-o-wa, M’joquis, We-wis-saw and some other chiefs accompanied him to my studio in Logansport. He put on a new shawl for headdress for the auspicious occasion. The same desire with the civilized man to go down to posterity under the best aspect was shown by the grave Indian on this occasion. He sat patiently, though the other chiefs were in constant conversation in their own vernacular. They seemed to be bright and playful over the novel mystery of sitting to be. painted. He appeared to be more interesting in his personal appearance as I have portrayed him without his turban. Personally the orator was much respected by white people. He came under my observation under various circumstances for several months in the forest encampment, as well as in the town of Logansport where he often came to trade at Ewing, Walker & Co. trading house.

Nas-waw-kay’s home was on one of the slopes of the beautiful inland lakes in northern Indiana known as Lake Mux-in-kuck-kee. I camped at this lake and sketched many scenes, though not grand, yet pleasing and charming ones full of associated interest.

Independent of Nas-waw-kay’s character as an orator and diplomat and sincere man, he proved a noble father by an act of striking affection and moral cuurage under very exciting and peculiar circumstances. He was a stern and noble Roman and his eventful deed is worthy of permanent record. Col. Pepper related to me the following circumstance of which he was cognizant during his agency.

A son of Nas-waw-kay and another Indian youth who were friends were amusing themselves in some sportive play when a closing tussel ensued. Theyoung athletes in their zeal for the mastery attracted the attention of the people of the village who became amused at the effort of each one to throw the other on the uk-kea (ground). Pride to be conquerer ruled each one’s young heart. The struggle became earnest and exciting. The son of Nas-waw-kay was accidentally bitten by his companion. This led to mutual provocations and at least deep feelings of resentment sprang from it. The young warriors became uncontrollable and no restraint was made upon their maddening resentment. The result was ended in a bloody strife in which the son of Nas-waw-kay became the murderer of his friend.

The event was criminal in the savage Indian code of laws. The penalty was death. Lex talieni [Winter means “lex talionis”], or the law of retaliation—tooth for tooth, eye for eye, blood for blood—was the old Mosaic law. But the conciliation of the friends of the deceased might avert the taking of life in revenge. Nas-waw-kay’s son stood to a sense of honor, he did not flee like a coward from the vengeance of the surviving relatives. He was their victim by right. Naswaw-kay wished to save his son’s life. He presented himself as a substitute and put himself in jeopardy for trial. A council of conciliation was convened in accordance with aberiginal manner and the case was brought before the rude Indian judiciary. The surviving relatives being the judges and their decision final.

The accused (Nas-waw-kay) appeared with proper formality and in solemn procession with his family entered the eh-kick-kuck (shade) of the forest. The Indians, of course, have no ke-ba-ko-o-la-a-kamsek (or jail). The relatives of the survivors of the deceased formally took their place as judges. One of the relatives stood as Mise-meh-tuh-es, or lawyer, and a friend of Nas-waw-kay became the Ke-nat-keh-chuck, or pleader.

The circumstances of the case were gravely stated against the accused who very gravely sat, cool, collected, dignified and ready to surrender his life’if the decision was so made. But the trial was happily terminated without the death penalty being inflicted. The friends were conciliated by proffered presents. Thus terminated a grave affair which was pronounced E-qu-yin, or right.

Congratulations followed the decision and such cases are observed with honor and fidelity by the Indians. The families of Nas-waw-kay and the surviving relatives of the deceased that night smoked the pwa-gin (pipe of peace) and at the wigwam of Nas-waw-kay there was given with Indian hospitality a great ne-wume-a-go, or feast, and the orator chief told many stories of war and of the chase and related the tradition of the mastidon and the Ke-kaw-bu of the lake.

Col. Pepper stated to me that he did not wish to interfere with the proceedings of the trial, but had determined that if it had been decided that Nas-waw-kay had to die, he would not have allowed the sacrifice of such a man.


Daniel McDonald, pioneer historian of Marshall County, described Nes-wau-kee in Removal of the Pottawattomie Indians from Northern Indiana (1898), pages 15-16

Nees-wau-gee was a quiet, peaceable chief, and made friends with all the white settlers in all the region round about. When the time came to leave [August, 1837] he determined to go peaceably, as he had agreed he would. The day before he started he sent word to all the white settlers to come to his village as he wished to bid them farewell. A large number assembled and through an interpreter he said substantially:

“My White Brethren: I have called you here to bid you farewell. Myself and my band start at sunrise tomorrow morning to remove to an unknown country the government of the United States has provided for us west of the Missouri river. I have sold my lands to the government and we agreed to leave within two years. That time is about to expire and according to the agreement we have made we must leave you and the scenes are and dear to all of us. The government has treated us fairly, and it is our duty to live up to that contract by doing as we agreed, and so we must go. The white settlers here have been good and kind to us, and in leaving them it seems like severing the ties of our own kindred and friends. We go away and may never return, but wherever we may be- wherever our lot in life may be cast we shall always remember you with sincere respect and esteem.”

The old chief was visibly affected, and tears were seen to flow from his eyes. All the people present took him by the hand and bade him a final adieu as well as most of the members of his band. Early the next morning, with their personal effects packed on their ponies, they marched away in single file, following the Indian trail along the east shore to the south end of Maxinkuckee lake, thence southwest to Kewanna, where they joined the other bands and immediately proceeded on their long and wearisome journey.


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