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Way Back Wednesday: Naswawkay

Naswawkay [fletcher of arrows] was a leader of much influence and distinguished orator among the Wabash Potawatomi, characteristics that made him a valuable asset to U.S. Indian/Emigration Agent Colonel Abel C. Pepper during land cession and removal negotiations. He was the uncle to brothers Iowah and Mjigkewes, government appointed leaders of a younger faction of Potawatomi who were bribed with debt repayments and land reserves for promoting and rallying other tribesmen to the government’s cause. Serving as a principle delegate, Naswawkay gave the keynote address at the 1837 Keewawnay emigration council, expressing grievances and deep concern regarding the survival of his people post-removal.

“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—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. But we do not refuse your advice.”  

Despite his mixed opposition to removal, his name can be found among treaties drafted between the United States and Potawatomi Nation as he was eventually forced to leave Indiana in 1837 for a new reservation in Kansas.

For more information about Naswawkay, please visit http://www.potawatomi-tda.org/chiefnwk.htm or the CPN Cultural Heritage Center.