Amisquam, Winnebago Brave

or the Wooden Ladle
A Winnebago Brave

Although we shall scarcely infer the fact from his name, Amisquam, or the Wooden Ladle, is a very noted leader of the Winnebago, a fierce and restless tribe of the Upper Mississippi. His mother was a woman of that nation, and his father a French man named Descarrie, by which name also the subject of this notice is known. He is a fine looking man, of large stature, arid commanding mien, whose influence over the entire mass of the warriors of this numerous tribe is very great. He has led many war parties against the Chippewas, and has always been successful, returning laden with spoil and scalps.

The leader of such parties seldom engages in a fight as a com mon brave, nor does he usually even carry a gun. The systematic and cautious tactics of Indian warfare, and the inevitable disgrace which results from defeat, imposes upon him a responsible office; and like the general in the army of a civilized people, he is expected rather to direct the efforts of others, than to fight with his own hand. The plan of the enterprise is often the subject of a council, in which all who are of sufficient age may speak, and the decision is usually unanimous; for we know of no instance among the Indians in which questions are decided by majorities. When the leading features of the scheme are agreed upon, the execution is left to the war chief, who may rely on the secrecy, as well as the implicit obedience, of his well trained followers. On the eve of a battle, he gives his orders to his captains, or if the party be small, to the whole band; and during the fight he is engaged in overlook ing and directing the whole operation. Occasions may occur, as in all military enterprises, where it may be proper for the leader to place himself at the head of his men, and go foremost into battle; and in all cases when the fight thickens so that the braves meet hand to hand, the leader is thrown into personal contact with the enemy; but the general practice is as we have stated.

The Wooden Ladle was a general, or war chief, who led large parties of his people, and gained reputation by the sagacity with which he directed these military enterprises. He usually assembled his braves at Prairie du Chien; and before going out always adorned himself with a string of beads which he wore round his neck. This was to be the prize of the first warrior who should kill an enemy, and bring his head to the leader, and the trophy was always given on the spot.


McKenny, Thomas & Hall, James & Todd, Hatherly & Todd, Joseph. History of the Indian tribes of North America: with biographical sketches and anecdotes of the principal chiefs. Embellished with one hundred portraits from the Indian Gallery in the War Department at Washington. Philadelphia: D. Rice & Co. 1872.

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