Choncape, Otto Second Chief

Last Updated on December 19, 2012 by Dennis

An Otto Second Chief

Choncape, although of the Otos tribe, (Ottoe, as it is commonly spelled, and always pronounced,) of which he is second chief, is called the Big Kansas, a name borrowed from another tribe. We know but little of the history of this chief. The Otos, or Otto, own and occupy a country on the Missouri, east and south of the boundary line dividing the Sauk and Foxes, and Ioway, from the Sioux. They were troublesome during the war of 1812 with Great Britain, arid frequently harassed and interrupted the trade between Missouri and New Mexico

The first treaty between the United States and the Otos tribe was made in 1817. It is entitled, “A Treaty of Peace and Friendship.” The preamble restores the parties to the same relations which they occupied towards each other previous to the war with Great Britain. The first article declared, that all injuries or acts of hostility shall be mutually forgiven and forgotten. The second establishes perpetual peace, and provides, that all the friendly relations that existed between the parties before the war, shall be restored. In the third and last, the chiefs and warriors acknowledge themselves and their tribe to be under the protection of the United States of America, and of no other nation, power, or sovereign whatever.

A second treaty was concluded between the United States and the Otos and Missouri, at the Council Bluffs, in 1825. In this treaty those tribes admit that they reside within the territorial limits of the United States; acknowledge the supremacy of the United States, and claim their protection; they also admit the right of the United States to regulate all trade and intercourse with them. Other conditions are included in this treaty; among these, the mode of proceeding, in case injury is done to either party, is settled, as is a condition in relation to stolen property; and, especially, it is agreed, that the Otos will not supply by sale, exchange, or presents, any nation or tribe, or band of Indians, not in amity with the United States, with guns, ammunition, or other implements of war.

Among the names of the eighteen signers to this treaty, we find Shunk-co-pee. This is our Choncape. The scribe who wrote his name Shunk-co-pee, wrote it as it sounded to his ears. Chon sounded to him as Skunk and this may be regarded as one of the thousand instances serving to illustrate the difficulty of handing down the name of an Indian. The ear of the writer of it governs, and the pen obeys. Another scribe, of some other country, would, probably, in following the sound of this Indian’s name, have written it Tshon-ko-pee; and thus we might have had three Indians manufactured out of one.

The rapidly increasing trade between Missouri and the Mexican dominions, and the frequent interruptions which it had experienced from the Otos, and other Indian tribes, the grounds of whose more distant excursions lay in the route of its prosecution, suggested the importance of this treaty. But the conditions of a treaty with distant and roving bands of Indians, who are as wild and untamed as their buffalo, were not relied upon as of sufficient strength out of which to erect barriers for the protection of the trade which the treaty of 1825 was mainly intended to secure. There was one other resort on which greater reliance was placed; and that was, to select and bring to Washington, and through our populous cities, some of the leading chiefs of those bands whose pacific dispositions it had become of such moment to secure. Among those who were selected or this object, was Choncape. We are to infer from this that he was a man of influence at home; and that he had the confidence of his tribe. It is to the reports of such a one alone that the Indians will listen; and it was the design that he and his comrades should not only witness our numbers and our power, but that the reports that should be made of both, on their return, should operate upon the fears of their tribes, and thus render more secure our trade with the Mexican frontier.

That Choncape had won trophies in war is no more to be doubted than that he had been in contact with the grizzly bear, whose claws he wore as an ornament around his neck, in token of his victory over that animal. But, while he was at Washington, he was peaceful in his looks, and orderly in his conduct. Nothing occurred while on his visit to that city to mark him as a chief of any extra ordinary talents. The impression he left on our mind was, that he was entitled to the distinction which his tribe had conferred upon him, in making him a chief, and to be chosen as one of a party to come among us, behold our strength, and report upon it to his people. He said nothing, which we heard, that is worth recording, and did nothing of which he or his tribe should be ashamed.

Biography, Otto,

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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