Pottawatomie Indian Chiefs and Leaders

Chechawkose. A Potawatomi chief of this name formerly lived at a village commonly called ” Chechawkose’s village,” on the s. side of Tippecanoe r., about Harrison tp., Kosciusko co., Ind. The reserve was sold in 1836. The name is also spelled Chechawkose and Chitchakos. (J. M.)

Shavehead. A well known Pottawatomie chief, so named by the whites because, like many of his ancestors, he kept the hair shaved from the greater part of his scalp. The dates of his birth and death are not known, but lie lived during the early part of the 19th century in the southeast part of Cass County, Mich. As a warrior Shavehead was the terror of the vicinity, feared by both whites and Indians. He participated in many battles and manifested a determined hatred for the whites, openly boasting of the scalps he had taken, and wearing them as trophies about his person. It was reported, although probably with great exaggeration, that he possessed a string of 99 white men’s tongues.

Many incidents of Shavehead’s vindictiveness are related. After the mail stages had begun to run on the Chicago road, Shavehead, claiming the rights of his people as proprietors of the soil, established himself at a ferry of St Joseph River, near Mottville, and demanded tribute from every one who crossed, especially the settlers who were compelled to use this route to the nearest grist mill.

Finally, exasperated beyond endurance, one of the settlers caught the Indian unaware and administered a severe beating, which had the effect of curing his depredations, but making him more sullen. He is described in his old age as being tall and erect, quite dark, and with not a hair on his head. Both a lake and a prairie bear his name.

Several stories are told of the manner of Shavehead’s death, but they can not be substantiated. One is that the old chief, while boasting of his part in the massacre at Ft Dearborn, Chicago, in 1812, was recognized by a surviving soldier, who followed him out of the village, and, it is supposed, murdered him. Another account states that after significantly saying that there was no longer game enough for both the Indian and the white man, he was killed by a white hunter who had been his companion on many hunting expeditions. The last and more probable story is that be died, enfeebled by age and poverty, and was buried in a hollow log in the forest.

Settlers visited his grave and severed his head from his body, and his skull was said in 1889 to be in the collection of the pioneers of Van Buren County. One of Shavehead’s sons died in prison under a life sentence for murder. See Coll. Mich. Pion. and Hist. Soc., v, 1884; XIV, 1890; XXVIII, 1900.

Metea (prob. for Metawä, he sulks.’ W. J.). A Potawatomi chief, distinguished in his tribe as a warrior and an orator. When the Potawatomi were subsidized by the British at the beginning of the War of 1812 he was one of the leaders of the party that massacred the families of the garrison and citizens of Chicago as they were retreating to Detroit. He led the hand that harassed the troops who marched in the fall of 1812 to the relief of Ft Wayne and was shot in the arm by Gen. W. H. Harrison. At a council held at Chicago in 1821 he impressed the whites by his eloquence and reasoning powers, and also when the treaty of the Wabash was concluded in 1826. He advocated the education of Indian youth and sent several from his tribe to the Choctaw academy in Kentucky. He died in a drunken debauch at Ft Wayne, in 1827, after having conducted difficult negotiations with dignity and skill in a conference with commissioners of the Government.-McKenney and Hall, Inc. Tribes, 59-64, 1858. See Muskwawasepeotan. Photograph

Blackbird (Mukatapenaise). A Potawatomi chief who lived in the early part of the 19th century. He was conspicuous at the massacre of the garrison at Ft Dearborn, Chicago, in Aug., 1812.

Shabonee (the name is in dispute; by some he is said to have been named from Capt. Jacques de Chambly; by others the name is said to be of Potawatomi derivation and to signify `built like a bear’). A Potawatomi chief, grand nephew of Pontiac, born on Maumee river, Ill., in 1775; died in Morris, Grundy county, Ill., July 17, 1859. His father was an Ottawa who fought under Pontiac. The son, who was a man of fine parts and magnificent presence, emigrated at an early age with a part of his tribe to Michigan, and, becoming one of Tecumseh’s lieutenants, fought by his side when he was killed at the battle of the Thames. Incensed at the treatment of the Indian allies by the British commander, he and Sauganash transferred their allegiance to the Americans. Joining the Potawatomi, among whom he married, he was chosen peace chief of the tribe and was their spokesman at the council with the representatives of the Government at Chicago in Aug. 1836. In the Winnebago and Black Hawk wars he performed invaluable services for the white pioneers, time and again saving the settlements from destruction by timely warnings. When the Winnebago rose in 1827 he visited the Potawatomi villages to dissuade them from taking up arms, and at the village of Geneva Lake, Wis., he was made a prisoner and threatened with death. As the white man’s friend he encountered the ill will of a large part of the Indians, but his influence over his own tribe was sufficient to restrain it from joining in a body the forces of Black Hawk, who twice went to Shabonee and tried to enlist him in his cause. At a council of the allied tribes in Feb. 1832, Shabonee espoused the cause of the whites and endeavored to convince Black Hawk that his proposed uprising would only bring disaster to the Indians. Unsuccessful in his endeavor, he and his son mounted their ponies at midnight, and starting from a point near the present Princeton, Ill., warned the settlers both east and west of the intended outbreak, Shabonee finally reaching Chicago in time to put the inhabitants on their guard. The Sauk and Foxes in revenge attempted many times to murder him, and killed his son and his nephew. When under the treaties of 1836 the Potawatomi migrated beyond the Mississippi, Shabonee went with them, but returned shortly to the two sections of land at his village “near the Pawpaw Grove,” in De Kalb co., which the Government had awarded him under the treaties of July 29, 1829, and Oct. 20.

Winamac. Another Potawatomi chief of the same period, the name being a common one in the tribe. Unlike his namesake, he was generally friendly to the Americans and interposed in their behalf at the Ft Dearborn massacre, although he was said to have been among the hostiles at Tippecanoe in 1811. He visited Washington several times and died in the summer of 1821. His village, commonly known by his name, was near the present Winamac, Pulaski County, Ind.


Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906.

5 thoughts on “Pottawatomie Indian Chiefs and Leaders”

  1. I have recently found a large Indian head effigy side profile quarts 7 inches in width 9 inches in length with a cross on side of head going back into hair I read that this was pottawonmie territory 7348289858 is my cell # my name is james meadors

  2. I am a TRUE Potawatomi – one that is not diluted in any such way. My mind and heart and roots are Potawatomi blood! I am from the Walpole Island First Nation, located at the mouth of Lake St.Clair. I enjoy reading articles such as this. However, I do not believe everything I read or hear. I was interested in this article until I read a part towards the end of said article that said ‘winamac’ (pronounced; wi’naa’ maj’) winamac “although he was said to be a part of the ‘Hostiles’ at Tippecanoe” (where the British – who were supposed allies of the Indigenous Nations fighting, and who have saved the whites on several, several occasions REFUSED to open the gates to the fort and let Techumseh AND HIS PEOPLE IN – THE ONES WHO JUST SAVED THE BRITISH AFTER THEIR PEOPLE RAN AWAY – LEAVING Tecumseh to either fight or run away too) Anyway – when you use the :hostiles’ – I know then it was written by a white person and therefore is most-likely untruthful. So I take what is a common occurrence in this article and compare it with common occurrence in other articles, and i go from their …… Then and only then do I teach, relay to my children and others .. aho and miigwech!

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