Young Mahaskah, An Ioway Chief

Young Mahaskah, Ioway Chief

Young Mahaskah, An Ioway Chief
Young Mahaskah, An Ioway Chief

This is the son of Mahaskah the elder and Rantchewaime. On the death of his father, young Mahaskah took charge of his family. Inheriting by birth the title and prerogatives of chief, it was supposed he would assume the authority of one; but this he refused to do, saying, he would not occupy the place of his father unless called to that station by a majority of his people. This decision being made known to the nation, a general council was called, by which he was elected chief without a dissenting voice. He was then in the twenty-fourth year of his age. The decision of the council being announced to him, he thus addressed it: ” One of my sisters, and other young squaws, have been taught to spin and weave. My father approved this and encouraged it. He also taught the lessons of peace, and counseled me not to go to war, except in my own defense. I have made up my mind to listen always to that talk. I have never shed blood; have never taken a scalp, and never will, unless compelled by bad men, in my own defense, and for the protection of my people. I believe the Great Spirit is always angry with men who shed innocent blood. I will live in peace.”

This talk clearly indicated the policy he had resolved to pursue , and, that the force of example might be added to his precept, he immediately engaged in agricultural pursuits. He has now under cultivation about sixteen acres of land, on which he raises corn pumpkins, beans, squashes, potatoes, &c., all which are well attended, and cultivated with great neatness the plough being the principal instrument; and this he holds in his own hand. The surplus produce he distributes with great liberality among his people. This, and his father’s example, have had a most beneficial effect upon his tribe. Mahaskah not only follows, thus practically, the example set by his father, but he also counsels his people, on all suitable occasions, to abandon war and the chase, and look to the ground for their support. He is, literally, the monarch of his tribe Naucheninga, or No Heart, his father’s brother, acts in concert with, and sustains him nobly, in these lessons of industry and peace.

Young Mahaskah considered that great injustice had been done by the United States government to his people, in failing, by a total disregard of the stipulations of the treaty of 1825, to keep off intruders from his lands, and in overlooking the obligations of that treaty in regard to the conduct of the Sauk and Foxes of the Mississippi, who had not only made large sales of the mineral regions about what are called De Buque’s mines, without consulting the Ioway, who, by the treaty, are entitled to an equal portion of that country, but who also threatened, in their talks, to advance within the limits of the Grand and Des Moines rivers, and take possession of the country. In view of these things, young Mahaskah called on the United States agent, and made known his grievances. The agent replied, that his will was good to see justice done to the Ioway, but that he had no power to enforce it. Mahaskah resolved to proceed immediately to Washington, and appeal, in person, to his great father, and ask for redress. This intention of the chief was made known to the government. The answer was, in sub stance, ” There is no appropriation to pay his expenses.” He then determined to make the visit at his own cost, which he did in the winter of 1836-7, selecting for his companion a notable brave, called the Sioux Killer, whose portrait is given in this work, and of whose life and actions we have something to say. The Ioway engaged the services of Major Joseph V. Hamilton and Major Morgan, and invested them with full power to adjust their difficulties with the government Major Morgan declined, Major Hamilton consented; when, in company with their long-tried and faithful agent, General Andrew H. Hughes, the party started for Washington.

Mahaskah had indulged the hope that these difficulties might be adjusted at St. Louis, and thereby save the trouble and expense of pursuing his journey to Washington. With this view, he visited the old and constant friend of his people, General William Clark, who received the chief and his party with all the kindness which has so long characterized his intercourse with the Indians of the far West. But he was unable to redress the grievances complained of, and, therefore, declined to interfere in the adjustment of their claims. He, however, gave Mahaskah a letter, which was addressed to Major Hamilton, to be laid before the President, together with a very able petition which had been prepared. The petition was ad dressed to Andrew Jackson, President of the United States, or his successor; and also to the Congress of the United States; the object being that, if the President had no authority to interfere, Congress might confer it.

The young chief and his party were received with great kindness by the authorities at Washington. He told, in his own simple but eloquent style, the story of his wrongs, and claimed the interposition of the government. He was promised, in reply, that his business should be attended to, and his grievances redressed. Reposing entire confidence in these promises, he was satisfied. A medal was presented to him, and other testimonials of respect shown him-After remaining about ten days, he returned, in February, 1837, to his own country. The portrait before the reader was taken during that visit, by that celebrated artist, King, the same who had taken, previously, a large portion of those which embellish this work.

In person, young Mahaskah is about five feet ten inches high, and so finely proportioned as to be a model, in all respects, of a perfect man. The reader will see, on turning to his portrait, how striking is its resemblance to his father’s, and how clearly it indicates the character of the man. Around his neck are seen the same bear’s claws which his father had long worn before him.

It happened, when Mahaskah was at Washington, that the agent for this work was there also. He waited on the party, and exhibited the specimen number. As he turned over the leaves bearing the likenesses of many of those Indians of the far West, who were known to the party, Mahaskah would pronounce their names with the same promptness as if the originals had been alive and before him. Among these was the likeness of his father. He looked at it with a composure bordering on indifference. On being asked if he did not know his father, he answered, pointing to the portrait, “That is my father.” He was asked if he was not glad to see him. He replied, ‘ It is enough for me to know that my father was a brave man, and had a big heart, and died an honorable death in doing the will of my great father” referring to the duty he was engaged in, as stated in his father’s life, which resulted in his death.

Another leaf being turned over, he said, “That is Shaumonekusse, the Ottoe chief,” and added, “he is a brave and sensible man, and I am glad to see him.” They had long been friends; in fact, ever since Mahaskah was a boy, they had smoked the calumet together. The portrait of the Eagle of Delight, wife of Shaumonekusse, was then shown to him. “That,” said he, “is my mother.” The agent assured him he was mistaken. He became indignant, and seemed mortified that his mother, as he believed her to be, should be arranged in the work as the wife of another, and especially of a chief over whom his father had held and exercised authority. The colloquy became interesting, until at last, some excitement, on the part of Mahaskah, grew out of it. On hearing it repeated by the agent, that he must be mistaken, Mahaskah turned and looked him in the face, saying, ” Did you ever know the child that loved its mother, and had seen her, that forgot the board on which he was strapped, and the back on which he had been carried, or the knee on which he had been nursed, or the breast that had given him life ?” So firmly convinced was he that this was the picture of his mother, and so resolved that she should not remain by the side of Shaumonekusse, that he said, “I will not leave this room until my mother’s name, Rantchewaime, is marked over the name of Eagle of Delight.” The agent for the work complied with his demand, when his agitation, which had become great, subsided, and he appeared contented. Looking once more at the painting, he turned from it, saying, ” If it had not been for Waucondamony” the name he gave the agent for the work, which means Walking God, so called, because he attributed the taking of these likenesses to him ” I would have kissed her; but Waucondamony made me ashamed.”

Soon after this interview, the party went to King’s gallery, where are copies of many of these likenesses, and among them are both the Eagle of Delight and the Female Flying Pigeon. The moment Mahaskah’s eye caught the portrait of the Female Flying Pigeon, he exclaimed, ” That is my mother ! that is her fan ! I know her now. I am ashamed again.” He immediately asked to have a copy of it, as also of the Eagle of Delight, wife of Shaumonekusse, saying, of this last, ” The Ottoe chief will be so glad to see his squaw, and he will give me one hundred horses for it.”

It was most natural that Mahaskah should have mistaken the Eagle of Delight for his mother, and no less so, when they were seen together, that he should become convinced of his error. His mother, it will be recollected, was killed when he was only four years old. She and the Eagle of Delight were neighbors and friends, and much together; and were particular in braiding their hair alike, and dressing always after the same fashion, and, generally, in the same kind of material. He knew, moreover, that the Eagle of Delight was of royal birth, and, though a child, he recollected she had a blue spot on her forehead, which is the ensign of royalty. In the portrait before him, the color had omitted the spot; not seeing this, and seeing the braided hair and the dress, and the strong re semblance to the features of his mother as they remained impressed upon his memory, he was easily deceived. The moment, however, he came into the presence of his mother’s likeness, and had both before him, he knew her on whose back he had been carried, the knee on which he had been nursed, and the breast that had given him life; and even the fan in her hand served to recall the mother he had loved, and painfully to remind him of her melancholy death for he said that she had that same fan in her hand when the horse fell with her. In the other painting before him, he saw the blue spot. He was no longer mistaken, and rejoiced in once more beholding so good a mother. It is scarcely necessary to add, that copies of both were sent to him, and that both he and Shaumonekusse, the husband of the Eagle of Delight, were made happy; the one in receiving back, as from the dead, a mother so beloved the other, a wife whose loss he deeply deplores.

Biography, Iowa, Ioway,

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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