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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Fearless Woman Hunter

"In my boyhood days" recalled Augustin Grignon* in the summer of 1857, "there was an aged Chippewa woman named 0-cha-own. She was a great huntress, and spent each winter with her dogs in the woods the same as any Indian hunter, and was quite as successful in killing bear, raccoon and other game. Beside a gun,which I presume she used, she had a lance with which, with the aid of her dogs, she would fearlessly attack bears and make them her victims."

Strong, Independent Indian Woman

O-cha-own was born about 1710 near Green Bay, and before any white people had settled in Wisconsin she had established an independent, self-sufficient life in the woods alongside the lower Fox River, where Highway 41 runs between Appleton and DePere. At Little Kaukaulin she had a wigwam and a garden-patch which served as her base of operations. "She was tall, and sinewy," Grignon went on, "and quite masculine in her appearance. Her husband had died early, and she had no children; she lived all alone, save having half a dozen dogs of one kind, each of which she had taught to eat his food only in his own particular dish.

"She usually wore, in cold weather, an old coat, which she had used so long, almost from time immemorial, that it had been patched and re-patched all over with bits of cloth of every hue and quality till it was fully two inches in thickness. She wore an old chapeau on her head which well corresponded with her unequalled coat; and in her chapeau, a plume -- not indicative of the warrior and the pomp and circumstance of war, but it was a simple talisman in which she trusted for success in the chase.

In her latter years, when getting quite old, she used to pitch her wigwam frequently near my father's; and I remember that my father once, out of mischief, cut off the old woman's plume from her chapeau. She got very vexed, and reproached him for so sacrilegious an act; said he must be a fool, as he did not seem to know for what purpose she wore it. The plume, of course, which was so superstitiously regarded, soon re-occupied its place of honor."

Left her Wealth to the Poor

O-cha-own traded her furs for manufactured goods and in her lonely hut accumulated a hermit's fortune: "She would sell her furs and skins, and invest the proceeds in clothing and other articles, which she would never wear or use; if there had been gold and silver currency in the back woods in those days, which there was not, she doubtless would have hoarded her wealth in the precious metals, instead of goods and fine clothing." When she died about 1790 on the west side of the river near Green Bay, at 75 or 80 years of age, "her clothing and other property which she hoarded up were distributed among the poor Indian families of the neighborhood."

Nothing more is known about her.

* Grignon is described in the Dictionary of Wisconsin History.

:: Posted in Odd Lives on March 14, 2013

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