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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Chief Dandy and the White Settlers

Last week we mentioned the Ho-Chunk chief Dandy, who appealed to the Bible in an argument with Gov. Henry Dodge about 1837. A few years earlier, he had called on Juliette Kinzie in Portage along with a relative (and another chief) named Four-Legs, while the white family was observing their Sabbath day of rest. "We were all seated quietly," remembered Mrs. Kinzie, "engaged in reading.

"Four-Legs inquired of my mother, why we were so occupied, and why everything around us was so still. My mother explained to him our observance of the day of rest -- that we devoted it to worshipping and serving the Great Spirit, as he had commanded in his Holy Word. Four-Legs gave a nod of approbation. That was very right, he said -- he was glad to see us doing our duty -- he was very religious himself, and he liked to see others so. He always took care that his squaws attended to their duties, -- not reading, perhaps, but such as the Great Spirit liked, and such as he thought proper and becoming. He seemed to have no fancy for listening to any explanation of our points of difference. The impression among the Winnebagoes 'that if the Great Spirit had wished them different from what they are, he would have made them so,' seems too strong to yield to either argument or persuasion."

A few years before that, in 1828, Chief Dandy was at Galena with some companions and "while strolling about the town one day, they came upon a Methodist church where a revival service was in progress. They approached the windows and were amazed at the sight within, the house crowded with people, some clapping their hands, others jumping about and shouting at the top of their voices in a jargon imprehensible to the red visitors."

Some of Dandy's companions thought that the preacher might be performing a ritual incantation to drive out bad spritis which had entered the congregation. Another speculated that it was a white war-dance, and a third simply concluded that they had all gone crazy. Chief Dandy, "who had been watching intently for some time, exclaimed with an important air, 'I have it! I have it!' then pointing his finger to his head, he added, 'Whiskey too much! Whisky too much!' and the party walked off in disgust, convinced that the disciples of Wesley were enjoying a grand spree."

Years later, when he was a fugitive in Wisconsin, Chief Dandy made a profound impression on the first settlers of Dartford, on Green Lake. "One midsummer day in 1842," recalled Richard Dart in the Society's Proceedings for 1909, "while we were eating dinner, there was a rap at the door, which we opened. There stood a stalwart, richly-dressed Indian whom we did not know. He had no gun, his only weapon being a long lance whose shaft was decorated with three white eagle feathers, tied on with deer sinew. It was the symbol of his rank, but we did not know this. We shook hands, and he asked whether we could give him some dinner. We welcomed him to our modest feast, as we usually did such callers, and found that he talked English quite as well as we did.

"After eating, he said: 'I'm astonished to find you here. No white man was ever seen here before. I wonder that you are alone. I shouldn't have found you now; only, as I passed up the trail (from Green Bay to Portage) I saw a wagon-track crossing it and coming this way. This excited my curiosity. I followed it, and found your house.' He asked many intelligent questions, and we also questioned him. He said that he would like to have a long talk with us, but must go, for he had to reach Portage that night. We thought it useless for him to try to do so, and vainly urged him to stay. While we saw him to be very intelligent and bright, he had not told us who he was.

'How much shall I pay for my dinner?' he asked. 'Nothing. You are welcome. 'But,' he replied, 'I always pay for my dinner.' We still declined anything, whereupon he took out a fine buckskin pouch, well-filled with shining half-dollars--thirty or so, I should think. Taking one out and playing with it for a few minutes, he then tossed it to my little sister. 'I don't want to be bragging of who I am,' he said on leaving; 'but you have treated me kindly, and it is fair for you to know that I am Dandy, chief of the Winnebago, I thank you!'

"It was the first and last time that we ever saw him. He started back toward the trail, and soon passed out of sight. He was a splendid fellow, and it seems had, at the risk of his life, come back on a secret visit from the reservation at Turkey River, Iowa, to transact business for his tribe at Green Bay."

:: Posted in Odd Lives on May 24, 2006

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