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Posted By: County Coordinator
Date: 5/5/2019 at 12:12:44

The Daily Gate City
Keokuk, Iowa
May 11, 1913



Chief Keokuk - Half Breeds

Tradition and old scraps of written history tells us that Nathan Smith, a long time interpreter and spy among the Indians, was at Keokuk's camp or village, on the Iowa river, during the troubles, resulting in the Black Hawk war. Of course there was great excitement in the village at the wild rumors and discussions of bloodshed, and night after night Keokuk assembled the people of his tribe in the council house and made speeches to them opposed to war; he told them its consequences, and as Smith understood every word he uttered, and was in the habit of hearing the best public speakers, he said he never heard an orator equal to Keokuk. His influence with his people was great; they knew him to be brave, but it was with difficulty he restrained them from their natural love for war. He made several journeys to Washington and was much trusted for his integrity and fidelity to the government of the United States. He wielded much more influence for the protection and betterment of the condition of the white people in the Mississippi valley in the locality than many white men of prominence who held high place in the councils of the union.

Keokuk was a quarter blood, not a full blooded Indian, not generally known, but it is authoratively claimed, that it is a well authenticated fact, settled beyond all controversy. His mother was La Lott, a half-breed Indian woman as appears from a letter dated at Rocky Island, as it was then called, but now as Rock Island, on the ninth day of June, 1830, addressed to Gen. William Clark, then superintendent of Indian affairs at St. Louis, Mo., which was written by Tomas Forsythe, the Indian agent for Keokuk, Taimah and other chiefs, and explained and signed by six of them in number, all uniting in the letter, which is something of a curiosity. It had been and is yet by many taken for granted that the noted chief was of pure Indian blood. Some white people aware of the white blood that was in his veins have reasoned that to the Caucasian element in his composition he no doubt owed much of the sagacity which distinguished him, that prophetic foresight which enabled him to see the future utter extinction of his nation, which by his wisdom in council he sought to defer, for as it has been said of him, he was what Maribeau was to France, the Rienzi, the last of the tribunes of his race, was to Rome. Here is the curious letter signed by the six chiefs, which speaks of the half-breeds of the Sac and Fox Indians:

The Old Letter.

"To General William Clarke,

Superintendent of Indian Affairs at St. Louis, Mo.

"Father - Last year while at Prairie du Chien, we wrote a letter to our Great Father, the president of the United States, requesting him to have the lands surveyed which we give to our relations, the half breeds of our nation, as the treaty made at the city of Washington, on the fourth of August, 1824, but as yet have received no answer.

"Father - Above are the names (a list of names precedes the letter) and ages of the half breeds of our nations who were in existence when we made the treaty and to whom we give the tract of land, and to none others whatever.

"Father - We wish you to interest yourself for our relations, the half breeds of our nations who are mentioned in the above list, to have their land surveyed and equally divided, it being perfectly understood at the before mentioned treaty that the late Maurice Blondeau was to have his choice of any place in the tract so granted.

"Father - We wish to remove all the white people now on that tract of land, which we intend for the use of the half breeds of our nations, and not allow any white people of any description to settle and live on that land, except a father, a husband or a wife of any of the half breeds, or any agent or agents appointed by the president.

"Father - We wish you to prevent any white person or half breed from keeping spiritous liquors for sale on any part of the above mentioned tract of land, on any account whatever, but to any white people or half breeds who wish to sell goods to Indians or others, we can have no objections to them being allowed to remain anywhere on this tract of land, provided you give them a license.

"Pershapaho, his X mark.
"Pukkenami, his X mark.
"Wabawiaw, his X mark.
"Tiamah, his X mark.
"Keokuk, his X mark.
"Moccopawn, his X mark.

"The above chiefs also request that La Lott (Keokuk's mother), a half breed, shall have a share in the above mentioned lands, that is to say that Thomas Abbott's and La Lott's land may join together at a place called the orchard, at the head of the Des Moines rapids.

"Explained and signed before me this ninth of June, 1830, at Rocky Island. Signed, Thomas Forsythe, Indian agent."

There is an accumulation of very interesting facts and incidents connected with the life of Keokuk and the early settlement of Keokuk, Lee county and the state of Iowa, which will be given from time to time in these columns.


Lee Documents maintained by Sherri Turner.
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