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A View From The Attic


Week of  03/23/2015

     Fremont County Historical Society

Sub-Chief Shatee’s Burial
Part III

By E. A Shirley

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Editor’s Note- This is the third installment of E.A. Shirley’s Account of growing up in the Waubonsie Area in the late 1800’s taken from original papers written in the 1930’s

This valley (Waubonsie) was a great attraction for the Indians.  A little cabin on the bank of the creek, which winds its way the entire length of the valley, was my home in the early eighties (1880’s).  Near my home was a favorite camping ground for the Pottawattamie Indians and at times other tribes.  Nebraska and the western plains were the favorite home of the Sioux Indians.  When the Sioux crossed to the Iowa side, there was sure to be a fight.

Well I do recall in the month of October 1863, Father came to the cabin door and called us out.  On the hill just north of the valley, the Sioux and Pottawattamie were having a battle.  I was acquainted with the squalls and screams of the wild animals of this country, but we had never witnessed anything like that.  Father had been freighting across the plains and was familiar with the war-whoops of the Indians.

This battle took place only half mile from our home.  The next spring Father and I passed that way and there on top the hill were graves where they had buried their dead. One grave was eight feet in diameter and just to the north of the large grave and in a line were six single graves, all nicely rounded.  So far as I know, they have never been molested anyway by man.  Only a few know where they are.  I have previously mentioned this to members of the Historical Society.

According to the book  “The Images of Fremont County,”  Sub-Chief Shatee (Chief Waubonsie’s relative) was buried  close to Mr. Shirley’s childhood home and was in the path of the Waubonsie Road (now Highway 2) that cut through the bluffs.  In building the road, the grave was disturbed and efforts were made to save artifacts that were eventually reburied.  Below Mr. Shirley talks about the last winter of the old chief’s life.  “During the winter of 1863 a camp of some 300 Pottawattamie was established on the land now known as the Ansel Mann land. 

“The Indian village centered around the tepee of the chief who was a very advanced age as evidenced by his snow white hair.  Tobacco was scarce that winter but the old chief always had  attendants aplenty to supply his every want.  The tender care  does not check with our present ideas of the Indian but such devotion was common.  

“In the spring the old man died.  The first knowledge I had of the death was the wailing of the squaws.  In the company of my father we attended the burial.  The chief had been wrapped in the softest hide of deer skin which had been elaborately worked with beads and many things were placed in the grave among them his dog.  The grave was lined with buffalo and wolf hides.  The medicine man was in charge of the ceremonies.  The grave was covered with beads.  For many years annually the grave was visited and then those visits were no more.”