Chief Menominee

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Born c. 1791
Twin Lakes, Indiana, U.S.
Died 1841
St. Mary's Mission, Kansas, U.S.
Nationality Pottawatomie
Occupation Pottawatomie chieftain
Known for Pottawatomie chieftain during the Trail of Death
Home town Twin Lakes, Indiana

Menominee (circa 1791 – 1841) was chief of the largest Potawatomi community in Indiana at the Twin Lakes of Marshall County.[1] Although he resisted removal, in 1838 he and the Potawatomi of Indiana were forcibly removed to Indian Territory in Kansas by the United States Army. In 1909, the state of Indiana erected a statue of him near the headwaters of the Yellow River in his historic territory, the first time any state so honored a Native American.

Early life and education[edit]

Menominee was born into a Potawatomi village in what is now northern Indiana. on the headwaters of the Yellow River at the Twin Lakes (now located in Marshall County, Indiana). His people were Algonquian speaking, and the nation had a wide territory that included part of the present-day states of Indiana and Michigan.

As a young man, Menominee was a follower of Tecumseh and his brother The Prophet, who inspired several tribes in the Northwest Territory (as named by the United States) to try to repulse the European-American settlers after the defeat of the British in the American Revolutionary War. After their defeat, numerous settlers gradually started entering the area from the Ohio River and the Great Lakes.

Religious alliance[edit]

In 1820 at a Fort Wayne council, Chief Menominee met with Isaac McCoy, a Baptist missionary, and asked him to visit his village on the Yellow River. Menominee had become a religious leader among the Potawatomi, as he combined the teaching of Tecumseh and The Prophet with Roman Catholicism.[2] He hoped to create a way for his people to cope with the changes caused by the growing number of settlers and increased pressure by the federal government to cede their lands and move west.

In the 1830s the Carey Mission established by McCoy declined; it was eventually replaced by a Catholic Mission. In 1830 Father Frederick Reze(e) baptized 13 Potawatomi, including Pokagon and his son[3] in 1830. The Catholic Church became influential in the Pokagon community. In 1833, the fathers expanded their mission to Chief Menominee's Yellow River Potawatomi. These two communities were at the heart of the regional resistance to removal.[2]

Indian Removal[edit]

Treaty of Tippecanoe
Indiana Indian treaties.svg
Type Land purchase
Signed October 26, 1832
Location near Rochester, Indiana[4]
Condition Transfer of money and goods to natives
Parties United States of America, Pottawatomie
Language English

Encouraged by President Andrew Jackson, in 1830 the US Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, to authorize the government to buy Native American lands to extinguish their territorial claims, and to remove the nations to west of the Mississippi River if they wanted to retain sovereign tribal status.

Chief Menominee long refused to sign any treaty that ceded Indian lands.[2] But, his signature with an "x" was recorded along with those of numerous other Potawatomi chiefs on the Treaty of Tippecanoe (1832), which ceded most of the lands in Indiana in exchange for payments and assistance in moving. In addition, the treaty was to establish a reservation for the Potawatomi in the Yellow River area.

When the Potawatomi of Indiana were being rounded up for transportation west of the Mississippi River, to Indian Territory, Menominee’s village on the Yellow River became the gathering place of those who refused to go. The federal government asked the diocese to replace Father Deseille of the Yellow River mission, as officials believed that he was interfering with their plans for removal of the Potawatomi. The United States Army, in charge of removal, established a camp near Menominee’s village at the Twin Lakes as a place to collect the Michigan and Indiana Potawatomi prior to removal.[2] The Pokagon Band in Michigan also refused to cooperate.

When Menominee refused to allow his village to be removed by August 6, 1838, the government opened the reservation to settlement by squatters. Open conflict resulted. The Potawatomi destroyed the squatters' huts, and the whites retaliated by burning the Indians' cabins. To prevent bloodshed, Governor David Wallace of Indiana authorized the enlistment of volunteers to suppress the conflict. With Menominee was lured to a meeting outside the village, the militia surrounded it and took the Potawatomi into custody.[2]

On September 4, 1838, the Potawatomi of Indiana began their march to Kansas. Also in 1838, the Army forcibly removed Menominee and his band of 859 Christian Potawatomi to Kansas. During the march, the food supplied by the Army was so poor that the volunteer militia refused to eat it, demanding funds from the Army so they could buy their own. The Potawatomi were given no option. As their march passed through the region of a typhoid epidemic, people contracted the disease and died afterward on a daily basis. Menominee reached Kansas, where he died in 1841 at St. Mary’s Mission.[2]


  • In 1909, the state of Indiana erected a statue of Chief Menominee near the headwaters of the Yellow River, three miles southwest of the present-day town of Plymouth.[5] It is the first monument that any state ever erected to a Native American.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chief Menominee Statue, State of Indiana, 1909
  2. ^ a b c d e f Edmunds, R. David. The Potawatomis, Keepers of the Fire. 1978.
  3. ^ Hulst, Cornelia Steketee. Indian Sketches: Père Marquette and the Last of the Pottawatomie Chiefs. Longmans, Green, and Co. (1912), p. 43.
  4. ^ Goodspeed, Weston A. etal. (1883). Counties of White and Pulaski in Indiana. F. A. Battey and Co. Retrieved 2008-10-21. 
  5. ^ Hellman, Paul T. Historical Gazetteer of the United States. New York: Routledge (2005), p. 326.

Additional reading[edit]

  • Indian Names in Indiana, by Alan McPherson, 1993
  • The Potawatomis, Keepers of the Fire, by R. David Edmunds, 1978