Monday, October 1, 2012

One account of Chief Kack Kack

I recently read a book called  Willie Whitewater. It is the story of W.R. Honnell’s life and adventures among the Indians as he grew up with the State of Kansas. As told by him.  A teacher at Royal Valley High School let me read the book.  Her name is Lana Dillner.  I hadn’t heard of the book before I seen this one.  I always said that some of my historical work lacked the non-Indian perspective and this book does some of that.  I sometimes regret not interviewing some of the non-Indian farmers and people who lived around our reservation to add more depth to my body of work.   

The only real contact I had was with Sam Calderwood who recently passed away and he would talk about some of his contacts on the reservation.  He owned some land in the middle of the reservation, but we didn’t really sit down and discuss the details of his time out here.  He wanted me to stop by his house in Topeka. He said “Gary when you go by and you see me sitting outside, stop and we’ll visit,” but he never was out there when I went by and that’s how first-hand accounts are lost. It was the same with many farmers here who rented Indian lands, they could have added more to the story.
But back to this story:  W.R. Honnell was appointed Indian agent for Kansas by President McKinley and he worked among the Kickapoo as well as the Potawatomi.  With the Potawatomi, he dealt with two chiefs:  Shough nes see and Kack Kack and two headmen:  Masquah and Pis hse dwin, along with an interpreter, Jim Blandin.  Honnell told them in a meeting, “The buffalo have gone, They are not coming back.  The Indian is no longer able to go out on the prairie and hunt his own meat.  He must take up his share of the white man’s burden, learn to follow his customs and accept his ways.”  Soon after Indian kids were going to school to learn this way.

Later he convinced the Potawatomi leadership to use proceeds from land rentals to have a Christmas party where the Potawatomi had a tree, decorations, apples, oranges, candy and some small gifts for the children.  It was well-received among the people.
Most of the focus of this book was devoted to Chief Kack Kack of Sak descent, but he was adopted into the Potawatomi Tribe.  He married Martha, a daughter of the Chief Shobonee.  In the early 1900’s Honnell took a trip to visit President Teddy Roosevelt and took Kack Kack along, as well as the interpreter Jim Blandin.  The old Chief  had only one request and that was to see Niagara Falls.  Honnell agreed and soon boarded a train eastward.  Along the way, Kack Kack fell into a deep sleep and somebody clipped off some of his bear claws he had around his neck.  It was a disappointment to the old man since he had killed these bear and mean’t something to him.  Yet, the old man did his best to forget the shortcomings of another.  After seeing Niagara Falls, Kack Kack could only stand in awe of what he had seen.  Honnell asked him what he thought and Kack Kack said it was beautiful and ended by saying  that it also would be a good place to start a saw mill.

From there the group proceeded to Washington D.C. and with Kack Kack dressed in full regalia brought many a stare.  At the White House, Roosevelt asked them what tribe they belonged to and they replied, “Potawatomi.”  He said “you Indians massacred a lot of white folks at Fort Dearborn,  Why did you do that?” Kack Kack said “Mr. President, why is it that when the white man conquers the Indians, it is a great victory, but when the Indian wins it is a massacre?”  The President was amused at his reply.  His encounter with the “Great White Father” was brief but a memorable occasion for Kack Kack.  He was impressed with the President’s knowledge of his tribe and being gracious to the old chief.  Earlier Roosevelt had completed his “The Winning of the West” which was published in four volumes, so he had a wealth of knowledge about the Battle of Dearborn and other battles. Upon his return to the reservation, Kack Kack shared his eastern adventure with the rest of his tribal people.
In time the old chiefs and headmen died off.  Shough nes see died first of the four and Honnell went to the funeral, as was his custom of attending every Potawatomi event he could.  It used to be that the dead were wrapped in a buffalo robe or their favorite robe and carried to the Burial Tree and much later the bones would fall to the ground and then were buried.  But by this time this practice stopped and a regular ground burial took place.  The friends of Shoug nes see built a stone wall around his grave with a large hole in the middle of the wall.  This allowed the spirit of the chief to pass easily from his body to the better world.  Soon after his brother Pis she dwin took sick and Honnell offered medical help but he wanted his brother Shon osh, the tribal medicine man to take care of him, but in time he died  of pneumonia and was buried on high bluff overlooking Big Soldier Creek. 

Pis she dwin had told Honnell of his vision of the other world:  “It is a vast and undulating prairie lying somewhere to the West, well wooded and watered.  Over its grassy swells roam and feed countless thousands of buffalo, deer, antelope and mountain sheep.  The streams are filled with many kinds of fish; and fowls of various sorts are so plentiful that at times they will appear as clouds against the sun.   When I reach the border of this beautiful land, I will see stretching out before me the villages of my people who have gone to the other world before me.  I will see men and women moving about, busy and contented.  I will hear the voices of children laughing at their play.  And after a little while, someone will look up and behold me and will come running to greet me with joyful shouts of welcome to my new home.”
The third leader to die during Honnell’s time on the Potawatomi Reservation was Masquah and his burial rites were similar to those of the other leaders and only Kack Kack remained.  Honnell  asked the old man if they could take him to the county seat and get a picture taken of him and the old chief agreed.  Kack Kack and his wife Martha went to this photo shoot In Holton, Kansas and they brought back a copy for Honnell, who had it enlarged and it was placed in the offices on the Potawatomi Reservation. Shortly after, Kack Kack died at his home five miles west of Mayetta at the age of 85 years old. 

The funeral was “the most elaborate ever seen on the reservation.”  It was well attended by 300-400 people, a tribute to the old warrior.  He was dressed in his best clothes, beaded mocassins, leather leggings, a beaded belt, several strands of beads were around his neck and he was painted with many bright colors in the designs he had specified.  He wore a turban of dark fur on his head.  His family had a large meal of corn and fried bread for all of the visitors.  After the meal, speeches were given about him and his life. The next morning the process was repeated.  He was buried about 300 yards from his house.  Inside he had four day’s supply of food for his journey to the other world.  His burial place overlooked the Little Soldier Creek.  He was buried with his face turned to the west, the direction of the other world.
 At the burial site four men talked about his life, one old Indian man mentioned the bravery of Kack Kack and his battle exploits.  One talked of the winter months when he would gather the young children and would tell them about the Great Spirit and would implore them to do the right things in life and walk in the ways of goodness and truth.  After the talks, his wife Martha stepped forward and gave away the old chief’s possessions.  One speaker received his pony, his ceremonial beads and those scalps had taken from the heads of enemy Indians. Others were given bundles of assorted treasures of the Chief and many others received small gifts.  Some were given tobacco for nailing the lid on the box.  In total, they spent two hours at the grave site.

Soon they all left the site and Martha knew when she walked away that Kack Kack had successfully ended his search for the Great Spirit and would soon find his new home.
What was so interesting to me it that these men in the story were my relatives.  My Mother’s dad was  John Nagmo,  His father was Shon osh (Sha nash today) the “medicine man” in this story.  The Chief in this story was  Shough nes see (spelled Sha ne si) and he was Nagmo’s Uncle.  Pis hse dwin, was also Nagmo’s Uncle.  There were also two other brothers not mentioned in this story and they were Marshno and Naganbi.  My brother Larry had the Indian name of Sha ne si  for 56 years and now my nephew carries that name.  My Indian name is Sha nash.  Interesting, huh?



  1. My grandmother bonnie kack maiden name, married richard dwyer. Her fathers name was leo kack, married a kolhomen. My great, great grandfather is kack kack, cheif of the potawatomie tribe and father before that also. How do i learn more about my great, great grandfather. My name is michael schuelke i live at 300, 7th St.,N.W., apt. 813, willmar, M.N. 56201 i would be thankful if you could send me some information on my distane anceiterty. I have also had and be told by my mother and grandmother of being native. has also clarified i am of his blood. Shows a pichture of a black and white of my grandma, her father leo, and his kack kack. I also use to have dreams of a native in the woods with nothing but a knife, a bear come apond him, rases up and charges at him. He plays died, the bear sniff and goes to rise, the native then went for the eyes, slit the bears throat, grab the side of the bear, swung up on his back, and stuck it in the shoulder qnd the heart to take it down. Since those three dreams, and my mother and grandmother told me i have native in me, i decided to look for my lost heretage and family, and family anceistery. Could use some more help with more details. Ever since those dreams, i have beleived in the spirt and spirtaul dreams of the natives to search. Knowing now it true. And the other thing that hit me like a gost or spirt is the dreams i had, and to find out a story about him falling asleep and getting his neckalace stoled on a train of bear claws. Please help me learn more of my distane family. My great, great grandfather kack kack.

  2. I have a Museum Quality framed Photograph of Martha Kack Kack with husband and granddaughter, dated August 30, 1898. Document on back of frame says "Shattonas youngest daughter 64 years old. This was part of an American Indian collection I've had and I want to see it land well.