V. The Band Moves West


 Was Shabbona’s Grove abandoned by Shabenay and his band, the corporate political entity that held usufructory rights to the Grove as a result of the 1829 Prairie du Chien treaty?


It will be recalled that during the September 10, 1833 Chicago Treaty with the United Chippewa, Ottawa, and Potawatomi,  negotiations the three politically unified tribes agreed with the treaty commissioners that,


You have made no reservations, You agree to remove.

It provides that your great Father set apart for your use and occupancy beyond the Mississippi river as much and as good land as you have… You are required by this Treaty, my children to remove beyond the Northern boundary of Illinois within one year…



Article two of the 1833 treaty as ratified in 1835 stated:


…and as it is the wish of the Government of the United States that the said nation of Indians should remove to the country thus assigned to them as soon as conveniently can be done….It being understood, that the said Indians are to remove from all that part of the land now ceded, which is in the State of Illinois, immediately on the ratification of this treaty…



As noted earlier in this research “Shab-eh-nay” was a signatory to this Treaty as a band okama.


One year later, Shabenay and his band were notified of their pending removal by the Government’s Indian Removal Agent, Lewis Sands. According to Matson,[1] Sands informed,


…Shau-be-na’s band that they had must go west to lands assigned them by the Government in accordance with treaty stipulations. as no one but the chief and his family could remain on the reservation. Shau-be-na concluded to accompany his people


Thus Shabenay and his immediate family could remain behind in Illinois as individuals, but those Indians desiring to remain in tribal relations had to depart. By remaining Shabenay would relinquish his authority as an okama. Perhaps the most compelling reason for Shabenay’s accompanying the band west was his annual annuity payment bestowed by the 1833 Treaty. We find, according to Lewis Sands, the Federal Removal Agent, that a dispute arose over annuity payments at Shabbona’s Grove in early September, a week before the band left the Grove. Sands later issued a letter stating that no further annuity payments would be paid to the Potawatomi east of the Mississippi River.[2]  


Shabbona’s band of 142[3] departed the Grove on September 15, 1837. His band along with 145 of the other Northern Illinois bandmembers, later to be known as the Prairie Potawatomi, led by the half breed “Billy Caldwell” went to Council Bluffs,  while those belonging to the St. Joseph or Kankakee Potawatomi (later known as the Citizen Potawatomi) numbering 164 went further south to a reservation on the Osage River[4]. Matson goes on to note that after leaving for Council Bluffs, Shabenay returned two months later in November of 1837[5] to Shabbona’s Grove with only with his family. It is of interest also to note that one month earlier the Potawatomi leadership wrote to President Van Buren complaining of the pace that the Indians were required to maintain by their Removal Agent. Shabenay’s name was not amongst them[6]


The reasons for his return to Shabbona sans his band were two-fold, first Shabenay was a hunted man by the Sauk and Fox tribes who were now settled in nearby Missouri. He was a target for blood revenge for his actions during the Blackhawk war wherein he warned white settlers of an impending Indian attack upon their settlements. The result was the loss of many Potawatomi, Sauk and Fox warriors due to his “betrayal.[7] He barely escaped with his life, but in the process he lost his son and a nephew to the attackers. The second reason was the hostility within his own tribe towards him over his significant involvement in their land cessions that convinced them to give up their lands in Illinois and settle at Council Bluffs. Skinner[8] in his published research on Potawatomi traditions, mythology and folklore noted,


he caused many Potawatomi as well as Sauk, to lose their lives, so that he became hated by both tribes…

…for they threatened to hang him up by the ears. After his death, however, his family joined the tribe in the west….The accusations of traitorous conduct made against the chief Shabbonee are frequently heard elsewhere.


Shabenay returned to Shabbona’s Grove with his family. His band, the corporate political entity, had abandoned the Grove and remained in Missouri. The band, the corporate right holding body of the 1829 Treaty, had abandoned Shabbona’s Grove. As witnessed by the October 28 letter to President Van Buren, Shabenay had in October of 1837 abandoned his band at Council Bluffs. He was no longer the band’s okama. His subsequent actions bear this out. No longer did he act or speak for the tribe or a band, but all his future actions concerning land and legal actions he did only for himself. Shabenay no longer had the political authority to act in tribal interests. Shabenay was not a signatory nor was he present [9](he was at Shabbona) for the June 5/17, 1846 treaty at Council Bluff with the newly reformed “Pottowautomie Nation.[10] Within this treaty the Potawatomi agreed to “abolish all minor distinctions of bands by which they have heretofore been divided.” Thus the village band formerly led by Shabenay, to which corporate usufructory rights to Shabbona’s Grove had been granted, was no longer existent as a political body. Rather, the remnants of Shabenay’s band were incorporated into the larger tribal group.


Shabenay stayed at the Grove until the latter part of 1838, when he had to return to Council Bluffs to receive his annual annuity payment of $200.00 that he was entitled to by virtue of 1833 Chicago treaty which denied him and his band a reservation at Shabbona’s Grove. He was again at Council Bluffs during May and October of 1839 and November of 1841 for annuity related reasons. His whereabouts for the period of 1842-1845 is not known. He was not at the Grove. According to the testimony given by a Levi Kelsig in 1864[11] he encountered Shabenay wolf hunting in LaSalle County in 1842/3. In December of 1845 Shabenay was at Shabbona’s Grove where he, not having the authority to do so, attempted to sell the Grove’s lands to Ansel and Orrin Gates[12]. He was back at Shabbona for a two year period[13] (1846-1847). From 1848-1851 he was in Kansas. During this later period the Government land office declared the lands abandoned and made them available (1848) for public auction.[14] In 1851 he returned to find that the Grove lands had been sold at public auction.


The question now is, were the lands at Shabbona Grove abandoned by Shabenay’s band? The answer is yes. It must be emphasized that the 1829 Prairie du Chien treaty did not bestow usufructory rights upon an individual, but as stated in Article three of the Treaty it did upon a corporate body, “the Chiefs and their bands.” Shabenay never held any personal rights to the lands at Shabbona. That fact is abundantly clear from the many documentary statements made by the Office and Commissions of Indian Affairs. When the corporate body left the Grove via the removal stipulations stated in “Article 2d” of the September 26, 1833 treaty at Chicago (as ratified by the Senate and the President on February 21, 1835), in September of 1837, the band’s corporate usufructory rights ceased. Added to this action was the disenfranchisement of Shabenay as an okama by his tribe in Missouri and the later political dissolution of bands as politically autonomous units under the June 5, 1846 treaty of Council Bluffs (ratified on July22, 1846). When Shabenay returned to the Grove he did so not in any tribal leadership capacity as he was no longer a band okama. His failure to have a reservation established and his unsuccessful to obtain a feehold to the Grove established in his name, via the stricken Article 5 of the 1833 Chicago treaty, clearly identified the land status as not an established reservation under his personal control. The fact that the survey establishing the bounds of the Grove lands was not conducted until December 1842, thirteen years after the July 29, 1829 treaty at Prairie du Chien and five years after the band’s departure for Missouri, further supports this conclusion. If there were no established boundaries how can land be set aside for a reservation?



[1] EXH.40. Matson, N., 1876, Sketch of Shau-be-na, a Pottowatamie Chief:420-421, Report and

     Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin for the Years 1873, 1874, 1875 and 1876, Vol.

     VII:415-421.Clifton, James A., 2001, The Prairie People: Continuity and Change in Potawatomi Indian

     Culture 1665-1995 :296, University of Iowa Press, Iowa City

[2]  NARA Washington D.C., Microfilm, RG. 234, Roll 134, Major Events of the Removal of the

     Potawatomi from Northern Indiana and Northern Illinois Led By Lewis H. Sands 1837:338-341.

[3]  EXH.41Matson, N, 1878, Memories of Shaubena with Incidents Relating to the Early Settlement of the

     West:241, Chicago, D.B. Cooke & Co.

[4]   EXH. 40. Clifton, 2001:296

[5]  EXH.42.Dowd, James, 1979, Built Like A Bear:90, Ye Galleon Press, Washington.

[6]  EXH. 56. NARA Washington D.C., Microfilm, RG. 234, Roll 134, Major Events of the Removal of the

     Potawatomi from Northern Indiana and Northern Illinois Led By Lewis H. Sands 1837:438-440.

[7]  EXH.43. Matson, 1876:420. Dowd, 1979:89-90

[8]  EXH.44.Skinner, Alanson, 1927, The Mascoutens or Prairie Potawatomi Indians, Part II-Mythology and

     Folklore:389-390, Bulletin of the Public Museum of the City of Milwaukee, Vol.6, No. 3:327-411.

[9]  EXH.45. Dowd, James, 1979, Built Like A Bear:91, Ye Galleon Press, Washington.

[10]  EXH.46.Kappler, Charles J., 1904, Indian Affairs. Laws and Treaties, Volume II, Treaties:557,

     Washington, Government Printing Office. It is to be remembered that prior to this time the Prairie Band

      Potawatomi were politically unified with the Chippewa and Ottawa bands of the region. Hence the title

      in the 1829 and 1833 treaties: “the United Nations of Chippewa, Ottawa and Potawatamie Indians…”

[11]  EXH.47. Deposition of Levi Kelsig, La Salle County, Illinois, November 25, 1864. Dowd, James, 1979,

     Built Like A Bear:172-173, Ye Galleon Press, Washington.

[12]  EXH.33.Letter, War Department, Office of Indian Affairs, to Hon. John Wentworth, House of

     Representatives-US. Dowd, James, 1979, Built Like A Bear:146-147, Ye Galleon Press, Washington.

[13]  EXH.45. Dowd, 1979:91.

[14]  EXH.34. Letter, J. Butterfield, Commissioner, General Land Office to Orlando Brown Esq.,

     Commissioner of Indian Affairs. , Dowd, James, 1979, Built Like A Bear:149-150, Ye Galleon Press,