While many of the Potawatomi of northern Indiana were removed as part of the heartbreaking 1838 Trail of Death, the non-Pokagon Potawatomi of Southwest Michigan were given a two-year pardon due to Federal financial problems and were not removed until 1840.

By this time, their traditional means of providing for their families had suffered greatly and the band was in a dramatically-weakened state. To make matters worse, the Tribe suffered greatly during the winter of 1839-1840 because the government intentionally limited assistance and provisions in an effort to make removal to Kansas more achievable.

Rounding up the NHBP Tribal members living on the Nottawaseppi Reservation was difficult. Even in their weakened condition, the reluctance of the members to relocate made enforcing this removal challenging for the U.S. Government. To accomplish this daunting task, General Hugh Brady assembled a force of 200 enlisted men and 100 volunteers to scour the forests and prairies.

The distressed Tribal members eventually abandoned the Nottawaseppi Reservation as word of their imminent capture spread. Many migrated north of the Grand River, to reside with Ottawa/Odawa kin either in Mission Communities or in Ottawa Villages in the lands recently ceded by the Ottawas/Chippewa to the United States in the 1836 Treaty of Washington.. Many fled to Canada (where several were captured along the way), while others withdrew deep into the woods and thickets where they hid unnoticed.

For two months, Brady’s troops and volunteers searched for the holdouts. To finally flush them out of hiding, Brady offered rewards and other incentives for their capture, with special rewards being offered for the apprehension of Tribal leaders, including the half-brothers Pamptopee and Chief John Moguago.  Eventually, 440 members of the NHBP Tribe were captured and kept as prisoners in a temporary camp near Marshall. On October 15th, 1840, they began their forced trek to a reservation in Kansas.

Much of what was learned of the journey came from a journal (now in the Kingman Museum, Battle Creek, Michigan) left by Lucius Buell Holcomb, a white merchant from Athens. Holcomb was married to an NHBP Tribal member and spoke fluent Potawatomi.  He demonstrated his loyalty and friendship to the Tribe on numerous occasions as he supported their causes and accompanied them on their removal trek. His journal described that Chief John Moguago and a few other NHBP members escaped from their armed guards while their escorts explored at Skunk Grove, Illinois (near Chicago). They returned to the Athens, Michigan area, where other members of the tribe, including future Chief Pamptopee, had avoided capture.

The remaining exiles continued west, mostly on foot but a few on horseback, until they arrived at the Illinois River near Peru, Illinois. At this point, they were forced onto steamboats, where soldiers took their horses and most of their possessions, not paying them for their personal property. The trek continued southwest via the Illinois River to its opening at the Mississippi River.  Shortly after that, they entered the entrance of the Missouri River near Alton.

The journey became arduous at this juncture. Heading upriver, the boats were frequently delayed as they encountered shoals and sand bars; food and fresh water were scarce; sanitation was deplorable; medical care was non-existent; winter was looming.

Irrespective of the wearying state of the NHBP people, the boats pressed on towards Kansas. When they finally came ashore, they were met with a 100-mile walk to the designated Indian Territory near the Osage River.

The suffering endured by the NHBP people during the 750-mile, nearly 40-day journey to Kansas was unthinkable; a number of NHBP people were known to have perished along the route..

References:

Rodwan, John, and Virginia Anewishki. Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, A People in Progress. Pine Creek Reservation, 2009.

“The Hugh Brady Letters and the Removal of the Potawatomis.” Michigan in Letters, Edited and Transcribed Documents from the Clarke Historical Library, 19 Aug. 2014, www.michiganinletters.org/2014/08/the-hugh-brady-letters-and-removal-of.html.

United States, Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs Branch of Acknowledgement and Research, et al. “Summary Under the Criteria and Evidence for Proposed Finding Huron Potawatomi, Inc.” HPI-V001-D004, https://www.bia.gov/sites/bia.gov/files/assets/as-ia/ofa/petition/009_hurpot_MI/009_pf.pdf.