Chief Abram B. Burnett Family

Custom Search



Burnett's Mound

Story and Legend

Above: An early to mid 1800s drawing of the Burnett's Mound in Topeka, KS, looking southwest. Before the arrival of Chief Abram B.  Burnett of the Potawatomis, this large mound was originally called Webster's Mound and possibly once known as Knox's Mound.

Chief Abram Burnett, hereditary Chief of the Potawatomis, 1863

Above: Wis-Ki-Ge-Amatyuk, Potawatomi Principal pipe carrier, 1890

Photograph documented in the Dr. Alphonse Gerend collection. This image is part of an exhibit about Native Americans prepared by Paul Vanderbilt, the Wisconsin Historical Society's first curator of Photography.

For additional photo of Wis-Ki-Ge-Amatyuk, please visit Wisconsin Historical Society, documented under important Potawatomi men, 1890.

There has been many stories surrounding the mystical Burnett's Mound of Topeka, Kansas that have been handed down and told by spiritual and traditional ritual leaders of the Potawatomi tribe. Wis-Ki-Ge-Amatyuk, a holy man of the Potawatomi tribe, had told the story of the Burnett Mound and the origin of its legend. In his story, he tells that long ago a quick moving tornado swept harshly across the prairies, killing and injuring many of his people. He told stories of the extreme poverty that had left many of his people unprotected and unsheltered from the powerful spinning winds. The tornado's anger left many bodies scattered upon the land along with cattle and horses. Preparation for burial took many days of prayer and upon the ceremony, it was asked that the Great Spirit of life watch over and bless the large mound with the ability to stop the powerful spinning winds. It was asked that the mound protect the people of the land and watch over the dead that had been laid to rest upon her shadow. Protected, the people of the Kansas valley will be, only by respecting and leaving the resting place of the dead undisturbed.

It was told that seven Potawatomis that had perished to the might of the angry wind were of personal and direct family relations to Chief Burnett. A traditional Potawatomi song telling the story of the tornado sings, "The grass is moving, the trees are moving, the whole earth is moving..."

Above: Potawatomi Indians gathered together at the Rush Lake Mission near Watervliet, 1906. Wis-Ki-Ge-Amatyuk sits at center holding traditional Potawatomi pipes. Photo taken by T. R. Hamilton

Above: James Wahbnosah, son of Wis-Ki-Ge-Amatyuk, sitting in front of his father holding an ice cream cone.

Above: James Wahbnosah, son of Wis-Ki-Ge-Amatyuk, in later years on the Prairie Band Reservation, 1963.

Above: Wis-Ki-Ge-Amatyuk holding traditional Potawatomi pipes, 1906.

Above: Prairie Band Potawatomi Indian Reservation. Mayetta, Kansas, 1921

Chief Wis-Ki-Ge-Amatyuk (Wish kee gee amtyk/Smoke that Travels/Powerful Wind)

Also known as Captain John Buckshot, who is the brother of Chief Wahquahboshkuk (Wak-Waboshkok/Roily Water) Sons of Chief Shaumquesteh (Shaum-Num-Teh/Potawatomi Medicine Man), who was a son of Chief Sen noge wone.

Wis-Ki-Ge-Amatyuk (Smoke That Travels/Powerful Wind) was known as a spiritual interpreter to spirits. A voice and ear in between the physical and spiritual realms (A Messanger).

A Potawatomi Holy Man and respected Potawatomi ritual leader.

For additional photo of Wis-Ki-Ge-Amatyuk, please visit Wisconsin Historical Society, documented under important Potawatomi men, 1890.

To view a descriptive letter of Wis-Ki-Ge-Amatyuk by United States Indian Agent, L.F. Pearson to Col. Henry J. Aten, written January 19, 1896, please visit the Kansas State Historical Society: Kansas Memory

Photograph documented by Jesse Nusbaum, historic anthropologist, archeologist, and important nineteenth and twentieth century photographer of American Indians and the west.

Some of the most important nineteenth and twentieth century photographers of the west represented in important historical collections are Karl Moon, Jesse Nusbaum, Adolph Bandelier, George C. Bennet, Wesley Bradfield, Nicholas Brown, W.C. Brown, W.H. Brown, Joseph Burge, John Candelario, D.B. Chase, W.H. Cobb, Edward S. Curtis, Nathaniel Frucht, Carter Harrison, F. Jay Haynes, John K. Hillers. William Henry Jackson, Charles Lindbergh, Charles Lummis, Timothy H. O'Sullivan, T. Harmon Parkhurst, H.F. Robinson, Adam Clark Vroman and Ben Wittick.

Above: Full moon over Burnett's Mound. Photo taken by kylee.sims

Wis-Ki-Ge-Amatyuk (Smoke That Travels/Powerful Wind) was known as a spiritual interpreter to spirits. A voice and ear in between the physical and spiritual realms (A Messanger). Wis-Ki-Ge-Amatyuk was known to visit Burnett's Mound frequently. Even in his very elderly age, no matter how bad the weather, to pray showing his respect for those who had past on to the spirit world, including Chief Abram Burnett. Wis-Ki-Ge-Amatyuk had been handed down relics belonging to the large chief for both religious and personal reasons. Upon his many journeys to the mound, it was always his wish to travel alone. It was believed that he had seen the true magic of the mound and could only see and feel it when alone as he had a personal relationship with all that have walked upon her. Those of the past, those who had past, and all the supernatural that have surrounded the mystical hill itself. He was known to take and leave food, water, small gifts, and sing traditional songs warding off bad spirits.

Old Indian legend handed down through traditionals tell that the region surrounding the mound was a very spiritual place, protected by powerful wind spirits that would not show themselves within the territory unless provoked by disrespect or disturbance of the magical hill.

It was always told by Chief Burnett that the mound must not be disturbed because it was a sacred place watched over by the Great Spirit and those who have past on must always be respected. The people of Kansas believed that by respecting the Chief's wishes that the mound would protect the city of Topeka from the devastating power of tornadoes.

In 1960, Chief Burnett's mound was disturbed with construction at its base for an interstate bypass. Upon Burnett's Mound itself, it was cut into at the top of its north side, perfectly visual for all Topekans to view as its desecration continued to fit a 5 million gallon steel drum reservoir water tank. In the following years, building began to slowly progress around Burnett's Mound. At 6:55PM on June 8, 1966, a tornado of immense power struck the city of Topeka, destroying all within its path. It lasted 34 minutes ending at 7:29PM. The F5 tornado was a half mile wide, as about 820 homes were destroyed and 3,000 damaged. Entire blocks were leveled to splinters in seconds. The tornado's violent winds had estimated at around 300 mph. Total cost was put at $100,000,000.00 making it at the time the costliest tornado in American history. Even to this day, with inflation factored in, the Topeka tornado still stands as one of the costliest on record. The tornado claimed 16 lives, injured over 500 people, and left over 3500 homeless.