Deposition History_of_the_Potawatomis

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Deposition: Words of Chief Abram B. Burnett

(March 23, 1870 - March 24, 1870)


The following is the a transcription of Chief Abram B. Burnett's deposition on March 23, 1870 - March 24, 1870, three months before he passed away on June 14, 1870. What you are about to read comes directly from the mouth of Chief Abram B. Burnett as he describes his life, his biological parents, his biological grandfather Chief Chebaas who is the son of Chief Nanaquiba and the biological brother of Chief Topinabee and Kaukema Burnett, his relatives, his birth place, his adoption ceremony, and describes the many journeys and encounters of his life.



Testimony of Abraham Burnett as given by him on the taking of his deposition at office of Martin Burns & Case on the 23rd and 24th days of March A D 1870.

My name is Abraham Burnett. I was born in the month of November 1812. I am now an agent for some Indians in a general way and am also now engaged in farming. I reside in Shawnee County, Kansas. I have lived in Kansas at the place where I now reside about 21 or 22 years. I am a Pottawattamie Indian. I am a full blood Pottawattamie. I was born on the north side of the Tippecanoe River near a little place called Muncie, in the state of Indiana. I canít tell how old I was when I left Muncie, but I was a young boy just large enough to handle a gun. I cannot state what year I left Muncie.

When we moved from Muncie we moved up to the Pottawattamie Village on the St. Joe River between the mouth of the St. Joe River and a little village called Niles in the state of Michigan. I cannot state in what year I left Michigan. From Niles we moved further up the St. Joe River to a little place called Bertrandsville and not far from what is now South Bend, Indiana. My father died while we lived near Bertrandsville, and after my fatherís death my grandfather took me to Fort Wayne, Indiana, where we remained for two winters. When at Fort Wayne, we lived with a gentleman named Abraham Burnett. He was a half breed Pottawattamie Indian. This Abraham Burnett adopted me as his son after we went to Fort Wayne. I was provided for and cared for by him after he adopted me and the name of Abraham Burnett was given me. When I had been there about two years, my adopted father Abraham Burnett sent me to the Choctaw Academy in Kentucky. I remained there about five years and then returned home for a short vacation. I then returned to the Academy where I remained about eight months. During the time I was at the school my Grandfather and Abraham Burnett, my adopted father, died. My adopted father died at Fort Wayne and my grandfather died at the residence of Nancy Davis, formerly Nancy Burnett. This is the same Nancy Davis who was the owner of the land now in controversy. After my return from the Academy I remained in Indiana and Illinois about two years staying a part of the time at Po-Kagins Village and the balance of the time about Chicago. About that time I was appointed United States Interpreter and came west with the Pottawattamie Indians and settled on Sugar Creek in what is now the state of Kansas. I resided on Sugar Creek for twenty-one or twenty-two years and from there I moved to present Pottawattomie Reservation where I have been living ever since.

My fatherís Indian name was Shau-Uque-Be. My father was killed while we were living near Pokaginís Village. My motherís name was Cone-Zo-Qua. She was the daughter of Chee-baas. Chee-baas was a chief of the Pottawattamie Indians. Chee-baas, my grandfather, died at Nancy Davisís while I was at school in Kentucky. Nancy Davis was a niece of Chee-baas. Nancy Davisís motherís name was Cakimi. Cakimi was the sister of Chee-baas and Topenibe. Cakimi was married to a man by the name of Burnett. The Indians called him Waub-Zee or White Swan. Cakimi had by this Burnett seven children named James, John, Isaac, Jacob, Abraham, Rebecca, and Nancy. I was acquainted with most of these children. I knew James Burnett, Nancy Burnett afterwards Nancy Davis, Rebecca and Abraham Burnett and also John Burnett. I did not know Isaac Burnett or Jacob Burnett. This Abraham Burnett, son of Cakimi, was the same Burnett who adopted me as his son and heir. I mean when I say that I am the son and heir of Abraham Burnett that I was adopted by Abraham Burnett as his son as was the custom of the tribe, and was sent to school and educated by him, took his name and continued to be called by this name from that day until now. I was about twelve or thirteen years old when I was adopted by Abraham Burnett and he promised and agreed at the time to make me his heir when he died.

James Burnett, the brother of Nancy Burnett, married a Pottawattamie woman named Mee-na-que; by this woman he had one child, a son named James Burnett Jr.  Mee-na-que, old James wife, died many years ago. He never married again that I know of. He never had any other children that I know of except James, Jr. Old James died at the mouth of St. Joe River a great many years ago. James Burnett, Jr., the son of old James Burnett married an Ottawa woman named Ma-nees. He had one child by Ma-nees, a daughter named Mary Ann Burnett. Mary Ann is now living in Shawnee County, Kansas, and is married to William Steamboat, a Pottawattamie Indian whose Indian name is Wa-wis-set. Ma-nees, young James Burnettís first wife, is now dead. She died while we lived on Sugar Creek in Kansas. Young Jim Burnett, after we moved up to the present Pottawattamie Reservation, married a second wife, a Pottawattamie woman named Neb-no-qua, by Neb-no-qua he had three (3) children. One of them died in infancy, the other two are named Lewis Burnett and Ka-nau-wee. The son named Ka-nau-wee died when he was seven or eight years old.

These are the only children James Burnett ever had to knowledge. James Burnett, Jr., the father of Mary Ann Burnett and Lewis Burnett and son of old Jim Burnett died where I now live five or six years ago. Neb-No-Qua, the widow of young James Burnett, after his death married Wah-zhee, one of the principal chiefs of the Pottawattamie Indians and son of Topanibe. Neb-No-Qua, the widow of young James Burnett died here on the Pottawattamie Reserve in the summer of 1869. Mary Ann Burnett, the only daughter, and Lewis Burnett, the only son of young Jim Burnett both live on the Pottawattamie Indian Reserve in Shawnee County, Kansas, at this time.

Isaac Burnett died a good many years ago in Indiana. I donít know whether he ever married or not; if he ever married or ever had any children I never knew it.

Jacob Burnett died many years ago somewhere in Indiana or Illinois. He was never married to my knowledge and never had any children that I knew of. Abraham Burnett, the son of Cakimi, was never married. He is the one that adopted me as his son, and he never had any other children to my knowledge. He died at Fort Wayne, Indiana, while I was at school in Kentucky.

John Burnett was married to a Pottawattamie woman named Node-no-qua, by this woman he had two or three children, two of the children died when they were small, only four or five years old each. The son William was killed in the Mexican War or at least we supposed he was killed as we never heard of him since the war, and he volunteered and joined the army during the Mexican War. He never married or had any children. Rebecca Burnett died many years ago in Detroit, Michigan. She was married, but to whom I do not know. She left two daughters that I knew. Their names were Martha and Mary, but I do not know what became of them nor do I know when nor where her husband died nor did I ever seen the daughters Mary and Martha but once.

Nancy Burnett died a good many years ago at her residence near Lafayette in the state of Indiana. Her farm was on or near the Wabash River and she had a neighbor by the name of Peter Longli. She was married to a man by the name of Davis. I do not know his given name; he also died many years ago in Indiana. They left only two children, both sons. I donít remember their English names. Their Indian names were Nor-nor-qua-bee and Ke-po-dah. They are both dead, neither of them were ever married so far as I know.

Abram Burnett

Deposition of Abraham Burnett continued on the 24th day of March 1870

Nancy Burnett never had any children before her marriage to Davis. Cakimi had two children before she was married to Burnett. Whether she had ever been married before marrying Burnett I donít know. After Burnett married Cakimi these two children took the name of Burnett. Their names were Lewis and Mary Ann and were ever after called Lewis Burnett and Mary Ann Burnett.
                Lewis Burnett grew up to be a man; I knew him very well. He died a good many years ago on Sugar Creek in what is now the state of Kansas. He never was married but once. His wifeís name was O-ketch-chee-com-me-qua. She was a sister of my father. She died before her husband Lewis. They never had but two children and they were both girls. One of these children died in infancy, the youngest, and the mother died in child bed. The other child was named Nee-bar-wee. She grew up and married a man named Joseph Le Clerc. He was a half breed Pottawattamie. Joseph Le Clerc was killed a great many years ago at the house of Genl. Tipton, at Logansport, Indiana. Joseph was killed by the Miami Indians. Ne-bar-wee died about two years ago on the Pottawattamie Reserve in Kansas. After her first husband Joseph was killed she again married a man named Bee-yaw-yo. She never had any children by Bee-yaw-yo and he died at Sugar Creek in Kansas many years before. Nee-bar-wee died some time after Bee-yaw-yo died. She married a Pottawattomie named Chee-qua. She never had any children by Chee-qua. Chee-qua is now dead also; he died about a week after his wife died. Chee-qua had neither wife nor child when he died. Nee-bar-wee had five children by her first husband, Joseph Le Clerc. Two of these children were girls, the other three were boys. The boys all died young and were never married and one of the girls died young and never was married. The other girl was named Josette Le Clerc. She grew up and married a Pottawattamie man named Smar-gar. By him she had two children, a boy and a girl. The girlís name was Seraphine. She died last fall at my house. She was some four or five years old when she died. She was a party plaintiff in this action. The boyís name was Jean Baptiste. He is some eight or nine years old. He is now at the Catholic School at St. Maryís Mission and is one of the plaintiffs in this action. Josette Le Clerc, wife of Smar-gar, died at Counsel Grove, Kansas, some three or five years ago. Smar-gar, her husband, is now living on the Pottawattamie Reserve in Kansas.

Mary Ann Burnett married an Indian man whose name I donít know. By him she had two children, a boy and a girl. The boyís name was Non-nor-qua-bee. He died young and was never married. The girlís name was On-wau-qua. She married a Pottawattamie man named Nee-skott-nau-ma. Nee-skott-nau-ma was killed. On-wau-qua had two children, a boy and a girl by Nee-skott-nau-ma. The boy died when he was about twenty years of age and was never married. The girlís name in English was Ann Sharp. The boyís name was John Leib. On-wau-qua was married again after Nee-skott-nau-ma was killed, to an Ottawa Indian whose name I do not recollect. She had several children by her second husband, but they all died young children, unmarried. On-wau-quaís second husband died at Sugar Creek in Kansas a number of years ago. She never married again and had no other children. On-wau-qua died on the Pottawattamie Reserve in Kansas six or seven years ago.

Ann Sharp was married to a man named Luther Rice. She had one child, a boy named Wm. Marshall Rice. Wm M Rice was never married nor had any children and was killed about six years ago in the Union Army. Luther Rice died on what is called Pottawattamie Creek in Kansas, a good many years ago. Ann Rice, his widow, afterwards married a man named Wm. W. Cleghorn. They had no children. They lived together three or four years when Ann Cleghorn died. I do not know what became of william Cleghorn.

Mary Ann Burnett, the daughter of Cakimi, never married again and had no other children than those above named. She died about twenty-five ears ago on Pottawattamie Creek in Kansas. The two children I have spoken of as being the children of James Burnett, Jr., and named Lewis Burnett and Mary Ann Burnett, are the same Lewis Burnett and Mary Ann Burnett who are plaintiffs in this action.




Question: Was not Cakimi reputed to be the widow of a former husband when she married William Burnett and were not her two children Lewis and Mary Ann reputed to be her children by her former husband.

Answer. Yes. Most of the Miami and Pottawattamie tribes of Indians were at Fort Wayne besides Abraham Burnett the two winters I spoke of spending at Fort Wayne before I went to the Academy.

General Tipton did not send me and the other boys to Fort Wayne when we went. My grandfather took me there after my father died by the order of Abraham Burnett. Abraham Burnett kept a store there and had no wife.

There was a ceremony of adoption by Abraham Burnett other than saying that he adopted me. Abraham Burnett, George Cicot, Joseph Barron, the Interpreter, and a large number of other men came there and in the presence of General Tipton Abraham Burnett pointed to me and said to my grandfather, I am going to take him as my son and he then took a metal and hung it about my neck saying he was going to send me to school. Abraham Burnett, General Tipton, George Cicot, and my grandfather took us to the school in Kentucky.

This ceremony of adoption took place about one year before we started to Kentucky to school. I think I was about twelve or thirteen years old when I went to school in Kentucky.

It is the custom of practice of Indians in speaking of nephews and nieces to call them brothers and sisters. (Question objected to by Counsel for Plaintiff) They do not call their friends and neighbors brothers and sisters. (same objection.) It is not common for Indians to call cousins children. (same objection to question.) It is not the custom or common practice with Indians to adopt the names of their white neighbors or even prosperous Indian neighbors and call them their children. (same objection to question.)

We call our brotherís children our children, but we do not call our sisterís children our children. (same objection to question.) When I was a young man it was not a custom to call the President of the United States our Great Father, but now the Indians do call him so (same objection.) I was at the Academy when James Burnett was married. When I came back from the Academy everybody then said they were married and I saw a woman they said was James Burnettís wife. She was in the family way and the woman got a section of land as the wife of James Burnett in one of the treaties in the name of Mee-nar-gee-qua.

I did not see Jim Burnett when I was at home from the Academy at the time I spoke of above. Jim Burnett was at home at the mouth of the St. Joe River. His wife came home to his motherís to be confined and when I finally returned from the Academy I understood that he was dead. I did not see this woman that was reported to be Jim Burnettís wife when I last returned from school as she was dead. I saw the child. Her mother raised it; it was called James Burnett, Jr. I cannot tell when James Burnett was married as we kept no record of dates & c. They were married at or near Topenebeeís village on the westside of the St. Joe River.

I never told Father Gailard of the Mission within one or two years and since this suit was commenced that the plaintiffs in this suit, Lewis and Mary Ann Burnett, were no descendants at all of James Burnett, nor any such thing. I have no recollection of ever telling Lathrop Taylor of South Bend, Indiana, since this suit was commenced, that James Burnett when alive said that the boy who represented himself as said James Burnettís son was not his son nor any relative of his or words to that import. I never told Father Gailard and others since this suit was commenced that I went into the suit only as the agent of the Le Clercís.

I have heard them say that my grandfather Chee-baas was a brother of Topnebee. I never heard that my father was a Choctaw. He was a Pottawattamie/Chief.Judge Sam Hanna I suppose settled Abraham Burnettís estate. I do not know whether all the children of William Burnett deceased by Cakimi were Members of the Catholic Church or not.

Chief Abraham Burnett