Pokagon, Leopold and Simon

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Father and son, Native American Catholics.

Leopold, a Native American chief; b. 1775?; d. July 8, 1841. Legend relates that Leopold was really a Chippewa, captured and adopted into the Pottawatomi; he married the daughter of the war chief and became a civil chief of the first rank. His name was really Pugegun, "the rib." His village was in Bertrand Township, Berrien County, Mich., about six miles from South Bend, Ind. The Pottawatomi had a fierce devotion to the teachings of the French Jesuits, who had attended the old St. Joseph Mission, Ind., as far back as 1690. These tribes on the St. Joseph River often made trips as far as Kaskaskia, Ill., and Quebec, Canada, to make their Easter duty. After Chief Leopold appealed for a priest for his tribe, Rev. Frederic Résé went to Leopold's village and baptized him, his wife, and about 30 others, registering them in the parish church of Bertrand, Mich. As a result of this eloquent appeal Rev. Stephen T. badin spent three years (183033) in Pokagon's village and won more than 350 converts. In September 1833 Leopold regretfully signed the treaty of cession of the Pottawatomi lands and four years later took up land in Cass County, near Dowagiac, Mich. There at Silver Creek he organized and built the first Catholic church; he was later buried under it.

Simon, b. 1830?; d. Jan. 28, 1899. One of Leopold's several children, Simon was regarded widely "as the best educated and most distinguished full-blooded Native American in America." He was educated at Notre Dame University, Ind., and Oberlin College, Ohio. He spent his entire life interpreting the Native Americans to the American public, the Congress, and several presidents and was successful in securing the annuities due the Pottawatomi. A noted public speaker, he made his most famous appearance at the World Columbian Exposition (1893) at Chicago, Ill. He wrote Queen of the Woods, a romance centering in events of his own life, as well as articles about Native American life, lore, and legend in magazines such as the Forum, Harper's, and Review of Reviews. He was buried in the Rush Lake (Mich.) church cemetery, with his two wives and four children. Pokagon State Park in Indiana is a memorial to the Pokagons.

Bibliography: c. b. buechner, The Pokagons (Indianapolis 1933). j. h. schauinger, Stephen T. Badin (Milwaukee 1956).

[j. h. schauinger]