Chief Abram B. Burnett Family
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Chief of the Potawatomis






(He Who Prays with Plants)


(Nov. 1812 - June 14, 1870)


Chief Abram Burnett, a hereditary Chief of the Potawatomis, 1863

Above: Chief Burnett is wearing a blanket wrapped around his body telling all he maintained his traditional ways and faith as a Potawatomi Indian. Although many Potawatomis attempted to continue traditional lifestyles, assimilation and acculturation was hard to resist as it was forced upon the Potawatomis by the United States government. Between 1867 and 1869, Chief Burnett was documented in 3 photographs, all taken during important delegations and meetings with government officials. Understanding very well the differences between the Indian world and American ways, Chief Burnett cut his hair and dressed in what was noted by Americans as a more dignified and civilized manner before delegations. Indian chiefs such as Abram Burnett believed this would help in negotiations.

Photo Courtesy of Smithsonian Institute National Anthropological Archives


(Above photos from Kansas State Historical Society. Copy and reuse restrictions apply.)

(Above photo from Kansas State Historical Society. Copy and reuse restrictions apply.)

Delegation Photo, 1867

Above: Chief Burnett along with John Peyton during delegation, 1869

(Above photo from Kansas State Historical Society. Copy and reuse restrictions apply.)

After the Civil War, Native American policy changed drastically. Reformers felt that the policy of forcing Native Americans onto reservations was too harsh while industrialists, who were concerned about their land and resources, viewed assimilation, the cultural absorption of the American Indians into "White America" as the sole long term method of ensuring Native American survival. By 1871, the Federal government passed a pivotal law stating that the United States would no longer treat Native American groups as independent nations. This legislation signaled a drastic shift in the government's relationship with the Native peoples - Congress now deemed the Native Americans, not as nations outside of jurisdictional control, but as wards of the government. By making Native Americans wards of the U.S. government, Congress believed that it would be easier to make the policy of assimilation a widely accepted part of the cultural mainstream of America. Many U.S. government officials viewed assimilation as the most effective solution to what they deemed "The Indian Problem" as the only long term method of ensuring U.S. interest in the west and the survival of the American Indians. In order to accomplish this, the government urged Native Americans to move out of their traditional dwellings, move into wooden square houses or cabins, and become farmers. The federal government passed laws that forced Native Americans to abandon their traditional appearance and way of life. Some laws outlawed traditional religious practices while others ordered Indian men to cut their long hair. Agents on more than two-thirds of American Indian reservations established courts to enforce federal regulations that often prohibited traditional, cultural, and religious practices. Many American Indians continued religious and ritual practices underground, hiding ritual objects and sacred bundles containing spiritual pipes used for prayer. Even in the midst of forced assimilation, American Indians continued to follow their true faiths. Many Native Americans such as Chief Abram Burnett quietly continued Native religious practices but carried their traditional faiths secretly from government officials for the safety of their families and for the ritual sacred objects themselves.

Above: Rose Quartz Silver Collar Ebonised Hardwood Shaft Cane of Chief Abram Burnett.

Click here to visit site provided by Carol Yoho of Washburn University and Kansas Historical Society for more information on Abram B. Burnett

Click here to visit site provided by Shirley Willard of Fulton County Historical Society of Indiana for more information on Chief Burnett and the Trail of Death

Click here to view 1890 photo of Wis-Ki-Ge-Amatyuk documented under important Potawatomi leaders at Wisconsin Historical Society

Click here to view 1896 confidential letter from L.F. Pearson, United States Potawatomi Indian agent to Col. Henry J. Aten, allotting agent, in their determination in paralyzing the most influential Holyman of the Potawatomi Nation, Wis-Ki-Ge-Amatyuk

Chief Abram B. Burnett (Nan-Wesh-Mah: He Who Prays With Plants)

A hereditary Chief of the Potawatomis, 1869

(Above photo from Kansas State Historical Society. Copy and reuse restrictions apply.)

Chief Abram B. Burnett, born Nan-Wesh-Mah, was a full blooded Potawatomi Indian born in November, 1812 on the north side of the Tippecanoe River near a little placed called Muncie in the state of Indiana. As a young boy, he moved from Muncie up to the Potawatomi Village on the St. Joseph River between the mouth of the St. Joseph River and a little village called Niles in the state of Michigan. Soon, a young Nan-Wesh-Mah and his family would leave the Niles and move to Bertrandsville, Michigan, where his biological father, Chief Shau-Uque-Be, was killed. Nan-Wesh-Mah's biological mother, Cone-Zo-Quah, and his biological grandfather, Chief Chebaas, who was the father of his mother, then took him to Ft. Wayne, Indiana, where the three of them took up residence with a young Nan-Wesh-Mah's mother, Cone-Zo-Quah's, first cousin, Abraham Burnett. Abraham Burnett was a son of Chebaas' sister, Kaukema (Cakimi) and her husband, William Burnett, a known trader. Abraham Burnett was known to have ran a trading post near the army fort. Nan-Wesh-Mah soon started attending Rev. Isaac McCoy's Mission School at Ft. Wayne between 1819 - 1820 and soon after at only 8 years of age in 1821, he would serve as Rev. Isaac McCoy's guide and important interpreter sitting in on important counsels with the Chiefs all throughout Indiana and Michigan.

Above: Early portrait of Ft. Wayne, Indiana

It is believed sometime between Nan-Wesh-Mah's young age of eight to thirteen years old his mother, Cone-Zo-Quah, had died. It was at this time Abraham Burnett, the biological cousin of a young Nan-Wesh-Mah's mother, would take him as a son. There was a ceremony of adoption by Abraham Burnett. And other than just saying he would adopt him, Abraham Burnett, George Cicot, Joseph Barron, the Interpreter, and a large number of other men would come and in the presence of Gen. Tipton, Abraham Burnett pointed to a young Nan-Wesh-Mah, and said to Nan-Wesh-Mah's grandfather, Chief Chebaas, "I am going to take him as my son." He then took a medal and hung it about his neck saying after he was going to send his new son, Nan-Wesh-Mah, to school. Abraham Burnett, Chief Chebaas, Gen. Tipton, and George Cicot, then took Nan-Wesh-Mah, who would then adopt his new father's name, Abraham Burnett, but throughout history would always be known as Abram B. Burnett.

Chief Abram B. Burnett was then sent to a school in Kentucky called the Choctaw Academy. This school was supervised by Richard M. Johnson, who later in his life would become the Vice President of the Unites States for four years in 1837. He was a strong supporter of the War of 1812 and organized the Kentucky Riflemen. His heroic fighting in support of General William Henry Harrison at the Battle of Thames advanced his political career. Richard M. Johnson was credited for killing the Indian war chief, Tecumseh, and wounded in the fight.

It was known that the Potawatomi tribe had paid for all or most of the costs each year for several Indian boys to attend a five year term. Most Indian children who had attended school were the sons of chiefs as the U.S. government had stressed the importance of school to the chiefs of the tribes as they knew their children would become the future leaders of their people and must learn the ways of the whites. Church and school would be establishments to help change the view of the true American Indian. "...Kill the Indian, Save the Man..." After five years, Chief Abram B. Burnett came back to Ft. Wayne as he was enrolled for another five year term, but had attended less than a year before his adopted father, Abraham Burnett, had died in 1827. Abram B. Burnett (Nan-Wesh-Mah) would no longer attend school.

Above: Burnett's Creek and Battle Ground, from the West

Abraham Burnett, adopted father of Abram B. Burnett (Nan-Wesh-Mah), was known to have been in battles with his Potawatomi people before his passing. One expedition states: "Abraham Burnett was known to have been in command of a band of his Potawatomis and Kickapoos that attempted to ambush Gen. Harrison's army in 1811 in the southern part of the county where the bluffs and ravines extended down to the river opposite the vicinity of Perrysville." He was also known to have been dissatisfied with the United States handlings of treaties and sided with Tecumseh and the Prophet and played an aggressive role on the side of the Indian Confederacy in the battle of Tippecanoe. Chief Abram B. Burnett (Nan-Wesh-Mah) had noted that his adopted father, Abraham Burnett, had no known biological children and was never known to have ever been married.

Above: Burnett's Cemetery. Also known as Burnetts Creek Graveyard.

Battle Ground, Tippecanoe County, Indiana, USA

Abram B. Burnett's biological grandfather, Chebaas, who was one of the hereditary principal chiefs of the Potawatomi Nation and biological brother to Chief Topinabee, had also died in 1827. He was known to have died in the home of his niece, Nancy Davis Burnett, sister of Abraham Burnett.

Chief Topinabee, Chief Chebaas, Chief Soowanernuk, Chief Sawawk, Chief Shissahecon, and Kaukema Burnett (wife of well-known trader, William Burnett), were children born to the Potawatomi Chief Nanaquiba of the St. Joseph territory. Chief Nanaquiba, a highly respected chief, was a leading force behind the Indian warriors tactics that helped the French, who were led by General Marquis De Montcalm, siege the attack against the British, led by Lieutenant Colonel George Munro, and capture Ft. William Henry in August of 1757.

Above: General Louis Joseph de Montcalm

Lieutenant Colonel George Munro's British 35th Regiment of Foot and Elements of the 60th Foot Militia Troops had resisted a long siege and bombardment by the French and a large number of Indian warriors. Defended by approximately 2,200 soldiers commanded by Colonel Munro, Fort William Henry, a modest installation could only hold 500 people, which forced the remainder to dig trenches outside the walls. Fort William Henry would fall. The British surrendered after parlaying with Montcalm. Though stubborn and reluctant to surrender, Munro eventually gave in after being shown an intercepted message from General Daniel Webb, the commander of British forces in the New York colony, who said that he would be unable to send reinforcements to relieve the beleaguered Garrison. Defense of the lakes frontier was left to General Daniel Webb who advanced on Louisbourg with 6,000 troops. Webb was supposed to dominate Lake George to prevent the French from bringing cannons from Fort Carillon to besiege the vulnerable Fort William Henry. But he blunderred badly by relying too heavily on the frontier irregulars known as Rogers Rangers, who were severely defeated near Fort Carillon.

General Daniel Webb had visited Fort William Henry but withdrew to the safer confines of Fort Edward after receiving reports of the advent of the large French army. Thus, with little hope of relief, Munro agreed to Montcalm's terms, which allowed the British to leave Fort Edward in possession of their side arms and a token cannon. Montcalm allowed them to retreat without being attacked. The vast number of warriors that came to join Montcalm came in the early summer of 1757. They were the spearhead Montcalm used to bring down Fort William Henry. The French had stirred Indian interest by promises of a great plunder and revenge in the conquest against the British. Approximately 2,000 Indian braves joined 7,000 French regulars, some having travelled 1,500 miles to get to Fort William Henry. Tribes present at the battle for the French were the Potawatomis, the Abenakis, and the Ottawas.

Above: Montcalm trying the stop the massacre.

Image from United States Library of Congress

For more information on the Battle of Fort William Henry, please visit Lake George Historical Association and Museum

After the British withdrawal, French allied Native American chiefs and warriors grew angry about the parlay and attacked and killed approximately 200 civilians in the column leaving the fort seeking revenge and continuing with the purpose of their long journey to battle. Three hundred captives were taken. They would not be stopped. Many warriors expected to take prisoners to sell, bring home captives to work as slaves, and to also replace dead family members that were taken from them brutelly all by the hands of the British. Scalping would also be a popular way of acquiring a war prize. Scalping took time and was most often done on the dead, but because of the panic, some scalped men alive. It is historically believed Lewis Joseph de Montcalm attempted to stop the Native Americans from attacking the British soldiers and civilians as they left Fort William Henry, but the anger and power of the Indians were too much too fast and they could not be stopped. Historians agree that the battle constituted one of the bloodiest pages of Colonial American history.

Above: Kee-Waw-Nay Village

George Winters painted this scene of a council between Potawatomi leaders and U.S. government representatives in July 21, 1837. The purpose of the meeting was to resolve and settle details for the impending removal of the Potawatomis from northern Indiana. The council was held about 20 miles from Logansport, Indiana.

Above: George Winters drawing of the 1838 removal of the Potawatomi Indians from Indiana to Kansas. Chief Abram B. Burnett was amongst many of his Potawatomis people during this removal as they were forced out of Indiana at gun point by the United States government.

The Potawatomis were forced to sign many treaties giving up their lands in Indiana, Illinois, and most in Michigan. An agreement called for another removal to the west of the Mississippi River by the year 1838. Many tribal members had already left before the year 1838. The 1838 removal from Indiana to Kansas became known as the Potawatomi Trail of Death as many on the 660 mile trek died. A total of 42 children and elderly were known to have lost their lives as 859 Potawatomis were forced at gunpoint by the U.S. soldiers and accompanied by priests.

Above: George Winters sketched the above scene as the Rt. Rev. Brute, Bishop of Vincennes, Indiana, addressed the Potawatomis on the second day of their immigration from Indiana to Kansas, on September 16, 1838.

In the summer of 1838 Potawatomis settled on land in Marshall, Kosciusko, Fulton, Cass and surrounding counties. Fearing an uprising, white settlers wrote to Indiana Governor David Wallace, asking him to come investigate. He came and talked to various white people and decided that the Potawatomis must go. On his way back to Indianapolis, he stopped in Logansport on August 27 and appointed General John Tipton to be in charge of the removal. Tipton immediately put out the call for 100 volunteers. He instructed the armed men to meet him at Chippeway, which was William Polke’s trading post on the Tippecanoe River north of Rochester. Tipton went to Polke’s house and dated his letters: Chippeway, Aug. 28, 1838. Sitting in the Polke house now preserved at the Fulton County Historical Society grounds, Tipton wrote orders and letters late into the night and planned the capture of the Potawatomis. He rode a horse with his mounted militia to Twin Lakes on August 30, having sent out a notice to the Potawatomi to meet with him. They met in Menominee’s chapel and during the meeting, Tipton informed the Indians that they were prisoners and were going to go west in a couple of days. Chief Menominee objected and was “tied like a dog.” Tipton sent squads of soldiers in all directions to collect all Potawatomis within about a 30 to 50 mile radius.

Chief Menominee and two other chiefs, No-taw-kah and Pee-pin-oh-waw, were placed in a horse-drawn jail wagon and transported across Indiana. Chief Abram B. Burnett was also captured along with many of his tribe as they were rounded up to begin the long trek. 

Many of them had been baptized by Father Benjamin Marie Petit, a young priest from France, and they attended Mass in Logansport with Father Petit and Bishop Brute. The Bishop gave permission for Father Petit to accompany the Potawatomis so he went back to South Bend to pack his things and then caught up with them at Danville, Ill. General Tipton’s power expired at the state line so he turned the emigration over to William Polke, Rochester, Indiana, appointed to be federal conductor. Father Petit was placed in charge of the sick. Records indicate that Polke and Petit did all they could to help the suffering and dying but medicine in those days did not amount to much more than rest, tea and sugar. So many died along the trail that it became known as the Trail of Death. Father Petit said Mass every day and baptized the babies who died, in his own words, “who with their first step passed from earthly exit to the heavenly sojourn".

Father Petit wrote: “The order of the march was as follows: the United States flag, carried by a dragoon (soldier); then one of the principal officers, next the staff baggage carts, then the carriage, which during the whole trip was kept for the use of the Indian chiefs; then one or two chiefs on horseback led a line of 250 or 300 horses ridden by men, women, children in single file, after the manner of savages. On the flanks of the line at equal distance from each other were the dragoons and volunteers, hastening the stragglers, often with severe gestures and bitter words. After this cavalry came a file of 40 baggage wagons filled with luggage and Indians. The sick were lying in them, rudely jolted, under a canvas which, far from protecting them from the dust and heat, only deprived them of air, for they were as if buried under this burning canopy - several died thus.” One of the first things Father Petit did was to get the chiefs in the jail wagon released: “On my word the six chiefs who had till now been treated as prisoners of war were released and given the same kind of freedom which the rest of the tribe enjoyed.”

Across the great prairies of Illinois they marched, crossed the Mississippi River at Quincy, and they made their way though Missouri to enter Western Territory (Kansas) south of Independence, Missouri.

They arrived at Osawatomie, Kansas, on November 4, 1838, the end of the trail. There were supposed to be houses ready for them as winter was coming on, but no houses had been built for them. The Potawatomis were very upset and asked William Polke to stay with them so he said he would leave his son with them. Polke then went back to Indiana. Father Petit stayed with them for a few weeks, as he was sick with the fever too. After placing the Potawatomis in the spiritual hands of Jesuit Father Christian Hoecken at the Sugar Creek Mission in Kansas, Father Petit set out to St. Louis. He was accompanied by Chief Abram B. Burnett (Nan-wesh-mah), a full-blood Potawatomi who was the same age as Petit. Father Petit was very sick with sores all over his body. Burnett had to hold him on his horse part of the time. Petit died in St. Louis on Feb. 10, 1839. Burnett carried Petit’s chalice and other personal things to Vincennes to give to Bishop Brute. Petit was buried in St. Louis. In 1856 Father Edward Sorin, founder of Notre Dame University, took Father Petit’s body back to Indiana. Today Father Petit’s remains rest under the Log Chapel at the University of Notre Dame at South Bend, Indiana. Father Petit’s baptismal records and journals are in the University of Notre Dame Library. They were translated from French by H. Vernon Davis and Irving McKee of Culver Military Academy, Culver, Indiana, and published in the aforementioned book by the Indiana Historical Society.

It was noted by Chief Abram B. Burnett that many of his people were starving and when dying of thirst they were not always allowed to stop at creeks or rivers to drink. Documented always as an imposing figure amongst the Potawatomis and an Indian of intelligence. He would become a great and important mediator and leader amongst his people. Chief Burnett's name can be seen documented on several treaties. On April 11, 1836, he and his first wife, D'Moosh-Kee-Kee-Awh (Dah-Moosh-Ke-Keaw), were known to have signed a treaty together. He signed his name as Nanwishma, his native name. The treaty was signed to be removed to the west within two years. In 1838 he would help lead the band of his people as a chief/mediator and interpreter on the Death March forced upon them by the U.S. government. Beginning at Twin Lakes, Indiana, September 4, 1838, the Death March would end on November 4, 1838, as they would arrive on a reserve in Osawatomi, Kansas.

Following is the treaty of April 11, 1836 to be removed within two years:



APRIL 11, 1836

Articles of a treaty made and concluded at a camp on Tippecanoe river, in the State of Indiana, between Abel C. Pepper commissioner on the part of the United States, and Pau-koo-shuck, Aub-ba-naub-ba's oldest son and the head men of Aub-ba-naub-ba's band of Potawattimie Indians, this eleventh day of April in the year, eighteen hundred and thirty-six.


The aforesaid Pau-koo-shuck and the head men of Aub-ba-naub-ba's band, hereby cede to the United States the thirty-six sections of land reserved for them by the second article of the Treaty between the United States and the Potawattimie Indians on Tippecanoe river on the twenty-sixth day of October, in the year eighteen hundred and thirty-two,


In consideration of the cession aforesaid, the United States stipulate to pay to the aforesaid band the sum of twenty-three thousand and forty dollars in specie, one half at the first payment of annuity, after the ratification of this Treaty, and the other half at the succeeding payment of annuity,

Page 458


The above-named Pau-koo-shuck and his band agree to remove to the country west of the Mississippi river, provided for the Potawattimie nation by the United States within two years,


[Stricken out by Senate.]


This Treaty, after the same shall be ratified by the President and Senate of the United States shall be binding upon both parties.

In testimony whereof, the said Abel C. Pepper, commissioner as aforesaid, and the said Pau-koo-shuck, and his band, have hereunto set their hands, this eleventh day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-six.

Abel C. Pepper,

Pau-koo-shuck, his x mark,

Taw-wah-quah, her x mark,

Shah-quaw-ko-shuck, Aub-ba-naub-ba's son, his x mark,

Mat-taw-mim, his x mark,

Si-nis-quah, her x mark,

Dah-moosh-ke-keaw, her x mark,

Nan-wish-ma, his x mark,

O-Sauk-kay, his x mark,

Ke-waw-o-nuck, his x mark,

Aun-tuine, his x mark,

Sin-ba-nim, his x mark,

Nees-se-ka-tah, his x mark,

Kaw-ke-me, her x mark,

Pe-waw-ko, her x mark,

O-ket-chee, her x mark,

Nan-cee, her x mark.


E. O. Cicott, secretary,

Henry Ossem,

Thos. Robb,

Wm. Polke,

Joseph Bamont, principal interpreter,

Joseph Truckey,

George W. Ewing,

Cyrus Tober.

D-Mouche-Kee-Kee-Awh (Darling Woman/Good Medicine), first wife of Chief Abram B. Burnett: Painting by George Winters (1837)

Before Chief Burnett and his People had travelled the Death March, he had fallen in love with his first wife, D'Moosh-Kee-Kee-Awh (Dah-Moosh-Ke-Keaw), a wealthy Potawatomi woman of great beauty. Her personality and person was of Moosh-kee-kee (Good Medicine). George Winters wrote, "She was an Indian woman of much personal attraction. She excited the admiration of white men as well as that of the Indians. D-Mouche-Kee-Kee-Awh was a full blood Pottawattamie woman, but was not a representative type of the received idea of Indian characteristics, those of low forehead and high cheek bones. The likeness of this woman is a sketch from life and I might add that it is not overdrawn in the interest of flattery.... Abram Burnett appeared always proud of his handsome squaw.... Of D-Mouche-Kee-Kee-Awh, it might be truly said that no Pottawattamie squaw equaled her in regard of dress, she was as her likeness indicates plated with silver broaches the very ne plus ultra of Indian woman's toilette."

She was known to have been quite desired by many men and was also known to have had somewhat of a romantic history. Many men courted  and wanted the heart of a young D'Moosh-Kee-Kee-Awh (Dah-Moosh-Ke-Keaw). One story had documented that two chiefs in a desperate rivalry had fought and in doing so had inserted their tomahawks into each other's skulls. One of them survived for four days and while laying in his death bed he had sent for D'Moosh-Kee-Kee-Awh (Dah-Moosh-Ke-Keaw). As she approached him at his death bed, to her surprise and unexpectedly, he attempted to kill her under the romantic hallucination that her spirit would accompany him on a sort of bridal tour to the spirit world. Feeble and dying, he failed of his deadly purpose, and she escaped with a slight gash in the forehead. Chief Burnett, taking an interest in the beautiful D'Moosh-Kee-Kee-Awh (Dah-Moosh-Ke-Keaw) would follow his heart. He would protect her and was known to have taken her to his wigwam.

On June 5, 1838, three months before the Death March of September 4, 1838 from Indiana to Kansas, Chief Burnett and D'Moosh-Kee-Kee-Awh (Dah-Moosh-Ke-Keaw) would be baptized and married by Priest Father Benjamin Petit. Chief Burnett was baptized as Abraham Joseph Burnett. After relocation and settlement to Kansas, Chief Burnett would never be recognized as Abraham Joseph Burnett, but known to all as Abraham B. Burnett. Middle initial "B" stood for "Bear", a nickname given to him by the Kansas settlers for his truly enormous size, strength, and build. D'Moosh-Kee-Kee-Awh (Dah-Moosh-Ke-Keaw), first wife of Chief Burnett, died on October 19, 1842 in Sugar Creek, Kansas.

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.

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

Photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress Archives, Washington D.C.

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 (The 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.

Above: Mary Knofflock, second wife of Chief Abram B. Burnett

After Chief Burnett's marriage to D'Moosh-Kee-Kee-Awh (Dah-Moosh-Ke-Keaw) he would meet a young German woman named Mary Knofflock on one of his journeys to Washington. Soon after, they would be married in the year 1843, bearing many children: Joseph W., Mary J., Mary A., Catherine, Clara, and last born, Abraham Lincoln Burnett.

Above: Joseph Burnett, first born biological son to Chief Abram B. Burnett, Chief of the Potawatomis.

Joseph Burnett in Kansas visiting the grave of his father, Chief Abram Burnett

Delegation of Prairie Band Potawatomi from Kansas in Washington, December 8, 1898. Center: Youngest son of Chief Abram Burnett, Abraham Lincoln Burnett, at the age of 34 years old, born in the year 1864, Kansas.

Above: Abraham Lincoln Burnett

Above: Joseph Burnett, eldest son of Chief Abram B. Burnett in later years in Indian Territory, OK. Joseph Burnett had served on the Indian Police force, known as "The Light Horsemen".

Above: Joseph Burnett (to the left) with his younger brother, Abraham Lincoln Burnett (to the right), together in Indian Territory, OK.

Above: Abraham Lincoln Burnett, youngest child born to Chief Abram B. Burnett. He was born in 1864.

Chief Burnett's second wife, Mary Knofflock Burnett, lived with him in a log cabin at the north side of Shunganunga Creek near the foot of the mound until the chief's death on June 14, 1870. She and their children would then move to Oklahoma amongst the Mission Citizen Potawatomis.

Above: Chief Burnett's cabin, Burnett's Mound, Topeka, Kansas.

Chief Abram B. Burnett was noted as a remarkable man, a fine person, intelligent, who was honest and strictly upright and honorable. He was documented as an astonishing and incredible sight, standing a full 6' - 6'1" in height and a giant in weight and muscle weighing 450 lbs. In his later years it was known that his great weight made it exceedingly uncomfortable for him to get around as he weighed 496 lbs. at the time of his death. By foot or horseback he travelled his entire life. But as his age and weight increased, he was no longer capable. His only means of transportation was by way of a buckboard wagon that he could only mount himself into with a pair of steps which he carried with him in the wagon for the purpose. It was known by many that in life there was nothing the chief feared, especially no man. The only person he feared was his tiny German wife who would give him an earful when he came home drunk of whiskey. He was noted as the strongest and largest man in Kansas and was challenged by many in fun and would take to the challenges by lifting objects of incredible weight for the amusement of others. He was a man of strongly marked Indian features that was documented as a prominent figure among the Potawatomis as a mediator and leader in all counsels. Although he never said much, he brooded long and bitterly over the wrongs of his race.

In religion, Chief Burnett and his first wife, D-Mouche-Kee-Kee-Awh, were known to have been baptized in the year 1838 by Father Benjamin Petit before the trek to Kansas from Indiana along with many other Potawatomis that had been surrounded by priests (Black Robes) of the Catholic faith. The Black Robes' quest was conversion. Black Robes viewed and believed that the Indians of the land were lost and empty souls having no true religion, worshipping false Gods. Within their quest, their belief (the Black Robes) was that they were helpers of God guiding the Native people to God, saving their souls. Many would follow, and many did not as they would continue to pray and follow the old traditional Indian ways of their ancient ancestors.

Chief Abram Burnett was never known in his 32 years in Kansas to ever have been seen truly practicing or following the ways of the Catholic church, although in life he was always noted as a friend to the church. He was known to be very respectful to the faith of the Catholics, for he and other Potawatomis had grown up upon them in their forced attendance of Mission school. Julia Ann Beauchemie Stinson, a close friend of the Burnetts, had made note before her passing that Chief Burnett was not a Catholic.

Above: Julia Ann Beauchemie Stinson, relative of Shawnee Chief Tecumseh, Kansas (1834 - 1925)

Julia Ann Beauchemie Stinson (1834 - 1925) and her husband, Thomas N. Stinson (1818 - 1882) were known to have been at the funeral of Chief Abram Burnett. They were known in Kansas as Shawnee County's first pioneer couple as they had lived upon the land years before its establishment as a county. Thomas N. Stinson was a known blacksmith and a trader for the Potawatomis. Julia Ann Beauchemie Stinson was a Shawnee Indian woman whose grandfather married a cousin of Tecumseh. The community of Tecumseh in Kansas was named by Thomas N. Stinson in honor of his wife's relative. On April 15, 1914, Julia Ann Beauchemie Stinson had reminisced about the past. Found in the archives of the Kansas State Historical Society is one of these manuscript accounts given by her describing Shawnee County before its establishment. Reminiscing about Chief Burnett, she said, "Abram Burnett came from Sugar Creek with the Pottawatomie Indians, his wife was a German woman, stocky and low. A very good woman, and a fine cook. I remember four Burnett children at the time of Burnett's death, two married daughters, a younger girl at home and a boy about 15 or 16... I knew the Burnett's well, they were good neighbors and we often rode over to see them after we moved over here. We rode our horses at a lope across the prairie, it didn't take long to go. There were many people at Burnett's funeral, more white people than Indians, he was buried like a white man. His wife was a Roman Catholic, but he was not. Burnett never had but one wife that I ever knew, I think he was a full blood Pottawatomie...We were living in the Burnett cabin when Fremont came through in 1855 or '56, I don't remember..."

Although in his life, he had been forced to adopt frontier farming ways through acculturation, Chief Burnett would always remain known to true family as a superstitious man who believed in the old ways of his people. He was a carrier of highly religious society bundles and principle pipes used traditionally amongst his Potawatomi tribe and family.

After his passing, it was decided that the religious objects remain in Kansas amongst the traditional Prairie Band, a band of Potawatomis at which one time lived among other Potawatomi bands in Kansas. Before Chief Abram Burnett's death, there was a disagreement in the entire tribe on the subject of land. The Prairie Band refused to accept their land in severalty and severed their relations with the other bands. In 1861, all Potawatomis in Kansas that lived upon the one reserve made a treaty to dispose of the greater portion of their reservation. The Prairie Band were then given a reservation in common eleven miles square in Jackson County, Kansas, a part of the old home tract. It was provided that the other bands should or might become citizens of the United States and have their lands allotted to them. There was as surplus after the allotment and this went thru the usual process of graft in the final extinction of the Indian title. In 1867, the Mission Potawatomis secured a reservation in what is now Shawnee, Oklahoma. It was known by his true family that Chief Burnett never wanted to leave the Kansas home he had lived upon for 22 years as he remained upon his land of the Burnett Mound along the Shunganunga Creek. Other Potawatomis had decided their futures to Oklahoma and had began the preperations to their new home. Chief Burnett's family believed they would remain in Kansas upon his farm and land. A few years after securing the Oklahoma reserve in 1867, Chief Burnett passed away in 1870. After his passing, his wife, Marie Knofflock, and children sold their land and join the trek to Shawnee, Oklahoma, where the Burnett clan would grow. Chief Burnett himself always remained a Kansas Potawatomi Indian as he was buried upon the land he was forced.

Chief Burnett, during his settlings, became a successful farmer and stockman as he was a known horse trader in Kansas. During the Civil War, Chief Abram B. Burnett helped as a guide for the Union Army assisting with his knowledge of the Kansas territory (landscape). Because of his assistance to the Union army, he was gifted an 1860 Austrian Lorenz musket. During this time his children had tended to a Maple Grove to make sugar. This grove provided a safe hiding place for food and valuables during the war. Chief Abram B. Burnett was known to have taken several trips to Washington, D.C. to meet and negotiate with government officials over the rights of his people for the benefit of their futures and was known to have been a friend to U.S. President, Abraham Lincoln, as he was a steadfast friend to the Union. On November 11, 1864 during the Civil War, Chief Abram B. Burnett had his last child, Abraham Lincoln Burnett, named in honor of the President of the United States.

Above: 1860 Austrian Lorenz musket of Chief Abram B. Burnett.

Above: Gravestone of Chief Abram B. Burnett (Nan-Wesh-Mah), Chief of the Potawatomis. Topeka, Kansas, Burnett's Mound.

Chief Abram B. Burnett died June 14, 1870 at the age of 59 years old at his home of the Burnett Mound, Topeka, Kansas, where he is buried. 

His resting place today is well respected as his tribe and family had great involvement historically in the shaping of the United States. Chief Burnett's biological descendants still live on today, carrying on the traditions of their Neshnabek people.

~Gary Wis-Ki-Ge-Amatyuk Jr.

Wahb-No-Sah/Ke-O-Ko-Mo-Quah/Burnett family

Neshnaabe (Potawatomi)/Ojibwe (Chippewa)~

This information has been documented with the Kansas, Indiana, and Wisconsin State Historical Societies. The historic oral stories of great importance have been handed down and gathered from traditional spiritual leaders of the Potawatomi Indian tribe. Some family photographs can be found documented in the Smithsonian Institute, Denver Library Western History and Geneaology, and the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.