BAUZHI-GEEZHIG-WAESHIKUM (Pazhekezhikquashkum, Pechegechequistqum, Beyigishiqueshkam), chief and medicine man; b. on the Miamis (Maumee) River (Ohio); had three sons who survived to adulthood; d. late 1841 or early 1842 on Walpole Island (Lambton County), Upper Canada.
Bauzhi-geezhig-waeshikum, whose name means “one who steps over the sky,” was probably born well before the outbreak of the American revolution. As a young man he lived on the west shore of Lake St Clair in present-day Michigan, but in the late 1820s, as an elderly chief, he moved with his family across the border to Walpole Island. Alexander McKee* of the Indian Department had encouraged Britain’s Ojibwa and Ottawa allies in the region to settle on the large island after the revolution, and by the time of Bauzhi-geezhig-waeshikum’s arrival the island, which had never been surrendered to the crown, had a population of roughly 300.
In August 1829 the Reverend Peter Jones*, a native Methodist missionary, tried unsuccessfully to convert Bauzhi-geezhig-waeshikum to Christianity. The old chief and medicine man refused. As he explained to Jones and the Indian converts accompanying him: “The white man makes the fire-water, he drinks, and sells it to the Indians, he lies and cheats the poor Indian. I have seen him go to his praying-house in [Fort] Malden, and as soon as he comes out I have seen him go straight to the tavern, get drunk, quarrel, and fight. Now the white man’s religion is no better than mine. I will hold fast to the religion of my forefathers.” Undeterred, Jones returned on two more occasions in the early 1830s, but he made no headway. Bauzhi-geezhig-waeshikum no doubt again repeated the opinion he had expressed on the first visit: that different paths had been laid down for whites and Indians. “The Great Spirit made us all,” he had said. “When [he] made the white man he gave him his worship, written in a book, and prepared a place for his soul in heaven above. He also gave him his mode of preparing and administering medicine to the sick different from that of the Indians. Brothers and friends, when the Great Spirit made the Indian he gave him his mode of worship, and the manner of administering and using medicine to the sick. The Great Spirit gave the Indian to know the virtue of roots and plants to preserve life; and by attending to these things our lives are preserved.” After repeated failures Jones called the St Clair mission “the hardest I know.”
Recognized as the head chief of all the Indians on Walpole Island and on the Upper Canadian side of the St Clair River, Bauzhi-geezhig-waeshikum resisted when government authorities applied pressure on him and his people to adopt Christianity and agriculture. As a protest he did not participate in a census sponsored by the Indian Department and he refused presents for several years. But, as he informed Jones in the summer of 1833, he would “agree to send our children to school that they may learn to read, put words on paper, and count, so that the white traders might not cheat them.”
An intrusion of white settlers on Walpole Island infuriated him. In 1839 he told Samuel Peters Jarvis*, the chief superintendent of Indian affairs for Upper Canada, that the squatters had killed a hundred of their pigs, stolen their horses, and shot their dogs, “at the very doors of our lodges.” The whites also circulated rumours that the Indians would be removed as had been done in the United States. Fortunately the Indian Department protected the Indians’ title and evicted the squatters in the early 1840s.
Bauzhi-geezhig-waeshikum was a gifted orator whose speaking ability, as well as his intensive knowledge of traditional medicine, helped earn him the great respect he enjoyed among the local Indians. Jones noted that “the other chiefs never undertake anything of importance without consulting him . . . this chief is quite like a patriarch among his people.”
Although the Reverend James Evans succeeded in winning over many of the Ojibwas on the west bank of the St Clair River in the mid 1830s, neither he nor his successors made any conversions among the Indians on Walpole Island in Bauzhi-geezhig-waeshikum’s lifetime. The death, shortly before 10 Jan. 1842, of one of the last great Ojibwa and Ottawa traditionalists in the area removed, in Indian agent John W. Keating’s words, “a great obstacle . . . from the Missionary’s war in the conversion of the Indians.”
[The author would like to thank Basil Johnston of the Royal Ont. Museum (Toronto) for his advice on Ojibwa names. d.b.s.]
AO, MS 296. MTRL, S. P. Jarvis papers, B57: 373–76, 381–84. PAC, RG 10, A4, 58: 59781; 67: 64211–14; 126: 70969; B3, 2022, file 8520; C1, 2, vol.569: 10. Victoria Univ. Library (Toronto), Peter Jones coll., Peter Jones papers, letter-book, 10 June 1833. Can., Prov. of, Legislative Assembly, App. to the journals, 1847, app.T, app.21, J. W. Keating, letter, 16 Dec. 1842. Peter Jones, History of the Ojebway Indians; with especial reference to their conversion to Christianity . . . , [ed. Elizabeth Field] (London, 1861); Life and journals of Kah-ke-wa-quo-nä-by (Rev. Peter Jones), Wesleyan missionary, [ed. Elizabeth Field and Enoch Wood] (Toronto, 1860). “Missionary intelligence,” Christian Guardian, 27 Feb. 1830: 115. K. J. Tyler and R. T. Ryan, “The government’s management of Indian trust funds: a case study of the Chippewas and Pottawatomies of Walpole Island” (report prepared for the National Indian Brotherhood, mimeograph, 1981), pp.V-2, VII-3.