by Scott Hall
Our Headwaters guide, Molly MacGregor, has sent along more information about the powerful and influential Anishinaabe leader, Aysh-ke-bah-ke-ko-zhay, also known as Flatmouth to the French and English explorers between 1805 and 1860. This information comes from various sources.
Molly: The translation I have of his name – Without Fear – comes to me from Mike Swan, who is the Natural Resources Director at White Earth. The name is spelled many ways, and I am no expert.
Flatmouth is one of two Indians with busts in the US senate (the other is of Besheekee or Buffalo). I’ve attached a photo from the US Senate website of the bust.
In looking for this photo, I found the following – which is interesting. I was aware of the relocation. It is a pretty huge event in American-Ojibwe relations.
"A powerful Ojibwa, or Chippewa, chief in the Leech Lake area of present-day Minnesota, Aysh-ke-bah-ke-ko-zhay, or Flat Mouth, visited the nation's capital in 1855 as a member of the Indian delegation from the Midwest. The tribal leaders were brought to Washington to negotiate land treaties. Aysh-ke-bah-ke-ko-zhay spoke on behalf of his people in negotiating the cession of more than ten million acres in north-central Minnesota—a land package that included the headwaters of the Mississippi River. The Native Americans received more than one million dollars in funds and services, but aspects of this cession and others in the region continued to figure in government discussions with Native Americans for the next hundred years.
Aysh-ke-bah-ke-ko-zhay (other English spellings are also known) means "bird with the green bill" in the Ojibwa language. "Flat Mouth" did not derive from this native name but was instead an English translation of the nickname "Gueule Platte," applied by early French traders. In 1911 Smithsonian Institution ethnologist James Moody characterized the great leader as "probably the most prominent Ojibwa chief of the upper Mississippi region from at least 1806, when he held council with Lieutenant [Zebulon] Pike...probably to his death, which seems to have occurred about 1860."
The quote below indicates how angry and betrayed many Anishinaabe felt in their dealings with the Federal government well before Minnesota statehood.
“Tell him I blame him for the children we have lost, for the sickness we have suffered, and for the hunger we have endured. The fault rests on his shoulders.” —Flat Mouth, Leech Lake Ojibwe speaking of Territorial Governor Alexander Ramsey
Molly MacGregor was the Director of the Mississippi Headwaters Board for 12 years.
She's the author of "The Mississppi Headwaters Guidebook",
and will be our guide as we go down the River.
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