Red River Ancestry
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** Parents of OBEMAU UNOQUA, first wife of John SAYER **

(Last Updated: August 28, 2012) 


**Note: Our Big Foot should not be confused with Chief Spotted Elk (later also known as Big Foot) of the Miniconjojou Sioux, who died in the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890. He was a half-brother of the famous Sitting Bull.





When the Ojibwe first moved into Chequamegon Bay, Lake Superior and established a village at Lapointe (Wisconsin) they were considered intruders by the Sauk, Fox and the Mdewakaton Sioux in particular. Tribal wars were common until Sieur Daniel Greysolon DULUTH (1636-1710) and Pierre Charles LE SUEUR (1642-1704) negotiated peaceful alliances between the tribes. It was during this peace (around 1700) that Snow Mountain WABASHA, a Dakota Sioux, took an Ojibwe woman as his wife. They had two sons (Omigaundib “Sore Head” & “Red Leaf” WABASHA).


However, it was perhaps inevitable that this fragile peace would not last. Eventually WABASHA and his Ojibwe wife decided it was best that they separate, and that their two sons should remain with their father. She would not be safe in Sioux territory, nor would the two Sioux children be safe in Ojibwe territory.


After Ojibwe woman WABASHA returned to her people in Chequamegon Bay she became the wife of an Ojibwe man named NO-KA or NOKAY, and a son named Big Foot aka Loon’s Foot MAMONGAZIDA was born around 1727 in Lapointe.


It seems that the two chiefs (NOKAY and Snow Mountain WABASHA) continued to maintain a relationship of mutual friendship and understanding even though many of their young warriors did not. Young Red Leaf WABASHA managed to make frequent visits to Lapointe to see his mother, and was able to form a bond with his younger half-brother Big Foot.


MAMONGAZIDA was just a boy (perhaps around nine years old) when the Sioux Massacre at Fort St Charles (Lake of the Woods) occurred in 1736. See more in OJIBWE and SIOUX BEGINNINGS (then use the < Back Button to return here)


After the massacre at St Charles, perhaps more for their own reasons than to avenge the French, the Ojibwe swore revenge, formed an alliance with the Cree and Assiniboine and attacked Dakota villages at Lake Pepin on the Mississippi (SE of Minneapolis-St Paul).  French traders at La Pointe tried to halt the fighting, but this had been coming for years, and neither the Dakota nor the Ojibwe would listen.  The war was on, and this was just the beginning.  The northern Minnesota Ojibway-Sioux wars would continue for the next 40 years!


And so it was that MAMONGAZIDA learned to be a warrior in his formative years. Around 1745, when he would have been around 18 years old, the Battle of Kathio (Izatys) occurred.


The Battle of Kathio or Izatys
Expulsion of the Sioux from Mille Lacs


Wikipedia: The Battle of Kathio, or Battle of Izatys, was an oral tradition of the Chippewa reporting a battle fought between Chippewas and the Sioux at the village of Kathio or Izatys, on the Rum River next to Mille Lacs Lake. An old man, living in a Chippewa village at the Fond du Lac, had four adult sons. They frequently made trips to visit the Sioux and they often returned home with gifts. Until one day, when one of the sons was killed in a quarrel over a Sioux woman. The three brothers returned home for a short while then returned to the Sioux, convinced the death of their brother was a mistake. However, upon this trip, only one brother returned home to his father safely. The last son, filled with forgiveness, went to seek the Sioux and reconcile their differences, but only met his death in the Sioux village.

For two years after, the father hunted and worked hard to obtain enough ammunition and supplies to raid the Sioux village and seek his revenge. As was the custom, he sent his tobacco and war club to the other Chippewa villages asking for help to accompany him “in search of his sons”. The response was overwhelming and a large war party assembled at Fond du Lac. The Chippewas were victorious, and gained control of the northern part of what became modern day Minnesota as a result


The actual year of this battle is very fuzzy, being based solely on oral tradition presented by elders of the tribe to William WARREN. We don’t know for sure, but it seems like a very good possibility that MAMONGAZIDA and/or his father (NOKAY) may have been involved in this battle. We do know that MAMONGAZIDA did eventually become a war chief.


Warren pg 223: Having evacuated their villages at Mille Lacs and Knife Lake (after the battle at Kathio), the Sioux now located themselves on Rum River.




We know that by about 1747 MAMONGAZIDA had married WENONA (an Ojibwe woman), because a son named WAUB-O-JEEG “WHITE FISHER” was born around that time.  There were at least four other children from this union (including daughter OBEMAU UNOQUA), but dates, again, are very arbitrary.


Am Unusual Family Reunion


An excerpt from Schoolcraft’s book, Red Race of America, pg 138: MAMONGAZIDA generally went to make his fall hunts on the middle grounds towards the Sioux territory, taking with him all his near relatives, amounting usually to 20 persons, exclusive of children. Early one morning while the young men were preparing for the chase, they were startled by the report of several shots, directed towards the lodge. As they had thought themselves in security, the first emotion was surprise, and they had scarcely time to fly to their arms, when another volley was fired, which wounded one man in the thigh, and killed a dog. MA MONGAZIDA immediately sallied out with his young men, and pronouncing his name aloud in the Sioux language, demanded if WABASHAor his brother were among the assailants. The firing instantly ceased – a pause ensued, when a tall figure, in a war dress, with a profusion of feathers upon his head, stepped forward and presented his hand. It was the elder WABASHA (Red Leaf), his half-brother. The Sioux peaceably followed their leader into his lodge, upon which they had, the moment before, directed their shots. At the instant the Sioux chief entered, it was necessary to stoop a little, in passing the door. In the act of stooping, he received a blow from a war-club wielded by a small boy, who had posted himself there for the purpose. It was the young WABOJEEG (White Fisher). WABASHA, pleased with this early indication of courage, took the little lad in his arms, caressed him, and pronounced that he would become a brave man, and prove an inveterate enemy of the Sioux. He was not mistaken!


VAUDREUIL is defeated in the BATTLE of ST FOY


In 1756 England declared war on France. The French and Indian War in the colonies now spread to Europe. That same year.  General  Louis-Joseph , Marquis de MONTCALM (1712-1759) forced the surrender of the British fort at Oswego on Lake Ontario, thereby breaking the British finger hold on the Great Lakes.  A year later he destroyed Fort William Henry at the south end of Lake George, dashing British hopes for an advance through the Champlain Valley to Crown Point.  The northern frontier seemed to be collapsing in upon the British colonies.


MAMONGAZIDAwas noted for the frequency of his visits to Montreal and Quebec, and for the great love he bore to the French. On one such occasion he met MONTCALM, and was asked to take a message to the Lake Superior Ojibways, asking them to come to his aid in Canada. Then, in 1759 a small party of the tribe from the central village of La Point followed him almost 2000 miles on his return to join MONTCALM in his famous battle. 


Quebec fell to the British in Sept, 1759 in the Battle on the Plains of Abraham. Both WOLFE and MONTCALM died in the battle. At last recognized as a chief, BIG FOOT received a medal and a flag from the French for his efforts in this battle.


The following summer, in the Battle of Ste FOY, VAUDREUIL surrendered Montreal to MURRAY HAVILAND and AMHERST, and the whole of Canada to the British on Sep 8, 1760.


After his return to Chequamegon, WENONA presented MAMONGAZIDA with a baby girl. This was OBEMAU-UNOQUA who would later become the wife of John SAYER.  




Following the British victory, French Forts on the northern lakes were given up to the British.  The French era in North America was effectively over. It transferred control of the country into English hands and launched a new period of colonization that would make French Canadians, known as ‘Canadiens’, a minority. Montréal remained the organizational hub of the fur trade. However, ‘Canadien’ merchants were no longer granted transportation contracts for the West or the financing they required for large expeditions.


The French may have been defeated, but the Ojibwe remained on friendly terms with their allies, while retaining contempt for the English invaders. It would take a while for English traders to gain acceptance by the tribes around Lake Superior. This is certainly born out by the welcome received in 1763 by Alexander HENRY the ELDER (1739-1824), one of the first English traders to try to take an early advantage of the new economic opportunities in the newly acquired British territory. Fortunately for HENRY, he had French partners, and he actually tried to disguise the fact that he was English.


Big Foot Befriends the English


After the Siege of Detroit by Chief PONTIAC, British traders dared not extend operations into the more remote villages of the Ojibway, fearing their hostilities.  La Pointe, at this time, didn't have a resident trader, and the Ojibway, who had become accustomed to the commodities of the whites, were anxious for increased trade. 


In 1768 BIG FOOT, who wasn't terribly fond of the British, was asked to go to SIR WILLIAM JOHNSON in New York to ask that a trader be sent to reside among them.  Reluctantly he went, and to his surprise, he was well received (no doubt JOHNSON was thinking about Lake Superior copper).  He was even presented with a broad wampum belt of peace.  This act set the foundation of lasting good-will and was the commencement of active communication between the British and Ojibways of Lake Superior.  Thereafter, through the attentions he received from JOHNSON, he became a friend to the English as well.

Battle at Crow Wing


The confluence of the Crow Wing and Mississippi Rivers formed a natural crossroads, attracting humans with its easy travel routes and quality hunting. At the beginning of the historical period the region was inhabited by Dakota, who clashed with Ojibwe being displaced from farther east. It is told that in 1768 a Dakota war party raided an Ojibwa village and carried off several women in their canoes. The village's warriors, returning from their own unsuccessful raid, laid an ambush on a high bank over the river, digging shallow pits from which to fire their rifles. As the Dakota convey passed under the Ojibwa, the men opened fire, while the captured women overturned the canoes they were in and swam for shore. The Dakota regrouped and counterattacked by land, but were repulsed. The two day battle cemented Ojibwa control over the area, and afterwards the Sioux evacuated the Rum River and moved to the Minnesota River.


WAUBOJEEG (1747-1793) Becomes a War Chief
Closing of the War between the Ojibways and Odugamies (Foxes)
The Battle at St Croix Falls



Waub-ojeeg (White Fisher) of the Battle of St Croix Falls
Minnesota Historical Society


The border warfare in which BIGFOOT was constantly engaged early initiated his young son, White Fisher WAUBOJEEG, in the arts and ceremonies or war.  With the eager interest and love of novelty of the young, he listened to his elder's war stories and songs, longing for the time when he would be old enough to join the parties and also make himself a name among warriors. He learned early the arts of hunting, of abstinence and suffering, danger, endurance and fatigue. He grew to be an impressive young man; tall (6’ 6”), erect in carriage and of slender make.  A commanding person, with full, black, piercing eyes, and the usual features of his countrymen.  To these attractions he united an early reputation for bravery and skill in the chase, and at the age of 23 he was already a war leader with the Chequamegon Band. 


It seems that when MAMONGAZIDA became too old for the rigors of battle his son, WAUBOJEEG, succeeded him as War Chief. However, at home, MAMONGAZIDA was still considered the chief in civil matters. It is said that a chief's power in Ojibwa society was based on persuasion, and held only as long as the community of elders chose to respect and follow his lead and was by no means absolute or binding. This is another factor that frequently leads many researchers into confusion.


It was around this time that Dakota, Sauk and Fox warriors joined forces in an effort to drive the Ojibway from the valleys of the Chippewa and St Croix rivers.  In the Battle of St Croix Falls (in the late 1770's), they were decisively and finally defeated by Ojibway under the leadership of Chief WAUB-O-JEEG.


Arrival of JOHN SAYER (1750-1818)


Around 1776 Englishman JOHN SAYER, a 26 year old free trader appeared on the scene in the Fond du Lac district as a free trader. It was a custom with SAYER to load up his canoes with trade-goods in Montreal in the fall; engage in trading in the Fond du Lac area during the winter, and return with his furs to his home base for the summer.


SAYER was a shrewd business man. In 1780 he became the Michilimackinac Agent for Montreal merchant John HOWARD.

Around 1783 MAMONGAZIDA’s daughter, OBEMAU UNOQUA, became the wife of John SAYER.


More about JOHN SAYER


Big Foot MAMONGAZIDA died around1790 (there are no records of his death, only approximations based on oral traditions). Upon his death, his son WAUBOJEEG became the hereditary chief.


Around 1790 John JOHNSTON (1762-1828), a native of Ireland, arrived in Sault Ste Marie. In 1792 he married Susan OZHAGUSCODAYWAYQUAY at Lapointe, a daughter of WAUBOJEEG. Their daughter, Jane JOHNSTON would later marry Henry Rowe SCHOOLCRAFT (1793-1864)


WAUBOJEEG died in 1793.