Nature Bulletin No. 748 March 21, 1964
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
Seymour Simon, President
Roberts Mann, Conservation Editor
SHABBONA: Friend of the White Men
Near the entrance to Evergreen Cemetery at Morris, Illinois, stands a
monument on which is carved the name SHABBONA. Beneath it rest
the bones of a remarkable man. Of him we may say what has been said
about the Shawnee chieftain, Tecumseh: "One of the greatest of
American Indians, with a superb body, a powerful mind, and the soul
of a hero.
Gurdon S. Hubbard, pioneer citizen of Chicago, spoke of "Chaboneh"
as remarkable for his generous and forgiving nature, his integrity, and
being always a friend to the white settlers.
Shabbona was a tall burly man, with a wide pleasant face, whose name
-- variously recorded as Shau-b-nee, Chaboneh, Chamblee, and several
other ways -- meant "strong built like a bear". He and Tecumseh,
unlike many Indians, were remarkably temperate: rarely indulging in
"fire water" and habitually humane to captives .
Although no orator, he was a wise and courageous leader who foresaw
the futility and tragic consequences of battling against the ever-
growing tide of white settlers. In 1832, when Blackhawk met with the
Potawatomi and Ottawa, urging them to join with the Sauk and Fox
tribes in warring upon the whites, Shabbona dissented, saying "And
the army of pale faces you will have to encounter will be as numerous
as the leaves on those trees .
Shabbona was an Ottawa Indian, an Algonquian tribe driven out of
southeastern Ontario by the Iroquois and westward to Michigan. From
there, allied with the Chippewa and Potawatomi in a confederation
called "The Three Fires", they spread southward into Ohio, Indiana
and Illinois, and became closely intermingled with the Potawatomi.
Their greatest chiefs were Pontiac and, later, Shabbona.
Two of his white friends and biographers say that Shabbona's
birthplace was in Canada. Another quotes him as saying that it was
along the Maumee river in northwestern Ohio. The best authorities
state that he was born, in 1775 or 1776, in one of the Indian villages
along the Kankakee river near where it joins the Des Plaines to form
the Illinois river, 10 miles upstream from Morris.
His first wife was a daughter of the Potawatomi chief of a band whose
village was along the Illinois river near Ottawa. When he died,
Shabbona became the chief. A few years later they moved about 25
miles north of Ottawa to a wooded "prairie island" in the southern part
of DeKalb county and there, in what is now a DeKalb county forest
preserve, is her grave. In the treaty negotiated by the United States
with the Sauk, Fox, Sioux and "The Three Fires" at Prairie du Chien
in 1829, grants of land were made to Shabbona, Billy Caldwell (The
Sauganash), Alexander Robinson (Che-che-pin-qua) and others as
rewards for their good deeds. Shabbona received 1280 acres including
that prairie island.
In 1807 he was the one who persuaded most of the Indians in the
Northwest Territory to follow Tecumseh in an all-out war, aided by the
British, to drive every American from this region. But after Tecumseh
was killed and they failed to capture the fort at Detroit, he transferred
his allegiance -- permanently -- to the United States. During the
Blackhawk War he guided American troops on their westward
marches across Illinois; and during the subsequent "Winnebago Scare"
he spent days and nights warning white settlers in the Illinois valley
and as far as Chicago.
Eventually his title to the DeKalb county lands was forfeited and until
he died, in 1859, he lived on a 20-acre tract, south of Morris, donated
by patriotic white people. Our Shabbona Woods forest preserve, west
of Calumet City and site of the Sand Ridge Nature Center, is named
for that heroic friend of the white men.
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Update: June 2012