Reflections while writing a grant


By David Cox

Friends of Ft. Jefferson

In writing a grant for Fort Jefferson, we realized we needed Native American input. What better source could there be than the Chippewas. They were signers of the Greene Ville Peace Treaty and were active in the fight to save their way of life. In a 1792 incident at Ft. Jefferson, Chippewas were included in a party of 100 Indians that attacked Soldiers making hay south of the fort. Some soldiers were killed, and others taken prisoners. The Chippewas received four prisoners as their part in the skirmish. They were taken back to their tribe in Wisconsin to become workers.

As it happens, Native Americans Richard and Earl Ackley lived in Greenville and raised their families here. They are Chippewa from the Mole Lake reservation in Wisconsin. Richard helped form the Darke County Park District and his daughter Jeanne was its first employee. We decided it might be worthwhile to see if the Mole Lake tribal leaders would give us some advice and support on reviving Fort Jefferson. A trip is now planned to go to Mole Lake and find out.

Over the years we had gone to Mole Lake on many occasions with our friend Mishoomis (grandfather in Chippewa), the name I respectfully used for Richard. We loved the wisdom in his incredible stories. He kept us entertained during the 10 hour drive up and back. We have not yet made our fact-finding trip, but the thought of going back to Mole Lake brings back memories I wish to share.

My favorite memory is canoeing through the wild rice in Richard’s canoe. Wild rice was a valuable main stay food for the Indians. It is plentiful on Rice Lake at Mole Lake. As we pushed through the tall thick rice, someone came into sight. Boozhoo, was the greeting. That is when we met Sugar Pete, a good friend of Richard’s. Every year Sugar and his brother collected and processed the wild rice the traditional way. They would bend the rice over the canoe and hit it with a beating stick. The rice would fall into the canoe, but some was lost overboard. That was the Indian way, those lost seeds were for future crops. My wife salvaged a handful of wild rice that fell into the bottom of our canoe, and it is being used in a display at Garst Museum.

On another day Richard took us to a nearby lake to see an eagle’s nest. Back in those days

eagles were threatened from the use of DDT. The insecticide caused the eggshells of the eagles to be brittle and they had problems reproducing.

When we got on site, there was a large bunch of sticks in a tree. It was not really that impressive. Suddenly, Mishoomis said “Stop and listen! Look up, an eagle is coming.” We could hear it breaking through the air before we could see it. Way overhead we saw the eagle diving headfirst almost straight down towards us. At the last second, it pulled up and landed next to the nest. Soon it was joined by its mate that had a very large bass in its talons. Three heads popped up out of the nest and the second eagle fed the young while the first eagle watched us and guarded the nest. That was no longer just a pile of sticks, it was now a majestic Bald Eagle nest, and it was home to the symbol of freedom for the human race.

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