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Title: Waubonsie  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: 1840s deaths, Thomas P. Burnett, Plum River, Neapope, Charles Dunn
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Many spelling variations of "Waubonsie" redirect here. For other uses, see Wabaunsee.

Waubonsie (c. 1760 – c. 1848) was a leader of the Potawatomi Native American people. His name has been spelled in a variety of ways, including Wabaunsee, Wah-bahn-se, Waubonsee, Waabaanizii in the contemporary Ojibwe language, and Wabanzi in the contemporary Potawatomi language (meaning "He Causes Paleness" in both languages).


  • Biography 1
  • Toponyms 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4


The documentary record of Waubonsie's life is sparse. His birth name, parentage, and place of birth are unknown.[1] The year of his birth has been estimated from 1756 to 1765.[1] His brother Mucadapuckee ("Black Partridge") was also a chief.[1] According to tradition, Waubonsie acquired his name (which means "Break of Day" (waaban-izhi)[1] or "He Causes Paleness" (waabaanizii)[2]) after sneaking into a place where some enemy Osages were located, killing and scalping one or more of them, and escaping at daybreak.[1][3]

During Tecumseh's War and the War of 1812, Waubonsie supported Tecumseh and the British against American expansion. In September 1811, Waubonsie led an attack on one of William Henry Harrison's supply boats as it ascended the Wabash River in Indiana. Waubonsie jumped on the boat, killed the lone American on board, and leapt off before the Americans on the far shore could respond.[2] Waubonsie, Shabonna, and Winamac led Potawatomi warriors against Harrison's troops at the Battle of Tippecanoe on November 7, 1811.[4]

Waubonsie opposed the attack on Fort Dearborn in 1812, and protected the family of John Kinzie during the massacre that followed.[1] After the war, he signed treaties with the United States, and thereafter worked to avoid confrontation with the Americans. With other Potawatomi leaders, in 1827 he refused to join the Winnebago War against the Americans.[5]

When the Black Hawk War erupted in 1832, Waubonsie and other Potawatomi leaders worked to keep their people out of the conflict, but found it difficult to do so.[6] Many white settlers, recalling the Fort Dearborn massacre, distrusted the Potawatomis and assumed that they would join Sauk leader Black Hawk's uprising.[7] Potawatomi leaders worried that the tribe as a whole would be punished if any Potawatomis supported Black Hawk. Waubonsie and Potawatomi chief Shabbona told Black Hawk that they would not come to his aid.[8] Hoping to demonstrate their good intentions to the Americans, the Potawatomis offered military assistance, fielding a force under Billy Caldwell and Waubonsie. They were less than enthusiastic allies, but managed to demonstrate support for the Americans while avoiding battle.[9]

After the war, Waubonsie visited Washington D.C. on two occasions, and met once with President Andrew Jackson.[1] He signed treaties that sold Potawatomi land in Indiana and Illinois to the United States, and moved westward to Iowa. The U.S. government built Waubonsie a house near Tabor, Iowa, where he died in 1848 or 1849.[1]


USS Waubansee (YTM-366), a United States Navy harbor tug placed in service in 1944 and stricken in 1983, was also named for him.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h David Holmgren (2009). "Waubonsie". The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa. University of Iowa Press Digital Editions. Retrieved March 27, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b R. David Edmunds, The Potawatomis: Keepers of the Fire (University of Oklahoma Press, 1978, ISBN 0-8061-1478-9), 176.
  3. ^ The narrative in the Ojibwe language, the word waabanose translated as the English phrase "escaping at daybreak" or "walks away at daybreak" is a near homophone both to waaban-izhi ("Break of Day") and to waabaanizii ("He Causes Paleness").
  4. ^ Edmunds, 176–77.
  5. ^ Edmunds, 231.
  6. ^ John W. Hall, Uncommon Defense: Indian Allies in the Black Hawk War (Harvard University Press, 2009, ISBN 0-674-03518-6), 125.
  7. ^ Hall, 122.
  8. ^ Patrick J. Jung, The Black Hawk War of 1832, (University of Oklahoma Press, 2008, ISBN 0-8061-3994-3), 86–87.
  9. ^ Hall, 165–67.

External links

  • Kansas State Historical Society Quarterly
  • textTreaty with the Potawatomi
  • "Chief Waubonsie". Potawatomi Indian Chief.  
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