Monday, November 26, 2012

The Lost Daughter of The Mandan

A mural of the Yellow Earth Village, a Mandan Indian village, known today as Double Ditch State Historic Site, north of Bismarck, ND. The mural is painted by Robert Evans, and can be viewed in the Early Peoples Gallery of the North Dakota Heritage Center.
The Lost Daughter Of The Mandan
Long Ago Battle Separates Child
By Dakota Wind
DOUBLE DITCH, N.D. - A reader came across my blog and took me up on my offer to look tackle a story or subject. Thank you for reading!

Sue writes:

I have visited your blog, and wanted to submit an article that was written in 1864 about my great-great-great-great-great ??Grandmother, Charlotte Boucher. (I do not know her Indian name) Her story is very interesting, although its hard to tell how much is true.

I was told growing up, that she was the daughter of the Mandan Chief, and this article also states that. I have not been able to verify that, as her date of birth is hard to verify. One article I found online showed her birth year of 1781, while the attached article said she lived to the ripe old age of 125, which would have made her birth year 1739 (one of the harder things to swallow). However, she was taken from her tribe, by the Sioux, before the smallpox outbreak of 1781 at the age of 4.

Her husbands name was Joseph Boucher Jr., who was a French Canadian Fur Trader. Joseph Boucher Jr. was born February 9, 1760 in Riviere-des-Praries (Island of Montreal).

If by chance, you should be able to verify her year of birth, or who the Chief was in 1781, or any other pertinent information, I would love to hear from you. If not, enjoy the article.


What follows next is the article, stated in character, unaltered from the language of the original article about Mrs. Charlotte Busche which Sue sent me. My commentary within the article is bold and my commentary following the article is italicized.

The Green Bay Advocate, January, 28, 1864

sketch [sic] of the Life of Mrs. Charlotte Busche'- We mentioned two weeks ago, the death of Mrs. Charlotte Busche' in the town of Bellevue, near this city, at the age of 125 years and called upon the old residents to furnish us with a sketch of her eventful life. This was found to be a very difficult task. The old lady had bee in her socond  [sic] childhood for more than six years previous to her death, and during that time it was only occaionally [sic] that her mind would brighten up sufficiently to enable her to talk coherently of her early history, therefore all that can be written of her is from the memory of her friends and relatives, gleaned from her before her imbecility. the Chicago Journal calls upon us to extablish [sic] by proof this extraordinary case of longevity. This we cannot do-having always lived among the Indians until her marriage with Busche she had no idea of dates, nor of her own age, and those who might have told her age with tolerale certainty in connection with the events she remembered, had passed away long years before to "that country from whose bourne no travelers returns" In stating her age at 125 years, we did not pretend to exactness, but gave the generally received impression. She wa [sic] "old Charlotte Busche" 45 years ago, which is abouta s [sic] far back as any of our old residents can remember. (If Charlotte were 125 years of age, then she would have been born around the time of Pierre La Verendrye’s first contact with the Mandans, ~1738.)

Mr. John Dousman of Bellevue who was well acquainted with her, gave the following incidents of her life. Gathered from conversations with her descendants.

The late Mrs Charlotte Busche' was born in the far West, near the headwaters of the Missouri River (This would place her birth at what is today known as Three Forks, MT. Perhaps either the author or Charlotte herself meant where the Heart River and Missouri River converge which is where the Mandan Indians lived until smallpox forced them to abandon their villages and move north to Knife River – which is where Lewis and Clark encountered them in 1804). She was of full Indian Blood, of the tribe of Mandans, her father being the Chief of that nation. When a young woman, a great battle occurred between the Sioux and the Mandans, in which she was taken prisoner by the Sioux (The John K. Bear Winter Count recalls a major battle between the Ihanktowana Dakota, also called the Yanktonai, and the Nu’Eta, who are also called Mandan, in 1781 at Yellow Earth Village, presently known as Double Ditch Mandan Indian Village, located north of Bismarck, ND on HWY 1804). Her Mother being dead. she was at that time in the care of her Grandmother, who hid her during the fight in a clump of bushes. This was before the use of fire-arms was known to the Indians, and being discovered by a Sioux warrior, she was dragged forth and dealt her a heavy blow on the head with his bow, leaving her senseless and would have killed her but for the interference of another of the tribe, who claimed her as his prisoner. She carried the scar of this wound through her life. After the battle, she was put on a horse and carried to the Sioux country, near the Mississippi River (this could be any one of the Santee Dakota villages at that time along Minnesota River, near the Mississippi River), and the next day after her arrival at the Sioux village was compelled to run the gauntlet. Two lines were formed of women and children armed with sticks and sharp arrows and stripped naked she was compelled to run through between them, enduring their stripes and arrow thrusts. She came out fearfully lacerated and covered with blood (this torturous process seemed to be the practice of the Huron and Iroquois; in Thomas E. Mails Mystic Warriors of The Plains, he relates the brutal treatment of captives, but also, not all captives were tortured) .

She was then submitted to other tortures too horrible to narrate, and afterward adopted into the Sioux nation, becoming the slave of her captor. About a year afterward, her father came to ransom her by purchase with a drove of horses, but owing to a superstition of the Sioux that once adopted into the tribe would die if taken away, they would not give her up and her Father left her. She lived with captor until his death, when she was sold to the Winnebago Indians, on the Wisconsin River. Here she lived for many years, enduring much cruelty, and had a child in that nation. The Winnebagoes, however, finally sold her to a French trader , who took her to Mackinac, and gave her as a present to the wife of an Ottawa Chief by the name of Na-o-kau-ta (or four legs), who proved to be fiend incarnate and where her worst suffering commenced (Four Legs had fought beside Tecumseh against the United States in the War of 1812 at Moraviantown, Ontario – he was against US land treaties and purchases). she was held as his slave, and by every cruelty that this devil could invent. But all this she survived, and met with an unexpected deliverance. One day her mistress had a son dying, and she came out to the field where the unhappy slave was at work, and told her to hurry and finish hoeing that corn, as she intended to have her accompany her son, as soon as he should lie to make fires for him on his way to the land of spirits.

The hint was enough, it was her sentence of death: so as soon as her mistress was gone she ran away. (The Ottowas were not living on the island of Mackinac, but at Little Traverse Bay, on the main land.) She had not gone far when she was missed, and search was made for her. She crept into a hollow log, and had no sooner got in than her master came to the spot, with his rifle in his hand, and actually stood upon the log in which she was hidden, but did not discover her. She remained there all night, and in the morning came out and went to an Indian Lodge, where she threw herself on her knees and besought the Indians to protect her from those who sought her life, but,instead of befriending her, they took her back to her mistress. On her arrival, her mistress remarked that she must be hungry and she would give her something to eat. She seized a knife and cut off both her ears, scorched them a little in the fire, and commanded her to eat them, on pain of instant death if she refused. She tried to eat the disgusting morsel, and made several attempts to swallow them, but could not. She was then condemned to die the next day, bound hand and foot, and placed in a camp.

Sometime in the night, a friend, she never knew who, came and unbound her, and she made her escape she walked through the woods, following the lake shore for three days, and on the fourth day saw and saw an Indian canoe on its way to Mackinac. She hailed its occupants, and they had pity on her, took her on board and carried her to Mackinac Island. There she told her story and the people of the Island offered her protection, telling her that the marks she bore were sufficient proofs of her suffering. (Was she walking on the shoreline of Mackinac Island on Lake Huron or did she swim to the shoreline – just over two miles – and then walked through the woods and followed the lake shore? Following the lake shore of Mackinac Island for three to four days would have taken her around the entire island which is about 3.8 sq. miles.)

To get her out of the way of this savage tribe of Indians, a trader offered to take her on his Mackinac boar to Green Bay. She accepted his offer, and embarked with him, but had not gone far when they met a canoe of Ottawa warriors bound for Mackinac. The trader hid the old woman beneath the baggage. The warriors hailed the trader, and told him they had heard that their escaped slave was at Mackinac (Mackinaw?), and asked him if he had her on board. He denied all knowledge of her, and preceded on his way to Green Bay, and the canoe to Mackinac. (The previous paragraph mentions that Charlotte saw an Indian canoe on its way to Mackinac. If she swam, she would have risked hypothermia but could have made it to the shoreline – the nearest mainline point from Mackinaw is St. Ignace which is over two miles away. If Charlotte escaped by canoe, why would she need to flag down a trader and get a ride from him to Green Bay? Maybe she took a canoe, then abandoned it.)

Arrived safely at Green Bay, she was taken up to Portage, (now Portage City) and given to a Winnebago [sic]

a [sic] Winnebego woman, Mrs Lequya. Here she lived many years, during which time the Winnebagoes made several attempts to kill her, but were foiled. Mrs. L. compelled her to marry a Winnebego vy the name of Dashba, but she still lived with Mrs. L. She had 2 children with Dashna (Frank Dashna; 1803-1805).

Finally the same French trader who had taken her awa from the Winnebagoes several years before, came and took her away from Dashna and started, with her for the Ottawas, near Mackinac, to restore her to Four Legs. He got as far as Green Bay, where he sold her to Mr Joseph Busche' (1807), with whom she lived until he died (in 1838), and by whom she had 9 children, and since his death, which occurred more than thirty years ago, she had lives with her children, until death came to close hr eventful life two or three weeks ago. (After the death of Joseph Boucher/Busche, Charlotte made an attempt to return to her natural tribe, the Nu’Eta, or Mandan Indians, but she was mis-informed that her tribe had passed into history after smallpox hit them in 1837.)

By 1838, Charlotte was either about fifty-six years old if she were born in 1781, or ninety-nine if she were born in 1739. The average life expectancy of women in 1840 was about forty-five years of age (Daniel Perry, Executive Director of the Alliance for Aging Research). Charlotte applied for and was given permission for her to be enrolled as a member of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin. As such, she was permitted access to Indian Health Services and received a small subsidy from the Department of War (of which the Bureau of Indian Affairs was then a part) for illegal seizures of Menominee land from the 10 million acres it was to the 235,000 acres reservation it became. A curious circumstance is, that after the death of old Mr Busche', over thirty years ago, as we have stated, which occurred on the old Rouse farm, known as Private Claim No.10, now Judge Cotton's farm, the old lady never lived upon the farm until about two weeks before her death, when her son with whom she resided moved up on it, and the old lady consequently died upon the same farm where her husband did (Joseph Boucher/Busche’s role somehow moved from purchaser to husband).

In the above sketch (no sketch available), Mr Dousman had omitted mention of many of the barbarities to which this sufferer was subjected, which are too revolting for print.

Thus has passed away another of the connecting links between a past age and the present-the children of the subject of this sketch are now becoming old men and women and will soon have passed away, and if, mayhap, in after years, a stray copy of this tale of woe should chance to be found and read, the reader will think it altogether to preposterous of credence. Even now, the very name of the tribe of which she was born are memories nearly forgotten, and te powerfl tribes of Indians who peopled this country in the days of her youth, have dwindled down to mere handfuls. the unbroken forests through which she made her journeys are now studded thickly with cities, villages and farms, and the iron horse courses on the ancient war paths. The birch canoe and the "Mackinac Boat" have given place on the waters of Lake Michigan to floating monsters propelled by steam, the idea of which was not conceived until she had laid aside all the [sic]...

are among the curiosities we see in museums, and yet she has but just gone to her rest. With her has perished much valuable information with regard to the face of this country, which will be sought for with laborious research by the antiquarian, and perhaps never found. The old lady had a distinct remembrance of the fox River, upon the banks of which we now live, when it was a mere creek, so narrow at the point at Mr Lewis (now Peter L.) Grignon's farm, and the southern line of the city of Green Bay, that a canoe could readily be pushed across it. The river is now about 80 rods wide there (About 1300 feet; 400 meters). This would seem almost beyond belief, were it not confirmed by the testimony of other old citizens who have now gone to their rest. (In the 1850s, the Fox and Wisconsin Improvement Company built a series of locks and dams on the Fox River, then a canal connecting it to the Wisconsin River at Portage, WI.)

One of the most pleasant thoughts that now occur to us is that the Ottawa tribe of Indians, then one of most barbarous, and with whom the old lady suffered the greatest indignities became one of the most Christianized, nearly all having embraced the Catholic, or some Protestant faith, and education among them has reached a high standard. (As a result of reaching such a high standard in education and faith, Michigan citizenry called for dismantling the Ottawa reservations and began to settle on Ottawa homelands. Many Ottawa feared removal to them as President Andrew Jackson did to the Cherokee and other tribes. Some Ottawa who had sold their lands in Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio were removed to Kansas. The Ottawa there were removed to Oklahoma in 1867. The Ottawa who remained in Michigan retained some recognition by the state, and in 1994 the Little River Band of Ottawa’s federal recognition was restored. Today five Ottawa bands have state recognition and many struggle to regain their federal status.)


Charlotte Busche’s story in regards to her long struggle to return to her Nu’Eta (Mandan) Indian people went unrealized. She never again saw the sun set on her people’s earthlodge villages, never again saw the sun rise over the Missouri River. However, the (Nu’Eta) Mandan people are still alive today and many reside on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota. 

There is the tradition of lineage among the (Nu’Eta) Mandan Indian people which was not at all mentioned in the story above. The Nu’Eta (Mandan) are matrilineal. Charlotte’s daughters, granddaughters, great-daughters, and so on would be regarded by the Nu’Eta (Mandan) as Nu’Eta (Mandan). Discovering who her father was is a start, but knowing who her mother was at Yellow Earth Village and her clan affirms any relations that Charlotte’s descendants may have among the Nu’Eta (Mandan) today.

Enrollment is another issue entirely.

14 comments:

  1. How utterly fascinating! Thank you so much for publishing this and for inserting your commentary.

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  3. Hi I am a daughter of a Boucher, from Green Bay... how can I get in touch with Sue?

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  4. Charlotte was my 6th great grandmother

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  5. Barb, How can I know if we are related can we somehow get in touch?

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  7. It seems like I may be related to some of you as Charolette was one of my great grandmothers. :) I would love to know what her native name was. But, I don't think we'll ever be able to find that information.

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    1. HI, my wife is also a descendant of Joseph and Charlotte, and we have been researching all their children for some time. Can you share the lineage of your relation to Charlotte? We would be most grateful. Please respond to bouchetmp@yahoo.com
      Mike & Donna

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  8. My name is Traci Busha. Somehow our spelling was changed over the years. My aunt has done a lot of research. I know John Busha and his sons that built the Zenith Park Bridge in Duluth years ago is a great, great, great, great uncle of mine. I believe John was a descendant of Charlotte and Joseph. If anyone can fill any gaps or share stories I'd really like it! I have some articles on the bridge and it's history if anyone is interested I'll send whatever I have to you.

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  9. My mother was the daughter of William Busha who was born in Wausaukee Wisconsin in 1887. He was John Busha's brother and worked with his brother to build the bridges in Duluth. As a child my mother told me there was an 'Indian Princess' in my lineage on my grandfather's (William Busha) side. I think Charlotte may be that woman.

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