October 18, 2009

Chicago's founder was Potawatomi

Chicago Honors Haitian FounderA bronze sculpture of Jean Baptiste Pointe Du Sable was installed on Michigan Avenue on the Magnificent Mile Saturday in honor of the fur trader.

Du Sable was the first non-indigenous settler to the Chicago area. Du Sable's birth year is highly uncertain, but is generally believed to have been between 1730 and 1745. He was born at Saint-Marc in the French Caribbean colony of Saint-Domingue, present-day Haiti, to a slave named Suzanna and a French pirate's mate named Pointe du Sable who served on the Black Sea Gull.

After his father sent him to study at a Catholic school in France, du Sable and a friend, Jacques Clamorgan, traveled to Louisiana and then to Michigan, where he married a Potawatomi woman named Kittahawa after becoming a member of her tribe.

He took an eagle as his tribal symbol. The Potawatomi called him 'Black Chief,' and he became a high ranking member of the tribe. They had a son and daughter, Jean and Susanne. In 1779, during the Revolutionary War, he was imprisoned briefly by the British in Fort Michilimackinac in Michigan, because of his French connections and on suspicion of being a US spy.

He helped George Rogers Clark in his capture of Vincennes during the war. From the summer of 1780 until May of 1784, du Sable managed the Pinery, a huge tract of woodlands claimed by British Lt. Patrick Sinclair on the St. Clair River in eastern Michigan. Du Sable and his family lived at a cabin at the mouth of the Pine River in what is now the city of St. Clair.

Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable first arrived on the western shores of Lake Michigan about 1779, where he built the first permanent nonindigenous settlement, at the mouth of the river just east of the present Michigan Avenue Bridge on the north bank.
Comment:  So du Sable was black and Indian? I didn't know the founder of our "Second City" had such an interesting background.


Rob said...

Linde Knighton's response on Facebook:

Black Indians have a great history, which is totally unappreciated.

dmarks said...

Well, I've seen some specifically denigrate Natives who have Black "blood" along with their Native ancestry.