by Nancy McCammon-Hansen
In the April, 1963 edition of the Old Fort News, there is a photo from “The Glorious Gate—A Calendar of Miami Moons”. This work was written by Bessie K. Roberts and contained 12 illustrations made by Mildred K. Walter, who had been an art teacher at Central High School.
Bessie Keeran Roberts was a sixth generation Hoosier whose roots were in Fort Wayne. A teacher, reporter and free-lance writer, she wrote a number of works about Fort Wayne history including “Fort Wayne Family Album”, which was hailed at its publication by Allan McMahan as “a definite historical need for the community in preserving for future citizens the stories of our Hoosier past”.
She advocated for “history that the books sometimes miss” and believed that “even the trivial comment may spark the work of the earnest student viewing the scene from a long backward look.”
Roberts' calendar book “of Indian moons tells briefly the story of the period of Miami supremacy at “That Glorious Gate”. The Miami traditions come from word-of mouth accounts.”
The months are labeled and we include a one or two line phrase from each month’s offering as well as a sampling of the art work.
“In the moon when bucks drop their horns, and ground squirrels come out of their holes, there is time for the old man who tells stories to spend many hours within the lodge. The smell of venison cooking fills the air.”
February—Moon of the Crusted Snow
“How does the Old One know these tales? Belts and pipes illustrating his people’s history are kept in chest in their council house. Some of the belts were of the type made before the white man had come—of the small bones found in the legs of swans and other large birds, attached by means of a cord of wild nettle fiber. They were made with much labor and proudly wrought. Now of course they used wampum for speech and road belts—painted red as a token of war.”
March—Bear Cub Moon
“In council with the white man many moons before, it had been promised to their fathers that the land north of the Ohio should be forever theirs. This promise they have not forgotten.”
“There was yet hope, Wayne believed, of compelling the haughty savages to sue for peace before the next opening of the leaves…..Chiefs and warriors rode fine horses back to their villages. While Wayne buried his gallant dead and named his new post Greenville.”
“Little Turtle, the great Miami chief and warrior, counselled peace and was in that instant discredited before the warriors. For Little Turtle knew that all their incantations, leaves of red cedar dried, rubbed on the hands, and thrown to their manito, accompanied by a prayer, were in vain.”
“At the confluence of the Maumee and Auglaize—the great gathering-place of the tribes—Wayne stopped long enough to build a stockade with four good blockhouses by way of bastions…The stockade was named Fort Defiance.”
July—Hilling Corn Moon
“A faint char now mars the peace pipe especially made of hand-carved birch wood from the northern forests. Its bowl of red catlinite was clamped with three red bands. And Little Turtle, the last to sign, will be the last to break this treaty.”
August—The Moon When the Corn is Fit to be Eaten
“As to your numbers”, he (Chief Little Turtle) said, “your increase is quite inconceivable. More than two lives, supposing eighty years to each, have not gone by since the whites first set foot among us, yet already they swarm like flies, while we, who have been here nobody knows how long, are still as thin as deer.”
“Wells returned to his adopted people, to his Indian wife and their three young daughters. The long and happy association of the Chief and this white captive he had taken in Kentucky as a boy of fourteen, would continue. Ap A Con It, the Wild Carrot—Queen Anne’s Lace—they had named the red-haired youth.”
October—The Moon of the Narrow Fire
“From Baltimore the chief (Little Turtle) went directly to Washington to confer with President Thomas Jefferson, who sent letters to the Ohio legislature and to Congress relating to Indian affairs. Little Turtle and Captain Wells next visited the legislatures of Kentucky and Ohio, to continue their efforts to secure legislation against the sale of liquor to the Indians.”
November—Moon of the Running Deer
“Early in the morning of November 7, the Prophet urged his warriors on. The bullets of the white man, he chanted, would not hurt them. But this time his enchantment failed. The number of their killed was greater than in any previous military action of northern Indians.”
December--Young Buck Moon
“Here, close to a group of large trees, they left him (Little Turtle) to start on his journey to the village at the end of the long road where the Great Spirit dwells.” The year was 1812.