Based on an incident in the Black Hawk
1   During what is called the Battle
of Bad Axe, the fate of the
Sauk or Sac
Indians was decided, which modern
historians have called a massacre.
    The Bad Axe River, east of the Mississippi,
is a little above the northern border of Iowa,  
to the west
(43 degrees, 30 minutes north
     The battle occurred a few miles below the
's mouth, across from Iowa.

    This poem recalls the remarkable escape
of a Sac Indian woman named Namesa with her
infant, across the Mississippi River.  Apart from
what was found in a brief history, one may
posit some details, with reason, as is done here. 

        * * * * * *
Her qualms of fright, did give her
An urgent sense, to flee the foe:
To flee across the nearby river,
The breadth of the Mississippi flow.

As the
Native fortunes sank,
With her
little one she sought
     To reach the distant bank,
Away from the battle fought

In the heat of the fray, bellicose,
Namesa held her infant close;
And snugged it in a blanket,
― something like a sheath ―
And grasp'd it with her teeth! 2

Then seizing the tail of a horse
She plunged into the water,
To cross its current and course,
To escape the Indian slaughter.

To the strands of the horse's hair
Her fingers tightly clung...
Her neck up, to grasp for air,
In rapid gulps of lung.

Her child enrapt, was heft
As high as muscle might,
Above the buoyant surface cleft...
As Namesa fled in desperate flight.

Alas many were killed that day
In trying to cross the river o'er...
The enemy may've fired her way
From a musket or rifle bore...
She might've heard a whirr
As a shot flew by, close to her,
Flew from a distant powder flash!
Into the water with a little splash!
The missile flew by,
Into the water nigh!

The horse was towing the two,
While the current was pulling them too.
d the river roiled,
Its turbulence bubbled like boiled.

A muffled plaint might've come,
From within the blanket, inside,
As she held it fast with tooth and gum,
As her frighten'd infant cried.

Bite hard, O mother, bite!
Be not o'ercome with fright!
your nostril breathe your breath,
Ope not thy mouth, by lapse to

She feared losing her dental grip,  
And that her tiny child might slip
   Down in the world of wet
The little life she did bequeath...

She struggled in this streaming space
As water flew into her face;
She strove to avoid the horse's kick,
As back its hooves would flick.

Beyond her watery wake,
Where battle had begun by mistake,
There, in the river flood,
The current
was tinged with blood!

A massacre
Did there occur!
O sad the Indian plight!
Who suffered so in this fight.

At last, to the other
side she'd come
Perhaps her arms feeling nigh to numb.

With herself and baby, still in tow,
Her horse did scramble onto the bank,
As she was drawn forth with a yank!
Its equine tail, she could now let go.

By the river running wide,
She was on its bank beside:
now could her baby tend,
While on its way, the river did wend.

So escaped this mother Sac!
Away from
terror, and deadly attack...
O Namesa
 you crossed the water!
You saved
child, O Indian daughter!

More peril still lay out ahead, 3.
But th
is Sac lay not, among the dead:
For now the native Na-me-sa

Was safe, on the soil of I-o-wa.

                                 John Riedell

1. P. 1035, Vol XXXVII, The Black Hawk War 1831-1832,
Collection of Illinois State Historical Society)

2. I imagine she ground kernels of corn on a mortar, and some pieces of grit might've gotten loose and mixed in with the meal, especially if the mortar was sandstone. This could've had long-term, abrasive effect on her teeth. While she held on with all the strength she had, one might wonder what her dental condition was.
Namesa joined others who made it across the river. She testified that they traveled fast. From the context of what's attributed to her, they encamped seven days after they crossed the Mississippi, and were attacked by Sioux at sunrise. As fortune would have it, she was on a horse, and ran off, hearing firing behind. She saw six Sacs killed and many wounded. As she fled, she repeatedly heard the words: "I'm a Winnebago." The context isn't clear, but perhaps it was the plaintive cry of those who were about to die or in danger of it.

                                        * * * * * * *
Since the child was an infant, we should consider whether the child was born during the trek of the Indians, attempting to escape the Whites and to reach the Mississippi, to cross back over.   Namesa could've been weakened by the ordeal and even emaciated.    Her exploit, remarkable as it was, might've even been a little more remarkable.

Think of what this mother endured for her child to save its life, compare it to what some mothers do today in ridding themselves of the life within.

Inquiries were made to Historic Preservation Department of the Meskwaki Nation - Fox and Sac Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa, Tama, Iowa, directed by Johnathan Buffalo.  He thought her name could have to do with the word for fish and might derive from the Fish Clan of the Sac Tribe.   The Fox language has a similar word meaning  fish spelled "Namese."   His curator, Mary Young Bear, said the letter "s" is also written with the letter "d'.

I feel some affinity by geography and sentiment to the Sac Indians and to their leader Black Hawk, as I was born and grew up on a farm in Sac County, Iowa, named for the Sauk people [Sac being a variant] ).  A nearby glacial lake is called Black Hawk, and was named after the Sauk leader.  We had a stone statue of him near the lake, which was sculpted by Harry Stinson, who was assisted by Grant Wood.   The stream which wound through our pastureland was called the Indian Creek, a tributary of the Raccoon River.

my great grandfather, Jeff P. Kruser, a pioneer immigrant from Denmark, settled in Iowa in the 1870's, he said in a 1946 interview that there were Indians "along the Raccoon river."  In 1877 he married Emma Goodenow and settled on a 40-acre tract having "a clear water spring," their home being a dugout.  They bought the farm I knew in three 40-acre parcels. 
On a hill, above the creek, on the north side of the farm, artifacts were found in recent years.)

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