The ABCs of Lowell History: K is for Ke Way Coosh Cum

Ke Way Coosh Cum's mark on the 1821 Treaty

The Lowell Area Historical Museum is offering a weekly feature to explore local history. This week, museum staff is telling us about Ke Way Coosh Cum, a chief of the Odawa tribe in Lowell. To learn more about Lowell history, visit the museum website to explore its collection of local artifacts and records.


Kewaycooshcum – Kawiquashcum – Kewiquashcum – Keewacoosheum – Keweyooshcum.

Though his name is spelled in many ways by the traders, enumerators, treaty negotiators and writers, it means one thing – Long Nose. It was said he didn’t just have a long nose, it was a distinct and noticeable feature.

He is documented as living around the state, from today’s Little Traverse Bay, to Grand Rapids, south on the Thornapple River and Lowell. He was known in the early history books as a Principal Chief, Head Chief, Chief of the Flat River clans; all references to him portray an important headman or leader.

Ke Way Coosh Cum was a signer of the Treaty of Chicago in 1821, which ceded all lands in Michigan Territory south of the Grand River to the United States. He was murdered c. 1839, later in his life by another Odawa, Wasogenaw, for signing the treaty. Both men had gone to Grand Rapids to receive their annual treaty payment when a dispute broke out.

Lucas Robinson, early settler of Lowell and brother of fur trader Rix Robinson recounted the story told by a young Odawa boy who witnessed the dispute.

“I sat in the stern of the canoe, tied to the bank of Grand River near the mouth of Coldbrook. (north side of Grand Rapids near Leonard Street) I had a knife in my hand paring a turnip. The two old men, Wasogenaw and Kawiquashcum, sat on the bank by the fire. I heard Wasogenaw say, ‘You old fool, did you not know better than to sell this whole territory and impoverish your nation? I am going to take your life.’

The old man became very furious and raging about went to the bank of the river and pulled out a maple club about two feet long, with a knot on the end…Then rushing up to Kawiquashcum and …struck him on the head.
…I jumped out of the canoe and ran toward the village. Wasogenaw called to me to stop. I ran faster, he following. Jumping across Coldbrook I got into the mud and fell down.
All the men then went to the camp and found Kawiquashcum dead. They put him in the canoe and carried him to Plainfield.”

There was a burial ground in Plainfield which overlooked the Grand River and was used by the Odawa. The story tells that Kewagooshcum was buried there, near where the body of Chief Wabasis would later be buried. Wabasis also signed a Chicago Treaty and was supposed to bring the payment money back to his tribe. But they thought that there should be more money and so accused Wabasis of hiding some of it. Unknown to them, the government had changed the method of payment and Wabasis could not bring back everyone’s money but only his own family’s. As punishment, the tribal council banished him (and his family) to live within a prescribed distance of “Wabasis Lake.” If he ever left, he could be killed. After many years, he was persuaded to go to the corn dance and feast in Plainfield. He was killed with a fire brand from the fire and buried there.

The lives of Ke Way Coosh Cum and Wabasis were lived in a time of great societal change in the Grand River Valley. Individuals and villages were adapting to the arrival of settlers and treaties that forced the Odawa to give up land they had occupied for generations. Responses to these changes were as varied as the people experiencing them.

The Odawa had a deep desire to stay on their lands in Michigan and avoid removal to Kansas and Oklahoma. They knew the only way to do this was to agree to a treaty.

On December 5, 1835 Augustin Hamlin, head Odawa interpreter for treaty negotiations of the 1836 Treaty of Washington wrote to Lewis Cass, Secretary of War under President Andrew Jackson:

“The principal objects of our visit here, are these: we would make some arrangement with the government remaining in the Territory of Michigan in the quiet possession of our lands, and to transmit the same safety to our posterity. We do not wish to sell all the lands claimed by us and consequently not to remove to west of the Mississippi.

It is a heart-rending thought to our simple feelings to think of leaving our native country forever, and which has been bought with the price of, their native blood, and which has been thus safely transmitted to us. It is, we say, a heart-rending thought to us to think so; there are many local endearments which make the soul shrink with horror at the idea of rejecting our country forever-the mortal remains of our deceased parent, relations and friends, cry out to us as it were, for our compassion, our sympathy and our love.”

The Odawa eventually agreed to the treaty. It ceded almost 16 million acres of Michigan’s lower and upper peninsulas. Reservations were established in those ceded lands along with hunting and fishing rights. Up against insurmountable odds, the Odawa carved out a small piece of their homeland and avoided complete removal while giving up so much.

Map showing the location of Ke Way Coosh Cum at the confluence of the Flat and Grand Rivers. Map by Kevin Finney

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