Photo originally posted in vintage Muskoka.
An excerpt from the Ruth Martin Papers, Book 4 (no exact date is provided except potentially 1940):
“Patriarch of Chippewa’s: Chief John Big Wind,Dead
Hereditary Leader of Tribe was near his 102nd year
Special to The Star
Orillia, July 13—Having outlived all his progeny, Chief John Big Wind, hereditary leader of the Chippewa Indians, died here last night.
Next month, he would have been 102 The chief, after whom Bigwin Island is named, was ill 10 days at the Rama reserve on the east shore of Lake Couchiching. Chief Big Wind was twice married, but he survived both his wives, all his children and all his grandchildren.
In 1905, he joined the Salvation Army, giving up tobacco and liquor. Except that in later years, his once keen eyesight failed, he was in robust health until a short time ago. The Indians measured the length of his life as 1223 moons.
When he was a young man, Queen Victoria gave his people a document declaring that “so long as grass grows, and the water runs” he and his people could hunt and fish. The yellowed document was brought into an Orillia court in 1938, by Chief Big Wind, when he protested the laying of charges against our Indians for illegal fishing. He came dressed in full Indian costume, and told the court, “You must not harm my children.”
Chief Big Wind was presented to the King and Queen here last summer and gave them a copy of his biography. He had welcomed the late Lord Tweedsmuir one year earlier, when the then Governor-general followed Champlain’s route down the Trent Valley Canal. It was his boast that he always would fight for “justice for my people”. Twice he went to Ottawa to discuss “treaty rights”. Of one visit to the capitol to see Premier King, he related, “He shook my hand, and had his men shoot off a cannon for me. He treated me good, too.”
The domain of the Chief’s ancestors took in what is now Simcoe, Ontario and Victoria Counties, and the District of Muskoka. It was from Chief’s maternal ancestors the Muskokeens (Yellowheads) that Muskoka gets its name. Though Big Wind was hereditary chief, Chippewa’s for some years have been ruled by elected chiefs who retire after a short time. Chief Big Wind however, was always close to his people’s hearts.”
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