Chou-man-i-case Oto (Chewaerae)

Chonmonicase or Shaumonekusse, -1837
aka L'Ietan or Prairie Wolf,

Chonmanicase was an Oto Indian who visited Washington. Under the patronage of Thomas L. McKenney, Commissioner of Indian Trade, artist Charles Bird King produced 143 portraits of Indian dignitaries, visiting Washington, DC, over a 20-year period. The above portrait is part of Thomas McKenney & James Hall History of the Indian Tribes of North America., Philadelphia: 1837-1844. See Choncape (an Oto Chief) for the full story of the McKenney-Hall efforts.

Chonmonicase or Shaumonekusse, -1837 (Oto (Chewaerae)), also known as L'Ietan or Prairie Wolf, was a member of the first Native American delegation to be painted by King in Washington, D.C. His wife, Eagle of Delight (Hayne Hudjihini), was also painted by King. In addition to trade silver armbands, Presidential Peace Medals and a Grizzly claw necklace, he wears a headdress ornamented with shaved bison horns topped with horsehair. In the biographical sketch which accompanies the portrait, James Hall reported that Shaumonekusse was a warrior who rose to become chief through merit. He recounted his deeds in 1819 during a dance performed before members of the Stephen Long Expedition to the Rocky Mountains. Later in life he killed his brother after a fight in which the latter bit off the end of his nose.

Story of L'Ietan and His Brother
by Vito Minerva

L'Ietan, the Oto chief, bore the mark of Cain but his motive for killing his brother was revenge, not jealousy. Like Cain he could never escape the shadow of his crime.

Colonel McKenney heard the story from Indian Commissioner J. T. Irving who had visited the tribe. As he told the Indian superintendent he could not keep his eyes off the Oto's face during the council. The tip of the Indian's nose was missing.

L'Ietan and his brother had fought a savage fight oversome ponies. During the brawl the brother bit off the end of the chief's nose. Blood pouring down his face, L'Ietan covered his face with his blanket and hid in his lodge.

The following morning, only his eyes showing over the blanket, he sought out his brother and told him that he had disfigured him for life. "Tonight I will go to my lodge and sleep. If I can forgive you when the sun rises, you are safe; if not, you die."

The whole village waited intently for sunup. When it rose the Oto chief walked slowly out of his lodge.

"Tell my brother," he told a brave, "that I have made up my mind. He is to die. Tell him to meet me like a warrior and we will settle this."

But his brother fled. L'Ietan trailed him for months before he found him. Somewhere in the prairie brother faced brother. Then the hunted one dropped his blanket and calmly waited for death.

L'Ietan fired, killing his brother instantly. He then blackened his face and went into a long period of mourning. As McKenney wrote: "It was not until many years had elapsed that he recovered from the deep anguish caused by his unnatural act of vengeance."

His portrait was painted when he accompanied the large Pawnee delegation to Washington. His mutilation took place ten years later.

McKenney-Hall Portrait Gallery of American Indians

@ Vito Minerva

Indigenous Peoples' Literature Return to Indigenous Peoples' Literature

Compiled by: Glenn Welker

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