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Mapping the Native American Village of Sauganakka (Pt. 2)

Updated: Jan 20



The village of Sauganakka was the largest Potawatomi village of DuPage County, Illinois, but this is largely an unknown fact. The former boundaries of Sauganakka span parts of Elmhurst, Oak Brook, and Hinsdale west of Chicago. The heart of this village is in the historic neighborhood known as Fullersburg, and it lies along Salt Creek, which was called "Wewanippissee" by the Potawatomi ("the pretty little river"). The historic Graue Mill and Dam are located in this area, which served as a station in the Underground Railroad. Several significant maps indicate that Native American burial mounds were in this vicinity; the exact location of these burial sites are suggested but not scientifically verified, and conflicts exist about some documentation. It should be noted that mounds were ceremonial in nature, and created primarily for chiefs; the burial location of those who did not reach this status is even more difficult to decipher, adding to the challenge facing historians.


Perhaps the most well known historical map identifying the Native American trails and villages in the Chicago area was created by Albert F. Scharf around 1900, and its information pertains to 1804. The map's key includes Indian villages, minor villages, camps, chipping stations (where tools and weapons were made), signal stations, portage routes, springs, and most important to this topic, Indian mounds, effigy mounds, and mound builders trails. An inset of the "Scharf map" (left) characterizes Fullersburg as having a village (see tepee image), three camps (triangles), two chipping stations (upside down triangles), and a burial mound marked by a dot surrounded by a circle. (See yellow arrow.) A burial mound is identified as being located to the west of Salt Creek, north of a very pronounced eastward turn in the creek, where Graue Mill is located.


The Historical Map of DuPage County, Illinois was created by several contributors between approximately 1955-59 (inset, left). Historian Hugh Dugan was the chairman for this project, largely based upon the Scharf map; however, "early maps of 1851, 1861, and 1874 were also consulted." The legend of the "DuPage map" uses a tepee to show a major Indian village, a less detailed tepee to indicate a minor village, a triangle for a camp, and an upside down triangle to mark a chipping station. A signal station is indicated by a cross, and a burial mound is identified by a dot with a circle. Unlike the "Scharf map", streets were marked on this map, as seen in the inset; also, this map does not include a section of Sauganakka that is east of the boundary of DuPage County, where the "Scharf map" indicates there was a camp. The burial mound shown on the "DuPage map" is located west of Salt Creek and close to 31st Street in Oak Brook. However, there is also an irregular image with short lines surrounding it that correlates to a burial mound location described in the following paragraph, and it is south and east of the burial mound identified by the dot, suggesting multiple mound locations.


As mentioned in the preceding paragraph, Hugh Dugan was the chairman of the "DuPage map" committee. Dugan also edited the book Village on the County Line about the history of Hinsdale, which includes Fullersburg before its annexation; the book also refers to the history of the Potawatomi in the area, although some details need clarification. In the front endsheet of Dugan's book is found another historical map of Sauganakka (inset, left). The "Dugan map" details two signal stations (crosses), a chipping station (upside down arrow), a village on both sides of Salt Creek (tepees), but most importantly, an "Indian mound" that is south and east of the location shown in the "Scharf map" and "Dugan map." Not only is the wording for this feature included by Dugan, but the irregular image with short lines that is seen in the "DuPage map" is clearly present. Village on the County Line was privately printed in 1949, before the "DuPage map," so this mound's location was known to Dugan prior to his work for the map detailed in the previous paragraph.


Yet another historical map based on information from approximately 1808 is included in the final report for the Wolf Road Prairie Conservation Campus Concept Plan for Wildlife Preservation Fund Grant #03-047W. Page 13 of this report discusses the history of the Potawatomi in Sauganakka. The legend for this map is not included, but it shows characteristics of the "DuPage map." However, where the "DuPage map" fails to include the section of Sauganakka outside of DuPage County (into Cook County), the "Wolf Road Prairie" map includes it. The size of this area does not appear to correlate to the "Scharf map," however, which also shows this area, and no village or camp is illustrated here, as it is in the "Scharf map." The report indicates that an indigenous arched "trail tree" existed in this area, and local historical reports include references to some Potawatomi staying in this area long after the Chicago Treaty of 1833 dictated their removal. The report mentions the sacred burial sites of the Native Americans, and the map shows both burial sites suggested by the "Dupage map."


The maps detailed above are helpful in establishing that Native American burial mounds existed in Fullersburg, but they do not pinpoint the exact locations of such sites. Archeological records exist that document the discovery of the remains of indigenous people, however, they are often not accessible to the public in order to protect and preserve the integrity of these sites. However, in an anthropological thesis about the Kautz site in Northeastern Illinois entitled The Prehistoric Economics of the Kautz Site: a Late Archaic and Woodland Site in Northeastern Illinois by Peter John Geraci, the "Butler Mound" in eastern DuPage County is identified as one of only two documented "mortuary sites" of indigenous people in the county. The Butler family of Chicago (and Oak Brook) purchased a large parcel of land that was originally part of Sauganakka, which led to the identification of this site as the "Butler Mound." (This thesis can be found online by clicking on https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/217189152.pdf.) Several newspaper articles also document the numerous Native American artifacts, including arrowheads and pottery, discovered near Salt Creek in Fullersburg; items buried with indigenous people are recognized as sacred objects and deserving of legal protection, along with human remains.


Numerous textual sources also refer to the Native American burial sites in Fullersburg. The "Scharf map" also has accompanying manuscripts that detail the evidence with which the maps were created; see Scharf Map Manuscript in the "For You" section of this website. A former caretaker of Fullersburg describes the numerous arrowheads and the burial mounds in Fullersburg in the George Kolzow Memoir, also in the same website section. Historian George Ruchty, descendant of Benjamin Fuller (founder of Fullersburg), writes in a 1977 report about the Native American "wiccibottom," or indigenous burial site in the area. Ruchty describes a location, "on the north side of Spring road, between Madison and Washington streets, the entrance to the Forest Preserve parking lot, an area known as the Wicibottom... (Wicci, sometimes spelled Wicki, is an Indian word for tent. It is generally believed that 'bottom' signified the grave where the Indian chiefs were said to be buried.)" Ruchty provides further details about this area in an interview with Sarah Mann on 9/25/77, stating, "But we did have for many years when I was a boy in the area west of the parking lot, the north parking lot, now of the Forest Preserve, a flat area with the creek surrounding one side of it. That was known as a wiccibottom and on there were two beautiful Indian mounds about 6 feet high and 15 ft. in diameter. They had been there for many years until the CCC came in 1933 and leveled them off and nobody ever knew what they found or what happened to them." Besides these individual testimonies, a summary of several historians' statements about the Potawatomi presence in this area is in "Location of Potawatomi Village near Fullersburg," by Sue Devick, also in the "For You" section of this website.


The above sources are all helpful in identifying the location of Native American burial sites near Fullersburg, originally Sauganakka. However, modern technology has evolved, and scientific techniques such as ground penetrating radar can locate indigenous remains more accurately than invasive archeological exploration or more invasive construction or destruction. Most Native Americans consider the burial grounds of their ancestors sacred, as well as the objects that were buried with them. Fullersburg Historic Foundation feels that modern technology should be used to ensure and protect the integrity of these sites, which should be treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve.


Susan Devick, M.A.


























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