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Potawatomi to give program at Fulton County Museum

May 10, 2014

George Godfrey, Citizen Potawatomi and president of the Potawatomi Trail of Death Assn., will give a free program at the Fulton County Museum in Rochester, on May 13. His program, entitled “Uncovering My Potawatomi Ancestry,” will be at 1 p.m.  The public is invited to a carry-in lunch at noon preceding Godfrey’s talk.  Meat and drinks will be provided.  Attendees should bring covered dishes and table service.

Godfrey has emceed the Trail of Courage’s Indian dances since 1988. He is a PhD entomologist and is called Red Shirt or Red Sun because his red, dance shirt.  It was copied from a George Winter painting.

During 1993-2001, Godfrey taught and became the vice president at Haskell Indian Nations University, Lawrence, Kansas.  He later worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture assisting Tribal Colleges with their teaching and research programs.  He and his wife, Pat, retired to Athens, Illinois, in 2005 where they built a new home on two acres. 

Godfrey is a storyteller of history and has written three books about his Potawatomi ancestors. The books follow his Potawatomi great-grandmother, Josette Watchekee, and her family as they lived during the era of Indian removals. 

Watchekee (Overseer) Walking in Two Cultures is a 20-year investigative book that is illustrated, referenced and based on historical records.  It explores Watchekee’s birth place, her father Shabonee, her trader husbands, Gurdon Hubbard and Noel LeVasseur.  Her third husband was Francis Bergeron – they were married 32 years and had four children, pictured in the book. 

Once a Grass Widow:  Watchekee’s Destiny is a historical novel with imagined conversations and happenings, but true to the actual events that took place in her life.  Watchekee was labeled a “Grass Widow” because she once was an indigent struggling to help her four children survive.  She later overcame her situation through an arranged marriage to Francis Bergeron.  Together, they lived in Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, and the Indian Territory (Oklahoma) at the mercy of the government.  While in the Indian Territory, she violently defended Francis at the expense of her own life. 

The Indian Marble is a fictional history about the life of ‘Bat’ Bergeron, the oldest child of Watchekee and Francis Bergeron.  A recent widower with two young sons, Bat was accused of stealing a horse and was banished from the Citizen Potawatomi Reservation.  He fled to Mexico and left his two sons with the Indian Agent.  Bat later returned to his reservation, but was a stranger to his sons because of his long absence.  After going blind, Bat wanted to live with his younger son, but was not allowed.  Through it all, there was one memory that Bat could not escape.  

By Shirley Willard, Fulton County Historian