Godfrey Wrote Potawatomi Books

George Godfrey, Citizen Potawatomi and president of the Potawtomi Trail of Death Assn., has written and published several books about his Potawatomi ancestors.

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.

Contact Neshnabek Publications, 24108 Burr Oaks Lane, Athens, IL 62613 to order postage paid, autographed books ($13.95 each.) Books also can be purchased through Amazon.com.

George Godfrey - Photograph by Sharon Hoogstraten.

Godfrey published Road to Uncertainty

George Godfrey, a Potawatomi who had ancestors on the Trail of Death, introduced his new book at the Trail of Courage Living History Festival Sept. 19-20, 2015. This is his fourth book, “Road to Uncertainty: Trials of Potawatomi Removals.” The 175-page historical fiction novel combines the events of two Potawatomi removals in 1837 and 1838.

Many Indiana historians are familiar with the 1838 Trail of Death that started near Twin Lakes southwest of Plymouth and ended in Kansas. There were several other Potawatomi removals. Godfrey is still researching an 1837 Removal that passed through northwestern Indiana and Illinois. Through his relatives, Godfrey learned it was called the “Long Walk” from Chicago.

Godfrey found the John Durit diary of 1837 removal. In 1837 the Potawatomi left Niles, Michigan, went through northwest Indiana, across Illinois, crossed the Mississippi River at Quincy and into Missouri, then went to Iowa and were relocated to a reservation near Council Bluffs. Several chiefs, including Topenebee and Wesaw signed a letter to President Van Buren complaining about the emigrating agent, Col. Lewis Sands. Sands frequently got drunk and would not stop to let them look for a lost child. “Our feelings wounded by harsh language- Our people left along the road, Our horses driven until they died! No regard paid to our comfort and driven like dogs.”

Watchekee, who was on the “Long Walk,” was Godfrey’s great-great grandmother. She is the book’s main character. Her ordeals including the birth of her daughter on the “Long Walk” and the hardships that other Potawatomi endured on both removals fill the book.

“Road to Uncertainty: Trials of Potawatomi Removals” is dedicated to Shirley and Bill Willard for their work in teaching the public about the injustices done to the Potawatomi in their removal from the southern Great Lakes area.

Chief Wesaw was on both the 1837 and 1838 removals, and is a character in the new book. His descendants will be the honored Potawatomi family at the Trail of Courage this year. Matt Wesaw, former tribal chairman of the Pokagon Potawatomi Band of Michigan and Indiana, will be given a key to the City.

Godfrey is a familiar figure at the Trail of Courage where he emcees the Indian dances. Copies of all of his books may be gotten directly from him at his booth at the 2015 Trail of Courage, September 19 and 20.

He previously has written “Watchekee (Overseer): Walking in Two Cultures,” “Once a Grass Widow: Watchekee’s Destiny,” and “The Indian Marble.”

Autographed copies of “Road to Uncertainty” may be ordered through Nishnabek Publications, 24108 Burr Oaks Lane, Athens, IL, 62613 ($13.95 per copy includes S/H). Unsigned copies of Godfrey’s books may be purchased through Amazon.com. The book is also available at the Fulton County Museum, Rochester IN 46975.

George Godfrey, author, teacher, dancer, Potawatomi speaker.

George Godfrey’s new book, Cheyenne Oil

George Godfrey (Red Sun), Trail of Courage powwow emcee and Citizen Potawatomi, recently released in 2016 his fifth book, Cheyenne Oil. Godfrey’s experiences at Haskell Indian Nations University are relived through the book’s fictional character.

Beyond Haskell, the wrath of OPEC is brought down on the fictional character who discovers a fictional alternative to crude oil. The discovery threatens OPEC’s international economic strangle. However, the discovery offers to eliminate the blight on the environment and cultural destruction in Indian Country.

Come to the Trail of Courage and visit Godfrey. You can examine his latest book plus his four earlier writings: Watchekee (Overseer), Once a Grass Widow, Indian Marble, and Road to Uncertainty. His first four books deal with his Potawatomi ancestry. All titles will be available at the Trail of Courage and at the Fulton County Historical Society.

You can order the books by going to Godfrey’s website www.nishnabekpublications.com.

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This page updated Jan 16, 2017.