Chief White Smoke, Franco Jose Pereda, First Chief of Butte Tribe of Bayou Bourbeaux
Written by: Belinda Brooks, Vice Chief
Oral History Story-teller: 6th Chief, Chief Rodger Collum
SAN ANTONIO MISSIONS
Texas Spanish Colonial Missions were religious outposts established by the Spanish Catholic Church with a specific purpose of spreading Catholic doctrine and Spanish culture to indigenous people of Texas. Additionally, missions gave Spain a toehold in claiming Texas frontier land. The first Texas mission to be established in May of 1718 was San Valerio, known as the Alamo to many. These missions had a profound effect in the way that Native Americans lived their traditional life styles. Forced to participate in baffling religious practices, subjected to farming crops rather than continuing as hunters/gathers, and struck with deadly European diseases that nearly decimated over half of their population, Mission Indians led their day to day lives being secularized by friars of the Catholic Church. Natives were free to enter missions by choice but once in the missions, they became subject to Spanish rule and the Catholic Church.
Five San Antonio Missions were established near the San Antonio River. Baptismal records from two of these missions included ancestors of Butte Indians: San Valerio (the Alamo) and San Fernando. For the Butte Tribe, baptismal records for the majority of their ancestors as well as death and marriage records came from San Fernando Mission. In 1793, San Valero Mission was considered secularized meaning that Indians in that mission were no longer considered Indians of Texas. They were now Spanish. As Spanish, they became the lowest members of the Spanish cast system.
WHITE SMOKE & TWO MOONS
Franco Jose Pereda Montano aka Chief White Smoke, first chief of Butte Indians of Bayou Bourbeaux, was baptized at Basilica of Saint Joseph and Our Lady of the Heart Catholic Cathedral in Mexico City on 10 March 1778. His parents were Juan Pereda and Mari Antonia Montano.
Ana Maria Leal aka Two Moons, wife of White Smoke, was baptized at La Purisima Concepcion (Temple of Immaculate Conception) in Sinaloa, Mexico, on 13 February 1782. Baptismal records states that she was born on 26 January 1782 to her parents, Juan Jose Leal and Gertrudis Corvera.
The next account of their existence was found at San Fernando Mission at the baptism of their first child. Jose Francisco Pereda was listed as birth father of his son, Joseph Pereda Desadier, on 10 Feb 1798, who became the second Butte Chief. This document also named his wife and mother of the baby as being Ana Maria Leal.
Note: The picture above is not proven to be an actual sketch of White Smoke and Two Moons. The sketch in from a photo that was found in a family album with the names White Smoke and Two Moons written on the back of the photo. The photo belonging to Felix and Fee Desadier which was passed down to their great-grandson, Chief Rodger Collum. Since the sketch was a photo, it is not likely the first chief and his wife since they were born in the mid-1700s before cameras were invented. It is possible that these people are related to our family.
ESCAPING THE MISSIONS
White Smoke and Two Moons made their way to San Fernando Mission from Mexico before the birth of their son in 1798. The story of their arrival at San Antonio Missions is a mystery. What is known are the stories that were handed down from the elders to Chief Collum. While at the missions, White Smoke worked on a mission ranchero. Ranching was the most profitable activity for the missions. It was also the source of greatest contention between neighboring missions and towns people because of raiding Apache, Comanche, and Washita Indians. San Fernando was the hot-spot of an active contraband trade between Central Mexico and Louisiana.
Life at the missions was everything that White Smoke loathed. Suppression of his people’s native customs, forced enculturation and strict/rigid teachings of Christianity. He waited until the birth of his child to make an escape. His plans were in order. His band of braves waited for his command.
Some ranchos had compounds built for the purpose of housing Mission men and their families. In White Smoke’s case that worked to his advantage. When time arrived, they escaped the ranchero with a wagon and a small herd of horses. Leading up to the escape, White Smoke traded furs and horses with the French for guns and ammo. He timed their exodus in such a way that it would give his band as much of a head start as possible. Their destination was the Louisiana woodlands across the Red River. Buffalo roamed there. Many of White Smoke’s family waited in the woodlands for his arrival.
White Smoke was a spiritual man. He believed that the Great Spirit was leading him to a place of green grass and buffalo. The band worked its way toward their destination, stealing and raiding when the opportunity arose. Weeks later, they crossed the Louisiana territorial line with horses, furs and a stash of other contraband. White Smoke and his followers found the land of the Great Spirit. On this land his people would live the life intended for them to live.
The elders told a story of White Smoke on the trail to Louisiana. One late afternoon, the band was making camp for the night. One of the scouts came riding into camp to warn his people that a raiding party of Apaches was headed their way. On their arrival, White Smoke and his men were waiting for them to battle on horses with painted faces.
White Smoke was known as a mighty warrior. He had no fear of death and he coveted bouts to the death to show his prowess. The Apaches saw that White Smokes band was waiting for them. They stopped about 50 yards from their rivals. White Smoke moved forward on his horse waiting for the Apache leader to meet him in the middle of the battle field. As the two leaders faced each other, White Smoke called out “Gósé” in the Apache language as he looked at his opponent with cold-black eyes, a smirk on his face. The Apache turned red-faced and challenged White Smoke by raising his lance and shouting. The challenge was accepted as both rode back to their band of men.
White Smoke’s horse was high-strung with anticipation. It knew his masters touch. As White Smoke turned to face his opponent, he slightly touched his stud’s belly. The horse reared up on his hind feet and leaped forward to meet the challenge of his master.
As White Smoke road past the Apache, he reached out with a slight touch of his spear and sliced the cheek of the Apache. As he turned to ride back to his men, he called out “Gósé” once again to humiliate his adversary. He continued the mocking while his horse stood still and shivered. With one small touch, the horse rushed forward as White Smokes’ spear found its mark in the heart of the Apache. White Smoke jumped from his horse, snatched the hair of the Apache, and with one quick, sharp slice of his knife raised the scalp high in the air with a loud war cry. The elders told Chief Collum that White Smoke enjoyed humiliating his opponent before the kill. (“Gósé” was the Apache word for dog.)
During hunting season, tribal men would gather for tribal hunts. Before each hunt, a traditional hunting ceremony was offered to the Great Spirit. Braves would gather at the appointed spot set by White Smoke. Upon arrival, White Smoke would sit in an open space on the ground with his sacred pipe. Braves would then form a coiled circle around their chief as White Smoke began chanting a prayer to the Great Spirit to bless the hunt. He took a smoke from his pipe. Each brave would take a puff of the pipe as it was passed around the circle. When the last man took a smoke, the band took to their horses and began their hunt. Whatever wildlife that was killed was divided between clans and shared with the entire tribe.
Butte elders told a story of three visitors from the Upper Yatachez tribe. While there, they raped a Butte girl and left her for dead in the woods. When the girl could not be found in the village, a search party was sent out for her. It wasn’t that long before she was found horribly raped and injured. Surprisingly, she was still alive and able to name her attackers.
The Yatachez were on the trail home when White Smoke’s band caught up with them. Brought back with hands bond, running behind trotting horses, the three Indians were forced to return to the Butte village. As they arrived, they were pulled through two lines of angry Butte women who were screaming and beating the molesters with sticks and stones. The men were tied to stakes in the middle of the village and left there until justice was served the next day.
When the next day came, the three men were taken to a place outside of the village. A flaming fire with red-hot coals was burning in a deep pit. Across the pit was a huge log. On this spot, one of the captives was set free. White Smoke was waiting at one end of the log. The captive was given a knife and stood at the other end.
As they mounted the log from opposite ends, they met in the middle where White Smoke took first blood by slicing the captive’s cheek. The captive was taken by surprise and almost lost his balance. White Smoke stepped back to mock the captive’s expression of fear. This continued until White Smoke tired of his play and the captive lost his battle with the log and fell into the pit of fire. The games continued until White Smoke’s justice was poured out on all the captives. At the end of the game of the pit-fire and log, White Smoke was awarded the sacred fan of red feathers. The fan remained in his lodge until the next battles were fought and a new winner was declared.
White Smoke and his descendants, Joseph Sr., Joseph Jr. and Felix, were heavily active in contraband trade. This trade involved the movement of illegal cattle, horses and other trade items over the Texas territorial borderlines. Spain and Mexico opposed all trade with any country east of the Texas border. Contraband was the life-blood of the Butte Tribe. The long ongoing trade between White Smoke and Texas was too profitable to squelch his desire in his contraband movement. Butte traded heavily in cattle, horses, furs, salt, cotton, tobacco, and other agricultural crops.
When running contraband across Texas lines, there were specific contraband trails that were traveled to bypass the main roads where officials would be waiting. For White Smoke, his trail led straight through Bayou Bourbeaux. Today you would find that mustang route by following US Highway 84, through Bayou Bourbeaux on LA Highway 1226, all the way to the Sabine River.
Butte Tribe has spent a lifetime protecting its land from outsiders. When settlers from the East started their move West, they had no regard for the indigenous people of America who had for thousands of years respected and cared for the land that belonged to them. Stopping on Butte land was not a wise thing to do.
Twelve Scottish fur traders traveling on horses with a wagon full of supplies decided to set their stakes on Butte land. They stopped at the old Lemoine’s place on the Indian Trail and set up camp. As they settled down for the night, they had no idea of what tomorrow would bring.
As the early morning sun came up in the East, a few bird calls and a little rustling of horses could be heard. A sudden loud, sharp yelp filled the air. Startled, the intruders grabbed for their weapons but were not fast enough to hold back the swam of natives attacking them. White Smoke, his son, Powder Face, and the rest of the band, attacked the hunting party so fast that the men didn’t know what hit them. Warriors came from everywhere: jumping from trees, behind bushes, riding horses down the trail. When the smoke had settled, twelve scalps were hanging from the warriors’ belts. Twelve bodies were burning with the blazing wagon. White Smoke, great warrior and tormentor, returned to his village with a small herd of horses, a load of hunting supplies and a bloody scalp hanging on his spear.
When Chief Collum was told this story as a little boy, his grandfather, Chief Clarence Desadier, took his grandson to the exact spot of the attack. At that time, there were several pieces of the wagon that remained as proof of the attack. Today, the only thing that remains is the rim of a wagon wheel that surrounds two trees that grew through it.
Fort Selden was established in 1820 by the United States as a temporary means of controlling the waterways between the United States border and the Neutral Strip between the US and Mexico. It was located north of Natchitoches, south of Bayou Pierre, on the highest hill in the area. The purpose of the fort was to keep a watch on the borderline and protect inhabitants within that area. The strip of land between the two territories was called No Man’s Land which was formed by a treaty between Mexico and the United States until a decision was made on where the Texas borderline was going to be placed. This strip was controlled by neither country. It was a lawless place where Indians among many other unruly people were pressing for rights of freedom against all odds.
White Smoke along with other tribes in the area recognized no treaty with white men accept the one’s that benefited his people. Bayou Pierre was a main waterway for Butte Indians. They hunted and fished on its waterway. They carried contraband by water there. White Smoke was not pleased with the placement of the fort. He was even more unpleased with control of the waterways by US military.
One early morning before daybreak, the Buttes loaded up in canoes on Saline Bayou headed for the river. From the river, they traveled North until they came to the first curve in the tributary and turned left to follow Bayou Pierre. White Smoke was careful to dock the canoes before he made visual contact with Fort Selden. Working their way silently through the woods, the fort guard was surprise with a firm hand grip over his mouth and a knife across his throat. Part of the braves entered the fort and began raiding the supply house for guns, ammo and any other thing of interest. The rest made way to the military horses. By the time the regiment got wind of what was going on and rushed for their weapons to stop the intruders, White Smoke’s braves were on their way to South Louisiana to cross into Mexican territory to trade the horses at the Rio Grande.
James “Jim” Bowie (1776-1836) known for his expertise with the famous Bowie knife was raised and spent most of his life in Louisiana. In the western parts of Louisiana, his brother, Rezin, and he were best known as con-artist in land speculations as well as slave smugglers and chasers. The Bowie brothers partnered in 1818 with the well-known pirate Jean Laffite in the illegal smuggling of African slaves on the coastal lands of Louisiana. Slavery for those slaves who were already in the country was still allowed. It was illegal to bring new slaves from foreign countries to the United States.
The Bowies paid Laffite a dollar a pound for his slaves. These lost-but-found smuggled slaves were turned in to authorities for bounty. The salves then became property of the Bowie Brothers and were sold on the auction blocks in New Orleans for a huge profit.
It was on one of these excursions that ten slaves escaped the capture of the Bowie Brothers. With the help of local anti-slave, underground people, the slaves made their way from southwest to northwest Louisiana.
Native Americans were sensitive to the plight of African slaves in America. Red and black skinned people where on the lowest level of the cast system. The run-away slaves found their way to the Butte village.
Several days later, the Bowies rode toward Bayou Bourbeaux with a native tracker. As they rounded a corner on the wooded bayou trail, an arrow landed ground at the feet of Bowie’s horse. Waiting for them was White Smoke and Powder Face. The tracker greeted White Smoke respectfully. White Smoke knew the tracker but did not return the greeting which was a definite sign that it was time the intruders turned around, left the way they came and prayed they got away with their scalps.
Bowie had heard of White Smoke and knew that this was a band of Indians that he did not want a confrontation with. There would be no trading done with White Smoke regarding slaves. If White Smoke had them, they were lost to Bowie. Bowie turned his party around and headed back toward the direction they came from.
DEATH OF WHITE SMOKE
White Smoke lived a long life. In his lifetime, he took the lives of fourteen of his enemies. The date of his death is not known. What was known is that he lived to know his grandson, Joseph Desadier Jr., who was born in 1832. His son, Chief Powder Face, Joseph Pereda Desadier, buried his father on Butte Hill. White Smoke’s grave was dug deep but not wide. He was buried standing up with his arms crossed. Inside his hands was placed his sacred pipe. At her death, Two Moons was buried beside her husband lying flat.
Two large natural stones with etchings carved on them where placed on their graves. White Smoke’s stone was etched with and “X” to represent a campfire and wavy lines on top of the “X” to represent the smoke rising from a campfire. Two Moon’s stone had two circles representing moons. So went the life of White Smoke, the first and greatest of chiefs of the Butte Tribe of Bayou Bourbeaux, buried on Butte Hill.
Six chiefs have been trusted with the guarded secret of Butte Hill. One chief, Chief White Smoke, was buried there on top of the sacred mound of Butte Hill. Generations of family members lived their lives not knowing White Smoke or the stories of their Native American heritage. Only the elders knew the stories. These stories were handed down to the next hand-picked leader of the tribe. This leader was chosen at an early age by the acting chief at that time. The elders believed that the day would come when their stories could be told without fear of the destruction of their people.
Chief Rodger Collum was the chosen one by his predecessor and grandfather, Chief Clarence Desadier. From the age of five until he was sixteen, Rodger sat at the elders’ feet to listen to the stories of his ancestors. At the time, even he did not understand the importance of what had been given him. When he asked, “Why can’t I go out and play?” his grandmother would say, “Because you are special.” Should he be distracted by the cousins playing outside, an elder would thump him on the head and say, “Pay attention, Rodger Lee, you will have to repeat this one day.”
Rodger always knew that he was the family leader. It wasn’t until Rodger became a man and his ancestors had passed that he realized the importance and the responsibility of the knowledge that had been passed down to him. The Great Spirit honored the prayers of his elders and sent a revealer to inquire of the elders’ revelations.
When asked, “Why after all these years have you decided to go public with your tribe?” Chief Rodger Collum replied, “My ancestors raised me for such a time as this. It is time to reveal the secrets and tell the story of my people.”
The secrets of the Butte Tribe began at Bayou Bourbeaux over two hundred years ago. Only a handful of warriors at any given time knew the secret of Butte Hill. The few that did spent a lifetime guarding it.
Note: Butte Tribe lineage is a uniquely mixed tribal bloodline (Texas and Chitimacha Indian) of ancestors who were born and raised on Bayou Bourbeaux in Natchitoches. All Chitimacha bloodlines come directly from Marie Anne Therese De La Grande Terre and/or her sister, Marie Jeannie, who were Chitimacha captives of St. Denis’ raid of a small Chitimacha village in Mobile, January 1708.