Nakatoshaj is a pictorial phrase from the language of my Father and Grandfather. We are all enrolled Kickapoo tribal members. The phrase I was taught describes a specific type of wagon.  Please read the story below and begin to understand the word’s meaning.

     Misho, please teach me to speak with trees?

As a child I was given to my Grandfather in a very traditional fashion and with great ceremony. I had no idea what it all meant except everyone stayed up all night for three days drumming and singing, eating and dancing around a great big fire in the backyard at my uncle Dave’s home on the Kickapoo Reservation just north of the blinking light road. If you live there, you know where I mean -- down in the bottom just east of the bridge where Tommy died.

 I am not sure what that ceremony was called I was taught that I would now be living with my Grandfather 140th and Coyotee Road on the Kickapoo Reservation near Horton, Kansas. I was five years old; it was 1955.

 I loved my Grandfather, and the years I spent with him and my Grandmother Sophia were the absolute best. There on the Grasshopper creek about 15 miles south of the I75-Hwy 36 junction in northeastern Kansas with beautiful country rolling hills, large cool shady forests of oak, hickory, and box alder, deep muddy creeks with red clay banks and dirt roads that you could not walk down after a good hard rain because the clay would stick to your feet and make them too heavy to lift.

 I remember sitting on the front porch of my Grandfather's home; him talking to me in "Kickapoo" and broken English with a French accent. He knew everything worth knowing. He was making a flute. I still have the routing block he used. His jigs were all attached to the porch where he sat and worked, and sometimes he would stop and play a little tune, then laugh and tell me a story. One of those stories was Aa-oh-en Nu-ki-is-ke-nu Ne-ti, and, when he said this phrase, he would strike his hand drum one time and then again and then again. And then he would begin telling the story.

 I pestered my Grandfather to teach me to play the flute. When he made one for me (just a little whistle really), and I began to learn to call and speak with it, I began pestering him to teach me to make the flutes like he made them. This was three years since I had come to live with him, and he told me "all sharps belong to women, and you must learn to use a sharp before you can begin to learn to make flutes."

SO, I asked Grandma Sophia, and she said "Oh Go-Sa-Mah, you are so young to begin this work, but I see your passion is strong and this could be a good thing ask the old man to show you how to use this." And with that said, she reached into her apron pocket and handed me a small folding knife. Its blade was so sharp I could actually split a cat’s hair down the middle the long way. I was eight years old; it was May 9, 1959, and my birthday.

 Misho laughed when he saw the pocket knife. He said this was a good beginning and instructed me on the design of the blades. We talked about the various types of edges that could be honed into the steel. The pocket knife had three blades that folded inside a turtle shell handle, and each blade had the name Solingen engraved into its hilt. What a treasure I had been given.

 Misho gave me a cedar broom handle. It was round and about five feet long -- bigger than the broom handles of today, but still maybe that was because we made these kinds of things at home. I was told first to carve a cube , then a pyramid, then a ball -- all still attached to the original broom stick. Then a stiff chain link, and then all the links free -- just like a chain is free, and finally a cube with a ball and pyramid inside at the end of the chain. If the links or any of the objects were cut free, I would have to start all over again. This is what I practiced. I was almost nine when I was allowed to closely exam my Grandfather’s jigs and begin practicing carving flutes.  When I turned nine -- again on my birthday -- I was given the permission to trade and sell flutes. We traded lots of things all over the reservation, and sometimes people came over just to trade with Nakatoshaj. Music and healing are traditions from my family

This company name – Nakatoshaj -- Misho told me was the name his father "Commodore Cat" had been known by when he traveled about as a Tinker on the reservation because he was a single horse wagon "trader" . He told me that it was not so much a company name as a commonly known description of who and what his father had done. Women would say “Ge-me-na- be Nakatoshaj,” and the men would laugh because in Kickapoo this was an off color joke. But what the women would be asking for was the person that does repair work on pot and pans, basically a Tinker. Our families made a living in this fashion trading our hand made goods for what ever we needed we made preserves and smoked meats as well as medicinal compounds wild crafted from the land around us in an age old tradition. In the early 1800's this popularity of hand made wildcrafted goods by the Kickapoo people was exploited by a non-tribal enterprize under the name Kickapoo Indian Medicine company..........this action is now illegal according to the IACB...........................And Nakatoshaj is proud to announce The Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company is now under Tribal protection and family ownership. AHAJ-HO!!!!!!!!!!December 2014 in Oregon now but if and when we wait on Kansas.

 Now comes the not so happy part of this story.

 My Grandfather was one of the children who traveled south to Mexico after the signing of the agreements that allowed the Atchison, Topeka, and Santé Fe Railroad. This is a whole different story and may be read about in other places in detail. But for now, I will attempt to be brief. The party was attacked and most of the adults were killed. The children and remaining survivors took refuge at a French settlement they were traveling toward in the area then known as the Louisiana Territory. Because the party was traveling under the associated security of the railroad, the U.S. government felt responsible for these children.

 A French settler called these children Goslin, and that was the name placed on the documents associated with these children – my Grandfather among them.

 As a young man, my Grandfather was sent to school at Yale and was taught Homeopathic medicine and also learned about Naturopathic medicine as well. He came back to Brown County and practiced medicine on the reservation and in about a four-county area surrounding the reservation until sometime around 1929 when he was arrested for practicing sweat lodge. He was in his 70's or possibly early 80's at the time. There were no birth records, but the earliest documented association of my Grandfather’s name appears in several books describing the events of the time from 1841 to 1853.

During this time frame is when the name Nakatoshaj began being identified with MiCreeNi QuashMah "BlackBear stands to speak" and not his father "Silent Thunder" ChiChaKos He had a surrey and a beautiful bay mare that he used when he served as a doctor to folks in a four-county area. these things were all taken away when they came and burned his homeoapothacary labled him as a quack and carried him to the river tied to a rail. he survived to tell me this story the story you are reading now " He had been Identified as The Kickapoo Doctor "Black Bear" and his known associate "Silent Thunder" wanted for attempted murder........1928.....Prohibition came in 1930......and the federal government just attempted tp patent the CBD medicine in 1991.....

The name  -- Nakatoshaj -- describes a "Single Horse Wagon" or "One Horse wagon," a fancy man’s hat, and a small complex tool chest.

My Grandfather’s single-line mark was placed on every flute he turned from his hand. And he taught me to carve and eventually to handcraft flutes along with teaching me many other wonderful skills and talents. I was nine years old when he passed the company name to me and allowed me to trade flutes with anyone who was interested. That was 1960, and my mark has been placed on every flute I have ever turned from my hand in the same fashion as my Grandfather and Father since then.   

 Mi-Cree-Ni Quash-MahNAKA logo

More Stories to come


Mi-Cree-Ni Quash-Mah                                                                                  

Enrolled Kickapoo Indian Medicine Man "First Elder WBMS, Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company Eugene Oregon

American Indian Flute Music, Drum Songs, Story telling  "Kickapoo Indian Medicine is not availble to the public"                  click here to return to main menu