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Bourassa, Joseph Napoleon

Joseph Napoleon Bourassa was a Chicago born Métis of Neshnabé and French descent. As a youth, Joseph was a student of Baptist missionary Issac McCoy, attending both the Carey Mission in Michigan and Hamilton Literary & Theological Institution in New York. Joseph would later attend and teach at the Choctaw Academy in Kentucky, where he studied law and medicine.

During the 1837 removal negotiations at Keewawnay village, he served as a U.S. interpreter to the Potawatomi. His influence in tribal affairs and developing treaties between the United States and the Potawatomi made him an important ally to both. Despite his mixed opposition to the Potawatomi removal, he emigrated to Kansas on the 1838 Trail of Death.

In Kansas, he became a community representative and was elected to the first Potawatomi Business Committee. In this role, he secured reserves for the Citizen Potawatomi in Kansas and eventually Indian Territory. Later in life, Joseph was credited with developing one of the first Potawatomi dictionaries with a Potawatomi alphabet.


Clifton, James A. 1998. The Prairie People: Continuity and Change in Potawatomi Indian Culture, 1665-1965

Cooke, Sarah E. and Rachel B. Ramadhyani. 1993. Indians and a Changing Frontier: The Art of George Winter

Murphy, Joseph F. 1988. Potawatomi of the West: Origins of the Citizen Band

Kappler, Charles J. 1904. Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, II

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