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Tatanka-najin-win (Standing Buffalo Woman)
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Mar 3, 2017:   Several changes and additionals have been made to enhance the website.


Madaline is the daughter of a Mdewakanton woman and a Scottish-Canadian trapper/trader Dennis Robinson who was employed by the American Fur Company in the early 1800's. Her mother is not from the Wapasha band of Mdewakanton and is best determined to be from Little Crow's band.

The first recorded documentation of her life occurred September 24th, 1835 when she was noticed as "a very beautiful young half-breed girl, about seventeen years old, with fine flaxen hair" by British adventurer/writer George William Featherstonhaugh (pronounced "fan-SHAW") during his trip up the Minnesota River while employed as a Surveyor/Geologist for the United States Government. He records that she is called "Pah-kah Skah" (meaning "White Hair"). [1]

Featherstonhaugh [2] kept daily notes during his 1835 and 1837 trips which were later published as a journal (A CANOE VOYAGE UP THE MINNAY SOTOR) in 1847. The 1847 journal was reprinted in 1970 in two volumes by the Minnesota Historical Society.

Below is the entire transcript of Featherstonhaugh's two encounters with Pah-kah Skah:
The first four pages below describe Featherstonhaugh's meeting with her on the trip up the Minnesota River on September 24th, 1835 between the hours of 5 p.m. and darkness.
[Bracketed italicized information added to assist the reader.]


The general amenity of the country put us all into high spirits ; and just before 5 p.m., whilst we were paddling away, and screaming a Canadian boat-song at the top of our voices, we suddenly came up with several canoes on the left bank, fastened to the bushes, with a lodge containing four stout men, several women and children, and a very beautiful young half-breed girl, about seventeen years old, with fine flaxen hair. They had heard our screaming before we came in sight, and were not a little flurried ; but the appearance of Milor calmed them, and they came to the water-side to speak to him. [Milor is a half breed guide hired at the suggestion of General Sibley at his office next to Fort Snelling. Milor had already made many trips upriver all the way to the source of the St. Peters River, now Minnesota River]

We stopped for a short time, and missing the flaxen-haired beauty, with whose unusal appearance, so much contrasted with the coarse, wiry hair of the others, I had been very much struck, I told Milor to ask where she was, when they [presume his voyaguers] pointed her out to me hiding herself behind one of the trees. Perceiving we were white men, and knowing she was the daughter of a white man, a


modest feeling, which the others seemed to be strangers to, had taken possesion of her, and she was evidently reluctant to show herself. Upon inquiring into her history, I learnt that she was the daughter of an American trader named Robinson, who had lived some time among the Nacotahs, by an Indian woman, who had lived with him as his wife. Having collected his debts in the Indian country, he left his family under pretence of business at Prairie du Chien, and had never returned to them. This beautiful creature, being thus abandoned by her father, had been brought up as a savage ; but ignorant as she was of the ways of civilization, the modesty of her demeanour betrayed the consciousness that she was connected by blood with the white race. Upon being informed of these circumstances, I was exceedingly touched with the hopelessness of her condition, for independent of her beauty, there was a gentleness and shyness of manner about her which seemed to implore the protection of the race she had sprung from. Before we left the place, I sent her by Milor some pork and biscuit, and a new silk handkerchief, a somewhat extraordinary present, to be sure, to a young beauty of seventeen, but she received it very pleasingly ; perhaps, after all, she may be less miserable here than if her father had taken her with him.


As I was stepping into the canoe to depart, some of the women came and told Milor that if I did not give them also some pork and biscuit, "it would not be me" an oblique piece of flattery intended to provoke my generosity. I told them that I had given some to the young girl because she belonged to my race, but that I would give them also some, and begged they would always be kind to her, as the poor girl had lost her father. They answered that white men came amongst them and took wives, who thought of nothing but taking care of their children and their goods when they were travelling about the country ; and that when they had collected all their skins they took everything away, and never came back again. That this was what Robinson had done : he had told his wife he was going a journey, that she must take care of the little boy and the little girl they had, and he would soon be back and bring them all new clothes ; that


he never came the first winter, and when their old clothes were worn out he never came with any new ones ; that he never came for fifteen winters, nor ever sent her a message ; that Pahkah Skah, or " White Hair" was now seventeen years old, and her brother was a very good hunter. I desired Milor to tell them that perhaps Robinson was dead ; but they [the Indian women] said that Milor knew better, for he had seen him two years ago at Prairie du Chien. Upon which I answered, that there were bad men amongst the whites as well as amongst the Indians, and that good white men loved their wives and children, and took care of them as long as they lived. They [the Indian women] laughed, and asked Milor if I was going to stay in the country, and intended to take a wife? I answered that I was afraid the white men had got such bad characters that I should not be able to get one ; when they all laughed and exclaimed with one voice, that, if I wintered in their neighbourhood, I should have Pahkah Skah!

A great deal more has been written about the austerity and reserve of Indians than is true. If you are uniformly kind to them, and generous when it is convenient to be so, they are as open-hearted and merry a race as ever I travelled amongst. These were a remarkably good-tempered, pleasant set; and we had become so well acquainted, and it was drawing so late, that at one time I thought of pitching my tent here ; but on looking round, I saw many reasons against it, so we bade them "Good bye ;" and paddling on a couple of miles, made our bivouac in a charming, clean, open wood on the right bank.

This next one page translation below describes his meeting with her, now at Mr. Moore's trading post, on the trip back down the Minnesota River on October 12th, 1835 an hour after sunset. Most of his journal notes discuss Mr. Moore's knowledge of the area. They departed early the next morning. I would recommend that anyone interested in Mdewakanton history should read the entire two volumes. The journal of this trip, intended for British readership, was written by a man deeply interested in the indigenous people of this continent.


Pahkah Skah, the half-breed white-haired girl, whom I saw on the 24th September, was here : she was on a dirty sort of bunk, laid upon some skins, with Mr. Moore's Indian children, but I at once recognised her by her hair. [Mr. Moore is Hazen Mooers. His children were John and Jane; and maybe step-children Jennie, Angus & Mary. He and his wife Grey Cloud Woman moved from this area in 1838.]She was certainly a very pretty maiden, but, under an old filthy buffalo hide, did not look as sentimental and romantic as when I first saw her flaxen locks modestly hiding behind a tree. I gave her some biscuits, and asked her if she would like to go with me and live with the "Esontankahs" (''Long Knives"), where her father was ; and her answer was, that I had given her coos coos ("pork") as well as biscuits, when I saw her on coming up.

From the above 1835 transcriptions, we are safe to assume this Pahkah Skah's English maiden surname to be "Robinson" and she is indeed Madaline Robinson Rocque.

Her brother mentioned in this transcription is found in other writings to be Thomas Robinson during the 1862 Sioux Uprising and aftermath as well as the 1855 Half-breed Tract Script affidavits. His Indian name on U. S. Indian Census Rolls, 1885-1940 is listed as "Tom Tanka" (meaning Big Tom). The name was to differentiate him from Thomas Robertson, another mixed blood, who were together a lot and often incorrectly considered as the "two Robinson brothers." I mention this about Madaline's brother because Pahkah Skah's estimated age of seventeen is about four to five years too old when compared to her age/birth date given on federal censuses later in her life. Perhaps she too was tall due to her Robinson genes which lead to Featherstonhaugh to overestimate her age. And being Featherstonhaugh was quite infatuated with this beautiful maiden, he probably did not want to record his being infatuated with a 12-13 year old girl.

No picture exists of Madaline "Pahkah Skah" Robinson Rocque, so we will never know for sure about the flaxen (white) hair. The pictures of her two daughters who married a father and son, both named Charles Ebersold are in the Decendants section of this website. The oldest daughter, Mathilda, is a beautiful young woman probably resembling her mixed-blood (Scotish-Mdewakanton) mother. The youngest daughter, Josephine (my great-grandmother) probably looks more like her mixed-blood (French-Mdewakanton) father, Joseph Rocque.

Her obituary states she came to Wabasha previous to 1838 but only identifies her as Mrs. Joseph Rocque.[3]

James L. Hansen, Reference Librarian and Genealogical Specialist, State Historical Society of Wisconsin finds in Crawford County Wisconsin Marriages that "Madeleine Robinson" marries Joseph Rocque in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin on June 15th, 1837.[4]

When she is enumerated July 20th 1850 on the 1850 Federal Census for the Territory of Minnesota as "Madelene Rocque" age 28, living in the county of Wabashaw, Territory of Minnesota with husband Joseph Rocque.[5]

The name on her tombstone in St. Feleix Cemetery, Wabasha, Minnesota is etched as "Magdalena Roque."[6]

Her Indian Name "Tatanka-najin-win" (meaning "Standing Buffalo Woman") and English Name "Madeline Rocque" are recorded in several Birch Cooley Agency censuses.[7]

~ ~ ~

George William Featherstonhaugh was born April 9, 1780 in London, England and grew up in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, England. As a youth Featherstonhaugh liked climbing cliffs, collecting fossils, and gathering wild bird eggs to sell. He was adept at writing and became a Fellow of the Geological Society and the Royal Society. In 1806 he went to the United States where he planned to study the languages of the indigenous people. He married Sarah Duane of Schenectady, New York, on 6 November 1808. George and Sarah had four children: James, Ann, George Jr., and Georgianna. (George Jr. became a businessman in Wisconsin and served in the Wisconsin Territorial Legislature from 1846 to 1848.) George Sr. died at the age of 86 on September, 28, 1866 at Le Havre, France.

[3] April 21, 1904 obituary, Wabasha Herald

[4] "The Origins of the Roc/Rock Family of Prairie du Chien and Wabasha," THE GENEALOGIST, Spring 1997, Volume 11, No. 1.

[5] 7th Federal Census of the United States (1850)

[6] Photo of tombstone can be found in the Obituary section of this website.

[7] U. S. Indian Census Rolls, 1885-1940

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