by Jeremy Turner
Smith Nichols, whose Wyandot name was Sa`tsi`tsuwa` (He Gathers Flowers Habitually), was born around 1826 in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, on the Wyandot Reserve. Smith was one of the last fluent Wyandot speakers as well as the oldest member of the breechclout band, the name given to the traditional Wyandots, living in Oklahoma when Dr. Charles Marius Barbeau came in 1911.
His father was Isaac Nichols, whose Cayuga name was TerEnoshuyu`ta (Going Through the House). Isaac was a Cayuga from the Bear clan. Smith’s mother was Kya`weno o` (The Deer’s Many Footprints in the Sky). She was a Wyandot from the Deer clan. She died in 1842 on the Wyandot reserve in Ohio before the tribe was forced to move to Kansas. Smith’s maternal grandmother was Nendusha` (The Old Doe). She was said to be 125 years old when she died. Smith credits his grandmother, Nendusha`, with teaching him most of his traditional stories and knowledge.
Smith’s maternal grandfather was HarEhu`t (There He Stops Up a Hole). Smith was Catherine Coon Johnson’s maternal uncle; Mary Nichols Coon was Smith’s sister and Catherine’s mother. Smith was married around 1851. He and his wife, Margaret, had a daughter named Caroline shortly thereafter and two sons, Alex and William.
On August 20, 1862, Smith enlisted in the 12th regiment of the Kansas Volunteer Calvary during the Civil War. The 12th Cavalry was a part of the Kansas Indian Homeguard. The Kansas Indian Homeguard was composed mainly of the men from tribes in Kansas that had been moved from Ohio as a result of President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act. Those tribes were the Delaware, Shawnee, Ottawa, Miami, Seneca-Cayuga and Wyandot. His enlistment papers list him as being 5’7″ tall with black hair and eyes and having a dark complexion. The 12th Cavalry regiment suffered much from hard fighting and exposure in the Ozarks during the Civil War. Of the 88 men in the 12th Cavalry, sixteen died from diseases, three were killed, fourteen were discharged for disability and twelve deserted. Smith was lucky to have made it home alive.
In 1867, he had a son, Samuel, with Mary Warpole. Smith was elected as the Deer clan representative to the tribal council in 1874. Around 1889 he married again, this time to Lucy Crow (a Seneca-Cayuga). They had no children together.
Later on in his life Smith became a preacher for the denomination of Friends. He then built Council House Church on his own allotment just south of Wyandotte, OK. He ended up giving the Quaker missionary, Jeremiah Hubbard, the church and the land that it sat on.
When Barbeau came to Oklahoma in 1911, Smith became one of his most important informants. Smith and his niece, Catherine Coon Johnson, contributed 88 percent of the material that Barbeau collected in the two years he was working among the Wyandots in Oklahoma. Smith was ill for a majority of the time that Barbeau was in Oklahoma in 1912, and was unable to contribute much that year. He passed away in Wyandotte, OK, in 1916 and was buried in Council House Cemetery on his allotment.