More Upheaval at Detroit!

June 27, 2010

Greetings to everyone! It’s powwow weekend here at Aamjiwnaang. The weather is not looking so great however. It’s cloudy and rain is in the forecast. I hope they’re wrong.

When we last left Detroit in the fall of 1738 the nations were in great turmoil. The Ottawa of both Detroit and Saginaw and their allies the Potawatomi, also of Detroit, and the Saulteux Ojibwa of the St. Clair and Au Sable Rivers were threatening to destroy the Wyandotte of Detroit. The Wyandotte were afraid for their women and children so were determined to move out of the area. Their preference was to be allowed to move to Quebec to be with their Iroquoian speaking brothers. The Mohawk and Huron of Quebec were all Jesuit converts. They were also considering moving to Upstate New York to live among the Five Nation Iroquois. They were allies but the Five Nation still held the faith of their fathers.

The French were desperately trying to make peace between them because the Wyandotte were allies with the Iroquois and the Ottawa were allies with all the other Nations of the Upper Great Lakes. If the Wyandotte located among the Five Nations then they would lose them to the British. They wanted to avoid this at all costs. A larger problem was that this situation could have easily gotten out of hand and turned into a full-blown war with the French in the middle.

So, how did things come to this? To understand we have to return to the following spring. The Wyandotte had called a council at Sieur de Noyelles’ house. He was the commandant of Detroit. The chiefs or their representatives of all of the above mentioned nations were there. They presented a belt to the Ottawa saying that by that belt they wished all to know that they had made peace with the Flathead and they now considered them brothers. They wished all would follow in order to make peace reign in the whole land. Then they issued a warning saying that if any of the other Detroit nations sent war parties against the Flathead it would assure that some of their young men would go ahead and warn them that they were coming to devour them. The Flathead were also called Choctaw and got their name from their practice of artificially flattening their foreheads when very young.

The Ottawa refused the belt asking the Wyandotte who they thought they were to dictate law to them. They accused the Wyandotte of considering bad actions and then take refuse with the Flathead. They took the belt and gave it to de Noyelles saying that it was him who represented Onontio, the governor, and that if the governor accepted it then they would honor his wishes.

The Ottawa also said the Wyandotte should remember that at the last general peace Onontio gave all the nations the Flathead to devour because they had become friendly with the British; that their blood was shed on the trails of the Flathead and on their mats. Their bones were still in the lodges of their enemy with their scalps hanging over them and that the frames on which they were burned were still spread out with the steaks still standing. Moreover, they said, if the Flathead Nation wanted peace with them they would have approached them and then they would consider peace or not.

The Wyandotte gave also gave a belt to the Potawatomi but were given a similar reply. They gave a third to the Saulteux who said because they were young men they would take it to their elders who would decide what to do. Then the council then broke up.

Sometime soon after this the Ottawa, Potawatomi and Ojibwa raised a war party of 17 men and set out for Flathead country. Two parties of Wyandotte joined them on the trail but did not continue on with them. When the war party reached their destination they found themselves surrounded by warriors in the forest all making the call of the raven. This was a common thing done before an attack signifying they were looking for blood. This surprised the Ottawa because this was not a custom of the Flathead so they suspected Wyandotte treachery.

Suddenly they found themselves attacked in the front by the Flathead and in the rear by the Wyandotte. One of the Ottawa recognized one of the Wyandotte and he killed him. Only three escaped the ambush including the Ottawa who had recognized the Wyandotte warrior. Five others were made prisoner and nine were killed.

NEXT WEEK: The Detroit Ottawa are Furious!


The Affair of the Wyandotte of Detroit

June 19, 2010

If you have been following my posts you will recall that after the catastrophic war with the Iroquois in 1649 the remnants of the Huron, Petun and Neutrals who had not converted to Christianity made their way to Michilimackinac to live near the Ottawa. There they became know as the Wyandotte, a corruption of the what the Huron called themselves, Ouendat. The Jesuits cut back their mission work in North America to mainly Lower Canada, but did keep a presence at Michilimackinac and Illinois as well as Michigan. They also set up a mission called The Mission of l’assomption Among the Huron at Detroit which, for nearly forty years bore nor fruit.

Father Armand de la Richardie arrived at Detroit in 1728 and labored among the Wyandotte for many years with no conversions. He finally gained one convert, an old Wyandotte chief named Hoosien. His family quickly followed but it wasn’t long after his conversion that he died. Thinking that after the old chief had gone his family would quickly revert to their traditional beliefs Father Richardie, who was in ill-health, thought of giving up and returning to Quebec. To his surprise his mission kept growing and within 3 years of the death of his first convert all the Detroit Wyandotte had embraced Roman Catholicism.

In 1738 the Wyandotte and the Ottawa of Detroit had a falling out. The Jesuits thought the Ottawa were ‘more brutal and superstitious’ than the Wyandotte. Sastaretsy, the title of the principle Wyandotte chief, sent word to the Governor General as well as to their brothers, the Iroquois of Sault St. Louis or Caughnawaga and the Huron of Lorette near Quebec City. He reported that the Ottawa had raised the hatchet to them and had asked the other Algonquian speaking nations there to joined them in exterminating them. This of course would be referring to the Sauteux Ojibwa, Potawatomi and Mississauga.

The Governor General sent presents to them asking, through the Commandant of Detroit Monsieur de Noyelle to settle the peace and keep the Wyandotte at Detroit. The Wyandotte agreed to heed the Governor but said at the first alarm they would either go to the Seneca or else beyond the Belle Riviere. This was the name the French had given to the Ohio River.

That winter the First Nations of Detroit lived in apprehension of each other. The Wyandotte wintered in the interior which was not their custom to do so. In the spring the principle chief or the Wyandotte, Orontony, whose baptismal name was Nicolas, sent branches of porcelain to the Governor begging him to allow the Detroit Wyandotte to move to Quebec. They asked for a tract of land near him to settle on and a French officer to escort them as protection from attack.

Meanwhile, they made peace with the Flathead to the south. This was a nation that continuously skirmished with the Nations of Detroit. They made threats to move south among them but reconsidered after receiving harsh words from Entatsogo, chief of the Sault. Now they begged the Governor to forgive them for not sending their elders to Montreal as asked to do so because they were alarmed by the Praying Indians of Sault St. Louis. They also sent word to the Governor that it was not the custom of the Wyandotte to ask for protection or asylum but that it was the duty of one who had compassion on them to come and console them or to lead them to a new place where they would be safe.

In June of that year Father Richardie wrote to the governor that he had done all he could to influence their minds but they would not let go of their fears and apprehensions. They had been talking to both the English and their allies the Iroquois of Upstate New York and that those two nations had been taking advantage of the Wyandotte’s alarm and trying to induce them toward their side. The Father suggested the Governor allow the move to Quebec and even send his nephew to escort them rather than see his charges go over to the other side. The good Father stated that if the move was made the Wyandotte would not be missed at Detroit because their were some Sauteaux Ojibwa from the St. Clair willing to move to Detroit to take their place not to mention the Shawanee.

NEXT WEEK: More Upheaval at Detroit!


The Iroquois Do It Right! Part 3

June 12, 2010

The Fox sent a volley of bullets toward the top of the hill. The Iroquois and Wyandotte return the fire with two quick volleys of their own. The chiefs told them not to amuse themselves with gunfire but instead to lay down their firearms. They wanted to deal with Fox by hand to hand combat in the deep snow because they were well experienced in manoeuvring on snowshoes and the Fox were not.

The Iroquois and Wyandotte rushed their enemy before they could reload. They each had a tomahawk in one hand and a knife in the other. The Fox were outmaneuvered and forced back into their fort but not without great carnage. There were 70 Fox warriors were killed on the spot and 14 taken prisoner. They pursued the fleeing warriors into the fort where they killed 80 women and children and took 140 prisoner. Ten warriors escaped but were not dressed for the cold winter air.They later died of exposure. The Wyandotte had five killed and several wounded with the Iroquois having no casualties.

After the attack they dressed the wounded leg of a Fox chief and released him and 6 women. They were to carry a message to their nation. They were to say that the Iroquois and Wyandotte had just eaten up their main village and they would be staying there for 2 days. After that if they wished to follow them they could, however as soon as they were spotted they would begin by breaking the heads of all the women and children. They would then make a rampart of their bodies and afterward pile the remainder of the Fox Nation upon them. 

The Fox chief arrived at a small fort of 9 lodges on the banks of the Mississippi River. When they heard of the attack they sent word to a group of 3 lodges nearby. Sieur Dorval and 2 other Frenchmen were wintering there. They had left Montreal with Monsieur de Linetot for Sioux country but were unable to make it. The Monsieur had built a fort on the Mississippi at a place called the Mountain Whose Foot is Bathed by the Water. This is now Mount Trempealeau, near the village of Trempealeau, Wisconsin about 90 miles above the mouth of the Wisconsin River. De Linetot found himself short of provisions so he sent some of his party out to winter with the Fox. Dorval and his two compatriots were some of these.

One Fox chief said to Dorval that it was Onontio, the French Governor, that had caused them to be killed because neither the Iroquois nor the Wyandotte rise from their mats unless commanded to do so by the governor. Dorval replied that the Wyandotte were from Detroit and no doubt the expedition started from there without Onontio’s knowledge. He didn’t know that Governor Beauharnois had told them that although he couldn’t give them permission because he had promised the Fox their lives he would not interfere in any disputes the First Nations might have amongst themselves.

The Fox chief said that if the French had nothing to do with the attack then Dorval should make them return his three children whom they were taking away. Dorval accepted the errand and the chief gave him a robe and seventeen beaver pelts as a ransom.

The Fox disarmed the Frenchmen, took them to their main village where the attack had taken place then led them to the spot where the victors had lit their last fire. Then he was told to return when he had ransomed the three children. Dorval quickly overtook the Wyandotte and Iroquois but instead of completing his errand for the Fox chief he returned to Detroit with the Iroquois and Wyandotte.

The Fox lost over 300 people killed or captured in this incident. The Wyandotte returned to Detroit with less than 100 prisoners. They killed 13 women and two men trying to escape on the way back to Detroit. They killed another 56 on the journey home because of the difficulty of leading such a large group of prisoners and the fear that many could escape. They were of the opinion that there were only about 30 Fox left living on the Mississippi and that their enemies, the Puants or others, would destroy them as well.

The only ally the Fox had at this point were the Sauk and they quickly abandoned them when they saw all the surrounding nations lifting the tomahawk against them. Most of the Sauk returned to their home at Green Bay although a few went to settle at the St. Joseph River. After over twenty years of warfare the great Fox Nation had been reduced to a mere shadow of its former self. Thus ended the so called Fox Wars. 

NEXT WEEK: The Affair of the Wyandotte of Detroit


The Iroquois Do It Right! Part 2

June 5, 2010

First let me apologize for being late with this post. The weather has been so fine I took advantage to work on my nature trails. I put in a bridge over a small stream that flows into the first pond. The wetlands are really taking shape.

We last left our story with the Detroit Wyandotte sending their chief La Forest to Quebec to invite the Quebec Wyandotte and Iroquois to join them in a war upon the Fox. Wouldn’t you know 47 Praying Indians from Lake of Two Mountains showed up at Detroit in October! Nobody went off to war with winter about to set in. Nobody but the Iroquois that is. The Mission Iroquois from the mission at the widening of the Ottawa River near Montreal were called Praying Indians. 

When they arrived they found that nearly all of the young men of the Ottawa and Potawatomi had already left for their winter hunting grounds. The Detroit First Nations gave the Wyandotte collars to persuade them to wait until spring when they promised all their warriors would join them but the Iroquois said it was impossible for them to wait. They procured arms and ammunition from the French commandant with directions as to the best route to follow to engage the Fox and off they went. They left on the 17th of October 1732 with a war party composed of 74 Wyandotte, 46 Iroquois and four Ottawa warriors.

They arrived at the St. Joseph River after a few days and found that all the Potawatomi there had also left for the winter hunt so they pushed on to Chicago. Some Potawatomi chiefs came to them there and proposed they wait until spring when they would also join them but they refused. From there they pushed into Kickapoo country. The Kickapoo were very frightened at first to see this small army of the fiercest of warriors in their territory but when they were told why they were there they offered to join them. However, they said they also had to wait until spring. But the war party refused and moved on.

They entered the country of the Mascoutins next and the results were the same. The Mascoutins’ territory bordered on Fox country so they asked them for 10 men to act as guides. The Mascoutins provided them but said they didn’t think they could overcome the Fox because they were so numerous. The guides took them as far as the Fox border in Wisconsin, pointed them  in the right direction to engage the Fox then returned to their village. 

Meanwhile the first of the winter snows arrived with blizzard like conditions blanketing the ground in heavy snow. The hardy warriors donned their snowshoes and marched for several more days. Some of them became sick and the older ones fatigued so they held a council to determine what to do. Some of the old men counselled a return home but the young men would not hear of it. One even said he would rather die then return home without killing some men. Two of the great Wyandotte chiefs said that although they were old they still felt strong enough to continue so the camp broke up with most of the older warriors making their way back to Chicago and the younger men marching forward. Now there were 40 Wyandotte and 30 Iroquois left.

They followed the route that led to the Wisconsin River and after a few days they saw three men coming toward them across a prairie. When the three Fox men saw them they turned and fled. Thinking they were from a small village of four or five lodges the Mascoutin guides had told them about they followed them over a large hill. When they reached the top of the hill they discovered much to their surprise the principal village of the Fox, forty-six lodges in all, lay stretched out on the banks of the Wisconsin River. The 3 warriors who had fled upon first sight of their enemy had arrived in time to warn the large village. When the Fox saw the Iroquois and Wyandotte on the top of the hill ninety well-armed Fox warriors came out to meet them. The battle was on!

NEXT WEEK: The Iroquois Do It Right! Part 3