The Saga Continues

July 20, 2010

It’s been two weeks since I last wrote a post. Summer always seems to be so busy with outdoor projects that my writing seems to suffer. However, I also seem to get a lot of ‘other things’ done so the guilty feelings about my neglect is tempered somewhat.

In the last post the year of 1740 was one of tension and mistrust among the nations of Detroit. 1741 was no different. In one instance a Wyandotte woman was working in their cornfield when a party of Saulteux happened along. They threatened the woman with death and killed her dog in front of her. This frightened her very badly and set the whole Wyandotte village on edge.

In another incident an Ottawa man in a state of intoxication accused the Wyandotte of killing his brother. This story spread throughout the Ottawa and their allies’ villages. De Noyan had to get involved in order to prevent things from getting out of hand. He implored the Ottawa not to act on the word of a drunken man so they took his advice. It proved to be a good thing too as the rumour turned out to be false.

De Noyan came up with a plan to make peace. He advised the Wyandotte to break their peace with the Choctaw and attack them taking as many prisoners as possible. Then they could offer the prisoners to the Ottawa as payment for the blood shed at the original ambush. They could also reclaim their ally status because they had attacked the enemy of the Ottawa.

However, the plan was thwarted by a few who did not want to break their peace with the Flathead. They had secretly sent a collar to them warning of the plan. Not only did this foul up De Noyan’s plan but they also warned them of an impending Ottawa attack. A large party had left Detroit to make a raid on the Flathead but when they arrived in their country they only found two abandoned villages.

Finally the Governor decided to allow them to move to Quebec. He sent his nephew to present his words to the Ottawa, Saulteax, Potawatomi and Mississauga of Detroit. He had to say it was his idea that the Wyandotte should be removed and not the Wyandotte’s desire due to fear. He didn’t like this but after four years of prodding by Detroit’s commandant and the Black Robes he gave in.

Unfortunately by this time the Wyandotte had broken into three factions. The majority still wanted to remove to Quebec as did Sastarestsy Taatchatin. This group had moved to the little Lake. This is what the French called what today is Rondeau Bay on the north shore of Lake Erie. Orontony or Nicholas and his followers set up a village at Sandusky Bay in Ohio and Angouirot, the third Wyandotte chief, had a smaller following that wanted to set up a new village about three leagues from Detroit on Grand Isle in the Detroit River.

This fracture of the Wyandotte Nation gave Governor Beauharnois cause to reconsider his offer. He had always wanted the Wyandotte to stay at Detroit and for peace among the nations there to be the norm. Three Wyandotte chiefs had gone to Montreal in 1742 to pick out the land they thought they would be allowed to move to but Beauharnois gave them a new message to take back to Detroit.

He sent word back to the Wyandotte elders that he understood that they had left the decision-making on the matter of moving to their young men and that they had all decided to move to Grosse Isle. This contravened what the elders had begged him to do and although he did not understand what had caused misunderstandings among them he was pleased that all the unpleasantries at Detroit had apparently been smoothed over. Therefore, he could not place them anywhere because he had no information regarding the decisions taken by the Wyandotte Nation. All he could do was be pleased that they had decided to move nearby Detroit and he wished that they would live in peace at whatever place they chose to settle.

Governor Beauharnois also had a new ally for peace that only served to reinforce his decision. The great Ottawa chief Mekinac had moved to Detroit from Michilimackinac. He was one of the signees of the Great Peace Treaty of 1701 and was highly influential among his nation. He had visited Beauharnois that same year in Montreal along with chief Kinousakis. They led the two factions of the Detroit Ottawa. Both expressed their great desire for peace and promised to work with the French commandant toward that end. So Beauharnois had reason to believe that all would eventually be worked out. The Wyandotte never did move to Quebec but would instead remain in the Detroit area for another 150 years.

NEXT WEEK: First Nations of the Upper Country Revolt -1747


The Detroit Ottawa Are Furious!

July 5, 2010

When the three escapees arrived back at the Ottawa village they uttered the cries for the dead. The Wyandotte came to the village when they heard the wailing and those who had survived the ambush said it was the Wyandotte that had killed them. The Wyandotte denied having any part of it saying they were allies to the Ottawa and could not slay their brothers.

The warrior who had recognized and killed the Wyandotte warrior at the ambush accused the Wyandotte of not only being capable of killing their brothers but their father as well! He said the only reason they have not done so is there were so few of them. He told of hearing of the cries of the raven just before the attack explaining that he had been on several sorties against the Flathead and they never used this cry. It was a Wyandotte tradition. He then announced the killing of the Wyandotte warrior from Detroit that he recognized and said if it were untrue let them produce that man as he was missing from the Wyandotte congregation.

After his accusations the Wyandotte returned to their village and fortified themselves from attack. The Jesuit fathers returned to the safety of the French fort and the Ottawa congregated around the Wyandotte fort. They called out to those inside their fortification saying that it seemed they were afraid walling themselves up in their stronghold daring not to come out while the Ottawa were out in the open. They accused the Wyandotte of fearing an attack but said they were mistaken. They allow them to go to their cornfields unmolested but when they did decide to attack them they would declare it as they were incapable of any treachery.

The Ottawa sent three sticks of porcelain to the Five Nations meeting them at Niagara. They presented them to their representatives with the request that they remain neutral in the dispute but if their intentions were to take the Wyandotte’s side they should declare it first. The Iroquoian envoys said they could not provide an answer but would take the strings to their towns.

The Wyandotte requested assistance from the French by appealing directly to Governor Beauharnois at Montreal. They also sent belts to the Christian Mohawk at Lake of the Two Mountains and St. Louis Falls asking them to take their side and provide asylum for them in Quebec. 

The French realized they had a full-fledged crisis on their hands. De Noyelles issued orders that no Frenchman should sell any powder, lead or guns to either side of the dispute. They were afraid this could cause the other side to accuse the French of providing the means of one side destroying the other. Beauharnois sent a great number of presents to Detroit with instructions to de Noyelles to settle things down.

However, dissention persisted for the next two years with the Ottawa, Ojibwa and Potawatomi threatening the Wyandotte with extermination and the Wyandotte men fearing for their families. In the fall of 1738 they formally asked the governor for asylum. They sent word to Beauharnois that they had met with an emissary at Michilimackinac sent by their brothers from Sault St. Louis. They were invited by them to come settle with them because they were currently living amongst a multitude of nations that liked them not.

However, they recalled an invitation given them by the former Governor Vaudreuil to come live near him where they would have asylum, a Father and a protector. This was the option they preferred most and if it was not repeated by Beauharnois they said they preferred to withdraw somewhere else to die, but if he did grant their request they asked to be sent a military man to guide them safely through the nations who were intent on destroying them.

In June of 1739 they sent the words of Sastarestsy Taatchatin and Orontony to Beauharnois. They asked the governor again to provide asylum near him. They said this was always their only wish and that would never change. They also issued warnings saying that if they were not allowed to settle in Quebec they would be forced to do something the governor would not like but did not say what. Probably this was a veiled reference to going over to the English side. They also said that they could never be strong in their new religion unless remove from among so many nations that were not Christian.

The Wyandotte were desperate. They implored de Noyelle along with the three Black Gowns at the Mission of l’assomption Among the Huron to write to the governor on their behalf recommending so strongly their request that the governor would be sure to grant it. In the summer of 1740 he wrote to the governor saying that after desperately trying to bring peace he now thought it impossible. Although it was the wish of the governor that they stay at Detroit he thought it would either bring on their destruction or they would ally themselves with the Iroquois and the British. Like Father de la Richardie he also felt that their move to Montreal would be no loss because the Shawnee were ready to take their place at Detroit. Would Beauharnois finally consent?

NEXT WEEK: The Saga Continues