The massacre at Gnadenhutten seethed just below the First Nations’ psyche. The Three Fires Confederacy finally reentered the war later in 1782. British Captain Alexander McKee raised a party of 300 “Lake Indians”, Shawnee and Wyandotte from Detroit for an expedition into Kentucky. They left Detroit in August and after a brief and unsuccessful raid on Bryant’s Station retreated to a hill at the Blue Licks on the middle fork of the Licking River.
They were being pursued by 200 militia led by Colonels Todd, Trigg and Boone as well as Majors Harlin and McGeary. The warriors chose the high ground at Blue Licks to lay an ambush. The ambush proved successful.
A short but fierce battle was fought and the rebel force was totally defeated. Casualties included 140 dead or wounded including most of their commanders. The warriors count was 10 dead and 14 wounded. Captured munitions and supplies only included 100 rifles as most were thrown in a deep part of the river during the rebel’s pell-mell retreat back to their station. Colonel Boone was the same Daniel Boone that as a young man took part in another headlong, panic-stricken retreat at Braddock’s rout. The Kentucky militia’s reckless pursuit even cost Boone’s son Israel his life.
The Revolutionary War ended the following year with the Americans emerging as the victors. The Treaty of Paris was signed between them and British totally ignoring their First Nation allies. Boundaries were drawn that are still in effect today. The British were only too willing to give up territories that were not theirs and the Americans were only too willing to accept them. The Revolutionary War was officially over but the battle for “Indian Lands” was just beginning.
The Iroquois complained bitterly. Captain Aron, a principal chief, delivered a speech to Brigadier General Alan McLean at a General Council held at Niagara. In it he said “they never could believe that our King could pretend to cede to America what was not his own to give, or that the Americans would accept from him what he had no right to grant.” Captain Aron rightly pointed out that the boundary between the First Nations and the colonies had been settled by the Treaty of Fort Stanwix (now Rome, New York) in 1768 signed by Sir William Johnson. The boundary line ran from the head of Canada Creek near Fort Stanwix to the Ohio and this boundary had never been in dispute. He also reminded them “that the Indians were a free People subject to no power upon earth-That they were faithful allies of the King of England, but not his subjects, that he had no right whatever to grant away to the States of America, their right or properties without a manifest breach of all Justice and Equity”.
McLean wrote in his report to General Frederick Haldimand Governor of Quebec, “I do from my soul pity these People” for “the miserable situation in which we have left these unfortunate People”.
American Indian Policy was harsher than anything the First Nations had experienced before. They saw that the sale of land in their newly acquired territory could provide the necessary revenue required by the new federal government. So they took the position that the British had ceded all their lands west of the Mississippi and south of the Great Lakes to them. And because the First Nations had fought as allies of the British and the British lost the war their lands would be forfeited as well. This would include Oneida and Tuscarora lands even though they were American allies!
At the 1784 Treaty of Fort Stanwix commissioners from the new nation told the Six Nations Iroquois that they were now masters of all “Indian lands” and could do with them as they wished. They demanded large cessions of Iroquois lands. The Iroquois delegates were in no position to resist. They were still divided by the late war and they were abandoned by the British so they acquiesced. They ceded their territory in western New York, Pennsylvania as well as all of their territory west of Pennsylvania although they were not authorized to do so. When they returned to their homes their leaders were livid. They refused to ratify the treaty but the Americans carried on as if it were valid.
At the treaty of Fort MacIntosh in 1785 the Americans announced their policy of force to the Wyandotte, Delaware, Ojibwa and Ottawa. They dictated the terms for large cessions of land. The Shawnee refused to make peace and the chiefs at Fort MacIntosh returned home to prepare for war.
The Treaty of Paris made no consideration of First Nations and the new American Indian policy forced the British to provide for their Iroquois allies. To this end they purchased from the Mississauga two tracts of land for them to settle on in Canada. One tract of land contained 675,000 acres along the whole of the Grand River six miles deep on both sides. The followers of Chief Joseph Brant settled here while the followers of Mohawk Chief John Deserontyon settled on another large tract in the Bay of Quinte area . The other First Nations of Ohio and the newly designated Northwest Territories were prepared to fight on determined to hold on to their territories.
NEXT WEEK: The Indian War of 1790-95