Langlade Captures Pickawillany-1752

September 17, 2010

In the 1720’s Augustin Mouet de Langlade, a French trader living at Michilimackinac, married Domitilde, an Ottawa woman who was a sister of an important chief named Nissowaquet. The French called Nissowaquet La Fourche meaning The Fork. They had a son who was baptized Charles Michel Mouet de Langlade in May of 1729.

 Because of a dream Nissowaquet believed his young nephew had a protecting spirit so he convinced his parents to let ten year-old Charles accompany him to Tennessee on a war party against the Chickasaw. On two previous raids they were repelled by their foes. They were successful on this particular sortie in that a treaty was made between the two when the confrontation ended in a stalemate. This adventure earned him the name Aukewingeketawso meaning Defender of his Country. So Charles Langlade became enthralled with military service at a very young age.

 Sixteen years later Augustin Langlade purchased a position for his son in the French colonial regulars as a cadet. He was 21 years old. Although he served in the French military he wore the dress of an Ottawa warrior. Over the next two years he gained much influence with the Ottawa side of his heritage.

 In 1752 he was visiting the village of Memeskia an important Miami chief on the Great Miami or Rocky River. It was situated at the mouth of Laramie Creek and had the considerable population of 8,000 and was a hub of English trading activity. The French called Memeskia la Demoiselle or Your Lady but the English called him Old Britain.

Memeskia was pro-British and held the French in great disdain. What Langlade was doing in Ohio country is not known but probably he was spying for the French. At any rate Old Britain insulted him in some way and Langlade left the country in a huff. When he got to Detroit he angrily related the incident to his friend Pontiac an important Detroit Ottawa war chief. Both became enraged so they convinced Little Thunder and his Saulteux Ojibwa to allow Langlade passage through their territory to exact his revenge.

 Detroit commandant Celoron couldn’t be happier. At last his First Nation allies were on board to help him fulfill his orders to clear the English traders out French territory and return the Miami to the French fold. Langlade returned from Michilimackinac with 250 Ottawa and Ojibwa warriors bent on restoring his good name. However, he could not convince Little Thunder and the St. Clair Ojibwa to join them so they carried on alone picking up a contingent of French regulars at Detroit.

 On the morning of June 21st they arrived at Pickawillany, the name the English called Memeskia’s village. Most of the warriors there were away on their summer hunt but the women were in the cornfields and eight traders were in the outbuildings .

The Ottawa and their allies came upon them suddenly. They surprised the women taking them prisoner. Three traders were besieged in a house and they surrendered immediately but the Miami warriors fought on. A truce was called in the afternoon with all but two traders being handed over. The Miami kept these two hidden. The women were released. Memeskia’s widow and son had escaped, however, la Demoiselle’s fate was an Ottawa cooking pot. They partook in the old custom of eating a defeated foe whose qualities of leadership and bravery could be had by literal consumption. They also killed one of the traders who was wounded and ate his heart. When the expedition returned to Detroit they had plunder worth 3,000 British pounds sterling and five English traders who were arrested and put in prison .

 Governor du Quesne was elated. Although the French officially denounced the above mentioned custom as an atrocity du Quesne wrote to the French minister in Paris asking for an annual pension of 200 livres for Langlade saying that he would be highly pleased with it and it would have great effect in the country. He also reported that the Miami had come back to the French alliance greatly diminishing the English influence in French territory.

 NEXT WEEK: Great Meadows and Fort Neccessity-1754


More of France’s Allies Revolt!

August 22, 2010

While Nicholas’ warriors were harassing Detroit the Saulteaux Ojibwa from the St. Clair joined in. They had killed and carried off some of the local farmers’ cattle and some of the farms were attacked by “unknown Indians”. This was the work of some of the more brazen young men who were disregarding their chief’s disapproval. All this upheaval made it impossible for the French to get the fall harvest in putting the post in jeopardy.

A party of chiefs and warriors arrived at Montreal to visit the Governor General. Among them were eight Ottawa chiefs and eight other warriors including two Seneca and some Wyandotte from Lorette who had accompanied Sieur Beleatre to Detroit the year before. Four Wyandotte chiefs were also with them including Sastaredzy, the principal chief and Tayachatin another main chief.

In the council with the governor they professed their loyalty and the Wyandotte, who had converted to Christianity, asked for Father La Richardie to return to Detroit to minister to their needs. He was their former missionary and they had the utmost confidence and respect for him. The French saw this as an opportunity to assist in settling things down at Detroit so they jumped at the chance. The governor quickly gave his approval, the priest consented and the deal was done.

Things were bad at Detroit with some of the young warriors getting out of control but they were worse at Michilimackinac. There was total confusion at that post. The Ottawa, Saulteaux Ojibwa and Mississauga were ill-disposed toward the French. The Ottawa of Saginaw had already struck a blow by killing three Frenchmen who were on their way from Detroit to Michilimackinac. The Saulteaux attacked two French canoes at La Cloche, an island in Georgian Bay between present day Little Current and Birch Island. One of the canoes escaped by discarding their cargo and fleeing to Michilimackinac while the other was totally defeated. Another Frenchman was stabbed by the Saulteaux just two leagues from the post at La Grosse Isle. 

The post itself was on high alert. Various warriors had killed all the horses and cattle they could not catch and were continuously hurling insults and threats at the fort. Only a few at a time were allowed inside the post and only under the strictest control. A council was held but ended in recrimination when it was discovered that some of the young warriors had come armed with knives. The French were in a very precarious position as they only had 28 men manning the post. They were relieved a few days later when de Noyelle and a contingent of Frenchmen arrived from Point Chagouamigon on Lake Superior.

At the same time an Ottawa name Nequionamin arrived with alarming news. He reported to the commandant that the Iroquois, the Wyandotte and the Flathead had reached an agreement with the English to attack and destroy all French everywhere. He also reported that the Nations of Detroit were in on the plot. The Ottawa led the revolt, the Potawatomi would cooperate as well as the Mississauga and the Saulteaux of St. Clair. He said the Ottawa of Saginaw had already struck referring to the three they had killed on Lake Huron. They also had sent 70 men to council with the Ottawa of Michilimackinac but they were reluctant because they had a contingent of their village visiting Montreal. He advised the commandant not to let anyone leave the fort and to keep a strict watch. The French needed to gain some control!

NEXT WEEK:  St. Pierre to the Rescue! August 1747


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


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 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