Another Round of Land Cessions – Part 3

September 16, 2012

On November 17, 1807 another cession treaty was signed between the United States and several First Nations at Detroit. It involved a huge tract of land mostly contained in the Territory of Michigan but dipping slightly into Ohio Territory. The Treaty of Detroit was negotiated by the Governor of Michigan Territory, William Hull, and the chiefs of the Chippewa, Ottawa, Potawatomi and Wyandotte nations including Little Thunder and Walk In the Water.

The tract of land ceded included all of the south-eastern part of the lower peninsula of Michigan. Reserved out of this tract were some eight reservations scattered between the Miami River of Ohio to just north of the Huron River above Detroit. It also included six tracts of one square mile each to be located at places chosen by the “said Indians…and subject to the approbation of the President of the United States”.

Although Hull managed to acquire a huge chunk of Michigan Territory he wasn’t very visionary. The reservations laid out which, by the way coincided with First Nation villages, prevented a straight road being built between the American communities of Ohio and Detroit. So he was back the following year to negotiate right-of-ways through the reservations that blocked the soon to be built road. He managed to negotiate the Treaty of Brownstown on November 25, 1808. This treaty also included the signature of Black Hoof for the  Shawnee.

However, William Hull was not as successful in dealing with the Chippewa of Saginaw. The chiefs from there had been attending conferences at Greenville with chiefs from the other nations and they formed the consensus that there should be no more land cessions. When he approached the Saginaw chiefs with a proposal they flatly refused and when he tried to insist they insisted he leave and never return.

The First Nations were becoming obstinate aggravated by the Americans gobbling up their hunting territories. Not only were they feeling cheated and abused they were angry that annuities promised from the 1805 treaty were over two years late. Of course there were still some that had always been adamant that the original boundary negotiated in 1768 between the United States and “Indian Country” should be adhered to. The premier chief of this group was of course Tecumseh. His brother Tenskwatawa was a leading holy man and strongest ally.

Tenskwatawa as a young man had become a drunk but after just a few years received a life-altering vision from the Master of Life. He abandoned his wanton ways and was received among his nation as a master shaman. He was a good orator and made a striking figure with the eye patch which he had worn since an accident had cause the loss of his right eye in his childhood. 

The Potawatomi War Chief and shaman Main Poc allied himself with Tecumseh and his brother Tenskwatawa. Both Main Poc, who was noted for his spiritual powers and Tenskwatawa who was also called The Prophet were holy men. In late 1807 Main Poc suggested that The Prophet move his followers to Potawatomi territory. The following spring Tenskwatawa settled about one hundred of them near the junction of the Wabash and Tippecanoe Rivers.

Both Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh began to grow in stature. Between 1808 and 1811 The Prophet’s modest village grew to over one thousand followers and the American’s were calling it Prophetstown. The Prophet’s vision was one of a common lifestyle where all First Nations would reject the European ways and return to their traditional way of life. This applied especially to the abstinence of alcohol. To this end he would send out his disciples to preach his message. One such disciple was Trout who was recorded at Michilimacinac preaching a return to the Indian ways and teaching that the Americans, but not other whites, were the offspring of The Evil One.

Tecumseh’s vision was not as spiritual as his brother’s. He envisioned a pan Indian Confederacy from the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Superior as the only way to stop American expansion. He worked tirelessly toward this goal building a coalition of warriors from various First Nations using Prophetstown as his base. Most of his warriors were from nations other than the Shawnee as most of them followed Black Hoof and his policy of assimilation acceptance.

Since 1798 the Choctaw, Cherokee, Creek and Chickasaw nations had held councils to discuss a united effort to protect their lands. They held one in 1810 and Tecumseh knew about it. There was another to be held at Tuckabatchee on the Tallapoosa River the following year. Tecumseh planned on attending to sell his vision of a pan Indian confederacy stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Superior. He headed south that summer well in advance of the scheduled conference at Tuckabatchee. Tecumseh wanted to visit chiefs throughout the south and the Choctaw were his first to receive him.

The Choctaw nation had three territories each with a principal chief. The first chief he visited was Moshulatubbee head chief of the northeast. Moshulatubbee listened to Tecumseh but showed no indication of his feelings on Tecumseh’s message. Instead he sent runners throughout Choctaw territory calling them to a grand council at he’s village of Moshulaville. While the runners were out calling the chiefs to convene Tecumseh visited many surrounding towns spreading his message.

Tecumseh’s final oratory was given at the grand council called by Moshulatubbee. Many attended including the principal chief of the southern territory Pushmataha. In fact all three principal chiefs attended the August grand council but it would be Pushmataha that would be Tecumseh’s nemisis.

Tecumseh passionately laid out his vision. On the second day Pushmataha spoke just as passionately against it. All three chiefs were receiving U.S. pensions and Pushmataha had recieved five hundred dollars for supporting the ceding of Choctaw lands in 1805. In the end Pushmataha’s message of peace and friendship with the United States won out. Tecumseh’s trip to Choctaw country had failed but he remained resolved to carry on. Leaving the land of the Choctaw he crossed the Tombigbee River into the country of the Creek Nation.

Next Week: Supernatural Support for Tecumseh

Another Round of Land Cessions – Part 2

November 10, 2011

The American ‘Northwest Territories’ began filling up with white settlers. The new republic clamoured for more and more land. Land speculators were greedy for profits. Legislation was being influenced by desires for statehood and statehood was dependent upon population requirements. Increases of American settlers degraded traditional hunting grounds thereby impoverishing its First Nation inhabitants. This poverty set off  a spiral of more land cessions and more poverty.

Between 1802 and 1805 the New Governor of Indiana Territory concluded no less than seven treaties by which the Delaware, Miami, Potawatomi, Kickapoo, Shawnee, Sac and Fox ceded their rights to the southern part of Indiana, portions of Wisconsin and Missouri as well as most of Illinois. Huge tracts of land were dealt away for the paltry price of two cents or less per acre.

Not only was the land undervalued but it was secured by entirely fraudulent means. The Americans used such tactics as bribery, the supplying of huge amounts of liquor or the threat to withhold payments of annuities already agreed to. Treaties were negotiated with any First Nation individual that was willing to sign with no regard for his authority to speak for his people.

Thomas Jefferson was president of the United States at this time. He was a conflicted man as can be found in his writings on human rights versus his record of slavery. He admired the quality of character of the American Indian and of their culture but considered them inferior. He was of the belief that they could, however, be rehabilitated and ‘civilized’. However, during the revolution he relished the thought of displacing the Cherokee and taking their lands and during the Indian War for the Ohio he advocated the destruction of the Shawnee. During Harrison’s treaty negotiating spree Jefferson had written to him in private advising him to encourage the Indians to run up debts at the trading posts and then compel them to settle the debt by selling tribal lands. Although Jefferson tried to give the impression that America held no place for the Indian as Indian and he publicly advocated assimilation one wonders it privately he saw an America with no Indians at all. 

There was a population tsunami that was happening and it continuously overwhelmed First Nation territories.  In 1796 Ohio had a white population of 5,000. By 1810 it had jumped to more than 230,000. This overpowering agrarian culture would only make its way ever westward transforming pristine forests to barren farmlands. It appears the Shawnee warrior Chiksika was right, our land was being eaten up by a windigo!

The American success in their revolution put a tremendous strain for land resources on what was left of British North America. Approximately 4% of the population of the thirteen colonies were British Empire Loyalists and left America for other British territories. Some 5,000, which was the smallest of these groups of loyalists, came to Upper Canada. Governor Haldimand also had to deal with a large influx of Iroquois refuges who had been loyal to the Crown during the revolution.

During that war the Iroquois Six Nation Confederacy’s loyalties split the league. Many of the Oneida and Tuscarora backed the rebels while the Mohawk, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca backed the British. Chief John Deserontyon and 200 Mohawks sought refuse near Lachine in Lower Canada while Chief Joseph Brant crossed over at Niagara. The population of these Iroquois and their allies fluctuated between 2,000 and 5,000.

In the Treaty of Paris, which ended the war, no mention was made of Iroquois lands in upstate New York. This angered the Iroquois who were now refugees from their homeland. Haldimand fearing they might take their frustrations out on the loyalist refugees ordered the Indian Agents to be extra generous in handing out supplies and presents to them. 

In 1783 the Mississauga ceded two large tracts of land to the British. One ran from  the Trent River to the Gananoque River. The other from the Gananoque to the Toniato River or present day Jones Creek near Brockville. Each tract was “as far as a man could walk in one day” deep. Out of these the British later  surveyed a township called Tyendiaga on the Bay of Quinte for Chief Deserontyon and his followers.

Chief Joseph Brant preferred the Grand River area of southwestern Ontario. The Mississauga also ceded to the British the whole of the Grand River valley from its headwaters to its mouth to a depth of six miles on each side. This tract was later transferred to Brant and his followers. At the same time the Mississauga ceded a large tract at the western end of Lake Ontario including the Niagara peninsula as well as a tract of land to the west of the Grand River as far as Catfish Creek. The aggregate acreage of these land surrenders came to over 1,000,000 hectares and the total cost to the British a mere 1,180 pounds sterling worth of trade goods.  

In 1790 the First Nations commonly known as the ‘Detroit Indians’, the Chippewa, Ottawa, Potawatomi and Wyandotte also ceded a large tract of land from the foot of the St. Clair River to Lake Erie, east along the north shore to Catfish Creek. Reserved out of this huge tract were two small tracts on the Detroit River for the Wyandotte. The balance included all the land between the Thames River and Lake Erie and was ceded for a mere  1,200 pounds sterling.

The British also expected an influx of First Nation refugees who were displaced from Ohio by the Treaty of Greenville. In 1796 the Chippewa ceded a tract of land on the St. Clair River to be used by the Chippewa as well as any American Indians. This tract is present day Sombra Township. At the same time they ceded a tract of land over 3,000 hectares at the forks on the Thames River and called it London. The British said they needed it to establish a new capital of Upper Canada replacing York as it would be easier to defend. Both tracts of land were not used for the purposes stated but nevertheless the Chippewa still lost the land.

NEXT WEEK: Another Round of Land Cessions – Part 3

A New Round of Land Cessions – Part 1

November 6, 2011

First let me apologize again for being MIA. The month of August was extremely busy for me. I did a series of literary arts workshops that took most of my time up. In the month of September I was busy putting the finishing touches on my new novel 1300 Moons. It is now in the production phase and will be available in the next couple of weeks, but more on this later. To make things even more hectic I had to deal with three different medical emergencies in the family. Things have settled now and I can get back to posting to this blog regularly. Thanks for all your patience.

Well it’s now “later”. 1300 Moons has been released and last Friday I had a successful launch. I’m also involved in a 200th anniversary War of 1812 project as a consultant. It’s a graphic novel aimed at the education sector. It will also be on-line and available on DVD with hypertext links to video of various ‘experts’ of which I am one. The videographers are coming in a couple of weeks to Aamjiwnaang for taping. So it looks like my hectic life is to continue! However, I am determined to do a couple of posts a week if I can.

We left off with the First Nations Confederacy under Blue Jacket being defeated by General Anthony Wayne at Fallen Timbers in 1794. The following year chiefs of the various First Nations began arriving at Greenville, Ohio to negotiate a peace treaty with the United States. That summer over 1,000 First Nations people gathered around Fort Greenville. These included chiefs from the Wyandotte, Delaware, Shawnee, Ottawa, Chippewa, Potawatomi, Miami and Kickapoo.

This treaty was primarily a peace treaty between George Washington, President of the United States, and chiefs representing the above mentioned First Nations. My great-great grandfather signed as one of the seven War Chiefs of the Chippewa. But not all former combatants were represented. Among those missing and vehemently against the peace were Shawnee chiefs Tecumseh and Kekewepellethe. Rather than deal the Americans Tecumseh with his followers migrated first to Deer Creek, then to the upper Miami valley and then to eastern Indiana.

Land cessation were also included as part of the terms for peace. Article 3 dealt with a new boundary line ‘between the lands of the United States and the lands of the said Indian tribes’. This effectively ceded all of eastern and southern present day Ohio and set the stage for future land grabs. Included in the United States’ ‘relinquishment’ of all ‘Indian lands northward of the River Ohio, eastward of the Mississippi, and westward and southward of the Great Lakes’ were cessations of sixteen other tracks of land, several miles square, located either were U.S. forts were already established or where they wished to build towns. However, the term ‘lands of the said Indian tribes’ had vastly different meanings to the two sides.

The First Nations wanted their own sovereign country but the United States dispelled any thought along these lines with Article 5. It defined relinquishment as meaning ‘The Indian tribes that have a right to those lands, are to enjoy them quietly…but when those tribes…shall be disposed to sell their lands…they are to be sold only to the United States’. In other words we had no sovereign country but only the right to use lands already belonging to the United States of America!

The Chippewa and Ottawa also ceded from their territories a strip of land along the Detroit River from the River Raisin to Lake St. Clair. It was six miles deep and included Fort Detroit. The Chippewa also ceded a strip of land on the north shore of the Straits of Mackinaw including the two islands of Mackinaw and De Bois Blanc. The stage was now set for further U.S. expansion.

As a footnote the metaphorical language changed at the conclusion of the peace agreement. First Nations had always used familial terms when referring to First Nations and European relationships. First the French and then the British were always referred to as father. The Americans, since their beginning, were referred to as brother. This continued through the negotiations at Greenville until its conclusion at which time the reference to Americans in the person of Washington changed from bother to father.

Unfortunately because of a clash of cultures this patriarchal term held different meanings to each side. To the First Nations a father was both a friend and a provider. The Wyandotte chief Tarhe spoke for all the assembly because the Wyandotte were considered an uncle to both the Delaware and Shawnee and he was the keeper of the council fire at Brownstown. He told his ‘brother Indians’ that they now acknowledge ‘the fifteen United States of America to now be our father and…you must call them brothers no more’. As children they were to be ‘obedient to our father; ever listen to him when he speaks to you, and follow his advice’. The Potawatomi chief New Corn spoke after Tarhe and addressed the Americans as both father and friend. Other chiefs spoke commending themselves to their father’s protection and asked him for aid. The Chippewa chief Massas admonished the assembly to ‘rejoice in acquiring a new, and so good, a father’.

Tarhe eloquently defined a father for the American emissaries: ‘Take care of your little ones and do not suffer them to be imposed upon. Don’t show favor to one to the injury of any. An impartial father equally regards all his children an impartial father equally regards all his children, as well as those who are ordinary as those who may be more handsome; therefore, should any of your children come to you crying and in distress, have pity on them, and relieve their wants.’

Of course American arrogance stopped up their ears and they could not hear Tarhe’s sage advice. Until this present day they continue to live out their understanding of the term father as a stern patriarch; one either to be obeyed or disciplined.

NEXT WEEK:  A New Round of Land Cessions – Part 2

The Indian War of 1790-95 – Part 2

July 24, 2011

St. Clair’s Shame left the fledging new nation in a precarious position. The First Nations had just destroyed the only army the United States had. President Washington put Major General Anthony Wayne in charge of building a new one and Congress appropriated one million dollars toward the project.

 Wayne’s nickname was “Mad Anthony” which he earned during the Revolution, but their was nothing “mad” about the man. He was methodical and extremely determined. Wayne set out to build the new army at Pittsburg. It would be an army well-trained, disciplined and large enough to take care of the “Indian problem”. And he would be sure to take enough time to ensure a successful campaign.

He began recruiting in June of 1792. His goal was an army of 5,120 officers, NCOs and privates whipped into the crack troops needed to defeat a formidable enemy. By the end of 1792 he had moved 22 miles south of Pittsburg to Legionville where he wintered. In the spring of 1793 he moved to Hobson’s Choice on the Ohio River between Cincinnati and Mill Creek. Finally, in October of 1793 he made his headquarters near Fort Hamilton.

Wayne received new recruits daily all the time relentlessly drilling them into the army he knew he needed. But all did not go well with the project. Desertion rates were extremely high. The First Nation’s stunning successes on the Wabash and in the Maumee Valley had instilled terror in the hearts of ordinary pioneers and moving further toward “Indian Country” only heightened their fear. Many new recruits would desert at the first sign of trouble.

The problem had become so chronic that Wayne posted a reward for the capture and return of any deserter. After a court-martial the guilty would be severely punished usually by 100 lashes or sometimes even executed. An entry in the Orderly Book Mss. dated August 9, 1792 reads, “Deserters have become very prevalent among our troops, at this place, particularly upon the least appearance, or rather apprehension of danger, that some men (for they are unworthy of the name of soldiers), have lost every sense of honor and duty as to desert their post as sentries, by which treacherous, base and cowardly conduct, the lives and safety of their brave companions and worthy citizens were committed to savage fury.”

Meanwhile, warriors from other First Nations joined the confederacy Little Turtle and Blue Jacket had forged. In October 1792 the Shawnee hosted a congress held at the Glaize, where the Auglaize River flows into the Maumee. Delegates from the nations whose territories were being defended attended. These were Wyandotte from Sandusky, Delaware, Shawnee, Mingo, Miami, Munsee, Cherokee and Nanticoke. Also attending were other First Nations from further away but all offering support for the war effort. Some of these were Fox and Sauk from the upper Mississippi, Six Nations and Mahican from New York, Iroquois from the St. Lawrence and Wyandotte from Detroit. There were also many warriors from the Three Fires Confederacy. They were Ottawa, Potawatomi and Chippewa from Detroit as well as Chippewa from Aamjiwnaang and Saginaw. There were even some Chippewa from Michilimackinac. This was the largest First Nation congress every brought together by First Nations alone.

Even though the United States had suffered two humiliating defeats at the hands of the First Nation Confederacy they still had little respect. Henry Knox characterized them as Miami and Wabash Indians together with “a banditti, formed of Shawanese and outcast Cherokees”.  However, because their military was in shambles and they had a deficiency in revenue peaceful negotiations were preferrable to another war.

Washington at first sent delegates to the Glaize from their First Nation allies with offers to negotiate. There were still some groups of individual First Nations friendly with the Americans despite the treatment received. The delegation of “U.S. Indians” arrived and the celebrated Seneca orator Red Jacket spoke for the U.S.

Red Jacket rose to speak to the nearly one thousand conferees at the Glaize. He spoke on two strings of wampum bringing the American message that even though they defeated the mighty British and now all Indian territories belonged to them by right of conquest they may be willing to compromise. They offered to consider accepting the Muskingum River as the new boundary between the United States and “Indian Country”. But the Confederacy saw no need to compromise. After all they had defeated American armies not once but twice in the last two years. They insisted the boundary agreed to in the Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1768 be adhered to. That boundary was the Ohio and they would accept no other. 

The Shawnee chief Painted Pole reminded Red Jacket that while his Seneca group was in Philadelphia cozying up to the Americans the Confederacy was busy defending their lands. Now he was at the Glaize doing the Americans dirty work. He accused Red Jacket of trying to divide the Confederacy and demanded that Red Jacket speak from his heart and not from his mouth. Painted Pole then took the wampum strings that Red Jacket had spoken on and threw them at the Seneca delegation’s feet. Red Jacket was sent back to the Americans with the Confederacy’s answer, “there would be no new boundary line”.

There was a tell-tale sign at that conference that Red Jacket’s task would be difficult if not impossible. In normal negotiations the Civil chiefs would sit in the front with the War Chiefs and warriors behind them. In this arrangement it would be the much easier Civil Chiefs that would negotiate. But at the Glaize the War Chiefs sat in front of the Civil Chiefs meaning that Red Jacket would be dealing with the War Chiefs.

The British sat in the wings waiting for the new republic’s experiment in democracy to fail and hoping at least for an “Indian boundary state” to be formed. The Spanish at New Orleans also sat by hoping for this new “Indian State” as it would serve as a buffer state preventing American expansion into Illinois country. The British even had observers at the Great Congress at the Glaize in the person of Indian Agent Alexander McKee and some of his men. Hendrick Aupaumut, a Mohican with Red Jacket’s emissaries, accused McKee of unduly influencing the conference’s outcome. But the Americans were not about to be deterred so easily.

NEXT WEEK:  The Indian War of 1790-95 – Part 3

The American Revolution – Part 3

June 18, 2011

Hatred toward First Nations people by the rebels continued to be the norm among the general populace. Most, especially frontiersmen, failed to distinguish between their First Nation allies, their First Nation enemies and the First Nation communities that were neutral and wanting only to sit out the war in peace.

In the spring of 1782 the Moravian Delaware were living near their town of Gnadenhutten on the Muskingum River. They had been long converted to Christianity by the Moravian missionaries and had taken up western societies’ ways. They were farmers. They wore European dress and had their hair cropped in European style. They lived in houses rather than lodges. They worshipped in a Christian church on Sundays. Their community functioned under the auspices of their Moravian mentors.

The Muskingum had become a dangerous war zone. They realized the danger was particularly heightened for them being “Indians”. They had determined to abandon their farms and move the whole community further west to seek safe haven among the Wyandotte of Sandusky as many of their Delaware brothers who were not Christian had done already. 

Before they could leave they were approached by Colonel David Williamson and 160 of his Colonial Militia. They claimed to be on a peaceful mission to provide protection and to remove them to Fort Pitt where they could sit out the war in peace. The leaders of the Gnadenhutten community encouraged their farmers to come in from the fields around Salem and take advantage of the colonel’s good offer. When they arrived all were relieved of their guns and knives but told they would be returned at Fort Pitt.

As soon as they were defenseless they were all arrested and charged with being “murders, enemies and thieves” because they had in their possession dishes, tea cups, silverware and all the implements normally used by pioneers. Claims that the missionaries had purchased the items for them went unheeded. They were bound and imprisoned at Gnadenhutten where they spend the night in Christian prayer. The next day the militia massacred 29 men, 27 women and 34 children all bound and defenceless. Even pleas in excellent English on bended knees failed to save them. Two escaped by pretending to be dead and fled to Detroit where the story of the rebels’ atrocities were told.

The Virginians decided to continue the massacre at Gnadenhutten with a campaign of genocide. The plan was to take the Wyandotte and their allies at Sandusky by surprise and annihilate all of the inhabitants. They gathered a force of 478 men at Mingo Bottoms on the west side of the Ohio River. General Irvine, who had abhorred Williamson’s actions at Gnadenhutten, deferred command of the expeditionary force to Colonel William Crawford.

The force left Mingo Bottoms on May 25th avoiding the main trail by making a series of forced marches through the wilderness. On the third day they observed two First Nation scouts and chased them off. These were the only warriors they saw on their 10 day march. Just before they crossed the Little Sandusky River they came unwittingly close to the Delaware chief Wingenud’s camp.

Finally Crawford arrived at the Wyandotte’s main village near the mouth of the Sandusky River. He assumed his covert operation had been a success and they had arrived at their objective undetected. But he was dead wrong. His Virgina Militia had been closely shadowed by First Nation scouts and reports of their progress had been forwarded to the chiefs. 

War belts were sent out to neighboring Delaware, Shawnee and other Wyandotte towns and their warriors had gathered at the Half King Pomoacan’s town. Alexander McKee was also on his way with 140 Shawnee warriors.

An urgent call for help had been sent to the British commandant Major Arent S. De Peyster at Detroit. He responded by sending Captain William Caldwell with 70 of his rangers. One hundred and fifty Detroit Wyandotte joined Caldwell along with 44 “lake Indians”. Caldwell complained to De Peyster that “The lake Indians were very tardy but they did have 44 of them in action”.

These “lake Indians” were Chippewa warriors from Aamjiwnaang at the foot of Lake Huron. The Aamjiwnaang Chippewa were members of the Three Fires Confederacy and were at Vincennes when they withdrew support from the British in 1779. The fact that they only raised 44 warriors attest to the lack of their war chiefs’ support. They were probably young men incensed by the stories of Gnadenhutten and acting on their own.

Crawford was dumbfounded when he arrived at the Wyandotte village and found it deserted. He and his officers held council and decided to move up river hoping to still take the Wyandotte by surprise. They didn’t get far when they were met by the warriors from Pomoacan’s town. They were held in check until McKee and Caldwell arrived. The battle lasted from June 4th to the 6th and resulted in a complete First Nation’s victory. The rebel’s expedition to annihilate the Wyandotte ended in disaster for the Virginians. It cost them 250 dead or wounded. Caldwell’s Rangers suffered two killed and two wounded while the First Nations had four killed and eight wounded.

Colonel Williamson was able to lead the rebel survivors back to safety but Colonel Crawford was captured along with some of the perpetrators of the Gnadenhutten massacre. They were taken to one of the Delaware towns where they were tried and sentenced to death. Their punishment for Gnadenhutten atrocities was not an easy one.

NEXT WEEK:  The American Revolution – Part 4


The American Revolution – Part 2

June 12, 2011

In 1778 the British send 200 of Colonel John Butler’s Rangers into the Wyoming Valley to evict 6,000 illegal immigrants who were squatting on “Indian lands”. They had with them 300 of their First Nation allies mostly members of the Three Fires Confederacy. The Wyoming valley was situated in the middle of the Seneca’s best hunting grounds and land never ceded by them.

Most of the forts the illegals had built were quickly abandoned and the inhabitants fled. Fort Forty was the lone exception. When the warriors feigned a withdrawal the colonials foolishly poured out of their fort and into an ambush. This resulted in the killing of 227 of them. 

The Revolutionary government turned to propaganda releasing a series of outlandish stories of the “massacre””. One such story read that it was a “mere marauding, a cruel and murderous invasion of a peaceful settlement…the inhabitants, men women and children were indiscriminately butchered by the 1,100 men, 900 of them being their Indian allies”. In truth there was only 500 men, 300 of them being their First Nation allies. And according to an exhaustive study done by Egerton Ryerson only rebel soldiers were killed and the misinformation put out by the Congress Party was totally exaggerated and highly inflammatory.

Colonial propaganda was designed to inflame hatred among the populace toward the British’s First Nation allies. However, it had the effect of inflaming hatred toward all First Nation’s people due to the decades of violence along the frontier over land. The frontiersmen were convinced they had the right to push ever westward while harboring in their hearts the axiom “the only good Indian is a dead Indian”.

General Washington bought into his own government’s propaganda releases. In 1779 he decided to act. The Six Nation Iroquois League was divided on where their loyalties lay. Only the Oneida and Onondaga backed the rebel cause and even their loyalties were split. Washington charged General John Sullivan with a war of extermination against the Iroquois. Sullivan headed into Iroquois territory with an army of 6,500 men. His war of extermination was a failure but he did destroy forty Seneca and Cayuga towns along with burning all their crops. Although it is true that atrocities were committed by both sides those committed by the rebels were mostly forgotten. During this campaign the Iroquois dead were scalped and in one instance one was skinned from the waist down to make a pair of leggings!

The famished Iroquois fled to Niagara where they basically sat out the rest of the war. With their crops destroyed the British supplied them with the necessities putting a tremendous strain on their war effort. This expedition earned George Washington the infamous nickname of “Town Destroyer”. Now not only was any hope gone of assistance from the Shawnee but also the Iroquois.

Meanwhile, in Illinois country George Rogers Clark was determined to retake Fort Sackville at Vincennes. He had captured it the year before only to lose it to Colonel Hamilton who had marched immediately from Detroit. He left Kaskaskia on February 5th marching his 170 militiamen across flooded plains and waist deep, freezing water. When he arrived at Vincennes he used the old dodge of marching his men across a small patch of tableland visible to the fort. He repeatedly marched them across this plateau giving the enemy the impression that he had many more men than he actually had. The history books claim that this had such an alarming affect on the First Nations at the fort that they were “scared off” by the ruse and the fort fell immediately.

It is true that the British were abandoned by their First Nation allies. They were members of the Three Fires Confederacy. It is not true that they were “scared off”. Of the 170 militiamen with Clark some were Frenchmen from New Orleans. The French, like some of the First Nations, were also split in their allegiances. Captain Alexander McKee wrote to Captain R.B. Lernoult quite worried about news he had received regarding Three Fires support. In the letter he wrote that the Ottawa and Chippewa had sent a belt of peace to other surrounding nations saying they had been deceived by the British and the Six Nations into taking up the hatchet against the rebels. If they remained with the hatchet in their hands they would be forced to use it against their brothers the French. They reported seeing them coming with Clark and his Virginians and therefore withdrew as they still had great affection for the French. Old loyalties die hard. They were determined now to lay down the hatchet and remain quiet thus leaving the whites to fight among themselves. They were advising their brothers the Shawnee to do the same and that the tribes of the Wabash were also of like mind. This was not good news for the British.

The withdrawal of support from the Three Fires Confederacy and the sidelining of the Six Nations Iroquois that year left the British with only support from the Miami, Shawnee and some of the Delaware. There would be more atrocities to follow but still it would be another three years before the British would see any Three Fires’ support.

Next Week:  The American Revolution – Part 3  


The American Revolution – Part 1

June 6, 2011

The American Revolution broke out in 1775. At first neither the British nor the colonial rebels showed any interest in drawing on any First Nations support. The First Nations around the Great Lakes basin also had little interest in getting involved. Most saw it as a ‘white man’s” squabble. The more vocal ones advised neutrality saying ‘let the father chastise his rebellious son”. But after the war dragged on for two years each side began to look for the help of their First Nation allies. It had become most important for the British to protect the frontier. Ohio country was strategically crucial so a tug of war arose between Colonel Henry Hamilton the British commandant at Fort Detroit and George Morgan the Colonial Indian Agent at Fort Pitt for First Nations’ allegiance along the frontier.

The following spring Hamilton called a council at Detroit. Over 1600 First Nations people gathered there in June of that year. The presents flowed liberally including liquor. Of the 8,750 gallons of rum shipped to Detroit for the first six months 8,250 gallons were allocated for the “Indians”.

On June 14, 1778 the council began. Both Civil and War chiefs from the following nations: Ottawa, Chippewa, Potawatomi, Wyandotte, Delaware, Mohawks and Seneca . Heading the list of nine war chiefs of the Chippewa was my great-great-grandfather Little Thunder. He had been presented with a British Brigadier Generals dress and a King George III medal for service at Fort Sinclair on the St. Clair River in the late 1760’s. He coveted those items and I imagine him to be an impressive sight arriving at the council in his headdress, bright red tunic and large King’s medal hanging around his neck.

Simon Girty, the infamous colonial traitor, acted as one of eight interpreters. Girty “having escaped from the Virginians and having put himself under the protection of His Majesty, after giving satisfactory assurance of his fidelity” was looked upon by the British as a loyalist. One man’s renegade is another man’s partisan!

Chamintawaa, an Ottawa civil chief, spoke for the Three Fires Confederacy. He promised Hamilton to continue to ignore poor advice saying “bad birds come about us and whisper in our ears, that we should not listen to you, we shall always be attentive to what you say”. But the bulk of his speech was directed to the Delaware.

“Listen Brethren! I am going to say a few words to our Grandfathers the Delawares in the name of all the nations here present, I speak in the name of their War Chiefs”. Chamintawaa took them to task for not being wholeheartedly in unison with the other First Nations. He accused them of “breaking down branches from the trees to lay across our road, at the same hanging down your heads with tears in your eyes”. He asked them to be united and “listen to our father as we all do & obey his will” and not to “take your hearts to the Virginians”. Chamintawaa ended his speech with the warning, “this is the last time we intend speaking to you”.

The Delaware did not answer until the conclusion of the council. War Chief Captain James said he could not speak for all the Delaware but only for his village. He said he was entirely on side and to prove his words he “sang the war song and danced the war dance” on the belt he was given. However, three Delaware chiefs who were not at the council, Captain Pipe, Captain White Eyes and John Kill Buck Jr. signed a treaty with the Revolutionary Government at Fort Pitt in September.

The British were much more adept at raising First Nations’ support than the colonials. They had a well experienced Indian Department in place and had been practicing the policy of present giving for more than a decade. This had gone a long way in cementing good relations and alliances. On the other hand, the colonials had only decades of land grabbing and violent squabbles with their First Nation neighbors.

The Shawnee had become divided in 1778. The chiefs were opposed to joining the war but their warriors had become increasingly rebellious. Many ignored the prompting of their chiefs and clamoured for war. A group had already accepted a war belt from Hamilton at Detroit and joined in the raids on the frontier. By autumn the celebrated chief Cornstock had decided to accept a Delaware offer to move his village to their capital town of Coshocton for safety.

But before the move Cornstock along with chief Red Hawk and warrior Petalla visited Fort Randolph on the Kanawha River. They had made the trip to advise the Continental Army of the disposition of the Shawnee nation. Cornstock told the commander, Captain Matthew Arbuckle, that despite all his efforts to keep the Shawnee neutral the tide against the rebels was so strong that their warriors were being swept up in the current.

When Arbuckle heard this he decided to take the three hostage. Shawnee neutrality would be their ransom.  After about a month in custody Cornstock’s son, Elinipsico, came to see what happened to his father. Just as they were visiting the body of a young frontiersman was brought in. He had been mutilated and scalped. The undisciplined militia was incensed and wanted to take revenge on the four Shawnee inside the fort. Arbuckle and visiting Colonel Charles Stewart were helpless to stop them. Cornstock and his son died in a hail of bullets while Red Hawk was gunned down trying to escape up the chimney. Petalla died in agony after being severely mauled. Needless to say this ended any hope of securing an alliance with any of the Shawnee. Nimwah, Kishanosity and Oweeconne moved Cornstock’s village of seventeen families to Coshocton where many First Nations people who wished to remain neutral were gathering.

NEXT WEEK:  The American Revolution – Part 2

The Beaver War 1763 – Part 7

May 8, 2011

When we last left the siege at Detroit feelings on both sides had escalated to a fever pitch. The warriors had just captured supplies sent to the fort from Niagara and were celebrating by consuming all the liquor. A nephew of Wasson, the leading war chief from Saginaw, had been killed and his body desecrated. In retaliation the Saginaw Chippewa killed and desecrated a prisoner of theirs, Major Campbell, who also happened to be the cousin of Major Gladwin.

Gladwin was in a high state of agitation over the affair so he agreed to let Captain Delyel lead a sortie of 277 men designed to surprise Pontiac’s main camp which was about three and one-half miles up river. They assumed his warriors would be either passed out or in a state of inebriation from the rum they had been celebrating with.

Delyel had very recently arrived at the fort with a company of American Royals and was eager to give the warriors a taste of British discipline. On July 31st at a quarter to three in the morning he led 247 men out of the fort and marched them up the river road toward Pontiac’s camp. He was accompanied by two gunboats containing thirty men that followed them along the shoreline.

Little did they know Pontiac had a French spy inside the fort who had advised him of the British plan. All the warriors were sober and had taken up position at a place that would become know as Bloody Run. Parent’s Creek ran into the Detroit River about a mile and one half up river from the fort. There was a long wooden bridge over the creek at its mouth. The Ottawa and Chippewa warriors had spread themselves out along the road on both sides of the bridge hiding themselves in the orchards, the long grass, reeds and behind fences and rows of cord wood that had been stacked by the French homesteaders who lived there.

The British arrived at the bridge just as day was breaking. Captain Dalyel lead the company onto the bridge but before they reached the other side the warriors opened fire. This put the British in disarray but they soon regained composure and realized they had no choice but to retreat back to the fort. They were outnumbered two or three to one.

As they began their retreat Captain Delyel came face to face with Geeyette, Pontiac’s brother-in-law. Delyel had a pistol and Geeyette motioned him to put it down. Delyel refused and the Ottawa warrior shot him dead. 

The rest, with support from the two gunships, fought their way off the bridge and took up positions in several houses to try to prevent the warriors from getting between them and the fort. They stayed entrenched in the houses for nearly an hour but then left to resume the retreat. The Potawatomi and Wyandotte rushed to the sound of the gunfire and joined the battle.

The warriors who were in pursuit were hampered by fire from the gunboats and gave up the chase when they reached the range of cannon fire from the fort. The defeated company reach the safety of the fort carrying some of the dead and wounded. One wounded soldier was even carried back to the fort in a chair. Others were put into the gunboats during the battle. Only seven were left on the battlefield.

After the battle the seven dead soldiers were loaded into canoes. Pontiac ordered the French settlers to return the “English dogs” to the British fort. The British lost officers Captain Delyel and Captain Gray along with lieutenants Luke and Brown. Among the enlisted men the 35th Regiment had one Sargeant, one drummer and thirteen rank and file killed plus twenty-five wounded. The 60th had one killed and seven wounded. The 80th had two killed and three wounded and the Royal Americans had two killed and one wounded. There was also a trader’s servant wounded. The total killed and wounded was sixty-one. The warriors had five killed and eleven wounded.

The battle of Bloody Run was the height of the siege. The rest of the summer was spent in small skirmishes with the French settlers friendly to the British smuggling supplies into the fort under the cover of darkness. This made the objective of starving out the British impossible.

When autumn arrived Pontiac’s coalition began to fall apart. Generally speaking First Nations were unable to hold a confederacy for war together for extended periods of time. The time for the fall hunt had arrived and most warriors were anxious to abandon the war effort and begin the hunt in order the feed their people in the coming year.

Although the coalition disintegrated without realizing their impossible goal of “driving the English into the sea” the Beaver War did accomplish some great things. General Amherst was recalled to England and his Indian policy was replaced by one much more friendly, one modeled after their predecessors the French. As a footnote Major Gladwin was censured for not seizing Pontiac when he had the chance. 

The King issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763 which was the first official recognition by the Europeans that land in North America was owned by the First Nations. It laid out a boundary that ran basically along the Appalachian mountains which recognized lands west of the dividing line as “Indian Lands”. These lands came under the protection of the British Crown and could not be purchased directly by a British citizen from an “Indian”. British colonists were prevented from expanding onto the “Indian Lands”. The colonists accused the Crown of capitulation in the Beaver War and immediately ignored the proclamation’s prohibition of westward expansion. The hated proclamation helped fuel sentiments for independence a decade later. In Canada the Royal Proclamation of 1763 is still in effect and used in courts to settle modern-day land claims.

NEXT WEEK:  A Decade of Turmoil

The Beaver War 1763 – Part 6

April 23, 2011

By 1763 the Detroit River was dotted with French homesteads. This pioneer community had slowly grown over the previous fifty years and there had always been good relations with the surrounding First Nations. In fact most of the French families just wanted to remain neutral in this conflict. It must be remembered that Pontiac and his First Nation allies considered themselves to be at war with the British. They still considered the French to be their allies and the French settlers to be their friends.

However, when the war broke out the warriors indiscriminately began to kill their livestock and confiscate their goods. The French settlers asked for a council with Pontiac and it was granted. They complained bitterly explaining the disastrous consequences this policy had upon them and begged him to put a stop to it. He promised them he would under the condition that if the First Nations needed anything to support the continuation of the war they should give it up upon being asked to do so. They agreed. After this council the warriors ceased to trouble the settlers without the permission of their chiefs. They were allowed to continue going about their business during the week as well as go to mass on Sunday unmolested. 

When the captured bataux arrived at the Ottawa encampment above the fort Pontiac secured the supplies and stowed them away. A French woman named Deriviere had been expecting a trunk to arrive for her in that shipment. It contained personal goods and clothes and she was distraught that it had been lost. She convinced the interpreter Mr. Labutte to escort her from the fort to the Ottawa camp where she told Pontiac of her dilemma. He had the confiscated goods searched and Miss Diriviere’s missing trunk was found. It was returned to her with no objections. 

Most of June was spent keeping the fort under siege. The warriors continually roamed near the stockade in small parties either shooting at the fort or the ship anchored in the river. The British would return fire but neither was of any consequence. Attempts were made by the warriors to set fire to both the fort and the ship but they failed.

In one instance a cart was loaded with combustibles, lit on fire and pushed full speed at the fort’s pickets. The cart was let go when they reached a point just out of range of gunfire but the cart flipped over before it reached its target. In another instance two rafts were loaded with combustibles tied together with a long length of rope and floated toward the British ship anchored in the river just off the fort. The rafts were let go about 20 rods off the ship’s bow. The idea was that the current would carry the two rafts, one on each side of the ship’s bow, and set the ship ablaze. But the British saw the danger approaching, raised their anchor and moved out into the river just as the two rafts floated passed a few yards off their port side.

Lieutenant McDougal made a decision to try to escape back to the safety of the fort. There were no guards at the house where he and Major Campbell were being kept but there were groups of warriors always moving about just outside the homestead. Major Campbell decided not to go with him but approved of his plan. The young lieutenant executed his plan successfully making his way back to the fort. His older superior remained Pontiac’s captive at the house of Mr. Meloche. 

The armed sloop Beaver was sent to Niagara for reinforcements and it returned with 300 troops and some supplies. This was the only relief Fort Detroit received. Some of the French settlers secretly sympathized with the British. They would float canoes filled with supplies downriver during the night. A lantern would be lit just as they reached the fort as a signal to the garrison to come out and retrieve the supplies. These things made the strategy of starving out the garrison next to impossible.

During one of the warriors’ sorties a Chippewa chief was shot and killed. The body was retrieved by a French volunteer who was fighting for the British. He desecrated the chief’s body by scalping it and cutting it into pieces. The young chief happened to be the nephew of Wasson the leading war chief from Saginaw. He was livid and the rest of the Saginaw Chippewa were enraged. They raced to the house where Major Campbell was being held and demanded his life for the life of Wasson’s nephew. This was in accordance with First Nations’ custom. The act upon the dead chief was so grievous that Pontiac could not intervene. Campbell was turned over. He was immediately taken out, tortured by having his lips cut off, shot dead with arrows then cut into pieces. Campbell was not only a commanding officer but the cousin of his replacement Major Gladwin. This whole episode had now turned personal on both sides and could only lead to many more unnecessary deaths!

NEXT WEEK:  The Beaver War 1763 – Part 7

The Beaver War 1763 – Part 5

April 17, 2011

When the siege began Fort Detroit was quadrilateral in shape with the front facing the river. It was protected by a single palisade twenty-five feet high with blockhouses at the gates and at the corners. Its heavy armament consisted of two six-pounders, one three-pounder and three mortars. Two vessels, the Beaver and the Gladwyn, were also anchored just off the corners of the fort. They protected the fort from attack by water.

About 100 small buildings were enclosed in the fort. They were built close together on narrow streets. There was also a church, a council house and barracks for the soldiers. They were all made of wood and prone to the hazards of flaming arrows, but the cisterns were full so this didn’t pose too much of a problem.

The warriors, who were made up of Ottawa, Potawatomi and Wyandotte Nations, surrounded the fort. They kept just out of reach of the heavy artillery picking off any poor soldier who happened to stick his head above the pickets or moved in front of a porthole. 

Pontiac decided to try to set the roof of the church on fire as it was particularly vulnerable because it was close to the palisade. He hoped if it caught fire it would spread to the rest of the fort. The British got wind of the plan so the priest got word to Pontiac through a French settler that the Great Spirit would be angry with him if he put his plan into action. He heeded the priest’s advice.

On May 10th the warriors opened fire on the fort early in the morning and kept it up until about 11 am. Then Pontiac proposed a council with the officers outside the fort. Major Campbell thought perhaps he could do some good so he agreed to go with Lieutenant McDougal. Some of the French traders advised against it but the two officers went anyway. When they arrived Pontiac changed his mind about a council to discuss terms and instead seized Campbell and McDougall as prisoners to be held for ransom.

Three days later the Wyandotte captured a trader by the name of Chapman who was coming to Detroit with five bateaux loaded with provisions. He was unaware of any hostilities and he and his men were taken prisoners. The provisions included sixteen half barrels of powder and rum. The prisoners and the booty were taken to the Wyandotte village which was on the east side of the river a short distance below the fort.

Gladwin got word of the loss and had heard that all the Wyandotte warriors were drunk on the rum. Captain Hopkins with twenty-five rangers and a few volunteers made their way to the sloop with the idea of sailing it to the village and under the cover of the ship’s cannons burn the village along with the captured booty. As they were approaching the Wyandotte’s village the wind shifted and they could not complete their task. The warriors open fire on the sloop as it returned to the fort but this was of little consequence. However, they did gain the intelligence that the Wyandotte warriors were not drunk but were completely on their guard.

On the 25th of May Chief Sekos left  with 150 Chippewa warriors for the mouth of Lake Erie. They had heard of a large shipment of provisions from Niagara was making its way along the north shore of Lake Erie bound for Detroit. Lieutenant Cuyler had left Fort Niagara on the 14th with 96 men in eighteen boats. He landed at Point Pelee on the 28th to encamp but was ambushed by Sekos and his warriors. Cuyler’s men threw down their guns and ran for their boats. Five boats pushed off but only two escaped including Cuyler. The rest was captured along with a plentiful supply of provisions, arms, shot  and powder.

During the first part of June seven bateaux were attacked at the mouth of the Grand River by Chief Kinisshikapoo and his party of seventy-five Mississauga warriors. Five boats were captured but two escaped. These provisions were brought to Pontiac and Kinisshikapoo and his warriors attached themselves to Sekhas’ Chippewas. It was going to be a long hot summer for the British.

NEXT WEEK:  The Beaver War 1763 – Part 6