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