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

The American Revolution – Part 4

June 26, 2011

The massacre at Gnadenhutten seethed just below the First Nations’ psyche. The Three Fires Confederacy finally reentered the war later in 1782. British Captain Alexander McKee raised a party of 300 “Lake Indians”, Shawnee and Wyandotte from Detroit for an expedition into Kentucky. They left Detroit in August and after a brief and unsuccessful raid on Bryant’s Station retreated to a hill at the Blue Licks on the middle fork of the Licking River.

They were being pursued by 200 militia led by Colonels Todd, Trigg and Boone as well as Majors Harlin and McGeary. The warriors chose the high ground at Blue Licks to lay an ambush. The ambush proved successful.

A short but fierce battle was fought and the rebel force was totally defeated. Casualties included 140 dead or wounded including most of their commanders. The warriors count was 10 dead and 14 wounded. Captured munitions and supplies only included 100 rifles as most were thrown in a deep part of the river during the rebel’s pell-mell retreat back to their station. Colonel Boone was the same Daniel Boone that as a young man took part in another headlong, panic-stricken retreat at Braddock’s rout. The Kentucky militia’s reckless pursuit even cost Boone’s son Israel his life.

The Revolutionary War ended the following year with the Americans emerging as the victors. The Treaty of Paris was signed between them and British totally ignoring their First Nation allies. Boundaries were drawn that are still in effect today. The British were only too willing to give up territories that were not theirs and the Americans were only too willing to accept them. The Revolutionary War was officially over but the battle for “Indian Lands” was just beginning.

The Iroquois complained bitterly. Captain Aron, a principal chief, delivered a speech to Brigadier General Alan McLean at a General Council held at Niagara. In it he said “they never could believe that our King could pretend to cede to America what was not his own to give, or that the Americans would accept from him what he had no right to grant.” Captain Aron rightly pointed out that the boundary between the First Nations and the colonies had been settled by the Treaty of Fort Stanwix (now Rome, New York) in 1768 signed by Sir William Johnson. The boundary line ran from the head of Canada Creek near Fort Stanwix to the Ohio and this boundary had never been in dispute. He also reminded them “that the Indians were a free People subject to no power upon earth-That they were faithful allies of the King of England, but not his subjects, that he had no right whatever to grant away to the States of America, their right or properties without a manifest breach of all Justice and Equity”.

McLean wrote in his report to General Frederick Haldimand Governor of Quebec, “I do from my soul pity these People” for “the miserable situation in which we have left these unfortunate People”.

American Indian Policy was harsher than anything the First Nations had experienced before. They saw that the sale of land in their newly acquired territory could provide the necessary revenue required by the new federal government. So they took the position that the British had ceded all their lands west of the Mississippi and south of the Great Lakes to them. And because the First Nations had fought as allies of the British and the British lost the war their lands would be forfeited as well. This would include Oneida and Tuscarora lands even though they were American allies! 

At the 1784 Treaty of Fort Stanwix commissioners from the new nation told the Six Nations Iroquois that they were now masters of all “Indian lands” and could do with them as they wished. They demanded large cessions of Iroquois lands. The Iroquois delegates were in no position to resist. They were still divided by the late war and they were abandoned by the British so they acquiesced. They ceded their territory in western New York, Pennsylvania as well as all of their territory west of Pennsylvania although they were not authorized to do so. When they returned to their homes their leaders were livid. They refused to ratify the treaty but the Americans carried on as if it were valid.

At the treaty of Fort MacIntosh in 1785 the Americans announced their policy of force to the Wyandotte, Delaware, Ojibwa and Ottawa. They dictated the terms for large cessions of land. The Shawnee refused to make peace and the chiefs at Fort MacIntosh returned home to prepare for war.  

The Treaty of Paris made no consideration of First Nations and the new American Indian policy forced the British to provide for their Iroquois allies. To this end they purchased from the Mississauga two tracts of land for them to settle on in Canada. One tract of land contained 675,000 acres along the whole of the Grand River six miles deep on both sides. The followers of Chief Joseph Brant settled here while the followers of Mohawk Chief John Deserontyon settled on another large tract in the Bay of Quinte area . The other First Nations of Ohio and the newly designated Northwest Territories were prepared to fight on determined to hold on to their territories.

NEXT WEEK:  The Indian War of 1790-95

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

The Beaver War 1763 – Part 4

April 9, 2011

Pontiac was an Ottawa War Chief and lived on Peach Island at the mouth of the Detroit River above the fort. Of the four British posts in what is today Michigan Detroit was the most important. Consequently he led the attack on Fort Detroit personally. He sent out war belts as a call to arms to the surrounding First Nations.

On May 21st Chippewa war chief Sekhas responded by arriving at Detroit with one hundred and twenty warriors from the Thames River and Kettle Creek. Another Chippewa war chief, Wasson from Saginaw Bay, arrived on May 31st with two hundred and fifty warriors. Other First Nations were also with Pontiac because they lived around Detroit. These included the Detroit Potawatomi and the Wyandotte led by the war chief Takay. Others from the Wabash arrived including some Miami and Kickapoo. There was even a band of Fox under Ninivois present. By June Pontiac had a force of 900 warriors.

But not all First Nations thought a war with the British was prudent. Wabbiccomicot, a very influential Mississauga chief from Toronto kept most of that Nation out of the fray. The Wyandotte were split. Most of them joined Pontiac but one band led by a chief named Teata held back.

The whole territory that surrounded Detroit was Chippewa country. As stated above the chiefs and warriors from Saginaw and the Thames answered the call of Pontiac’s war belts. However, the St. Clair Chippewa were strangely absent. If fact there is no record of their major war chief Little Thunder being sent a belt. He was known to be a staunch British ally especially in his later years.

The plan Pontiac devised was much like the one’s used in the fall of the other British posts. It was one of stealth. On the 1st of May he came to the post with about fifty warriors saying it was his intent to dance the calumet, which was a peace dance, at the house of the commandant inside the fort.  They entered the fort, made their speeches, danced their dance and then they mingled about the inside of the fort feigning friendship with all the inhabitants. In reality, this was a recognizance mission. Pontiac informed Major Gladwin that they would return in a few days with the whole Nation. They would arrive for a friendship gathering which was customary to do once each year. 

Meanwhile, the commandant began to suspect something was amiss. A Mrs. St. Aubin had gone to the Ottawa village to trade her bread for sugar and grease when she noticed the warriors all filing their guns down. She asked them why they were doing this and they replied they worked better sawed off. She reported this to her cousin Mr. LaButte who was the post’s interpreter who in turn told Major Gladwin. 

The Ottawa also had a traitor in their midst. In one report it was a young Ottawa maiden named Catherine made a pair of moccasins for the commandant who planned to give them to a friend as a gift. He liked them so much he ordered another pair for himself. During the time he transacted business with her she became infatuated with him and secretly told him of the Ottawa’s plans. But she was found out and when she returned to the village Pontiac beat her with a stick leaving her laying on the ground. The rest of the village called for her death but she was spared.

To convince the British there was no treachery planned the Ottawa came to the fort with an old woman in tow saying that they had heard that she was at the fort telling lies to the commandant. They said that the Ottawa only wanted peace and friendship with the English and that he old woman was evil.

In another report the traitor was an Ottawa man who did not agree with the attack on the British. Mahigama came to the fort in secret and asked to speak with the commandant as he had something very important to tell him. He was taken to Major Campbell who was being replaced by Major Gladwin. Campbell also called Gladwin to the meeting. They wanted to send for Mr. LaButte to interpret but Mahigama would not allow it. He said he could speak French well enough for Campbell to understand him.

He told them of the plan to attack the fort, on which day and how the First Nations would come into the fort for the peace gathering with all their arms including sawed-off guns hidden under their blankets. He begged the officers to keep his name secret because if his people found out they would surely kill him. It is not sure which story is true but the British did discover the details of Pontiac’s plan and they did hold their source in confidence.

On the day of the planned assault the British were ready. They had 300 men under arms all with swords and pistols at the ready. They opened the gates but only let in the chiefs, Pontiac, Mukeetaa Pinaasee (the Blackbird), Neewish and Wabinema. Pontiac gave the long speech he had prepared but when he got to the part where he was to give the war-whoop and the attack was to begin he just sat down. The Ottawa plan of attack had been foiled.

They left the fort enraged rushing to an English house outside the fort which was occupied by an old woman and her family. They killed everyone in the house. Then they move on to Hogg Island where they killed another English family that lived there. The above mentioned war belts were sent out, the Chippewa reinforcements arrived and the siege of Fort Detroit began.

NEXT WEEK:  The Beaver War 1763 – Part 5

Fort Duquesne – An Encore 1758 Part 1

February 2, 2011

After the fall of Fort William Henry Montcalm did not advance on Fort Edward. His forces had been severely reduced by the abandonment of his First Nation allies and the Canadians who had returned to their provincial farms. He would have had to use too many of  his regulars just to drag his heavy artillery down the fourteen mile portage. In short, he no longer had the resources.  After burning the conquered fort and levelling the ground it stood on he retreated to winter at Fort Carillon or, as the English called it, Ticonderoga.

In 1758 the British went on the offensive. After a failed attempt the previous year to take Fort Louisburg the British fleet arrived with Generals Wolfe Amherst, Lawrence and 12,000 men. The fleet of thirty-nine ships doubled the number of fighting men.

The French stronghold was garrisoned with 3,000 regulars plus a few hundred armed citizens. First Nation support waned after Fort William Henry. The warriors that filled the Acadian forests stayed home. All that could be raised was a small band of Micmac. In the harbour there were five ships, seven frigates and another 3,000 men. The fort held out for nearly two months until it fell July 27, 1758.

In the meantime General Abercrombie with an army of 15,000 arrived at Lake George intent on taking Ticonderoga. Abercrombie was a general only because of his connections. As a military strategist he was un-inventive and single-minded. However, he plodded forward toward Ticonderoga and Montcalm.

The French fort was under garrisoned and under supplied. Vaudreuil was slow to fulfill Montcalm’s requests. He had not quite 3,500 regulars, no Canadians, no warriors and only ten days worth of supplies. But he did have his extraordinary military prowess.

After a series of military blunders by the British over two days Abercrombie lost 2,000 men trying to breach Montcalm’s improvised barricades in front of the fort. Montcalm on the other hand lost only a little more than 300.

The next night the French general sent out a sortie to reconnoiter and they attacked the main British force in the dark of night. Not knowing the strength of the French attack they panicked. As they fled through the bogs the soft mud pulled the shoes right off their feet. It was a spectacular victory for Montcalm and a bitter defeat for Abercrombie.

Colonel Bradstreet who was with Abercrombie begged him for 2,000 of the 13,000 troops he had left to move north and take Fort Frontenac. It was on the north shore of Lake Ontario a French stronghold that kept the great lake under French control. Abercrombie, anxious for some semblance of a victory granted him his request. 

But again Vaudreuil was lax. He had let the garrison fall to below 100 men. The fort’s commandant received word of Bradstreet’s advancement so he sent word to the governor to send reinforcements as quickly as possible. Vaudreuil sent one man to survey the situation and report back. Not only did he just send one man it was a one-armed man!

The woods of Eastern-Ontario was filled with Mississauga villages but they stood idly by and watched events unfold. Normally their warriors were quick to come to the aid of their French “father” Onontio but after Montcalm’s betrayal at Fort William Henry they were strangely disinterested.

Bradstreet arrived to take the fort without a shot. The commandant was waiting for him with a white flag. This unbelievable victory not only gave the British command of the lake but effectively cut the French colony in two.

The previous year the British colony’s frontier was racked with raiding parties by the Ohio First Nations. Delaware, Shawnee, Ottawa and Wyandotte warriors attacked settlers along the frontier with impunity. They burned farmsteads while killing or capturing pioneers. All that year they looted and ravished the countryside from Pennsylvania to Virginia. The provincials were terror-stricken.

 William Pit, the new British Secretary of State, could see the source of all the First Nation malice, Fort Duquesne, should be put out of commission. In the spring of 1758 plans were being drawn up to do just that!

NEXT WEEK:  Fort Duquesne – An Encore 1758 Part 2

More of France’s Allies Revolt!

August 22, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Saga Continues

July 20, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Affair of the Wyandotte of Detroit

June 19, 2010

If you have been following my posts you will recall that after the catastrophic war with the Iroquois in 1649 the remnants of the Huron, Petun and Neutrals who had not converted to Christianity made their way to Michilimackinac to live near the Ottawa. There they became know as the Wyandotte, a corruption of the what the Huron called themselves, Ouendat. The Jesuits cut back their mission work in North America to mainly Lower Canada, but did keep a presence at Michilimackinac and Illinois as well as Michigan. They also set up a mission called The Mission of l’assomption Among the Huron at Detroit which, for nearly forty years bore nor fruit.

Father Armand de la Richardie arrived at Detroit in 1728 and labored among the Wyandotte for many years with no conversions. He finally gained one convert, an old Wyandotte chief named Hoosien. His family quickly followed but it wasn’t long after his conversion that he died. Thinking that after the old chief had gone his family would quickly revert to their traditional beliefs Father Richardie, who was in ill-health, thought of giving up and returning to Quebec. To his surprise his mission kept growing and within 3 years of the death of his first convert all the Detroit Wyandotte had embraced Roman Catholicism.

In 1738 the Wyandotte and the Ottawa of Detroit had a falling out. The Jesuits thought the Ottawa were ‘more brutal and superstitious’ than the Wyandotte. Sastaretsy, the title of the principle Wyandotte chief, sent word to the Governor General as well as to their brothers, the Iroquois of Sault St. Louis or Caughnawaga and the Huron of Lorette near Quebec City. He reported that the Ottawa had raised the hatchet to them and had asked the other Algonquian speaking nations there to joined them in exterminating them. This of course would be referring to the Sauteux Ojibwa, Potawatomi and Mississauga.

The Governor General sent presents to them asking, through the Commandant of Detroit Monsieur de Noyelle to settle the peace and keep the Wyandotte at Detroit. The Wyandotte agreed to heed the Governor but said at the first alarm they would either go to the Seneca or else beyond the Belle Riviere. This was the name the French had given to the Ohio River.

That winter the First Nations of Detroit lived in apprehension of each other. The Wyandotte wintered in the interior which was not their custom to do so. In the spring the principle chief or the Wyandotte, Orontony, whose baptismal name was Nicolas, sent branches of porcelain to the Governor begging him to allow the Detroit Wyandotte to move to Quebec. They asked for a tract of land near him to settle on and a French officer to escort them as protection from attack.

Meanwhile, they made peace with the Flathead to the south. This was a nation that continuously skirmished with the Nations of Detroit. They made threats to move south among them but reconsidered after receiving harsh words from Entatsogo, chief of the Sault. Now they begged the Governor to forgive them for not sending their elders to Montreal as asked to do so because they were alarmed by the Praying Indians of Sault St. Louis. They also sent word to the Governor that it was not the custom of the Wyandotte to ask for protection or asylum but that it was the duty of one who had compassion on them to come and console them or to lead them to a new place where they would be safe.

In June of that year Father Richardie wrote to the governor that he had done all he could to influence their minds but they would not let go of their fears and apprehensions. They had been talking to both the English and their allies the Iroquois of Upstate New York and that those two nations had been taking advantage of the Wyandotte’s alarm and trying to induce them toward their side. The Father suggested the Governor allow the move to Quebec and even send his nephew to escort them rather than see his charges go over to the other side. The good Father stated that if the move was made the Wyandotte would not be missed at Detroit because their were some Sauteaux Ojibwa from the St. Clair willing to move to Detroit to take their place not to mention the Shawanee.

NEXT WEEK: More Upheaval at Detroit!

The Fox’s Demise

March 18, 2010

Ah, the weather is so fine,…just like summer! I do so want it to continue. But, alas I heard rumblings about a chance of wet flurries next week. Oh well, back to reality and back to our story.

We left the Fox and Mascoutin chiefs being escorted back to their fort after their First Nation adversaries rejected their peace plan. When they were returned safely the firing recommenced. For four days they fired upon each other without a word being spoken.

The Fox shot flaming arrows at the French fort hoping it would catch fire and burn down. Sometimes these flaming missiles flew three or four hundred at a time. It was a good plan because the buildings inside Fort Ponchartrain had thatched roofs. Some of them did catch fire and the French panicked but Dubuisson reassured them. They replaced the thatch with bear and deer skins, filled large pirogues with water and fashioned large poles with mops on the ends to extinguish any skins that might start to smolder.  This sufficed in handling the matter.

Now Dubuisson had another problem. He heard rumours that some of his First Nation allies want to quit the fight and leave. Others heard the same rumours and again the Frenchmen began to panic. They told Dubuisson they thought they should retire to Michilimackinac as quickly as possible. He rejected that idea immediately and called the plan cowardly. Then he called a council with the war chiefs.

When they were all gathered he started an harangue to encourage them to remain and fight to the end. But in the middle of his discourse the chiefs interrupted him. They told him they never would quit the fight and that some liar had started these bad rumours. They got so riled up that they all sang the war song, did the war dance then with a loud war cry rushed out of the fort to attack the Fox.

Every day a few Sauk who were with the Fox would abandon them and come over to the French side. They brought intelligence with them on the condition of the enemy. By this point in the war they reported that the Fox were in very poor condition. They said that over 80 women and children had died from lack of food and water. They were unable to intern them along with the warriors being killed daily because of being continually fired upon. This in turn caused disease to break out in their fort. They were indeed in bad shape, so bad that they had no other choice but to try again to sue for peace.

They demanded permission to speak to their adversaries and permission was granted. The Fox’s two greatest chiefs, Pemoussa the war chief and Allamina the civil chief came along with Kuit and Onabimaniton the two greatest Mascoutin chiefs. Pemoussa was dressed in his finest carrying wampum belts and painted green. He was supported by seven female captives who were also painted adorned with their finest beadwork also carrying wampum belts. Pemoussa led the procession.

The other three chiefs each carried a chickikoue, a small drum used to enlist spiritual assistance. They proceeded in the French fort in single file the three chiefs beating their chickikouies and all singing the song of it. When they had entered the fort they ceased the song and Pemoussa spoke.

Pemoussa conceded defeat and offered the seven women captives as payment for his life. He said he was not afraid to die but conceded for the lives of their women and children. He offered six wampum belts to tie the Fox and Mascoutin to the French and their allies in friendship and asked for a good word with which he could return to his village. Dubuisson again acquiesced to the war chiefs to give the Fox an answer. 

The chiefs and their warriors were so enraged at the Fox they refused to give them any answer but instead asked to speak with Dubuisson in private. They wanted to kill the four head chiefs on the spot so the Fox would be leaderless and surrender without condition. Dubuisson dismissed this idea out of hand. Besides, if he agreed to such a dishonorable plan the Governor General would not forgive him. The chiefs agreed and the Fox delegation was returned to their fort safely but without a treaty.

The firing recommenced once again and on the nineteenth day of the seige the Fox and Mascoutin decamped about midnight and their escape was not discovered until the next morning. The Ottawa, Wyandotte and the rest of their allies went off in hot pursuit. De Vincennes and a few Frenchmen went with them.

The Fox and their Mascoutin allies knew they would be pursued so they stopped at what today is Grosse Pointe, Michigan on Lake St. Clair and made an entrenchment there. They built very good ramparts which enabled them to kill 20 of the pursuers. Another siege ensured that lasted four days.

Dubuisson had sent word to the Ojibway on the St. Clair River and the Mississauga on Lake St. Clair to come to their aid when the war first broke out. They couldn’t because all their young men were gone on their winter hunt. But now they had returned and they began to show up at the rate of 100 canoes a day for the four days. Then they stormed the Fox entrenchment and slaughtered all but 100. Then they returned to Fort Ponchartrain with their 100 captives which they killed about five a day until they were all dead.

The Fox and Mascoutin who were invited to de troit were totally annihilated.They lost 1,000 men, women and children in the war. The Ottawa, Wyandotte and their allies, including 25 Iroquois from Fond du Lac, suffered 60 men killed and wounded and the French had one killed and several wounded. This tragedy at de troit would commence a period of about 25 years known in history as the Fox Wars.

NEXT WEEK: The Fox Wars

Wyandotte Treachery!

February 10, 2010

First, congratulations to the New Orléans Saints for winning the Super Bowl! It not only lifted and renewed the city’s spirits but inspired the nation.

Last week we left Jean Leblanc trying to make peace by talking to the French. But Commandant de Bourmont refused to parlay and instead made the threatening gesture of puting swords on the end their poles. This cause great mistrust of the French among the Ottawa.

So the Ottawa went to the Wyandotte thinking they were their allies. Quarante Sols gave them a belt that signified that they were allies with the nations around them including the Ottawa, Chippewa, Mississauga and Potawatomi. They told Jean Leblanc they would share the French words with them on the Ottawa’s feast day and so they would not fear meeting in their lodges they would meet in a clearing where they would plant a French flag.

The next day the Wyandotte planted a French flag in open grassland just as they said they would. The French came and spread out large blankets on the ground near the flag and put large quantities of grain on them. The Wyandotte women did the same. But the Ottawa were very distrustful so the sent out scouts to survey the sounding area. They reported back that they had seen trails leading to the deep woods that encircled the open grassland.

The following day was their feast day. The Ottawa suspected a trap so they remained in their fort. The Miami and Wyandotte had some of their warriors hidden in the glades around the clearing but most of them were hidden in the deep woods surrounding the Ottawa fort. They had two bands. One came along the water and destroyed their canoes thinking it would prevent their escape. Then both rushed the fort to massacre all the women and children. They assumed the Ottawa had gone to meet at the clearing.

The Ottawa opened fire from their fort surprising the enemy. The Ottawa only lost one young man but the Miami and Wyandotte lost many. They retreated but returned that night. On their way they met Katalibou and his brother. They killed and scalped them. 

The next day the Wyandotte joined the Miami outside the Ottawa fort. Cletart, Quarante Sols’ brother, called out insults calling the Ottawa warriors women and saying that Onontio, the French Governor had long ago abandoned them. This riled the young Ottawa warriors and they rushed out of their fort to attack them. The Wyandotte held their ground but the Miami fled even though they had 400 men under arms. The next day they returned and attacked the Ottawa fort again but it was of little consequence. Before they left they shot a prisoner who was an ally of the Ottawa.

The same day some of the Ottawa’s young men along with two Mississauga returned to de troit from fighting the Flathead. The Wyandotte captured and bound them. They took the Ottawa warriors to the French fort but kept the two Mississauga men at the Wyandotte fort where they later released them.

The Miami released one of the young men with a message. The Miami did not wish to kill the other prisoners but wanted the Ottawa  to cover the Miami dead with presents thereby ending the hostilities. This was according to native custom.

The Ottawa collected all that they had to secure the release of the prisoners. They offered two packs of beaver pelts, ten pieces of porcelain beads, twenty kettles and various other small gifts. They took them unarmed to the appointed place in front of the French gates where Quarante Sols offered Jean Leblanc his hand. Just as he took it a shot rang out from the French fort and grazed Jean Leblanc’s shoulder. The Miami shot seven more killing two. The Ottawa fled with the Wyandotte and Miami in hot pursuit. The Ottawa warriors who had stayed at their fort rushed out to help their fleeing brothers.

During one of the Miami sorties they captured a young Ottawa woman and whisked her off to the French fort. Some of the Ottawa pursued them but arrived at the French fort only to hear the young woman’s screams as the Miami burned her alive! They spent the rest of the day fighting.

In fact all this fighting went on for almost two months. The Ottawa tired and were short of ball and shot so they chose Onabemamtou, one of their chiefs, to approach the Miami. He had danced the calumet peace dance with them in earlier times. He was successful a brokering a peace with them and reported back that they had laid all the blame at the feet of the Wyandotte and the French. They agreed to withdraw to their homeland on the St. Joseph and the Ottawa withdrew to Michillimakinac.

Cadillac returned to Fort Ponchartrain livid. He was upset with de Bourmont for not taking charge in the beginning. He chastised him for taking sides and not threatening each with the power of the French Governor. Now it was up to him to restore things and secure restitution for the killing of one of his soldiers and the Grey Robe.

NEXT WEEK: Reparation Granted