The Indian War of 1790-95 – Part 3

August 2, 2011

The year following Red Jacket’s failed negotiations President George Washington appointed three Commissioners to try to effect a peace with the First Nations Confederacy. Benjamin Lincoln, Timothy Pickering and Beverly Randolph left Philadelphia travelling north to Niagara. John Graves Simcoe, Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada, afforded them British hospitalities while they waited for word on a council with the First Nation chiefs. They hoped to meet with the Confederacy at Sandusky that spring.

The Americans thought the British would be useful as an intermediary, but the British’s interests were really making sure the Confederacy didn’t fall apart and long-term that an “Indian barrier state” would be formed. The United States also had ulterior motives. Although they would accept a peace as long as it was on their terms they would be just as happy with failure to use as an excuse for their “just war”. Simcoe had assessed the situation correctly when he wrote in his correspondence “It appears to me that there is little probability of effecting a Peace and I am inclined to believe that the Commissioners do not expect it; that General Wayne does not expect it; and that the Mission of the Commissioners is in general contemplated by the People of the United States as necessary to adjust the ceremonial of the destruction and pre-determined extirpation of the Indian Americans”. While all this was going on Wayne advanced his army to Fort Washington.

Meanwhile Washington asked the Mohawk chief Joseph Brant to travel to the Miami River where the Confederacy was in council. He was to try to persuade the Chiefs to meet the Commissioners at Sandusky. He was partially successful in that they sent a delegation of fifty to Niagara to speak to the American Commissioners in front of Simcoe.

The delegation demanded the Commissioners inform them of General Wayne’s movements and they also wanted to know if they were empowered to fix a permanent boundary line. The Commissioners must have answered satisfactorily because the delegation agreed that the Chiefs would meet them in council at Sandusky.

The Commissioners travelled with a British escort along the north shoreline of Lake Erie stopping just south of Detroit. Fort Detroit had yet to be handed over to the Americans and Simcoe refused to let them enter the fort so they were put up at the house of Mathew Elliott an Irishman who had been trading with the Shawnee for many years. While they were there another delegation arrived from the Miami. The Chiefs had felt that the first delegation had not spoken forcefully enough regarding their demands that the original boundary line of the Ohio River was to be adhered to and that any white squatters be removed to south of the Ohio. They also wanted to know why, if the United States was interested in peace, Wayne’s army was advancing? No answer was forthcoming. However, the Commissioners did informed this delegation that they were only authorized to offer compensation for lands and it was the United States’ position that those lands were already treated away. Besides, the United States felt that it would be impossible to remove any white settlers as they had been established there for many years. The delegation returned to the Miami with the Commissioners’ response which was totally unacceptable to the Chiefs.

A council was held at the foot of the Maumee rapids where Alexander McKee kept a storehouse. Both McKee and Elliott were there as British Indian Agents. Joseph Brant suggested they compromise by offering the Muskingum River as a new boundary line. The Chiefs were in no mood to compromise having just defeated the American Army not once but twice. Brant accused McKee of unduly influencing the Chiefs’ position. The Delaware chief Buckongahlas indicated that Brant was right. With the Confederacy unwilling to compromise and the United States, backed by Wayne’s army, standing firm things appeared to be at an impasse. The Chiefs crafted a new proposal. A third delegation carried it to the Commissioners on the Detroit.

The First Nations said money was of no value to them. Besides, they could never consider selling lands that provided sustenance to their families. Since there could be no peace as long as white squatters were living on their lands they proposed the following solution:

We know that these settlers are poor, or they would never have ventured to live in a country that has been in continual trouble ever since they crossed the Ohio. Divide, therefore, this large sum which you have offered us, among these people; give to each, also, a proportion of what you say you would give to us annually, over and above this very large sum of money, and we are persuaded they would most readily accept of it, in lieu of that lands you sold them. If you add, also, the great sums you must expend in raising and paying armies with a view to force us to yield you our country, you will certainly have more than sufficient for the purposes of repaying these settlers for all their labours and their improvements. You have talked to us about concessions. It appears strange that you expect any from us, who have only been defending our just rights against your invasions. We want peace. Restore to us our country and we shall be enemies no longer.

    The delegation also reminded the Commissioners that their only demand was “the peaceable possession of a small part of our once great country”. They could retreat no further since the country behind them could only provide enough food for its inhabitants so they were forced to stay and leave their bones in the small space to which they were now confined.

The Commissioners packed up their bags and left. There would be no council at Sandusky. They returned to Philadelphia and reported to the Secretary of War, “The Indians refuse to make peace.” Wayne’s invasion would be “just and lawful.”

Meanwhile, at the Maumee Rapids a War Feast was given and the War Song sung encouraging all the young warriors to come in defense of their country. “The whole white race is a monster who is always hungry and what he eats is land” declared Shawnee warrior Chicksika. Their English father would assist them and they pointed to Alexander McKee.

NEXT WEEK:  The Indian War of 1790-95 – Part 4


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 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 Rout of Braddock 1755 – Part 2

November 7, 2010

A council was held in the Fort with the French commander Sieur de Contrecoeur. He had three captains under him, Beaujeu, Dumas and Ligneris. The commandant came up with a plan. Beaujeu would have command of the force that was to repel the British with Dumas second in command. They would meet them on the road ambushing them at the ford where the road crossed the Monongahela. Langlade and the war chiefs objected. The spot was not to their liking. The terrain was two wide and open to conduct the type of warfare they were best at. They were ignored, the plan was set and the council concluded. Returning to their camps across the Alleghany the Ojibwa and their native allies prepared for war in their usual way.

War dances were danced and war songs were sung. These were interspersed with long harangues by war chiefs and seasoned warriors containing previous great deeds done in battle. These speeches always ended with a tremendous strike a the war post with a war club or tomahawk and loud shouts of war whoops. This spectacle never ceased to send a chill through their European allies. On this occasion it was the French who watched from Fort Duquesne’s ramparts along with a young English colonial who had been captured three days before.

Three days before the young Pennsylvanian James Smith was captured by three warriors, two Delaware and one Mohawk from Caughnawaga. His companion was killed and scalped but he was brought back to the fort a prisoner. He was only 18 years of age. When they neared the fort they gave the victory cry, a long halloo for each scalp or prisoner taken. Hundreds of warriors responded by pouring out of their wigwams shouting and screeching and firing their guns in the air. The French responded to the celebration likewise by firing off their guns including cannon from inside the fort. Smith was awed by the din and thought they must number in the thousands. What was about to come surprised him even more.

A great number of warriors began to form two columns. They were all whooping and yelling and carrying sticks. All were prepared for war with faces and bodies painted in various pigments of red, black, yellow and blue wearing nothing but breechcloths. It was a fearsome sight for the young man to behold.

One of the Delaware warriors who captured him spoke a little English and told him he must run between the two columns from one end to the other. He said to run fast, the faster the better as they were going to beat him. A shove from his advisor started him racing receiving blows all the way. As he neared the end one blow knocked him down. He tried to get up but someone threw sand in his eyes so he could not see where he was going. Beaten down again he took the warriors blows until he was rendered unconscious. Young James regained consciousness inside the fort being attended to by the post physician.    

Smith was interrogated by the war chiefs after receiving medical attention. Then the Delaware warrior who spoke English came to see him. He asked his captor why the warriors treated him so badly thinking he had offended them in some way. But he was told that he did not offend but it was just an old custom they had…like saying, how do you do? Smith then asked if he would be permitted to stay with the French and was told he would not but after he recovered he must live with the Delaware and become one of them. When he could get out of bed he made his way around with the aid of a crutch.

Meanwhile, General Braddock and his army had left Williamsburg following the road cut by the Virginians the year before. They were an impressive sight to behold. A long column of British regulars, 1,750 in all, dressed in bright red tunics, white helmets and sashes with steel bayonets flashing in the sun. They were followed by 450 Virgina Militia dressed in blue. Interspersed in the column were cannon and howitzers, 600 pack horses and 175 wagons carrying supplies and tools. All of this to supply the newly conquered fort and more.

The colonies were hemmed in by mountain ranges which made expansion impossible. But the British had ambitions to do just that and they had a plan. Braddock was to take Fort Duquesne and quickly move on to Fort Niagara. Sir William Johnson was to take Crown Point. William Shirley Sr., Governor of Massachusetts, was made a Major General and was to take Fort Beausejour. This all on the pretense that the French had invaded British territory. It seemed impossible that the plan should fail. The colonies had yet to see an army the size of Braddock’s and the English had population figures on their side. The total white population of New France, from Quebec to Louisiana, was just under 80,000. The British on the other hand had a population of 1.6 million including 200,000 slaves.

So Braddock headed for Fort Duquesne with his superior army and his arrogance intact. He had little respect for the colonial militia and even less for First Nation warriors. Benjamin Franklin, who was the postmaster of Pennsylvania at the time, came to see him at Williamsburg. He spent five days with Braddock and warned him of the forest warfare practiced by the First Nations suggesting that he should consider new battle tactics. Braddock replied “These savages may, indeed, be a formidable enemy to your raw American militia, but upon the King’s regular and disciplined troops, sir, it is impossible that they should make an impression.” Braddock was about to get the shock of his life! 

NEXT WEEK:  The Rout of Braddock 1755 – Part 3


Great Meadows and Fort Necessity 1754 Part 2

October 19, 2010

The First Nations were just as concerned as the French about a British presence in their territory. They could see that the French were mainly interested in trade building only trading posts and a few forts scattered throughout their territories. There was only minimal clearing done around the posts for purposes of sustainability. The hunting grounds were left intact so First Nations were able to benefit from trade while maintaining their culture.

On the other hand the British were interested in expansion by homesteading thereby clearing First Nations’ hunting grounds so there was no way left to support their communities. This made British expansion a dangerous proposition for all First Nation communities. So, in the spring of 1754 the council of the St. Clair Saulteaux decided to send a party of ten warriors to the Ohio to survey the situation. They would no doubt have been led by their war chief Little Thunder.

Meanwhile the French were on the move as well. Duquesne replaced St. Pierre as commandant of Fort Le Boeuf with his lieutenant, Sieur de Contrecoeur. He arrived a Fort Le Boeuf with 500 soldiers, a mix of Canadians and regulars. This bolstered the French presence in the area to 1400 men.

At the same time Dinwiddie formed the Virginia Regiment of 300 men under the aristocrat Joshua Fry with Washington second in command. Fry kept half the regiment, all raw recruits, in Virginia shaping them up to march.

Meanwhile, Washington took the other half and made his way to the Ohio Company’s storehouse at Wills creek where he set up a base camp. From there they sent a small expedition of 40 backwoodsmen led by a Captain Trent over the Alleghenies to build a fort at a spot Washington had observed the previous fall. It was at the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers where they form the Ohio. It was indeed a strategic site as a fort there would command the Ohio country.

When they arrived they immediately started work on a small fort which the British had planned to garrison with the newly formed Virgina Regiment. But Contrecoeur moved against them with a force of 500 soldiers ousting the small band of Virginians and destroying their half completed fort. He then proceeded to build a much larger, stronger one which he named Fort Duquesne after his Governor. This fort would later become Fort Pitt and is today’s Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.

Ensign Jumonville de Villiers was sent out of the newly constructed fort as a courier carrying a letter to give to any Englishmen he might encounter ordering them to vacate French territory. He had a contingent of 20 soldiers with him and orders to evict the English by force if they did not comply with the orders of the letter.

At the same time Washington was on the Youghiogany, a branch of the Monongahela, with 40 men. The Half King  joined him with 12 Mingo warriors. The Mingoes led him to Jumonville’s camp where they took the French by surprise. There was gunfire and the French were bested. The Virginian contingent killed ten Frenchmen including the young ensign. The took the rest as prisoners. The Half King boasted that it was he that dispatched Jumonville by splitting his head open with his tomahawk.

The incident sparked an international crisis. The French were outraged claiming that Washington opened fire on French soldiers who were only on a courier mission. They said that Jumonville was under a white flag shouting he only had a letter to deliver when they were cut down. Of course the British denied this.

Coulon de Villiers, the brother of Jumonville, rushed from Montreal to Fort Duquesne to find 500 Frenchmen and eleven First Nation warriors there awaiting their marching orders. The eleven warriors were different from the 400 he had brought with him from Canada. He described them as people from the falls of the lake or Lake Indians. They were the Saulteaux from Aamjiwnaang or the St. Clair region. Coulon was given the opportunity of avenging his brother’s death by leading the 500 French regulars, the Saulteaux from Aamjiwnaang along with a few of the Ohio warriors as well as Mohawk, Wyandotte, Abenaki and Algonquin from Quebec, Nipissing from Superior country and Ottawa from Detroit on a mission to oust the British from Ohio country.

Washington had fallen back to a huge open prairie called Great Meadows where he hastily constructed a rather flimsy entrenchment he named Fort Necessity. He was expecting a French attack and chose this spot to make his stand because its openness made it not so susceptible to the forest style warfare First Nations were so famous for. He also called for reinforcements from Fry who he thought was still in Virginia but he had died leaving Washington first in command. Three companies did finally arrive on July 1st. A company of British Regulars under Captain also arrived from South Carolina bolstering the garrison to 400 plus the Half King’s forty warriors.

Coulon de Villiers arrived on the 4th of July in a driving rain and took up position on a ridge in front of Fort Necessity and began firing down on Washington’s entrenchment. This made Fort Necessity’s position less than desirable because their three canons could not be fired uphill.

Coulon’s warrior allies kept to the edge of the Forest open as warfare was not their first choice of battle. They took pot shots on the fort all day long. After nine hours of pouring rain the French soldiers were soaked to the bone. The Virginians were hunkered down in a sea of mud.

Coulon called for a parlay to discuss terms of surrender. Washington had no choice but to agree because what little powder he had left was wet and his guns were useless. The French wrote out the terms of surrender but Washington could read no French.

Washington relied on a Dutchman Captain in his militia named Vanbraam to act as his interpreter. One clause of the surrender document read l’assassinat du Sieur de Jumonville, which Vanbraam translated as the death of Sieur de Jumonville. Washington signed the document and was allowed to return with his men unarmed to Virgina. He later disputed that he was an assassin blaming Vanbraam for the mistranslation.

The whole mission was an assorted affair. The Half King left Great Meadows in disgust saying that the French had acted as cowards and the English as fools. The other First Nation warriors fell back to Fort Duquesne where more of their own joined them in ever-increasing numbers. The young upstart Washington had killed a French ensign on a courier mission along with ten other soldiers and signed a document he could not read thereby starting the French and Indian War!

NEXT WEEK:  The Rout of Braddock 1755


The Detroit Ottawa Are Furious!

July 5, 2010

When the three escapees arrived back at the Ottawa village they uttered the cries for the dead. The Wyandotte came to the village when they heard the wailing and those who had survived the ambush said it was the Wyandotte that had killed them. The Wyandotte denied having any part of it saying they were allies to the Ottawa and could not slay their brothers.

The warrior who had recognized and killed the Wyandotte warrior at the ambush accused the Wyandotte of not only being capable of killing their brothers but their father as well! He said the only reason they have not done so is there were so few of them. He told of hearing of the cries of the raven just before the attack explaining that he had been on several sorties against the Flathead and they never used this cry. It was a Wyandotte tradition. He then announced the killing of the Wyandotte warrior from Detroit that he recognized and said if it were untrue let them produce that man as he was missing from the Wyandotte congregation.

After his accusations the Wyandotte returned to their village and fortified themselves from attack. The Jesuit fathers returned to the safety of the French fort and the Ottawa congregated around the Wyandotte fort. They called out to those inside their fortification saying that it seemed they were afraid walling themselves up in their stronghold daring not to come out while the Ottawa were out in the open. They accused the Wyandotte of fearing an attack but said they were mistaken. They allow them to go to their cornfields unmolested but when they did decide to attack them they would declare it as they were incapable of any treachery.

The Ottawa sent three sticks of porcelain to the Five Nations meeting them at Niagara. They presented them to their representatives with the request that they remain neutral in the dispute but if their intentions were to take the Wyandotte’s side they should declare it first. The Iroquoian envoys said they could not provide an answer but would take the strings to their towns.

The Wyandotte requested assistance from the French by appealing directly to Governor Beauharnois at Montreal. They also sent belts to the Christian Mohawk at Lake of the Two Mountains and St. Louis Falls asking them to take their side and provide asylum for them in Quebec. 

The French realized they had a full-fledged crisis on their hands. De Noyelles issued orders that no Frenchman should sell any powder, lead or guns to either side of the dispute. They were afraid this could cause the other side to accuse the French of providing the means of one side destroying the other. Beauharnois sent a great number of presents to Detroit with instructions to de Noyelles to settle things down.

However, dissention persisted for the next two years with the Ottawa, Ojibwa and Potawatomi threatening the Wyandotte with extermination and the Wyandotte men fearing for their families. In the fall of 1738 they formally asked the governor for asylum. They sent word to Beauharnois that they had met with an emissary at Michilimackinac sent by their brothers from Sault St. Louis. They were invited by them to come settle with them because they were currently living amongst a multitude of nations that liked them not.

However, they recalled an invitation given them by the former Governor Vaudreuil to come live near him where they would have asylum, a Father and a protector. This was the option they preferred most and if it was not repeated by Beauharnois they said they preferred to withdraw somewhere else to die, but if he did grant their request they asked to be sent a military man to guide them safely through the nations who were intent on destroying them.

In June of 1739 they sent the words of Sastarestsy Taatchatin and Orontony to Beauharnois. They asked the governor again to provide asylum near him. They said this was always their only wish and that would never change. They also issued warnings saying that if they were not allowed to settle in Quebec they would be forced to do something the governor would not like but did not say what. Probably this was a veiled reference to going over to the English side. They also said that they could never be strong in their new religion unless remove from among so many nations that were not Christian.

The Wyandotte were desperate. They implored de Noyelle along with the three Black Gowns at the Mission of l’assomption Among the Huron to write to the governor on their behalf recommending so strongly their request that the governor would be sure to grant it. In the summer of 1740 he wrote to the governor saying that after desperately trying to bring peace he now thought it impossible. Although it was the wish of the governor that they stay at Detroit he thought it would either bring on their destruction or they would ally themselves with the Iroquois and the British. Like Father de la Richardie he also felt that their move to Montreal would be no loss because the Shawnee were ready to take their place at Detroit. Would Beauharnois finally consent?

NEXT WEEK: The Saga Continues


More Upheaval at Detroit!

June 27, 2010

Greetings to everyone! It’s powwow weekend here at Aamjiwnaang. The weather is not looking so great however. It’s cloudy and rain is in the forecast. I hope they’re wrong.

When we last left Detroit in the fall of 1738 the nations were in great turmoil. The Ottawa of both Detroit and Saginaw and their allies the Potawatomi, also of Detroit, and the Saulteux Ojibwa of the St. Clair and Au Sable Rivers were threatening to destroy the Wyandotte of Detroit. The Wyandotte were afraid for their women and children so were determined to move out of the area. Their preference was to be allowed to move to Quebec to be with their Iroquoian speaking brothers. The Mohawk and Huron of Quebec were all Jesuit converts. They were also considering moving to Upstate New York to live among the Five Nation Iroquois. They were allies but the Five Nation still held the faith of their fathers.

The French were desperately trying to make peace between them because the Wyandotte were allies with the Iroquois and the Ottawa were allies with all the other Nations of the Upper Great Lakes. If the Wyandotte located among the Five Nations then they would lose them to the British. They wanted to avoid this at all costs. A larger problem was that this situation could have easily gotten out of hand and turned into a full-blown war with the French in the middle.

So, how did things come to this? To understand we have to return to the following spring. The Wyandotte had called a council at Sieur de Noyelles’ house. He was the commandant of Detroit. The chiefs or their representatives of all of the above mentioned nations were there. They presented a belt to the Ottawa saying that by that belt they wished all to know that they had made peace with the Flathead and they now considered them brothers. They wished all would follow in order to make peace reign in the whole land. Then they issued a warning saying that if any of the other Detroit nations sent war parties against the Flathead it would assure that some of their young men would go ahead and warn them that they were coming to devour them. The Flathead were also called Choctaw and got their name from their practice of artificially flattening their foreheads when very young.

The Ottawa refused the belt asking the Wyandotte who they thought they were to dictate law to them. They accused the Wyandotte of considering bad actions and then take refuse with the Flathead. They took the belt and gave it to de Noyelles saying that it was him who represented Onontio, the governor, and that if the governor accepted it then they would honor his wishes.

The Ottawa also said the Wyandotte should remember that at the last general peace Onontio gave all the nations the Flathead to devour because they had become friendly with the British; that their blood was shed on the trails of the Flathead and on their mats. Their bones were still in the lodges of their enemy with their scalps hanging over them and that the frames on which they were burned were still spread out with the steaks still standing. Moreover, they said, if the Flathead Nation wanted peace with them they would have approached them and then they would consider peace or not.

The Wyandotte gave also gave a belt to the Potawatomi but were given a similar reply. They gave a third to the Saulteux who said because they were young men they would take it to their elders who would decide what to do. Then the council then broke up.

Sometime soon after this the Ottawa, Potawatomi and Ojibwa raised a war party of 17 men and set out for Flathead country. Two parties of Wyandotte joined them on the trail but did not continue on with them. When the war party reached their destination they found themselves surrounded by warriors in the forest all making the call of the raven. This was a common thing done before an attack signifying they were looking for blood. This surprised the Ottawa because this was not a custom of the Flathead so they suspected Wyandotte treachery.

Suddenly they found themselves attacked in the front by the Flathead and in the rear by the Wyandotte. One of the Ottawa recognized one of the Wyandotte and he killed him. Only three escaped the ambush including the Ottawa who had recognized the Wyandotte warrior. Five others were made prisoner and nine were killed.

NEXT WEEK: The Detroit Ottawa are Furious!