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

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

Great Changes and Expansions

January 14, 2010

I’ve got some excellent feedback on my posts so I’d like to thank those who have made comments. It gives me encouragement to carry on realizing that people are profiting from my work.

There was another great change that took place besides the general peace brought on by the Great Peace Treaty. The French closed their trading post at Michilimackinac and governor Callieres ordered Antoine de Lamothe Cadillac to establish a new one at de troit. The Company of the Colony was formed in 1700 as an association to secure the monopoly of the western fur trade and Cadillac was one of its directors. By the way The Company became insolvent in 1705 and the monopoly was handed over to Cadillac. The French were worried about British trade incursions into the upper country and this new fort was also designed to block them. Cadillac had the idea that if he invited all the nations from the far country to establish themselves around his new post this would not only enhance trade but also firm up military alliances. However, his plan had some wrinkles in it.

For one thing it had its detractors. Although the Church’s superiors in Montreal were on board the Jesuit missionaries at Michilimakinac harbored secret resentments. They were jealous of their mission and saw it as a detriment to all their hard work in the upper country.

Callieres wrote to the Fathers at Michilimakinac asking them to go with the Ottawa and Wyandotte to de troit and both Fathers Etienne de Carheil and Joseph Marest wrote supporting letters back to their superiors but Cadillac accused them of working against the project by dividing their First Nation charges with lies about the new post and by uttering threats if they moved there.

Cadillac was right. At a council held at Fort Ponchartrain on October 3, 1701 the First Nations betrayed the Jesuits real intentions. Ontonagan spoke for all the Ottawa. He was a major chief and was also known as Jean Le Blanc. He informed Cadillac that the missionaries had shown them a letter from him supposedly sent by three Iroquois that he had met on Lake St. Clair. Cadillac was supposed to have said in this letter that the Ottawa should not go to de troit because the Iroquois there will betray them and they would all become dead men.

Cadillac denied he wrote any such letter. He told Ontonagan that although the Black Robes and the Grey Robes (the Jesuits and Recollects) were the rulers of religion and never lied about such matters as for other matters he could not speak for them.

Koussildouer, the oldest Ottawa chief relayed a message to Cadillac from Ouilemek, chief of the Potawatomi. He informed him that next spring Ouilemek would take the Potawatomi to live near the Miami on the St. Joseph River. He would then come to trade at the new post and if the prices were good he would come often, otherwise he would trade with the British at Albany.

Cadillac’s response to this was that Ouilemek was welcome at Fort Ponchartrain but if he wished to trade elsewhere he could do as he saw fit and it would not bother Cadillac.

The Wyandotte spoke at the council next. Alleyooue and Quarante-Sous agreed with what Ontonagan had said. He said that although Father de Carheil had told the Wyandotte the same things they did not believe him because Ontonio or the Governor had told them in Montreal to go and encamp near Fort Ponchartrain. Father de Carheil had invited them to go and encamp near the Miami but to return to Michilimakinac the following year. Alleyooue said that they had granted him what he asked but only to get rid of him. Their real desire was to move to de troit near the new fort.

Alleyooue also said that Father de Carheil told them at their last council with him that Cadillac was not establishing a new post at de troit but was only going there to trade after which he would return to Montreal.

The Wyandotte informed Father de Carheil that they would tell Cadillac all that was said in their councils with him and he forbade them to do so. Not only did they disobey the missionary but asked Cadillac for land near the new post where they could establish themselves.

Cadillac commended them and suggested that Father de Carheil was probably just mistaken in his belief that he was only going to de troit to trade. He pointed out the new fort already built and lands cleared that it would be a permanent post. He then promised them land to settle on as soon as they arrived. 

On the other hand the Ojibwa preferred to keep themselves at arm’s length from the French. Although they needed the trade for European goods they liked to keep their distance. This attitude dovetailed with Young Gull’s wish to move to St. Clair country. He had fallen in love with the place when he stayed at Fort St. Joseph in 1686. So he led a large group of Saulteux Ojibwa south from the St. Mary’s River district and established villages on the Black River and Swan Creek in present-day Michigan.

The Mississauga expanded in the eastern part of Southern Ontario taking up residence between the Grand and Gananoque Rivers. They established themselves on the Grand, at the mouth of the Credit River, at Lake Scugog and Rice Lake. However, they did set up a village just north of the new post at de troit.

The Amikouai Ojibwa expanded across Georgian Bay to its south shore with villages at present-day Cold Water, Owen Sound and at the mouth of the Saugeen River.

NEXT WEEK: More Intrigues at Detroit

A Four Pronged Attack!

January 6, 2010

Here we are, another New Year. Best wishes to everyone and may this be your special year, full of good health, good times and prosperity! Last week the new moon had arrived and the four pronged attack on the Iroquois had begun. At the same time Young Gull was annihilating the Seneca town on the Thames White Cloud’s force landed at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula at what today is Cabots Head.

White Cloud was the leading war chief of the Amikouai Ojibway or Beaver People from the north shore of Georgian Bay. His division consisted of Ojibwa warriors and their first encounter was with a small force of Mohawks as soon as they landed. The battle continued to Griffith Island where this small band of Mohawks were finished off.

At the same time Young Gulls forces arrived at Saugeen where there was a Mohawk town. A great battle was fought there on the flats of the Saugeen River near the mouth. Evidence of this battle was still visible some 150 years later when the artist Paul Kane visited there. He wrote in his memoirs that he saw great burial mounds with many human bones protruding out of them. This battle is still know today as the Battle of Skull Mound.

Some of the other encounters in the area with the Mohawks were the Fishing Islands at Red Bay just north of the Saugeen. The bay was given its name for the condition of the waters after the battle that occurred there. Three hundred Mohawk warriors were defeated where they had entrenched themselves on White Cloud Island in Colpoys Bay. The island of course was named after the victorious Ojibwa chief.  There were other skirmishes at Skull Island in Georgian Bay so named because of the large quantities of human skulls left there. The Iroquois also suffered defeats at the Clay Banks near present-day Walkerton, Ontario, at Indian Hill near the Teeswater River and at Wadiweediwon or Owen Sound, Ontario.

Young Gull joined White Cloud at Owen Sound and both divisions moved east to Nottawasaga Bay where they encountered a body of 1000 Iroquois warriors who had moved down the Nottawasaga River. They met at the mouth of this river where the Iroquois were overwhelmed by the far superior numbers of the Three Fires. The Ojibwa called the Iroquois people Naudoways meaning serpents and saugeeng means a coming out place. So the meaning of both the Nottawasaga River and Bay is the coming out place of the Naudoways.

Sahgimah’s Ottawa had made landfall on the Penetanguishene Peninsula where they vanquished a force of about 1200 Iroquois who had arrived via the Lake Simcoe route. They moved south from there to Lake Couchiching where they fought another battle just north of present-day Orillia, Ontario.

While all this was going on Bald Eagle and his eastern division of Mississauga met a force of Iroquois along the Mattawa River. Human bones have been found there attesting to this battle as late as the 20th century.  Following the victory there Bald Eagle encountered the Iroquois at the Otonabee River near Lakefield, the Moira River near Madoc and at Rice Lake. He then pushed west to destroy towns at the mouths of the Rouge River and the Humber River on Lake Ontario. There was also an Iroquois town at Burlington Bay where the Iroquois put up a stiff resistance. However, the Mississauga Ojibwa were just to numerous and they succumbed. There was an old Indian Trail that ran between Burlington Bay and the Grand River. Halfway along this trail was another Iroquois town which also capitulated to Bald Eagle.

Two major chiefs of the Five Nations approached the Earl of Bellomont, Governor of New England at Albany for help. He promised that if the British would help them in their war with the Three Fires they would have no further dealings with the French. But the British were neither in the position nor were they interested in helping their First Nation allies. They were most interested in the fur trade so the Governor’s advice to the two Iroquois sachems was to make peace seeing they were vastly outnumbered and further war would only end in their destruction.

The French were also only interested in the fur trade and with all this warring going on there was little trade being done. The French had much influence with the First Nations of the Upper Country so the Governor General of New France, Louis-Hector de Callieres, brokered a peace not only between the Three Fires Confederacy and the Five Nation Iroquois League but several other First Nations who were also fighting amongst themselves at this time. This peace conference at Montreal culminated in the Great Peace Treaty of 1701. The Iroquois War was over and the Five Nations had been dispersed to their original homeland of upstate New York. This left Southern Ontario a great vacuum.

NEXT WEEK: Great Changes and Expansions

The New Moon Arrives!

December 29, 2009

Well, Christmas is over. I hope everyone had a fine holiday. I enjoyed three Christmas dinners but I’m paying for it. I now have a few extra pounds to work off! My last post had the Three Fires warriors stealthily move into place for an all out attack on the Iroquois in Southern Ontario.

When the new moon arrived all four divisions went on the offensive. The western division had been camping along the western shore of Lake St. Clair and when the time arrived we moved around the top of the lake to the eastern shore and up the Horn River. We called it the Horn because it took the shape of an antler. The French would later call it Riviere La Trenche but today it is known as the Thames.

About 12 miles up the Thames, just west of the current city of Chatham, Ontario there was a very large Seneca town. Young Gull and his warriors put it under seige. During the first offensive against the well fortified town some Seneca warriors escaped with the plan to flee back to their homeland in up-state New York  then return with reinforcements. Young Gull sent a large force of Wyandotte in hot pursuit.

The seige lasted a few days before Young Gull’s forces finally burned their way through the double palisade. There was little the town’s 400 warriors could do. The western division was there with all its might, 3200 warriors minus the Wyandotte pursuing the escapees. A tide of fierce Ojibwa and Potawatomi warriors surged into the town massacring everyone in sight. None survived. The end was furious but mercifully it came quick.

All of the bodies of the slain were desecrated. They were decapitated and all the heads piled in a large pyramid. Later this pyramid of skulls would serve as a warning to all of the fierce power the Three Fires Confederacy.  The remainder of the bodies were dismembered and scattered. This was our practice and would prevent the enemy from entering the afterlife.

The warriors of the western division that fell in battle were buried in a mass grave with all funeral rites afforded the brave and loyal. They were buried with all of their weapons and daily utensils. This would provide them with the necessary items to make their four-day journey to the land of souls as easy as possible. The mass grave created a huge burial mound. It was still there some 115 years later when recorded on a British Naval Surveyor’s Map of the River Thames c 1815. The note on this map reads, “In the side of this knoll there are great quantities of human bones. A battle is said to have been fought between the Chippewas and Senekies contending for the dominion of this country, when the latter were put to flight with great slaughter and driven across the river at Niagara.”

The Seneca reinforcements never arrived. Young Gull’s Wyandotte warriors returned from Niagara to lay in wait at Long Point on Lake Erie. A huge force of Seneca came skirting along the north shore of the lake headed pell-mell for their town on the Thames. When they arrived at Long Point they were ambushed. The Iroquois typically used dug out canoes which were much heavier and more cumbersome than bark canoes. The Seneca were easily outmanoeuvred and all were killed on the lake. This is one of the few Native American naval battles to have occurred.

The victorious pursuers rejoined the main body of Young Gull’s warriors. They moved up the St. Clair river and then northward along the eastern shoreline of Lake Huron. Meanwhile, the other three divisions moved on their targets with equal devastation.

NEXT WEEK: A Four Pronged Attack!

The First Ojibwa/French Alliance

December 17, 2009

Good morning everyone! Well, at least it’s morning as I write this. I had some problems with my blog this past week. It was suspended for suspicion of violating the terms of service. It was a mistake and as you can see I’m back on-line. Sometimes I long for the ‘good old days’. Now, back to some Great Lakes history!

You will recall that the French had moved their endeavors north to Superior country. The Iroquois had moved into the rich beaver hunting grounds of Southern Ontario. The military advantage the Dutch had given them made their ego soar along with their arrogance. The British had taken over the Dutch colony and changed the name of the main post from Orange to Albany. They also continued to supply the Iroquois with firearms. The Iroquois continued to harass their neighbors and were continually making war on the French. Such was the situation when we pick up our story in the year 1686.

The Governor of New France, Monsieur Le Marquis de Nonville , ordered the explorer Du Lhut to build a military post at de Troit. This was the name the French called the waterways between Lake Huron and Lake Erie. It means the strait. The main purpose of a military fort at the lower end of Lake Huron was to keep the British out of the upper Great Lakes. He chose a spot where the St. Clair River was the narrowest and established Fort St. Joseph. That site is located in what is now Pinegrove Park in downtown Port Huron, Michigan.

In 1687 de Nonville decided to have a war of extermination of the Seneca. They had embarrassed the French by slaughtering many colonists in constant raids and had totally defeated the Miamis and the Illinois who had put themselves under the protection of the French. To this end he gathered an army of 1500 French regulars and 500 praying Indians from Quebec. These were mostly Iroquois the French had converted to Christianity. He also ordered Du Lhut to gather a force of Far Indians to join the expedition.

Du Lhut convinced some of the war chiefs to follow him in this venture and some 500 warriors from the Potawatomi, Ottawa, Wyandotte and Ojibwa began gathering at Fort St. Joseph. However, most of them were Saulteux Ojibwa from the St. Marys River district. My great, great, great-grandfather, Kioscance or Young Gull was a war chief of the Saulteux at the time and was in all likelihood leading this group of warriors. When they had all arrived they left to meet de Nonville’s forces at Irondequoit on the southern shore of Lake Ontario.

The French forces left Montreal and part of them moved along the north shore of Lake Ontario and part of them moved along the south shore. They did this in case the weather presented any strong winds that would prevent either one of the groups from reaching the rendezvous place the other group would make it there on time. However the weather was fine and all three forces met at Irondequoit Bay on the same day.

De Nonville first sent scouts up the Genesee River to survey any Seneca towns and their strengths. The Seneca knew they had arrived so they sent their women, children and old people further into Seneca country for protection. They gathered a force of 500 warriors and lay in wait hiding themselves in the underbrush waiting for the ambush. The French scouts passed them, found the first town they encountered burned and deserted. They found two more towns further upstream in the same condition so they returned to make a report to the governor. All the time they were unaware of the 500 Seneca warriors who watched them from their hiding places.

The French governor decided to move the French regulars upstream to the three Seneca towns. As they were passing the hidden Seneca they sprung their ambush. The French soldiers were taken completely by surprise and panicked. Some fled east and some west and they began firing back on each other. The Seneca had bested them but the Indian forces arrived and they were much more adept at forest warfare. The tide turned and the Seneca retreated back up the river. 

When de Nonville arrived at the towns he stopped. He was quite shaken by the disarray of his soldiers. After all they were regulars and the best the French had. He ordered the fields burned, which took several days while the native allies looked on with disbelief. They knew the enemy was in full retreat and they thought the best course of action was to pursue and finish the job. As the soldiers cut down the corn and beans and gathered the squash the Ojibwa and their Three Fires brothers fumed. De Nonville then ordered a retreat saying the Seneca had been taught a good lesson. The Ojibwa and their allies accused de Nonville of doing nothing but warring on the cornfields and left in a huff. It would be a long time before they would again join the French in any military campaigns.

NEXT WEEK: The Iroquois War

Lifestyle and Worldview of the Ojibwa

December 2, 2009

Well, another week has just flown by. Thanksgiving has come and gone and now we’re looking at Christmas. Happy holidays everyone! I’m going to continue for this week and next describing the Ojibwa’s lifestyle and traditions then we’ll get back to the history of the Great Lakes region. 

The Ojibwa had larger territories than the Iroquoian speaking peoples. This was due to different lifestyles. Ojibwa villages were smaller and more temporary. Each territory had one or more main villages consisting of family lodges called wigwams. These villages had from a few hundred to 1,000 inhabitants. There were no palisades and the villages were often moved to different locations but in the same general area. 

Ojibwa Lodge by Paul Kane 1846


Village members would congregate at the villages in the summer months. Summer was a time of rest and relaxation. Time was spent tending small gardens, gathering fruits and berries as they ripened and trading with our allies. It was a time for festivals called gatherings or powwows. Many would come from other territories to participate in the drumming, dancing, singing and feasting. There was great competition in the games played with much wagering on the athletes. Each evening the village storyteller would mesmerize both children and adults alike with his repertoire of traditional stories told around a huge community fire. 

Lacrosse Game by George Catlin c 1800's


When the leaves began to turn color we would strike the main village and break up into small groups of two or three families. Each would head out to the winter hunting camps which were located throughout our territory. We would spend the winter there, hunting and trapping. The men would do the hunting and manage the trapping lines and the women and children would dry the meat and stretch the skins. The long winter nights were spent in our lodges repeating traditional stories around a small campfire. 

In mid February we would leave the hunting camps and gather in larger groups of five or six families at the sugar bushes. For two or three weeks while the sap rose in the maple trees we would produce our sugar products. The men would tend the lines and the women and children would run the sugar lodges. This was a long lodge 30 or 40 feet long by 12 or 15 feet wide. Three or four very hot fires were continually tended boiling down the sap to syrup. If the weather was conducive the boiling was done outside the lodge. It took 30 to 40 gallons of sap to get one gallon of syrup. In March when the sap stopped running utensils were stored in small tepees to be used again the following year. 

Ojibwa Sugar Camp c 1850


Carrying our meat and sugar products with us each group would move on to the fishing camps. These camps were made up of much larger groups and were often located at the mouths of rivers and streams or at rapids where the fishing was good. The spring runs produced the huge quantities of fish that were caught in our nets or weirs. Whitefish was a staple of the Ojibwa diet and there were huge runs on the St. Mary’s, St. Clair and Niagara Rivers. Ojibwa men would go out into the rapids in canoes, float downstream and while standing scoop large quantities of fish into the canoes with a long poles that had nets attached to the ends of them. Needless to say we had an uncanny sense of balance and were excellent canoeists. The men did the fishing and the women and children dried or powdered the fish. When the fish runs over we all moved back to the main village for another summer of leisure. Such was the lifestyle of the Ojibwa. It was a good life and we were a happy and contented people.  

Fishing in the St. Mary's River c 1900