Wednesday, March 7, 2012

About the Miami Indians

About the Miami Indians

               Little Turtle, Chief of the Miami Indians

The Miamis, of the Algonquin linguistic family, occupied all 
the western portion of Ohio, all of Indiana and a large portion of 
what is now the State of Illinois. This tribe had long occupied that 
territory and was once the most numerous and powerful of the 
tribes in the Northwest. They had no tradition of ever having 
lived in any other portion of the country and so they must have 
occupied this territory for many generations. Their principal vil- 
lages were along the headwaters of the two Miamis of the Ohio, 
and the Miami of the Lake (now the Maumee) and along the 
waters of the Wabash in Indiana as far south as the vicinity of 
Vincennes. At the time of the treaty of Greenville they had been 
greatly reduced in numbers and in power, but were the oldest occu- 
pants of the Ohio territory. They claimed the right of possession 
in the territory between the Scioto and the Miamis, and they were 
at one time in possession of and entitled to the same, but in time 
the Wyandots seem to have been accorded the right thereto. In 
the traditions which the Miamis gave of their own history they 
stated that they had been at war with the Cherokees and Chick- 
asaws for so long a period of time that they had no account of 
any time when there had been peace between them. 

As illustrating the fierce nature of the conflicts between the 
tribes north of the Ohio and those south of it in times past, it is 
an important fact that no tribes lived along the banks of that river 
or permanently occupied the contiguous territory. The Ohio as it 
flowed through the wilderness was and has always been considered 
one of the most beautiful rivers on the globe and its banks presented 
every allurement to. and advantages of permanent occupation. Yet, 
there was not on it from its source to its mouth, a distance of more 
than a thousand miles, a single wisfwam or structure in the nature 
of a permanent abode. Gen. William Henry Harrison, in an ad- 
dress before the Historical Society of Ohio, said: 

"Of all this immense territory, the most beautiful portion was 
unoccupied. Numerous villages were to be found on the Scioto and 
the headwaters of the two Miamis of the Ohio ; on the Miami of the 
Lake (the Maumee) and its southern tributaries and throughout 
the whole course of the Wabash, at least as low as the present 

town of Vincennes; but the beautiful Ohio rolled its amber tide 
until it paid its tribute to the "father of waters" through an unbroken 
solitude. At and before that time and for a century after its banks 
were without a town or single village or even a single cottage, the 
curling smoke of whose chimneys would give the promise of com- 
fort and refreshment to a weary traveler." 

There is every reason to believe that it was the ambition and 
effort "of the five nations to subdue, disperse or assimilate all the 
tribes of the Ohio valley," as stated by Dodge, in his "Indians in 
the Ohio valley." But they seem to have been successful only along 
the lake shore. In the hundred years preceding 1750, it is certam 
that many Indian tribes were gravitating towards the navigable 
rivers, rich valleys and fertile fields of Ohio. That was the most 
accessible and advantageous territory between the Great Lakes and 
the "beautiful river." There were easy portages connecting the 
sources of the rivers emptying into the Erie and those debouching 
into the Ohio ; short transfers from the Cuyahoga to the Tus- 
carawas ; the Sandusky to the Scioto ; the Maumee to the Miami 
or to the Wabash. Thus the canoes of traffic and travel from the 
St. Lawrence to the Mississippi would traverse the natural water 
channels of the Ohio country. All roads led to Rome. All rivers 
led to and from Ohio. The cunning red man selected in peace and 
war these avenues of least resistance. Hence the Ohio country was 
a chosen center for the western tribes and in the early half of the 
eighteenth century the tide of permanent settlement was Ohioward. 
The Miamis, chief occupants of Indiana and portions of Illinois, 
spread into the valleys of the Maumee and the Miamis. They were 
divided into three tribes : the Twigtwees, or Miamis, the Pianke- 
shawes and the Weas. Their limits were well defined and doubt- 
less correctly described by Little Turtle: "My father kindled the 
first fire at Detroit ; from thence he extended his lines to the head-" 
waters of the Scioto ; from thence to its mouth ; from thence down 
the Ohio to the mouth of the Wabash, and from thence to Chicago, 
over Lake Michigan. These are the boundaries within which the 
prints of my ancestor's houses are everywhere to be seen." The 
Miamis, who belonged to the Algonquin family, were a powerful 
nation and were undoubtedly among the earliest immigrants into 
Ohio. In their prime, they could command two thousand warriors, 
and it is claimed were the forces that met and repelled the inundat- 
ing waves of the Iroquois. It must be kept in mind that the settle- 
ments of the various tribes, which came into the Ohio country, 
were not permanent, but were more or less shifting as tribal wars, 
white immigration and changing conditions required. The Indian 
above all else is migratory, and if he did not descend from the lost 
tribes of Israel, as many ethnologists claim, he certainly had the 
characteristics of the "wandering Jew." 
It is not quite 170 years since the first white man of which we 
have knowledge visited the locality of the Miami valley. In 1751 
Christopher Gist, accompanied by George Croughtan and Andrew 
Montour, passed over the Indian trail from the forks of the Ohio to 
the Indian towns on the Miami. Gist was the agent of an English 
and Virginia land company. On January 17, 1751, he and his party 

were at the great swamp in what is now Licking county, known to 
us as the "Pigeon Roost," or "Bloody Run Swamp," which is five 
miles northwest from the Licking reservoir and one-half mile south 
of the line of the National road. Thence they proceeded to the 
Miami towns, which were in the region of Xenia and Springfield.