Description and Lands of the Indian Tribes of Indiana and Ohio During the Revolutionary War
—A description of the seven tribes of savages who opposed the advance of settlement in the Northwest. Their location. Kekionga, the seat of Miami power.
Miami Indian Picture Gallery
Miami Indian Picture Gallery
We have now to consider those Indian tribes and confederacies, which at the close of the Revolutionary war, inhabited the northwest territory.
Chief among them were the Wyandots, Miamis, Shawnees, Delawares, Ottawas, Chippewas and Potawatomi. These were the seven tribes known in after years as the "western confederacy," who fought so long and bitterly against the government of the United States, and who were at last conquered by the arms and genius of General Anthony Wayne in the year 1794.
The Ottawas, Chippewas and Potawatomi formed a sort of loose confederacy known as the Three Fires, and Massas, a Chippewa chief, so referred to them at the Treaty of Greenville.
The Miamis, the most powerful of the confederates, were subdivided into the Eel Rivers, the Weas, and the Piankeshaws. The Kickapoos, a small tribe which lived on the Sangamon, and the Vermilion of the Wabash, were associated generally with the Potawatomi, and were always the allies of the English. The Winnebagoes of Wisconsin were of the linguistic family of the Sioux; were [generally associated with the confederates against the Americans, and many of their distinguished warriors fought against General Harrison at Tippecanoe. The decadent tribes known in early times as the Illinois, did not play a conspicuous part in the history of the northwest.
While the limits of the various tribes may not be fixed with precision, and the boundary lines were often confused, still there were well recognized portions of the northwest that were under the exclusive control of certain nations, and these nations were extremely jealous of their rights, as shown by the anger and resentment of the Miamis at what they termed as the encroachment of the Potawatomi at the Treaty of Fort Wayne, in 1809.
The Wyandots, for instance, were the incontestable owners of the country between the Cuyahoga and the Au Glaize, in the present state of Ohio, their dominion extending as far south as the divide between the waters of the Sandusky river and the Scioto, and embracing the southern shore of Lake Erie from Maumee Bay, to the mouth of the Cuyahoga. Large numbers of them were also along the northern shores of Lake Erie, in Canada. Their territory at one time probably extended much farther south toward the Ohio, touching the lands of the Miamis on the west, but certainly embracing parts of the Muskingum country, to which they had invited the ancient Delawares, respectfully addressed by them as "grandfathers." Intermingled with the Wyandots south and west of Lake Erie were scattered bands of Ottawas, [but they were tenants of the soil by sufferance, and not as of right.
The Miamis have been described by General William Henry Harrison as the most extensive landowners in the northwest. He stands on record as saying that: "Their territory embraced all of Ohio, west of the Scioto; all of Indiana, and that part of Illinois, south of the Fox river and Wisconsin, on which frontier they were intermingled with the Kickapoos and some other small tribes." Harrison may have been right as to the ancient and original bounds of this tribe, but Little Turtle, their most famous chieftain, said at the Treaty of Greenville, in 1795: "It is well known by all my brothers present, that my fore-father kindled the first fire at Detroit; from thence, he extended his lines to the head-water of Scioto; from thence, to its mouth; from thence, down the Ohio, to the mouth of the Wabash, and from thence to Chicago, on Lake Michigan." The truth is, that the ancient demesne of the Miamis was much curtailed by the irruption of three tribes from the north in about the year 1765, the Sacs and Foxes, the Kickapoos and the Potawatomi, who conquered the old remnants of the Illinois tribes in the buffalo prairies and divided the country among themselves.
Says Hiram Beckwith, in speaking of the Potawatomi: "Always on friendly terms with the Kickapoos, with whom they lived in mixed villages, they joined the latter and the Sacs and Foxes in the exterminating war upon the Illinois tribes, and afterwards obtained their allotment of the despoiled domain." The Potawatomi ]advancing by sheer force of numbers, rather than by conquest, finally appropriated a large part of the lands in the present state of Indiana, north of the Wabash, commingling with the Kickapoos at the south and west, and advancing their camps as far down as Pine creek. The Miamis were loud in their remonstrances against this trespassing, and denounced the Potawatomi as squatters, "never having had any lands of their own, and being mere intruders upon the prior estate of others," but the Potawatomi were not dispossessed and were afterwards parties to all treaties with the United States government for the sale and disposal of said lands. The Miamis also lost a part of their lands on the lower west side of the Wabash to the Kickapoos. Pressing eastward from the neighborhood of Peoria, the Kickapoos established themselves on the Vermilion, where they had a village on both sides of that river at its confluence with the main stream. They were, says Beckwith, "Greatly attached to the Vermilion and its tributaries, and Governor Harrison found it a difficult task to reconcile them to ceding it away."