restricted access 4. Little Turtle, Blue Jacket, and the Second Tribal Confederation, 1783-1795
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4 FTER CONGRESSIONAL passage of the Land Ordinance of 1785, which provided for the survey and sale of federal lands north of the Ohio River, promised to unleash a stream of white migration into the region, outraged representatives of the area’s eleven Indian nations met along the Detroit River in late 1786 to coordinate their response. Mohawk leader Joseph Brant opened the meeting by reminding those assembled that “the interests of any one nation should be the welfare of all others,” but divisions soon developed . The Shawnee and the Miami, whose lands were among the most vulnerable to white encroachment, demanded united action to hold the Ohio River boundary against the Americans. Tribes that had already ceded land north of the Ohio to the United States—the Delaware and Wyandot—and tribes whose land was not immediately threatened—Ottawa and Potawatomi—urged reconciliation with the Americans. In the end, the noncompromisers prevailed as the tribes agreed that without some sort of coordinated resistance, the Americans would continue their western movement by negotiating land cessions with individual chiefs. The assembled representatives sent to Congress the Huron Town Declaration, which invalidated all previous treaties and declared the Ohio River as the boundary between their tribes and the United States. The tribes also agreed to hold all of their land in common and make no further cessions without the approval of all the other tribes. In effect, the tribes at Huron Town declared war on the United States. This Native American alliance became the Second Tribal Confederation . The First Confederation occurred in 1763 as tribes united 41 Little Turtle, Blue Jacket, and the Second Tribal Confederation, 1783–1795 ALLAN R. MILLETT A  vantne_3rd_chap4.qxd 11/4/2003 11:49 AM Page 41 42 BUILDERS OF OHIO behind the Ottawa war chief Pontiac to fight the British and their American colonists. The Third Confederation, led by the Shawnee chief Tecumseh and his brother the Prophet, began in the first decade of the nineteenth century and ended in defeat during the War of 1812. Fittingly, the hard liners took the lead in the Second Tribal Confederation. Miami war chief Mesekinnoquah (“Little Turtle”) and a Shawnee counterpart Waweyapiersenwaw (“Whirlpool,” known to Europeans as Blue Jacket) emerged as the two most important leaders of the Native American alliance that would defeat two of the three expeditions sent to destroy it and block the white settlement of Ohio until the middle of the 1790s. The Miami and Shawnee nations—themselves confederations of clans—arrived in the lands north of the Ohio River in the early eighteenth century. Although the Miami and Shawnee shared a common linguistic and cultural heritage, they came from different directions, both fleeing hostile tribal confederations. The Miami arrived after being pushed south and east from the lands around Lake Michigan and Lake Huron by the Chippewa, Ojibwa, and Potawatomi. Their eastward movement was stopped by other refugee tribes—the Wyandot , Delaware, Ottawa, and Shawnee—who had been displaced by the Iroquois Confederation. Numbering four thousand men, women, and children in the 1780s, the Miami occupied the lands near where the St. Joseph and St. Mary’s Rivers join to form the Maumee and where the Eel River meets the Wabash (now northwest Ohio and northeast Indiana). The Miami hunted as far south as the Ohio River. The Shawnee (Saanwanwa or “southern people”) had been wanderers from the southern Appalachians until they were driven from western Pennsylvania by the Mohawk, the westernmost member of the Iroquois Confederacy. Unable to migrate south due to the presence of the Creek and the Cherokee, the Shawnee settled in villages along the Muskingum , Licking, Scioto, the Little Miami, and the Great Miami Rivers (now central and southern Ohio) and hunted south of the Ohio River. Both tribes were integrated into the frontier trading network. Indians hunted for meat for themselves and hides and fur, which could be sold to English or French traders for European goods. The hunts required men to be away from their villages for months at a time and to range over large areas looking for game. Consequently, women engaged in maize-bean-squash agriculture, a staple diet for many of the Miami and Shawnee. While the Shawnee traded with both European powers and their colonists, the Miami favored French traders operating out of Fort Detroit. vantne_3rd_chap4.qxd 11/4/2003 11:49 AM Page 42 43 LITTLE TURTLE AND BLUE JACKET Little is known about the early life of either Little Turtle or Blue...


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