"...desired items such as the silver jewelry both men and women liked to wear. Some Indian women married white traders and acted as a bridge between cultures, and many natives had close relations with the British, French, and American traders in their midst, lnterconnectedness did not guarantee peace, however, and the settlements at the Glaize became the headquarters for the militant resistance of American expansion.
As President George Washington mulled over the best way to "induce them [the Indians] to relinquish our territories and remove to the illimitable regions of the West"15 the Shawnee, Miami, and Chippewa leaders had to devise a plan to keep their lands. Clearly it would take a united effort to stand up to American aggression. No one Indian nation was powerful enough to take on the Americans by themselves. Much like Philip 100 years previously, 18th-century leaders recognized the need for native coalitions. Their close residency fostered cooperation and a shared sense of destiny. A sense of pan-Indian identity cut across tribal lines and helped to foster the unity that would be required to hold a native confederation together against the Americans.
There were many conscious attempts to promote that sense of unity Many Indian leaders saw it as the only hope for a future for their people. From the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, Indian leaders sought to communicate with each other with the goal of resisting U.S. expansion. Tribes with similar self-interest, which we refer to as the Western Confederacy, first met in 1785 and continued to insist that the United States deal with the whole group rather than with individual tribes. In 1787, the Huron, Mohawk, Oneida, and Shawnee met in the Creek Nation to discuss plans for a "general defense." Leaders invoked the names of great warriors who had resisted whites so that their descendants could remain free. On a practical level, cooperative strikes targeted American river trade by attacking boats on the Tennessee, Cumberland, and Ohio Rivers.
Some individuals rose to prominence in this vibrant, defiant atmosphere. One was Blue Jacket—a Shawnee leader who gathered his 300 followers near the Glaize. People resided in bark cabins, tended vegetable gardens, farmed corn, and pastured horses nearby.
Into this atmosphere of native unity, confidence, and resistance the U.S. Secretary of War Henry Knox sent General Josiah Harmar in command of 1,500 poorly disciplined militia in 1790. Harmar...
...had orders "to extirpate, utterly, if possible, the said [Indian] banditti."16 He was to destroy the Miami, Shawnee, and Delaware villages along the Manmee River in Indiana "by a sudden stroke, by which their towns and crops may be destroyed."17 In the face of this aggression, the leaders of the seven Indian villages at Kekionga (present-day Fort Wayne, Indiana) moved their women and children to safety. Harmar burned 185 deserted log houses and about 20,000 bushels of corn in the fields. Proud of his destructive activities, Harmar failed to realize that the warriors fully intended to meet his army.
A native force representing the spirit and physical makeup of
Indian unity met the invading Americans. Blue Jacket led the
Shawnee, Little Turtle led his Miami warriors, and they drew
support from Delawares, Pottawatomies, Chippewas, and Ottawas.
As Blue Jacket later said, the native warriors were "acting in a cause
of justice" to protect their homes.19 In two engagements the moti-
vated, unified native force proved to be more than a match for a
demoralized, poorly supplied American army. Little Turtle lured
Harmar into an ambush, even setting villages aflame to give the
illusion of a panicked flight. Deep in the forest the Indian force
attacked and the Americans lost 183 men. The rest survived only
because Little Turtle had made his point and allowed them to leave.
The Indians' stunning victory over Harmar's men gave confidence
to the natives who now knew they could repel invasion. On the
other hand, it frightened and enraged frontier settlers who realized
that their new federal government could not protect them.
While Indians relished their victory, they also knew it was not
the end of American attempts to force them from the land. Warriors
had to continually be on the alert for the next threat, plan the next
defense. Women lived in fear of the next invading army and had
little hope for a peaceful future for their children. That was the
problem with this system. Natives had to win every battle. One
defeat meant a land-yielding treaty. They had to stay unified and
prepared, which was very difficult. Readiness status thus overrode
normal activities like hunting, and retarded social activities as well.
Who had time or energy to court, celebrate, or even mourn tradition-
ally when the Americans would come back any day?
The Americans did come back. The fledgling federal government could not give up so easily, or they would find that they had lost more than just Ohio. In order to maintain federal authority and maintain the loyalty of westerners, President Washington had to control Ohio. His new government committed to driving...
...town." During September 1776, the Americans destroyed more than
36 Cherokee towns. People fled to the mountains in fear for their
lives. Cherokees now lived as refugees with nothing to eat when
just a few months previously they had been wealthy. The destruc-
tion of their livelihoods continued. In 1779, American troops burned
11 towns, over 20,000 bushels of corn, and stole 20,000 pounds
worth of goods. People became desperate, and chiefs responsible
for the future of their people had to act. When older chiefs pled
for peace to stop the destruction, the younger warriors saw them
as weak and cowardly. This internal disagreement over the proper
way to deal with white aggression further weakened the Cherokee
people. While the defiant warriors fought for traditional Cherokee
principles, the chiefs entrusted with the safety and well-being of
the tribe could not tolerate the destruction. Tribal members divided
over the issue of resistance to Americans. The American Revolution
had split another native power group.
All participants pay a price for waging war. The American Indians
of the Revolutionary period seem to have paid especially dearly.
With the war officially over after the Treaty of Paris, Indian Country
woke to a harsh new reality. After years of nearly constant warfare,
the native nations were weakened. Entire villages had been lost.
Even if a tribe had maintained its land base, dwellings had to be
rebuilt, fields replanted, and some attempt at a normal life recon-
structed. No one could awaken departed loved ones; no one could
replace overhunted wildlife; no one could be sure of what would
come next for the native peoples of the East.
FIGHT FOR OHIO COUNTRY
The British claimed that their former native allies had not been
abandoned but "remitted to the care of neighbours."12 The neigh-
bors were quickly revealed as rapacious hind seekers. The new
reality that eastern natives awoke to was that the aggressive
American settlers now had a new, organized government and an
army to back it up. The one feature of power the Americans did
not have was money, and they quickly sought to remedy that by
turning "empty land" they had "won" from the British into cash.
The young American government desperately needed more land
to act as a safety valve for the pent up demands of their new
citizens. In addition, the issue of debts owed to Revolutionary War
veterans threatened to destroy the fledging political experiment of
the United States. The "empty" land of Ohio promised to solve all...
of these problems. The only obstacles to that plan were the men,
women, and children who lived on that land. So began the fight
Americans approached Indian relations with confidence in their
right to control all the land yielded by Britain in the Treaty of Paris.
James Dean, member of the Continental Congress, advised that
"I would never suffer the word 'nation'... or any other form which
would revive or seem to confirm their former ideas of indepen-
dence. They should rather be taught that the public opinion of their
importance has long since ceased."13 Americans seemed to care
little that the land they coveted for expansion was also the home-
land of natives. In 1785 in the Treaty of Fort Mcintosh the United
States told assembled chiefs that two-thirds of Ohio was U.S. land.
Of course that was easy to say when the rightful possessors, Miami
and Shawnee chiefs, were not present.
The new government quickly moved to organize the newly won
lands bv means of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. This document
set out a plan based on values and morals that may have reflected
the best intentions of the new nation but certainly were never
carried out. Article III promised "The utmost good faith shall
always be observed towards the Indians; their lands and property
shall never be taken from them without their consent; and, in their
property, rights, and liberty, they shall never be invaded or dis-
turbed, unless in just and lawful wars authorized by Congress____"M
These lofty words would quickly ring hollow in the ears of Native
Americans. Individual American citizens certainly did not intend
to act with "good faith." Relations on the frontier were exception-
ally violent. In Pine Creek, Pennsylvania, in 1790 a judge ordered a
jury to find guilty a man accused of murdering an Indian because
of the overwhelming evidence. The jury not only found the mur-
derer innocent, but raised a subscription to pay his court costs.
The relentless pressure of westward expansion meant an inevitable
clash in Ohio. Indians regarded the Ohio River as the final accept-
able boundary between white and native lands. By 1789 there were
20,000 white settlers coming down the Ohio.
When faced with the continued intrusions of a white dominated
market economy based on agriculture, native groups had two
choices—participate or reject. Those who participated and grudg-
ingly engaged in the yeoman farmer ideal of the new republic found...
...it to offer little protection. Whites wanted Indian lands no matter
what they were doing on them. Farming offered little protection
against land hunger. Those who sought to avoid the expansion of
the market into their ancestral homelands and avoid white contact
really had to leave the area. Some groups crossed the Mississippi
to escape the aggressions of Americans. Spanish territory provided
refuge for a few decades.
Those who stayed in Ohio realized a conflict with the United
States would be inevitable so preparation was the best defense.
Once again the tribes of the region found themselves forced to deal
with a bewildering array of power dynamics. The Iroquois League's
political and military power exerted in the region had collapsed.
Their British allies had abandoned the Indians in the peace settlement
yet retained control of several interior forts. The British naturally
harboured ill-will toward the Americans, and hoped to create prob-
lems for the new nation on the frontier. But could they be trusted?
Natives once again had to evaluate the intentions and reliability of
foreigners in their own quest for sovereignty. The British offered
encouraging words, arms, food, and other supplies to tribes who
opposed American expansion. The reality was that the natives had
few options for obtaining these necessary items.
The nearly constant pressure of whites brought changes and
adaptations to Indian culture. Many of those residing in Ohio
country could be considered as refugees. They had come to this
region fleeing white pressure elsewhere. An area like the Glaize,
on the Maumee River near modern Defiance, Ohio, represented the
new world for natives. The Ottowas lived here before the American
Revolution and warriors of other tribes often moved through on their
way to raid settlers. As natives relocated their villages in response
to white incursions, they migrated toward the Glaize. By 1792, three
Shawnee towns, two Delaware, two Miami, and a European trad-
ing town clustered around the Glaize. Although they were tribally
distinct, the residents shared many aspects of post-contact culture.
Subsistence came primarily from agriculture as women tended
large vegetable gardens and several acres of corn. The importance
of agriculture is revealed in the ongoing practice of the Green
Corn Ceremony, a harvest celebration. Men spent their time away
from home on the warpath, hunting for food, and supplying the
fur trade. Participation in the market economy allowed access to..."