Western Confederacy

The Western Confederacy, or Western Indian Confederacy, was a loose confederacy of Native Americans in the Great Lakes region of the United States created following the American Revolutionary War. Formally, the confederacy referred to itself as the United Indian Nations, at their Confederate Council. It is also known as the Miami Confederacy, since many contemporaneous federal officials overestimated the influence and numerical strength of the Miami tribes based on the size of their principle city, Kekionga. The confederacy, which had its roots in pan-tribal movements dating to the 1740s, formed in an attempt to resist the expansion of the United States and the encroachment of American settlers into the Northwest Territory after Great Britain ceded the region to the U.S. in the 1783 Treaty of Paris. This resulted in the Northwest Indian War (1785–1795), in which the Confederacy won significant victories over the United States, but concluded with an U.S. victory at the Battle of Fallen Timbers. The Confederacy became fractured and agreed to peace with the United States, but the pan-tribal resistance was later rekindled by Tenskwatawa (known as the Prophet) and his brother, Tecumseh.

Western Confederacy
Confederacy
NW Native Tribes, 1792.png
Native peoples of the Northwest Territory, 1792
Formation1783
Extinction1795
Legislative branch
LegislatureJoint Council
Meeting placeInformal locations (various locations used)
Main bodyVarious tribes and governments including...

FormationEdit

The area making up the Ohio Country had been contested for over a century, beginning with the 17th-century Beaver Wars. The Iroquois confederacy competed with local tribes for control of the region, as did the European powers. The 18th-century French and Indian War was ignited by imperial contests between France and Great Britain. At the conclusion of that war, France ceded control of the region to Great Britain, who negotiated the 1768 Treaty of Fort Stanwix with its Iroquois allies. In the treaty, the Iroquois gave Britain the lands south of the Ohio River for settlement.[1]:274 This legitimized the Iroquois claim to the territory,[2]:189 and created a land rush of settlers from the British colonies in the east.[2]:191,193 The Shawnee responded by demanding money from settlers,[2]:198 and formed alliances with other tribes that inhabited the region to prevent more territorial losses; these efforts were opposed by the British.[3] Early formal ties leading to the formation of the Western Confederacy were made in 1774, in response to the Yellow Creek massacre and Lord Dunmore's War.[2]:207-8,210

By 1775, Great Britain was engaged in war with its North American colonists. Britain abandoned some western settlements and redeployed those forces to the east, which removed an impediment to illegal settlement.[2]:203,207 Native Americans had different reactions to the war, and many saw it as a British civil war in which they should play no role. Early in the conflict, the influential leader, White Eyes, declared Lenape independence from their Iroquois "uncles."[2]:262 The Iroquois (who claimed the western lands) were also divided in response to the war, and extinguished their ceremonial flame of unity in 1777.[2]:242-3 Although many native peoples fought for the British in the American Revolutionary War, Great Britain made no mention of their allies in the 1783 Treaty of Paris. According to Joseph Brant, a Mohawk chief who had fought for Great Britain, the British "sold the Indians to Congress."[4] Brant worked to establish a pan-Indian confederacy which could negotiate with the new United States, and delegates from 35 "nations" gathered on the upper Sandusky River in September 1783. The conference was also attended by Sir John Johnson and Alexander McKee, who advocated for a strong confederation and an end to violent raids.[5]:46 The council declared that no agreements with the United States could be made without the consensus of the entire confederation.[5]:53 Congress passed the Proclamation of 1783, which recognized Native American rights to the land. The Indian Affairs Committee of Congress passed the Resolution of October 15, 1783, however, which claimed the land and called on the native nations to withdraw beyond the Great Miami and Mad rivers.[5]:51[6]

 
Joseph Brant sat for this portrait by Gilbert Stuart during his 1786 visit to London.

The council reconvened in August 1784 at Niagara-on-the-Lake Niagara, where US commissioners were to meet with them. The US commission was delayed, however, and many Native American representatives left before the commission arrived.[5]:52 The commissioners summoned the remaining Iroquois tribes to Fort Stanwix, where the Iroquois nations relinquished their claims to the Ohio lands in the 1784 Treaty of Fort Stanwix.[5]:52 The Iroquois Confederacy refused to ratify the treaty, saying that it had no right to give the United States rights to the land, and the western nations living in the territory rejected the treaty on the same grounds. The US commissioners negotiated the Treaty of Fort McIntosh in January 1785, however, in which a few Native American representatives agreed to grant to the United States most of present-day Ohio.[5]:52 A small US Army regiment under General Josiah Harmar arrived in the territory later that year.

Councils and treatiesEdit

Brant toured Canada, London, and Paris in 1785 to obtain British and French support.[5]:55-6 A council held that year at Fort Detroit declared that the confederacy would deal jointly with the United States, forbade individual tribes from dealing directly with the United States, and declared the Ohio River as the boundary between their lands and those of the American settlers.[7] Nevertheless, a group of Shawnee, Delaware, and Wyandot agreed to allow U.S. settlement on a tract of land north of the Ohio River in the January 1786 Treaty of Fort Finney.[8] This treaty sparked violence between native inhabitants and U.S. settlers.[9]:101–102 American trader David Duncan warned that the treaties had "done a Great injury to United States," and tribal leaders warned that they could no longer stop their young men from retaliating.[10]

The Treaty of Fort Finney was rejected by a September 1786 council of 35 native nations (including British representatives) who met at a Wyandot (Huron) village on the upper Sandusky River.[5]:46-7 Logan's raid into Shawnee territory occurred weeks later, hardening native views of the U.S. That December, Brant returned from Europe to address a council on the Detroit River. The council sent a letter to the U.S. Congress which was signed by eleven native nations, who called themselves "the United Indian Nations, at their Confederate Council."[5]:58-9[11] The confederacy assembled again on the Maumee River in the fall of 1787 to consider a reply from the U.S., but adjourned after not receiving one.

Congress appointed Arthur St. Clair as governor of the new Northwest Territory, directing him to make peace with the native peoples. He did not arrive until summer 1788, when he invited the nations to a council at Fort Harmar to negotiate terms by which the United States could purchase lands and avoid war.[12] The sight of Fort Harmar and nearby Marietta, both north of the Ohio River boundary, convinced some that the United States was negotiating from a position of strength. At pre-negotiation meetings, Joseph Brant suggested a compromise to other Native American leaders: allow existing U.S. settlements north of the Ohio River, and draw a new boundary at the mouth of the Muskingum River.[9]:108-10 Some at the council rejected Brant's compromise. A Wyandot delegation offered a belt of peace to the Miami delegation, who refused to accept it; a Wyandot delegate placed it on the shoulder of Little Turtle, a Miami military leader, who shrugged it off.[9]:112 Brant then sent a letter to St. Clair asking that treaty negotiations be held at a different location; St. Clair refused, and accused Brant of acting for the British. Brant then declared that he would boycott negotiations with the United States, and suggested that others do the same. About 200 of the remaining moderates came to Fort Harmar in December and agreed to concessions in the 1789 Treaty of Fort Harmar, which moved the border and designated U.S. sovereignty over native lands.[9]:112-3 To those who had refused to attend, however, the treaty sanctioned the U.S. appetite for native lands in the region without addressing native concerns.

CompositionEdit

The composition of the confederacy changed with time and circumstances, and a number of tribes were involved. Because most nations were not centralized political units at the time, involvement in the confederacy could be decided by a village (or an individual) rather than a nation.

The signatories of the 1786 Detroit letter to Congress were the Iroquois (the "Six Nations"), Cherokee, Huron, Shawnee, Delaware, Odawa, Potawatomi, Twitchee, and the Wabash Confederacy. Joseph Brant signed the letter as an individual.[11] Due to their residence in (or near) the Ohio Country, the confederacy mainly comprised the following tribes:

  • The Wyandot (or Huron), the confederacy's honorary sponsors, hosted the first gathering of native nations at their villages on the upper Sandusky River after the 1783 Treaty of Paris.[5]:46
  • Shawnee
  • Lenape (commonly known as the Delaware at the time)
  • Miami
  • Council of Three Fires (Potawatomi, Odawa, and Ojibwe): their southern families were involved with the Confederacy, but northern and western villages were occupied at the time with a war with the Sioux.[1]:313
  • The Wabash Confederacy (Wea, Piankashaw, and others) allied with the Western Confederacy, until it signed a 1792 treaty with the United States.[9]:256, 262

The Western Confederacy also received support from more-distant nations, including:

The confederacy was periodically supported by communities and warriors from west of the Mississippi River and south of the Ohio River, including the Dakota, Chickamauga Cherokee and Upper Creek.

War with the United StatesEdit

 
Little Turtle, a Miami war chief who opposed concessions to the United States

Harmar led an expedition to subdue the native confederacy, marching north from Fort Washington to Kekionga in 1790. His forces were defeated in what was, at the time, the largest Native American victory against the U.S.[13] The victory emboldened the confederacy. Because they were both present at Kekionga when it was attacked, it was the first military operation shared by Little Turtle and Shawnee leader Blue Jacket.[9]:113-115

The following year, determined to defeat the confederacy, St. Clair led a new expedition on the same route. At the time, the confederacy was in Detroit considering terms of peace to present to the United States; but when it was alerted to the new campaign it readied for war.[14]:159 The confederacy ambushed and quickly overwhelmed St. Clair in camp, and St. Clair's defeat remains one of the worst defeats in the history of the U.S. Army.[15]

After this decisive military victory, U.S. president George Washington sent peace emissaries to the confederacy. The first emissary was Major Alexander Truman;[16] he and his servant, William Lynch, were killed before they arrived.[17] A similar mission in May 1792 ended when Colonel John Hardin and his servant, Freeman, were mistaken for spies and killed on the site of modern Hardin, Ohio. A U.S. delegation led by Rufus Putnam and John Hamtramck, with assistance from Little Turtle's son-in-law William Wells, negotiated a treaty with the tribes of the Wabash Confederacy later that year. According to Henry Knox, the treaty weakened the Western Confederacy by 800 warriors.[9]:256, 262

The confederacy continued to debate whether to continue the war or sue for peace while they had the advantage, and a council of several nations met at the confluence of the Auglaize and Maumee Rivers in September 1792.[14]:223 Alexander McKee, representing British interests, arrived late in the month. For a week in October, pro-war factions (especially Simon Girty, the Shawnee, and the Miami) debated moderate factions—particularly the Iroquois, represented by Cornplanter and Red Jacket.[14]:226-7 The council agreed that the Ohio River must remain the boundary of the United States, that the forts in the Ohio Country must be destroyed, and that they would meet with the United States at the lower Sandusky River in the spring of 1793.[14]:227 Although the U.S. received the council's demands with indignation, Knox agreed to send treaty commissioners Benjamin Lincoln, Timothy Pickering and Beverley Randolph to the 1793 council[18] and suspend offensive operations until that time.[14]:228

At the spring 1793 council, a disagreement arose between the Shawnee and the Iroquois. The Shawnee and Delaware insisted that the U.S. recognize the 1768 Fort Stanwix treaty between the Six Nations and Great Britain, which set the Ohio River as a boundary. Joseph Brant countered that the Six Nations had nothing to gain from this demand, and refused to concede. The U.S. commissioners argued that it would be too expensive to move white settlers who had already established homesteads north of the Ohio River.[14]:240-45 The council (without the Six Nations) sent a declaration to the U.S. commissioners on 13 August contesting U.S. claims to any lands above the Ohio, since they were based on treaties made with nations that did not live there, and with money which was worthless to the native tribes.[19] The council proposed that the U.S. relocate white settlers with the money that would have been used to buy native lands and pay the Legion of the United States.{{r|sword|p=246} } It ended with discord among the confederacy, and Benjamin Lincoln wrote to John Adams that they had failed to secure peace in the northwest.[20]

After the failed peace negotiations, the Legion of the United States under General Anthony Wayne mobilized for yet another march north. The legion was better trained and equipped than previous U.S. expeditions, and Wayne had a methodical plan to build supply forts along the way to protect his supply chain. The confederacy was divided in its response to Wayne, with some leaders recommending that it negotiate terms of peace rather than engage in battle.[9]:337, 369 The perceived cracks in the confederacy concerned the British, who sent reinforcements to Fort Miami on the Maumee River.[21]:293–294 A large, combined confederacy force attacked Fort Recovery, inflicting heavy casualties and disrupting the legion's supply lines; however, it also exposed lingering inter-tribal conflicts and strategic differences.[9]:323

On 20 August 1794, the legion defeated a combined native force at the Battle of Fallen Timbers. The British commander of nearby Fort Miami refused to come to aid of the native force or give it refuge during its retreat. Wayne finally arrived in Kekionga and selected the site for Fort Wayne, a new U.S. stronghold, on 17 September 1794.

End of the confederacyEdit

The following year, the Western Confederacy negotiated the Treaty of Greenville with the United States. Utilizing St. Clair's defeat and Fort Recovery as a reference point,[22] the treaty forced the northwest Native American tribes to cede southern and eastern Ohio and tracts of land around forts and settlements in Illinois Country; to recognize the U.S. (rather than Britain) as the ruling power in the Old Northwest, and to surrender ten chiefs as hostages until all American prisoners were returned. The Western Confederacy ceased to function as an entity, and many of its leaders pledged peace with the United States. A new pan-Indian movement, led by Tecumseh, formed a decade later. According to historian William Hogeland, the Western Confederacy was the "high-water mark in resistance to white expansion."[9]:374

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b McDonnell, Michael A (2015). Master of Empire. Great Lakes Indians and the Making of America. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 978-0374714185.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Calloway, Colin G (2018). The Indian World of George Washington. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780190652166. LCCN 2017028686.
  3. ^ Schuhmann, William (19 June 2018). "Early Conflicts in the Ohio River Valley". The Filson Historical Society. Retrieved 14 October 2019.
  4. ^ "Betrayal and Compensation". CBC.ca. 2001. Retrieved 13 Dec 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Van Every, Dale (2008) [1963]. Ark of Empire: The American Frontier: 1784-1803 (The Frontier People of America) (Kindle ed.). New York: Morrow – via Endeavour Media.
  6. ^ Report on Indian Affairs (1783)  – via Wikisource.
  7. ^ Keiper, Karl A. (2010). "12". Land of the Indians – Indiana. p. 53. ISBN 9780982470312. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  8. ^ "Fort Finney". Whitewater River Foundation. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Hogeland, William (2017). Autumn of the Black Snake. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 9780374107345. LCCN 2016052193.
  10. ^ Sanders, Ashley (2015). Between Two Fires: The Origins of Settler Colonialism in the United States and French Algeria (PDF) (Thesis). Michigan State University. pp. 218–219. Retrieved 8 July 2020.
  11. ^ a b "A Confederation of Native peoples seek peace with the United States, 1786". The American YAWP Reader. Stanford University Press. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  12. ^ Knox, Henry. "To George Washington from Henry Knox, 23 May 1789". Founders Online. National Archives. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  13. ^ Allison, Harold (1986). The Tragic Saga of the Indiana Indians. Paducah: Turner Publishing Company. ISBN 0-938021-07-9.:76
  14. ^ a b c d e f Sword, Wiley (1985). President Washington's Indian War: The Struggle for the Old Northwest, 1790-1795. Norman and London: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0-8061-1864-4.
  15. ^ Stilwell, Blake (17 May 2019). "This is the biggest victory Natives scored against the colonials". We Are The Mighty. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  16. ^ Heitman, F.B. (1914). Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army During the War of the Revolution, April 1775, to December, 1783. Rare book shop publishing Company, Incorporated. p. 549. Retrieved 2014-12-06.
  17. ^ "Memorial for Alexander Truman". Find A Grave.
  18. ^ "Major General Benjamin Lincoln". Retrieved 30 July 2019.
  19. ^ "Negotiations between the Western Indian Confederacy & U.S. Commissioners on the issue of the Ohio River as the boundary of Indian lands, August 1793" (PDF). National Humanities Center. Retrieved 30 July 2019.
  20. ^ "To John Adams from Benjamin Lincoln, 11 September 1793". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved 30 July 2019.
  21. ^ Gaff, Alan D. (2004). Bayonets in the Wilderness. Anthony Waynes Legion in the Old Northwest. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0-8061-3585-9.
  22. ^ "Treaty of Greene Ville". Touring Ohio. Retrieved 15 August 2019.

SourcesEdit