I. Address of Little Turtle
[4 Jan. 1802]
Father you have heard the observasions of my Brother Chief, Pottawottama. It gives us great pleasure that the Great Spirit who made us both, has permitted us to take you by the hand at the Great Council of the sixteen fires.
Father, it has again fell to my lot to make known to you the wish of your children. I was in hopes that my brethren the Great Chiefs would have spoken for themselves, but by their desire I have undertaken to speak for them.
Father, A Treaty was made six years since at Greenville between the President of the United States and your children the Red People.
Father, I with some of my Brethren made certain objections to that Treaty, but finally thought it best it should be signed, and we wish to adhere to it, and hope our white brethren will do so.
My Father, at that Treaty it was understood that the white people would be the fathers friends and protectors of the red People, that they would use their best endeavours to maintain friendship and good understanding2 between us and the United States, and we believe it has been generally attended to both by the White and Red People.
My Father, and Brothers, by the Treaty it was mentioned that certain reservations should be made for the white people in our Country that the white people should not settle over the line described by the Treaty, that no individual of the white people should be allowed to purchase any land of the Indians, nor any Indians to sell to individuals of the White people, but that when your children were willing to sell any of their lands it should be sold to the United States, which we think a very happy circumstance, because the United States will not allow their Red Brothers to be cheated.
Father some parts of the Treaty has not been so well understood as could be wished one part which was not understood was mentioned to the President of the United States four years since at Philadelphia concerning the lands at Fort St. Vincenes. By the Treaty the United States were to have all the land which had before been ceeded by the Indians to the English or French.
Father, we think some of the white people are settling over the line and we are fearful some of our young men may interrupt the harmony which prevails between the Red and White people, as the white people are considered out of the protection of the United States, when they settle over the line, and as the Chiefs cannot be at all places to watch over their young men.
Father we therefore request that the lines may be run, and persons appointed to explaine those parts of the Treaty of Greenville, which are not perfectly understood. If you do not think proper, father, to appoint persons to meet their Red Brethren at St. Vincenes to explaine those parts of the Treaty not understood by your children the Red people, we wish you would appoint some person to examine all the circumstances and make report to you.
Father we are anxious that those parts of the Treaty of Greenville not well understood, may be explained, that the harmony and friendship which prevails between the white people and your children the Red people may be placed on a lasting foundation.
Father, by the Treaty of Greenville your children were promised a certain quantity of goods and money should be paid them annually, and this they expected would have been done.
Father, when the goods arrive your Children meet with pleasure to receive them; but father we are sorry to mention that the goods do not come in good order, that more or less of our annuities have always been unfit for use and particularly the powder, we believe it is your wish that they should be delivered in good order.
Father, the chiefs, your children knowing the route by which the goods come, are not surprised that they get damaged. We have twice received our annuities by the way of Cincinnati at which times they arrived in good order. Once, they came by Presque Isle to Miami where we went to receive them concerning which complaints were made to Governor St. Clair.
Father, it is my opinion and the opinion of the Pottawottama, Miami, Delaware, Shawaneses, Eel River, Weas, Kickapoos, Peankashaws, and Kaskaskais, that Fort Wayne is the best place for distributing their annuities, and that it would be best for the Chipaways, Ottoways and Wyandots to receive their annuities at Detroit.
Father, your children wish to know your opinion relative to these things. The United States are indebted to us one hundred dollars for the year 1800 we were also promised several horses which we never received. Of the annuity of Five hundred dollars promised to the Eel River Indians only seventy five dollars worth of brass Kettles have been received and we do not know what has become of the remainder of the annuity. Your children expect that the deficiencies of their annuities will be made up to them.
Father, it was mentioned by the Executive that a trading house should be established in our Country for the benefit of the Red people, we wish it might be established at Fort Wayne.
Father a number of reasons might be given to prove that Fort Wayne is the most suitable place, one I think will be sufficient to convince you Fort Wayne is the best place, it is at a distance from the white settlements, and the farther a trading house is established from the white people the better it will be for both.
Father, we are sorry to trouble you so much; but these things are of consquence to us. We are imposed upon by the British traders, who ask very dear for their goods, when we ask them why they demand so much they reply it is owing to the taxes the American Government lay on their goods and that we never shall get them cheaper. We are of opinion that if a trading house was established in our Country this imposition would be remedied.
Father, when your children go to Fort Wayne to receive their annuities they have no house to meet in, the Fort from which the goods are delivered is so small, but two or three can enter at the same time, this looks suspicious to some of our Brethren. We wish father a house may be built at this place for us to meet and hold our Councils in, and receive our annuities from.
Father, I was requested by my children before I left home to ask you to place a Blacksmith at Fort Wayne to repair our different Tools, we cannot have it done now without going to Cincinnati or Detroit.
Father, We wish to reap advantages from cultivating the Earth as you do, and request ploughs and other necessary tools may be put into the hands of the Interpreter at Fort Wayne to be dealt out to any who will receive and make use of them for the purpose intended.
Father, Should this request be granted nothing shall be wanting on the part of your children the Chiefs, to introduce husbandry among their children, if the United States will furnish them with the proper utensils. But Father nothing can be done to advantage unless the great Council of the Sixteen fires now assembled, will prohibit any person from selling any Spiritous Liquors among their Red Brothers.
Father, the introduction of this poison has been prohibited in our camps, but not in our Towns, where many of our Hunters, for this poison, dispose of not only their furs &ca. but frequently of their guns & Blankets and return to their families destitute.
Father, Your children are not wanting in industry, but it is the introduction of this fatal poison, which keeps them poor. Your children have not that command over themselves you have, therefore before any thing can be done to advantage this evil must be remedied.
Father, When our White Brothers come to this land our forefathers were numerous and happy: but since their intercourse with the white people, and owing to the introduction of this fatal poison we have become less numerous and happy.
Father, Your children the Red People have had several friendly talks with the people called Quaokers, in which they have made many friendly proposals relative to the introduction of Husbandry among us; but as yet nothing has been done.
Father, Your children only wish to mention to you things, which are of the greatest importance to them, we wish for a conversation with the Secretary of War to whom we wish to communicate certain things.
FC (Lb in DNA: RG 75, LSIA); in a clerk’s hand; at head of text: “Little Turtle”; at foot of text: “I certify the above is a true translation of the Talk made by the Indian Chiefs therein mentioned William Wells Interpreter City of Washington January 4th: 1802”; follows Document III in Lb. Printed in National Intelligencer, 12 Feb. 1802, as the first address of the conference following the introduction by Five Medals (see below); at head of text: “Talk held with the Little Turtle, and the Chiefs of the Miamies, Pottawattoma and Weas, in the presence of the President of the United States. January 2, 1802.”
Little Turtle (Michikinikwa, Meshikinoquak) was probably born in 1747 or 1752 on the Eel River in what later became the state of Indiana. He rose in prominence as a war leader, perhaps earning a high position by a victory over an American force in 1780. He was the primary leader and strategist, at least of the Miamis and perhaps of all the confederated tribes, when the Indians of the Northwest decisively routed expeditionary forces commanded by Josiah Harmar and Arthur St. Clair in 1790–91. By 1795, he decided that continued resistance to the United States would be useless, and he became an advocate of acculturation and cooperation with the U.S. Although the United States government treated him as the primary chief of the Miamis, he met strong resistance from members of the tribe who opposed change and accommodation. Along with William Wells, by 1808 he came into conflict with the Shawnee Prophet and Tecumseh, who tapped into the traditionalist strain and tried to mobilize the western tribes against the United States. When Little Turtle died in 1812, he was buried with U.S. military honors. He stood six feet tall and was a persuasive orator. Samuel L. Mitchill described him in 1802 as “a very handsome man; of a colour rather whiter than the common Indians,” and Volney also commented on the relative paleness of Little Turtle’s complexion. John Adams called him “a remarkable man,” and in 1794 a British officer at Detroit called him the “most decent, modest, sensible Indian I ever conversed with.” TJ told Mitchill that Little Turtle was “the most intelligent man of his Race” that TJ had ever met (Samuel L. Mitchill to Catharine Mitchill, 13 Jan. 1802, in NNMus; Carter, Little Turtle description begins Harvey Lewis Carter, The Life and Times of Little Turtle: First Sagamore of the Wabash, Urbana, Ill., 1987 description ends , 4, 43–5; Richard White, The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650–1815 [Cambridge, 1991], 467, 495; ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Sturtevant, Handbook description begins William C. Sturtevant, gen. ed., Handbook of North American Indians, Washington, 1978–, 14 vols. description ends , 15:684–5, 687; Barbara Alice Mann, “The Greenville Treaty of 1795: Pen-and-Ink Witchcraft in the Struggle for the Old Northwest,” in Bruce E. Johansen, ed., Enduring Legacies: Native American Treaties and Contemporary Controversies [Westport, Conn., 2004], 170, 175–6; Dowd, “Thinking and Believing,” description begins Gregory E. Dowd, “Thinking and Believing: Nativism and Unity in the Ages of Pontiac and Tecumseh,” American Indian Quarterly, 16 (1992) description ends 316, 318–21; Volney, View description begins C. F. C. Volney, A View of the Soil and Climate of the United States of America, trans. Charles Brockden Brown, Philadelphia, 1804; repr. 1968 description ends , 361–2).
Brother Chief: the Potawatomi chief Five Medals, referred to above as Pottawottama, spoke first, saying: “Father, Listen to your children, your children are happy that the Great Spirit has given them permission to speak with you this day. Father, your children have travelled a great distance, and are happy to meet you at the great Council of the sixteen fires. Father, your children have something to communicate which they think of importance, both to your children the Red People and to you, as the Great Spirit made both, your children hope that no accident will happen to destroy the friendship and good understanding, which exists between them and their Brothers the white people. Father, our Brother Chief the Little Turtle will communicate to you our wishes and desires” (Lb in DNA: RG 75, LSIA).
Great Council Of The Sixteen Fires: Congress, composed of 16 states. For council fires symbolically representing deliberative bodies or the locales where discussions took place, see Francis Jennings and others, eds., The History and Culture of Iroquois Diplomacy: An Interdisciplinary Guide to the Treaties of the Six Nations and Their League (Syracuse, N.Y., 1985), 118.
We have confidence, in our interpreter: William Wells, born in Pennsylvania in 1770, was captured in Kentucky by Miami warriors in 1784. Adopted into the tribe, he participated in raids against the frontier and married Little Turtle’s daughter. In 1792, after a stay with relatives in Kentucky, he decided to give up his life with the Miamis. He became an interpreter for Rufus Putnam, who was attempting to negotiate a peace with the Indians of the Northwest Territory. Wells then headed a company of scouts for Anthony Wayne’s army in 1794, fighting against the Miamis and their allies. He interpreted for the tribe and five other groups at the Greenville negotiations the following year. Reestablishing a relationship with Little Turtle, he was his father-in-law’s interpreter on the visits to Philadelphia in 1796 and 1798, and from 1798 to 1800 was interpreter and deputy Indian agent for the U.S. at Fort Wayne (Paul A. Hutton, “William Wells: Frontier Scout and Indian Agent,” Indiana Magazine of History, 74 , 183–222; ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Indian Affairs, 1:582).
Anthony Wayne held treaty negotiations at Greenville from mid-June to early August 1795. More than 1,100 Native Americans were present for at least a portion of the talks. Ninety-five leaders, including Little Turtle, signed the treaty directly or through proxies. The treaty specified the course of a “general boundary line” that would follow various rivers and portages from the mouth of the Cuyahoga River on Lake Erie to the Ohio River opposite the mouth of the Kentucky River. Ceding all claim to lands “lying eastwardly and southwardly” of the boundary, the Indians also had to give up, on their side of the line, several parcels of land around forts or settlements or otherwise obligated by the United States (Richard H. Kohn, Eagle and Sword: The Federalists and the Creation of the Military Establishment in America, 1783–1802 [New York, 1975], 156–7; ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Indian Affairs, 1:562–83; U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855–56, 8 vols. description ends , 7:49–54).
Certain Objections: in the protracted talks at Greenville, which involved interaction among the tribes as well as with Wayne, Little Turtle asked for proof that the United States truly had peace as its goal. By the end of the conference, he accepted Wayne’s explanations on that subject. Little Turtle objected to the government’s reliance on a treaty made at Fort Harmar in 1789, arguing that the concessions made then were not by the tribes that had true claim to the territory in question. He tried to assert the Miamis’ sovereignty over much of the land subject to division between the United States and the Indians, but failed to get the course of the boundary line changed or to alter the terms of some of the tracts reserved for U.S. posts. Wayne argued that the Indians had made concessions to the French and the British, and that the European powers had then yielded the region to the United States by the terms of the peace at the end of the American Revolution. Wayne also used the Jay Treaty to bring home the point that the Northwest Territory tribes could expect no support from Great Britain. Little Turtle, to no avail, protested an article in the treaty that required some chiefs to remain at Greenville as hostages until the Indians had released all their captives. Wayne did agree to his request that some traders who had previously dealt with the Miamis be allowed to continue in that trade under the new treaty. In a private meeting after the close of the negotiations, Little Turtle explained to Wayne that he had become “fully convinced that the treaty was wisely and benevolently calculated to promote the mutual interest, and insure the permanent happiness of the Indians,” and he had made it “his determined resolution to adhere religiously to its stipulations” (ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Indian Affairs, 1:567, 569, 570–1, 573–8, 583; Mann, “Greenville Treaty,” 183–94).
Lands At Fort St. Vincenes: by the Greenville treaty, the United States gave up claim to Indian lands north of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi, with certain exceptions. One such exception was the post at Vincennes on the Wabash River, plus an unspecified amount of “lands adjacent, of which the Indian title has been extinguished.” In the discussions at Greenville, Little Turtle had protested that the Miamis never gave up possession of “lands on the Wabash.” Wayne retorted that the Miamis had allowed the French to have Vincennes, the British received possession from the French, and the British ceded the claim to the United States. In other cases in which land outside the limits of a post was retained by the U.S., the treaty indicated the size and shape of the reserved tract (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855–56, 8 vols. description ends , 7:50–1; ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Indian Affairs, 1:570, 573).
The annual quantity of goods and money the tribes were to receive under the Greenville treaty totaled $9,500. Seven tribes had annual allotments of $1,000, while five smaller groups were each to get $500. These annuities were in addition to $20,000 in goods given to the tribes collectively at the time the treaty was signed (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855–56, 8 vols. description ends , 7:51).
The Eel River Indians were generally thought of as a band of the Miamis, but through Little Turtle’s efforts at Greenville they were recognized as a separate tribe in the treaty and granted an annuity of $500. The Weas and the Piankashaws were closely related to the Miamis and were sometimes considered to be part of that tribe. They were generally treated as independent entities, however, and like the Eel River group they received separate annuities under the treaty. At the Greenville negotiations, Little Turtle spoke on behalf of several groups, including the Kickapoos, the Kaskaskias, and the Potawatomis (same; ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1832–61, 38 vols. description ends , Indian Affairs, 1:576, 577; Sturtevant, Handbook description begins William C. Sturtevant, gen. ed., Handbook of North American Indians, Washington, 1978–, 14 vols. description ends , 15:681, 682, 686; Dowd, “Thinking and Believing,” description begins Gregory E. Dowd, “Thinking and Believing: Nativism and Unity in the Ages of Pontiac and Tecumseh,” American Indian Quarterly, 16 (1992) description ends 315).
The government did establish a trading house at Fort Wayne, and one at Detroit, later in the year after Congress revived and continued in force an expired act that authorized the trading houses (Terr. Papers description begins Clarence E. Carter and John Porter Bloom, eds., The Territorial Papers of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1934–75, 28 vols. description ends , 7:52, 63; TJ to the Senate and the House of Representatives, 27 Jan. 1802).
Into The Hands Of The Interpreter At Fort Wayne: on 1 Jan., Dearborn appointed Wells assistant agent for Indian affairs for Indiana Territory, residing at Fort Wayne. Wells’s salary was to be $600 per annum, plus four daily food rations “in kind or in money.” Wells owned land at Fort Wayne, where he farmed, raised hogs, had an orchard, and kept slaves that he obtained from his brother in Kentucky (Lb in DNA: RG 75, LSIA; Hutton, “Wells,” 203).
Return To Their Families Destitute: in addition to authorizing the president to control the trade of liquor to Indians, Congress in March 1802 prohibited anyone from receiving in “trade or barter” from an Indian any gun, hunting or farming implement, cooking vessel, or article of clothing not made of “skins or furs” (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, Boston, 1855–56, 8 vols. description ends , 2:142, 146; Anthony F. C. Wallace, Jefferson and the Indians: The Tragic Fate of the First Americans [Cambridge, Mass., 1999], 296–7).
People Called Quaokers: Little Turtle’s relationship with religious organizations, including the Society of Friends, dated from his earlier visits to the seat of government. In February 1798, his name appeared at the head of the list of original subscribers to the constitution of the Missionary Society of Philadelphia. In 1804, Quakers established a demonstration farm in the Miamis’ territory on the Wabash (Boston Gazette, and Weekly Republican Journal, 26 Mch. 1798; Chambersburg Farmers’ Register, 18 Apr. 1798; Volney, View description begins C. F. C. Volney, A View of the Soil and Climate of the United States of America, trans. Charles Brockden Brown, Philadelphia, 1804; repr. 1968 description ends , 357, 375; Dowd, “Thinking and Believing,” description begins Gregory E. Dowd, “Thinking and Believing: Nativism and Unity in the Ages of Pontiac and Tecumseh,” American Indian Quarterly, 16 (1992) description ends 316, 317, 318).
1. MS: “whe.”
2. MS: “undestanding.”