[Note: This is a single part of what will be, by my classification, about 240 compact tribal histories (contact to 1900). It is limited to the lower 48 states of the U.S. but also includes those First Nations from Canada and Mexico that had important roles ( Huron, Assiniboine, etc.).
This history's content and style are representative. The normal process at this point is to circulate an almost finished product among a peer group for comment and criticism. At the end of this History you will find links to those Nations referred to in the History of the Ojibwe.
Using the Internet, this can be more inclusive. Feel free to comment or suggest corrections via e-mail. Working together we can end some of the historical misinformation about Native Americans. You will find the ego at this end to be of standard size. Thanks for stopping by. I look forward to your comments... Lee Sultzman.
[A reader comment:
I am crying and the tears signal my relief. After reading more than I have ever been told by my family about our history, I am overjoyed to know that we are documenting ourselves and not losing history. The history of the powerful Ojibewa Nation is everyone's history.
My mother, born at Turtle Mountain, sent to boarding school in Alberta, and eventually adopted by a white family, was a chronic runaway. She was full of war. Her inability to overcome her anger lead to her early death. Without her, I seek answers to where she/we came from. Who were her/our people?
I am in the middle of final exams and am searching the web for statistics on Native American death rates. I am struggling with how much theory I am taught in my classes. I must write critically, analytically, theorhetically about something I intuitively understand. Being able to check in with this site takes the morbid edge off my homework. Writing about how we die becomes depressing and reinforces the myth that native peoples are dissappearing.This site renews my energy for finishing my projects.
In a tradition shared with the Ottawa and Potawatomi, the Ojibwe remember a time when they lived near an ocean. This may have been the Atlantic near the gulf of the St. Lawrence, but more likely it was Hudson Bay. Sometime around 1400, the North America climate became colder, and the first Ojibwe, Ottawa and Potawatomi bands started to arrive on the east side of Lake Huron. The Ottawa remained at the mouth of the French River and Lake Huron islands, but the Ojibwe and Potawatomi continued northwest occupying the shoreline to the Mackinac Strait which separates upper and lower Michigan. By 1500 the Potawatomi had crossed into lower Michigan while the Ojibwe continued west to Lake Superior and Wisconsin's Apostle Islands. When the French had their first meeting the Saulteur in 1623, the Ojibwe were concentrated in the eastern half of upper Michigan.
Through the fur trade and war, the Ojibwe after 1687 expanded to the east, south, and west. During their wars with the Iroquois, the Ojibwe pushed down both sides of Lake Huron and by 1701 controlled most of lower Michigan and southern Ontario. Following the French fur trade west during the 1720s, they moved beyond Lake Superior and into a war with the Dakota (Sioux) in 1737. During the next century, the Ojibwe forced the Dakota out of northern Minnesota and Wisconsin. Reaching Manitoba and North Dakota during the late 1700s, some bands adopted the plains lifestyle and continued west into Montana and Saskatchewan. At the same time, other Ojibwe moved south to settle in northern Illinois. By 1800 Ojibwe were living in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Michigan, Minnesota, Michigan, North Dakota, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. No other tribe has ever come close to controlling so vast an area as the Ojibwe did at this time. White settlement ultimately took most of their land and forced them onto reservations, but with the exception of two small bands, the Ojibwe have remained in their homeland.
Canada recognizes more than 600 First Nations - more than 130 of which are Ojibwe (at least in part). These are located in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.
In the United States, 22 Chippewa groups have federal recognition.
Bay Mills Indian Community of the Sault Ste. Marie Band of Chippewa Indians, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community of L'Anse of Chippewa Indians, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community of Lac Vieux Desert of Chippewa Indians, Keweenaw Bay Indian Community of Ontonagon Bands of Chippewa Indians, Sault Ste. Marie Band of Chippewa Indians, Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan (Isabella)
Minnesota Chippewa Nation of Minnesota (six bands):
Boise Forte (Nett Lake), Fond du Lac, Grand Portage, Leech Lake, Mille Lacs, and White Earth. Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians of the Red Lake Reservation
Chippewa-Cree Indians of the Rocky Boy's Reservation
Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians
Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians, Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, Sokoagon Chippewa Community - Mole Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, St. Croix Chippewa Indians
Ojibwe without federal recognition
Burt Lake Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians (MI), Consolidated Bahwetig Ojibwe and Mackinac (MI), Kah-Bay-Kah-Nong (Warroad Chippewa) (MN), Lake Superior Chippewa of Marquette (MI), Little Shell Tribe of Chippewas (ND and MT), NI-MI-WIN Ojibweys (MN), Sandy Lake Band of Ojibwe (MN), and Swan Creek and Black River Chippewa (KS and MT).
Made up of numerous independent bands, the Ojibwe were so spread out that few early French estimates of them were even close. 35,000 has been suggested, but there were probably two to three times as many in 1600. The British said there were about 25-30,000 Ojibwe in 1764, but the the Americans in 1843 listed 30,000 in just the United States. The 1910 census (low-point for most tribes) gave 21000 in the United States and 25,000 in Canada - total 46,000. By 1970 this had increased to almost 90,000. Currently, there ar 130,000 Ojibwe in United States and 60,000 in Canada. The 190,000 total represents only enrolled Ojibwe and does not include Canadian Métis, many of whom have Ojibwe blood. If these were added, the Ojibwe would be the largest Native American group north of Mexico.
To end any confusion, the Ojibwe and Chippewa are not only the same tribe, but the same word pronounced a little differently due to accent. If an "O" is placed in front of Chippewa (O'chippewa), the relationship becomes apparent. Ojibwe is used in Canada, although Ojibwe west of Lake Winnipeg are sometime referred to as the Saulteaux. In United States, Chippewa was used in all treaties and is the official name. The Ojibwe call themselves Anishinabe (Anishinaubag, Neshnabek) meaning "original men" (sometimes shortened to Shinob and used as a nickname among themselves). Ottawa and Potawatomi also call themselves Anishinabe, and at some time in the past, the three tribes were a single tribe. Ojibwe, or Chippewa, comes from the Algonquin word "otchipwa" (to pucker) and refers to the distinctive puckered seam of Ojibwe moccasins. Various spellings: Achipoes, Chepeway, Chippeway, Ochipoy, Odjibwa, Ojibweg, Ojibwey, Ojibwa, and Otchipwe.
Some major Ojibwe had specific names according to location:
Missisauga in southern Ontario; Salteaux of upper Michigan; and Bungee for the Ojibwe of the northern Great Plains. Other names: Aoechisaeronon (Huron), Assisagigroone (Iroquois), Axshissayerunu, (Wyandot), Bawichtigouek (French), Bedzaqetcha (Tsattine), Bedzietcho (Kawchodinne), Bungee (Plains Ojibwe, Plains Chippewa) (Hudson Bay), Dewakanha (Mohawk), Dshipowehaga (Caughnawaga), Dwakanen (Onondaga), Eskiaeronnon (Huron), Hahatonwan (Dakota), Hahatonway (Hidatsa), Jumper, Kutaki (Fox), Leaper, Neayaog (Cree), Nwaka (Tuscarora), Ostiagahoroone (Iroquois), Paouichtigouin (French), Rabbit People (Plains Cree), Regatci (Negatce) (Winnebago), Saulteur (Saulteaux) (French), Sore Face (Hunkpapa Lakota), Sotoe (British), and Wahkahtowah (Assiniboine).
Algonquin - central Algonquin group. Ojibwe is virtually identical to Ottawa, Potawatomi and Algonkin, with a more distant relationship to Illinois and Miami. After 1680, Ojibwe became the trade language in the northern Great Lakes.
While the Ojibwe were concentrated near the Mackinac Straits 1650-85, the French called them Saulteur, with some groups apparently being confused with the Ottawa. Ojibwe and Chippewa came into use later. By 1800 there were five divisions:
...included the Mississauga of southern Ontario, the Ojibwe villages near Detroit, and the Saginaw who occupied the eastern half of lower Michigan.
...northern Ontario between the north shore of Lakes Huron and Superior bounded on the north by the divide between the Great Lakes and Hudson Bay drainages, and on the west by Lakes Winnipeg and Manitoba.
...south shore of Lake Superior from Mackinac across upper Michigan and northern Wisconsin to the headwaters of the St. Croix River.
...Minnesota north of the Minnesota River.
...Red River Valley and Turtle Mountains of eastern North Dakota ranging west into Montana, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.
Ojibwe Bands and Villages in 1650
Achiligouan, Amicoures, Amikouet (Amikwa, Amikouai), Auwause, Bawating, Chequamegon, Keweenaw, Kitchigami, Macomile, Malanas, (Mantouek (Mantoue, Nantoüe), Marameg, Mackinac (Mikinac), Missisauga (Mississague, Missisaki, Tisagechroanu), Mundua, Nikikouek, Noquet (Nouquet, Nouket), Oumiusagai, Ouasouarini (Aouasanik, Ousouarini), Outchibou (Ouchipoe), Outchougai (Atchougue, Outchougi), Ouxeinacomigo, and Saulteaux (Saulteur).
Later Bands and Villages
Saulteau (Beaver, Cree).
Berens River, Bloodvein, Brokenhead, Buffalo Point, Crane River (Ochichakkosipi), Dauphin River, Ebb and Flow, Fairford, Fisher River (Cree), Garden Hill (Cree), Hollow Water, Jackhead, Keeseekoowenin, Lake Manitoba, Lake St. Martin, Little Black River, Little Grand Rapids, Little Saskatchewan, Long Plain, Pauingassi, Peguis (Cree), Pine Creek, Poplar River, Portage du Prairie, Red Sucker Lake (Cree), Rolling River, Roseau River, Sagkeeng (Fort Alexander), Sandy Bay, St. Theresa Point (Cree), Swan Lake, Tataskwayak, Tootinaowaziibeeng, Wasagamack (Cree), Waterhen, and Waywayseecappo.
Angwassag, Bawating, Bay du Noc, Beaver Island, Big Rock, Blackbird, Gatagetegauning, Kechegummewininewug, Ketchenaundaugenink, Kishkawbawe, Lac Vieux Desert, Little Fork, Mekadewagamitigweyawininiwak, Menitegow, Menoquet, Mackinac (Michilimackinac), Nabobish, Nagonabe, Ommunise, Ontonagon, Otusson, Pointe Au Tremble, Reaums Village, Saginaw, Shabwasing, Thunder Bay (Ottawa), Wapisiwisibiwininiwak, Wequadong, and Whitefish.
Anibiminanisibiwininiwak, Crow Wing, Fond du Lac, Gamiskwakokawininiwak, Gawababiganikak, Grand Portage, Gull Lake, Kahmetahwungaguma, Kechesebewininewug, Knife Lake, Leaf Lake, Leech Lake, Mille Lacs, Misisagaikaoiwininiwak, Miskwagamiwisagaigan, Mishtawayawininiwak, Munominikasheenhug, Mukmeduawininewug, Onepowesepewenenewak, Oschekkamegawenenewak (2), Oueschekgagamiouilimy, Pillager, Pokegama, Rabbit Lake, Red Lake, Saint Francis Xavier, Sandy Lake, Wabasemowenenewak, Winnebegoshish, and White Earth.
Alderville, Alnwick (Rice Lake), Bagoache, Balsam Lake, Batchewana (Rankin), Beausoleil (Christian Island), Big Grassy, Big Island, Caldwell (Point Pele), Cape Croker (Potawatomi), Caradoc (Potawatomi), Cat Lake (Cree), Chapleau, Cockburn Island (Ottawa), Cochingomink, Constance Lake (Cree), Couchiching, Credit River, Curve Lake, Deer Lake (Cree), Dokis, Eabametoong (Fort Hope), Eagle Lake, Epinette, Flying Post, Fort William, Garden River, Georgina Island, Ginoogaming (Long Lake), Grassy Narrows, Gull Bay, Henvey Inlet, Hiawatha, Iskutewisakaugun, Jackfish Island, Keewaywin (Cree), Kettle Point (Potawatomi), Kojejewininewug, Koochiching (Cree), Lac des Mille Lacs, Lac La Croix, Lac Seul, Lake Helen, Lake Nipegon, Lake of the Woods, Long Lake (2), Magnetewan, Manitoulin Island (Ottawa), Manitowaning, Marten Falls, Matachewan (Makominising), Matawachkirini, Mattagami (Cree), McDowell Lake (Cree), Michipicoten, Mishkeegogamang (Osnaburg) (Cree), Mississagi River, Mississauga, Mnjikaning (Rama), Moose Deer Point, Mud Lake, Naicatchewenim, Namakagon, Nameuilni, Nawash (Big Bay), New Slate Falls (Cree), Nicickousemenecaning, Nipissing, Northwest Angle (2), Obidgewong (Ottawa), Ochiichagwe (Dalles), Omushkego, Onegaming (Sabaskong), Ottawa Lake, Ouasouarini, Outchougai, Parry Island, Pays Plat, Pickle Lake (Cree), Pic Mobert, Pic River (Pic Heron), Pikangikum, Point Grondine, Poplar Hill, Rainy River, Red Rock, Riviere aux Sables (Potawatomi), Rocky Bay, Sagamok (Spanish River), Sandpoint, Sarnia (St. Clair Rapids), Saugeen (2), Savant, Scugog Lake, Seine River, Serpent River, Shawanaga, Sheguiandah, Sheshegwaning, Shoal Lake, Snake Island (Lake Simcoe), Stanjikoming, Stoney Point (Potawatomi), Sucker Creek, Sugwaundugahwininewug, Tahgaiwinini, Thames, Thessalon, Wabasseemoong (Islington, Whitedog), Wabauskang, Wabigoon Lake, Wahgoshig, Wahnapitai, Walpole Island (Bkejwanong, Chenail cart) (Ottawa, Potawatomi), Wanamakewajejenik, Wasauksing, Washagamis Bay, Wauzhushk (Rat Portage), West Bay (M'Chigeeng) (Ottawa), Whitefish Bay, Whitefish Lake, Whitefish River, Whitesand (Cree), and Wikwemikong (Ottawa).
Bungee (Bunbi, Bungi, Plains Chippewa, Plains Ojibwe), Little Shell, Midinakwadshiwininiwak, Pembina, and Turtle Mountain.
Cote, Cowessess (Cree), Fishing Lake, Gordons (Cree), Keeseekoose (Cree), Key, Kinistin, Muscowpetung, Muskowekwan (Cree), Nibowisibiwininiwak, Okanese, Pasqua (Cree), Sakimay, Saulteaux (Cree), White Bear (Cree), and Yellowquill.
Betonukeengainubejig, Burnt Woods, Cedar Lake, Chegwamegon, Chetac Lake, Kechepukwaiwah, Lac Courte Oreilles, Mole Lake, Red Cliff, Rice Lake, Shaugawaumikong, Sukaauguning, Trout Lake, Turtle Portage, Wahsuahgunewininewug, Wauswagiming, Wiaquahhechegumeeng, and Yellow Lake.
The Ojibwe were the largest and most powerful Great Lakes tribe; perhaps the most powerful east of the Mississippi; and quite possibly the most powerful in North America. The Lakota (Sioux) and Apache have gotten better press, but it was the Ojibwe who defeated the Iroquois and forced the Sioux to leave Minnesota. Very few Americans realize that the Ojibwe were a major power. Their location was well north of the main flow of settlement, and their victories over native enemies have never received proper credit. A variety of names (Ojibwe, Chippewa, Bungee, Mississauga, and Saulteaux) and division of their population between Canada and United States has masked their true size. In addition, the Ojibwe never fought with Americans after 1815. Even before this, their participation in wars between Britain and France or fighting Americans in the Ohio Valley was fairly limited. Considering the prowess of Ojibwe warriors, this was probably just as well for the Americans. However, this does not mean they have been ignored by government. As the Chippewa, they signed more treaties with the United States than any other tribe fifty-one! North of the border, the Ojibwe have "touched the pen" more than thirty times with the French, British, and Canadians.
Europeans came to the upper Great Lakes for fur, but after 200 years, this trade had ended. Most of the Ojibwe homeland had poor soil and a short growing season which did not attract settlement. Some whites came later for the minerals and timber, but even today, the area is not heavily populated. Because of this limited exposure, the Ojibwe have been able to retain much of their traditional culture and language. Most Americans have heard the Longfellow's poem "Hiawatha." Unfortunately, he got his tribes mixed. The name of Hiawatha was borrowed from the Iroquois, but the stories were Ojibwe. Most Ojibwe were classic Woodlands culture, but since different groups lived across such a wide area, there were major differences. Like all Native Americans, the Ojibwe adjusted to their circumstances. After reaching the northern plains, the Bungee (Plains Ojibwe) adopted the Buffalo culture and became very different from the other Ojibwe in their art, ceremony, and dress. Towards the southern part of their range in Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Ontario, Ojibwe villages were larger and permanent with the cultivation of corn, squash, beans, and tobacco.
However, most Ojibwe lived in the northern Great Lakes with a short growing season and poor soil. They were hunter-gatherers who harvested wild rice and maple sugar. Woodland Ojibwe had no salt to preserve food and generally mixed everything with maple syrup as seasoning. They were skilled hunters and trappers (useful skills in war and the fur trade). Fishing, especially for sturgeon, provided much of their diet and became progressively more important in the northernmost bands. As a rule, Woodland Ojibwe rarely used horses or hunted buffalo. Dogs were the only domestic animal and a favorite dish served at their feasts. The Ojibwe used birchbark for almost everything: utensils, storage containers, and, most importantly, canoes. Coming in a variety of sizes depending on purpose, the birchbark canoe was lighter than the dugouts used by the Dakota (Sioux) and other tribes. Birchbark was also used to cover their elliptical, dome-shaped wigwams.. When a family moved, the covering of the wigwam was rolled up and taken along leaving only the framework.
Summer clothing was buckskin with fur outer garments added for winter. The men wore breechcloths, but both sexes wore leggings. Moccasins were the distinctive puffed seamed style that gave Ojibwe their name. These were often colored with red, yellow, blue, and green, dyes made by the women. Long, cold winters were spent confined inside their wigwams also allowed time to add intricate quill and moose-hair designs. The Ojibwe often passed these times and entertained each other with stories, an art for which they are still renown. Generally, men and women wore their hair long and braided. In times of war, men might change to a scalplock. Ojibwe scalped, but as a rule they killed and did not torture. Like other Great Lakes warriors, there was ritual cannibalism of their dead enemies. Polygamy was rare. Their social organization was based on approximately 15-20 patrilineal clans which extended across band lines and provided their initial sense of tribal unity.
Before contact, the clans and a common language were all that bound them to each other as the Anishinabe. The hunter-gatherer lifestyle of the Ojibwe required they separate into small bands moving in a fixed pattern to take advantage of available resources. During winter, they separated into extended families in isolated hunting camps which allowed the men to cover a large area without competition from other hunters. During warmer months, they gathered in bands of 300-400 at known locations where fish, berries, and wild rice were abundant. There was little central organization, and the authority of hereditary Ojibwe chiefs before contact was limited and confined pretty much to his own band. Tribal councils occurred only when several bands made common cause in times of war but otherwise were rare. However, this, changed after the beginning of the fur trade with the French, and the different bands began merging.
The Ojibwe were outstanding hunters and trappers. The colder weather in their homeland gave their beaver thicker coats resulting in a high quality fur. The Ojibwe became so heavily involved in the French fur trade their language became the unofficial trade language of the northern Great Lakes. Both the French and Ojibwe prospered as a result. The trade and weapons brought the Ojibwe wealth and power. At the same time, they became dependent on the French and trade goods. Because they handled the dealings with French traders, the authority of Ojibwe chiefs increased. Bands became larger and began to cooperate on a greater scale, especially during the Beaver Wars (1630-1700) with the Iroquois. Traditional ties between their clans added to the new sense of unity and purpose, but trade had also brought them their first experiences with European epidemics.
Before contact, Ojibwe religion was similar to their political organization. There was little formal ceremony. For healing, they had relied on medicinal herbs gathered by the women and shamans. These were overwhelmed by the new diseases which were deadly beyond anything they had seen. What evolved was the Midewiwin (Grand Medicine Society), a secret religious society. Open to both men and women, its members performed elaborate healing ceremonies to deal with sickness. Among the Ojibwe, the Midewiwin kept records on birchbark scrolls, an actual written record unique among the Great Lakes tribes. Beyond its healing and religious functions, Midewiwin membership crossed band lines and provided an additional element of political leadership binding the different Ojibwe groups to each other. Within 50 years of their first meeting with a European, the Ojibwe had united to become one of the most powerful tribes in North America.
The arrival of the Ojibwe at Sault Ste. Marie sometime around 1500 displaced several of the resident tribes. The Menominee were pushed south into an alliance with the Winnebago, and it would appear the Cheyenne and Arapaho started a series of movements which eventually would take them to the plains of Colorado. Continued Ojibwe expansion west along the shores of Lake Superior also brought them into conflict with the Dakota (Santee or Eastern Sioux) and Assiniboine at the western end. The date of the first meeting between the French and Ojibwe is uncertain, because the French at first did not distinguish between Ottawa and Ojibwe. Champlain is reported to have met some Ojibwe at the Huron villages in 1615. Three years later while exploring Lake Huron, Étienne Brulé went far enough north that the people should have been Ojibwe, but it was not until he reached the falls of the St. Marys River (Sault Ste. Marie) in 1623, we can be certain of a meeting between the Ojibwe and French.
The journey from Quebec to the Huron villages on the south end of Lake Huron was long and dangerous, and the French and Jesuit priests stopped here allowing the Ottawa and Huron to conduct the fur trade farther west. The Ojibwe and their Ottawa neighbors had always been friendly, and since the Ojibwe had a lot of quality fur, the Ottawa did most of their trading with them. In this way, French trade goods and weapons reached the Ojibwe years before they had regular contact with the French themselves. Despite the hostilities already mentioned, the western Great Lakes were relatively peaceful before 1630, but the fur trade changed this. Fur traded for steel weapons allowed the Ojibwe to take hunting territory from other tribes. This gave them more fur to trade for more weapons to expand even farther. War with the Dakota and Winnebago became more intense, and when the Ottawa and Huron attempted to arrange trade with the Winnebago in 1633, the Winnebago killed the Ottawa ambassadors since their trade provided weapons to the Ojibwe.
At the Huron villages, the French learned what had happened and, seeing the Huron and Ottawa prepare to retaliate, intervened to stop a war which might halt trade. In 1634 Jean Nicolet was sent west to the Winnebago villages at Green Bay to arrange a peace and possibly discover the Northwest Passage. Nicolet never found the passage but became the first European to enter Lake Michigan. He also succeeded in arranging a peace which lasted for several years and allowed the Huron and Ottawa to trade along Lake Michigan. Nicollet returned to Green Bay in 1639, and must have met with some Ojibwe enroute, but there was little mention of them until the Jesuit Relations of 1640. The following year, the Ojibwe accepted a Huron invitation to visit their villages during the Feast of the Dead providing the first opportunity for Jesuits to meet the Saulteur (people of the rapids).
Fathers Charles Raymbault and Issac Jogues accepted an Ojibwe invitation to accompany them on their 17-day return journey to Sault Ste. Marie. The Jesuits did not stay but during the visit learned the Ojibwe already lived as far west as Chequamegon (La Pointe WS) and were fighting with a powerful enemy at the west end of Lake Superior whom they called the Nadouessioux (rattlesnakes). Over the years, the French would shorten this name until it became "Sioux." Despite the peace arranged by Nicollet, the fur trade turned the Great Lakes into a war zone. The Beaver Wars (1630-1700) began in the east but soon spread to the Great Lakes. The British capture of Quebec in 1629 halted the flow of French trade goods, and the Iroquois (supplied by the Dutch) took advantage of this and attacked the Algonkin and Montagnais to recapture the upper St. Lawrence River which they had been forced to abandon in 1610. The French did not regain control of Quebec until 1632, and by then their native allies were in serious trouble.
Trying to restore a balance of power and protect the trade route through the Ottawa Valley, the French broke a long-standing rule and began to supply firearms to the Algonkin and Montagnais. This turned the tide only briefly, since the Dutch started selling guns to the Iroquois. The result was an arms race and greater violence. The Huron and Ottawa also received firearms from the French, and some of these weapons were traded to the Neutrals and Tionontati. All this new armament arrived just as beaver were becoming scarce in southern Ontario from supplying the French. Huron, Ottawa, Neutral, and Tionontati hunters solved this by moving into lower Michigan and using their new weapons to take territory from the Assistaeronon, or Fire Nation (an alliance of Fox, Sauk, Mascouten, and Potawatomi). Although the French were aware of what was happening, they made no attempt to stop it.
During the 1640s, the advantage of steel and firearms over traditional weapons began to dislodge the resident tribes in lower Michigan. After a ten-day siege in 1641, 2,000 Ottawa and Neutral warriors destroyed a major Assistaeronon village. That same year, the first groups of Potawatomi refugees attempted to relocate near Green Bay, but the hostile reception they received from the Winnebago forced them to retreat north to the protection of the Ojibwe. Within a few years, there would more Michigan refugees in Wisconsin than Winnebago could handle, and the Potawatomi settled near Green Bay unopposed. During the same period, the Ojibwe defeated the Mundua who lived in the northern part of lower Michigan and absorbed the survivors. They also combined with the Ottawa to drive the Assegun (Bone) from Michilimackinac (Mackinac) into lower Michigan where they apparently found refuge with, and became part of, the Mascouten.
The French allies and trading partners started the process of forcing the original tribes from lower Michigan, but they never got to complete it. Facing a similar shortage of beaver in their homeland from trading with the Dutch, the Iroquois during the 1630s needed to find new hunting territory but were hemmed in by powerful enemies. Diplomatic requests to the Huron for permission to pass through their territory to hunt were refused. The Huron were aware of the Iroquois predicament but had no wish to help a potential rival. After the Huron killed an Iroquois hunting party in disputed territory, war erupted between the Iroquois and Huron. At first, the Huron held their own, but a series of epidemics struck them killing half of their population. During 1640 British traders from New England attempted to break the Dutch monopoly with the Mohawk by offering firearms. The Dutch responded by selling the Iroquois any amount of weapons they wanted. The Iroquois became the best-armed military force in North America.
Driving the Algonkin from the lower Ottawa River, the Iroquois cut the French trade route from the Great Lakes. Large parties could force their way past the Iroquois blockade, but the amount of fur reaching Montreal dropped off to almost nothing. By 1645 the French were forced to agree to a peace with the Mohawk which required them to remain neutral in the Huron-Iroquois conflict. The Huron still refused to allow the Iroquois to hunt in their territory and continued forcing their way to Montreal with their furs. War resumed with the Iroquois making direct attacks against the Huron villages. The Huron were overrun in 1649, and later that year, the Tionontati, Algonkin, and Nipissing suffered similar fates. The survivors fled west to the Ojibwe and Ottawa at Mackinac. Iroquois war parties followed, and in 1651 the Huron-Tionontati (Wyandot) and Ottawa relocated west to Green Bay. The Iroquois by this time had destroyed the Neutrals and were preparing for a war with the Erie in northern Ohio.
To assure success, the western Iroquois (Seneca, Cayuga, and Onondaga) in 1653 offered peace to the French. With less than 400 French in North America versus 25,000 Iroquois, there was little choice. The truce allowed the Iroquois, not only to fight the Erie that year, but send 800 warriors against the refugee villages at Green Bay. The attack failed when the Iroquois ran out of food and were forced to retreat. Unfortunately for the Iroquois, they had also attacked the Nikikouek Ojibwe on the north shore of Lake Huron. The Mississauga killed almost half of them during their retreat to New York marking the beginning of Ojibwe involvement in the Beaver Wars. Iroquois raids continued, but unlike their other enemies, the Ojibwe did not fold and run. Instead, they gave ground slowly and began to concentrate near Sault Ste. Marie. To defend themselves, the Ojibwe began to organize and merge, and although they probably did not realize it at the time, the Iroquois had created a dangerous enemy.
This did not happen over-night. The Iroquois defeated the Erie and then drove the remaining Algonquin from lower Michigan. The sudden arrival of so many refugees not only overwhelmed the Wisconsin tribes, but also the resources. Most of this area was too far north for reliable agriculture. Disorganized and starving, the Algonquin were fighting among themselves over hunting and fishing territory. The Sturgeon War began when the Menominee built a series of weirs at their village near the mouth of the river. However, this prevented sturgeon from reaching the Ojibwe villages upstream. Demands to remove the weirs were ignored, and the Ojibwe attacked and destroyed the village. Too few to retaliate, the Menominee called on the Fox, Sauk, Potawatomi, and Noquet at Green Bay for help spreading the fighting well-beyond the original participants.
The French fur trade was almost destroyed by the Huron defeat in 1649. To maintain their fragile peace with the Iroquois, the French halted their travel to the Great Lakes, but they still encouraged their former allies to bring furs to Montreal. With the Iroquois occupying much of southern Ontario and controlling the Ottawa Valley, this was dangerous and possible only for large, heavily-armed canoe convoys. Despite the risk, the Ottawa and Huron were accustomed to French trade goods and willing to try. Lacking enough warriors, they enlisted the Ojibwe near Sault Ste. Marie. The French at this time made no distinction between the Algonquin bringing furs to Montreal and called everyone an Ottawa, but many of these were Ojibwe. This did not go unnoticed by the Iroquois who had their own ambitions of controlling the French trade as they already did with the Dutch. To stop the convoys, Iroquois went to their source, and their war parties roamed through Wisconsin attacking just about everyone. Because of this (and very few beaver), the Wyandot left Green Bay in 1658 and moved west to Lake Pepin on the Mississippi River. Having established trade with the Cree to the north, most of the Ottawa also withdrew and relocated near the Ojibwe at Chequamegon and Keweenaw on the south side of Lake Superior.
The peace between French and Iroquois came to a violent end in 1658. Seeing opportunity in this, Pierre Radisson, Médart Chouart des Groseilliers, and Father Réné Ménard ignored the ban on travel and joined the Wyandot on their return journey to the west. The first French to reach Lake Superior, their guides took them to Chequamegon (La Pointe) where they wintered with the Ottawa and Ojibwe. Ménard wandered off into the woods and may have been killed by the Dakota. This failed to discourage the others who travelled overland to trade with the Dakota. For their efforts to restore the fur trade (and enrich themselves), Radisson and Des Groseilliers were arrested when they got back to Quebec in 1660. Now aware of the value of fur, the Dakota did not want to share their beaver with the Wyandot on the Mississippi. After several threats, the Wyandot left Lake Pepin in 1661 and joined the Ottawa at Chequamegon. The Dakota were still not pleased by this large gathering of beaver hunters on their border, but tolerated it for the moment.
The Iroquois, however, saw a chance to strike their enemies who were now gathered in one place, but to reach them, they would have to pass undetected through Ojibwe territory. They tried and paid dearly. The Saulteur, Amikoue, Nipissing, and Ottawa in 1662 surprised a large Mohawk and Oneida war party (100 warriors) just west of Sault Ste. Marie and annihilated them. Known today as Iroquois Point, the Ojibwe still call this "the place of Iroquois bones." The Iroquois never again attempted raids into Lake Superior, and behind a wall of Ojibwe warriors, the Ottawa and Wyandot had a refuge from which to collect furs to trade to the French. Meanwhile, back on the St. Lawrence, the French had tired of living in constant fear of the Iroquois. Up to this point, settlement and the fur trade had been a private commercial venture, but this changed after the British captured New York from the Dutch. Charters were revoked in 1664, and the king assumed control of Quebec. France also sent a regiment of soldiers to Canada which began direct attacks on the Iroquois homeland.
This ultimately pushed the Iroquois into a military alliance with the British beginning the 100-year struggle between Britain and France for North America. It also brought great changes for the Ojibwe and Great Lakes. No longer concerned with antagonizing the Iroquois, the French resumed travel to the west. In 1665 fur trader Nicolas Perot, Jesuit Claude-Jean Allouez, and 6 other French accompanied 400 Ottawa and Wyandot on their return journey. Fighting their way past Iroquois along the Ottawa River, they reached Green Bay. Allouez went on to Chequamegon where he encountered a mixed population of Wyandot, Ottawa, Ojibwe plus a few Potawatomi and Kickapoo. He remained there and built the mission of St. Esprit for Huron and Ottawa converts the Jesuits had made before the disaster of 1649. By 1667 French attacks on their homeland had forced the Iroquois to agree to a peace which also extended to French allies and trading partners.
For the next thirteen years, this much-needed peace permitted the French to visit the Great Lakes unopposed. Beside fur traders, Jesuit missionaries came also. In 1668 Allouez was joined by the Father Jacques Marquette. The conditions they found in Wisconsin and upper Michigan were appalling - starvation, epidemic, and constant warfare. Raising corn on the south shore of Lake Superior was almost impossible, even for farming tribes like the Ottawa and Wyandot, and starvation stalked them almost every winter. Some years they were reduced to eating their own moccasins when the food ran out. Meanwhile, over-hunting for food and fur was creating a war with the Dakota to the west. For purposes of both conversion and trade (although these would soon be in conflict), it was in the French interest to bring order to the region. To end warfare, the French became mediators in intertribal disputes. This role was formalized in 1671 by treaty at the Grand Council held at Sault. Ste. Marie, in which Simon Daumont annexed the entire Great Lakes for France.
In the meantime, Father Marquette was able to convince the Wyandot and Ottawa to leave Chequamegon in 1669 and relocate to Mackinac near his new mission at St. Ignace. Both the move and annexation were premature. The Seneca attacked and burned St. Ignace and the nearby villages in 1671, but the mission was rebuilt, and Wyandot and Ottawa stayed. Their departure left only the Ojibwe and Dakota confronting each other along the south shore of Lake Superior. Smallpox hit Sault Ste. Marie during the winter of 1670-71 reducing the original Saulteur at Bawating to less than 200, but the loss had little effect on the Ojibwe. Small bands such as the Amikwa, Nikikouek, and Marameg merged with the survivors, and the Ojibwe of upper Michigan continued to grow in size and influence. Jesuits made few conversions among the Ojibwe, but in the French fur trade, they became extremely important.
Before 1670, the Ottawa had gotten much of their fur from the Cree, but the British established their first posts on Hudson Bay that year. Able for the first time to trade directly without a middleman, the Cree began taking their fur to the British, and the Ottawa had lost their main supplier. The Ojibwe stepped in to fill the void and, with French encouragement, began expanding west along both shores of Lake Superior. The movement along the northern shore blocked British access to other Great Lakes tribes and brought skirmishes with the Assiniboine and Cree alliance which traded with the British. However, it was the expansion along the south shore which produced the most trouble. It not only started a war between the Ojibwe and Dakota, but fighting with the Fox who were also competing for hunting territory in the area.
Daniel DeLhut (Duluth) arrived at Sault Ste. Marie in 1678 and two years later negotiated a truce between the Saulteur and Sioux. He also was able to arrange a peace between the Dakota and Assiniboine. This second one did not last, but the Saulteur and Dakota agreement endured for some time, and fur flowed east to Montreal in unprecedented amounts. Despite a second smallpox epidemic at Sault Ste. Marie in 1681, the Ojibwe and Ottawa by 1685 were supplying over 2/3 of the French fur trade. Unfortunately, the 1680 treaties did include all of the Ojibwe. The Saulteur signed, but the Keweenaw Ojibwe remained at war and joined forces with the Fox to defeat a large Dakota war party. The Saulteur, of course did nothing against their Keweenaw relatives, but they formed an alliance with the Dakota against the Fox. Neither the Keweenaw nor the Fox wanted the French to trade with the Dakota, and to prevent this, Menominee and Ojibwe warriors of chief Achiganaga murdered two French traders in upper Michigan in 1682.
DeLhut brought the culprits in for a European-style trial, but the Saulteur and Ottawa intervened on behalf of Achiganaga. In the end, DeLhut was only able to execute a single Menominee (a small tribe) rather than offend the Ojibwe, an important ally and trading partner. He really had no other choice, because the French at the time needed the Ojibwe. Peace in the Great Lakes ended in 1680 when the Iroquois began a series of devastating attacks against the Illinois. At first, the fighting was confined to the south, but in 1683 the Seneca brought the war north with an attack on Mackinac. The following year, the Iroquois failed in their attempt to take Fort St. Louis on the upper Illinois River which is generally regarded as the turning point of the Beaver Wars. Afterwards, the French attempted to organize an Algonquin alliance against the Iroquois, but its first offensive was such a fiasco, Joseph La Barre, the governor of Canada, signed a treaty with the Iroquois conceding most of Illinois.
He was replaced by Jacques-Rene Denonville who renounced La Barre's treaty, built new forts, strengthened old ones, and provided guns to the Ojibwe and other Algonquin. A much stronger alliance took the offensive in 1687. Largely ignored because it coincided with the King William's War between Britain and France (1688-97), this was one of the critical events in North American history. By 1690 Algonquin victories in massive battles fought between canoe fleets on Lakes St. Clair and Erie had driven the Iroquois from lower Michigan allowing the Ottawa to return to their old homes on Manitoulin Island. The Ojibwe pushed much farther, occupying not only their former lands on the north and east shore of Lake Huron, but continued south taking the western shore in lower Michigan as far south as Saginaw Bay, while the Mississauga seized the old homelands of the Neutrals, Tionontati and Huron in southern Ontario. By 1696 the Iroquois had abandoned most of their villages in southern Ontario and, except for eastern Ohio and northern Pennsylvania, were pretty much confined to their original homeland.
The victories in the west belonged entirely to Algonquin warriors. The French helped with attacks against the Iroquois homeland from Quebec. In the Great Lakes their contribution was arms, ammunition, and keeping the alliance together. Providing weapons was the easy part. The alliance included the Ojibwe, Ottawa, Wyandot, Potawatomi, Missisauga, Fox, Sauk, Miami, Winnebago, Menominee, Kickapoo, Illinois, and Mascouten. All agreed the Iroquois were an enemy, but not all of them liked each other which kept the French very busy. The three-way war between the Ojibwe, Dakota, and Fox along the St. Croix in northwest Wisconsin continued until the French finally managed a Ojibwe-Fox truce in 1685. This lasted five years, during which time the Fox attempted to block French trade with the Dakota by charging tolls on traders passing through their territory. This exasperated Nicolas Perot, the French commandant at Green Bay, and in 1690 he asked the Ojibwe to make the Fox stop this. They did much more than this. Allied with the Dakota, the Ojibwe drove the Fox from the St. Croix Valley.
French influence over the Algonquin alliance came mainly from control of trade goods on which their allies were dependent. During the first years of the war, the French opened more trading posts. Despite hostilities, the amount of fur reaching Montreal increased as the French and Algonquin drove the Iroquois east. In fact, there was so much fur it created a glut on the European market, and the price fell. This had immediate effect on the ability of the French to control their allies. Native Americans understood little about economic laws of supply and demand. The price drop in Europe meant French traders in North America suddenly were giving native hunters fewer goods for the same amount of fur, and this was perceived as greed. Relations were already strained when warfare broke out during the 1690s over hunting territory along the upper Mississippi between the Dakota and an alliance of Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Fox, Kickapoo and Mascouten.
The warriors involved in this would have been better used against the Iroquois, but as trade goods became fewer and more expensive, the French were losing control. The Treaty of Ryswick in 1697 ended the war between Britain and France, but fighting between the Algonquin and Iroquois continued. Nearing collapse, the Iroquois asked for peace to which the French - concerned continued fighting could bring another war with the British (Iroquois allies) - were receptive. But their allies, sensing blood, were not interested. Since the Iroquois had already made offers of peace and trade to the Ottawa and Ojibwe if they would leave the alliance, there was also fear the French would abandon their allies and make a separate peace. Using every diplomatic skill available, it took the French until 1701 to convince the Algonquin to agree to a peace with the Iroquois. With this, the Beaver Wars ended with France in control of the Great Lakes, and the Ojibwe occupying lands from the northern side of Lakes Erie and Ontario to the west end of Lake Superior.
The French then proceeded to throw away their victory. For many years, Jesuit missionaries had complained about the corruption which the fur trade was creating among Native Americans. These protests fell upon deaf ears, especially after Louis XIV's dispute with Rome began in 1673. However, when the price of fur dropped and profits plunged, the French monarchy suddenly got "religion" and in 1696 issued a decree suspending the fur trade in the western Great Lakes. What appeared to the government in Paris as a practical decision, was disaster to the French in North America. As posts closed and official trade ended, Coureurs de Bois (illegal and unlicensed traders) attempted to take up the slack. Many were honest, but most were not, and their abuse and dishonesty added to the tension. The French in 1701 negotiated another truce between the Saulteur and Dakota ending fighting which had occurred since the 1690s, but the Algonquin in Wisconsin still opposed French sales of firearms to the Dakota. French traders enroute to Dakota villages were robbed and murdered, and even the highly respected Nicholas Perot found himself tied to a Mascouten torture stake ready to be burned alive. Saved by the Kickapoo, Perot went back to Quebec and never returned to the Great Lakes.
Under the 1701 treaty, the Iroquois were required to remain neutral in British-French wars and consult the French if there were any conflicts with their allies. The Mississauga must not have heard this, because they continued to attack the remaining Iroquois villages in southern Ontario. Iroquois complaints to Onontio (their name for French governor of Canada) went unanswered, mostly because the French were occupied with fighting the British in the Queen Anne's War (1701-13). True to their word, the Iroquois remained neutral in this conflict, but it was neutrality only in the military sense. Using their ties to British traders at Albany, they offered trade to French allies and began an economic war which almost destroyed the French.
Since British trade goods were of higher quality and cheaper than anything the French could offer, Ojibwe and Ottawa traders were soon taking most of their furs to Albany. By 1707 the Missisauga had moved near Niagara Falls, not to fight, but to trade. Without native allies, Canada was vulnerable to British invasion. Urgent requests were sent from Quebec to Paris, and in 1701 the French government relented by allowing the construction of single trading post at Detroit for the Great Lakes Algonquin. The responsibility was given to Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, the commandant at Mackinac, who despised Jesuits in general and blamed their meddling for the suspension of the fur trade. Cadillac built Fort Ponchartrain and took great delight in inviting the Ottawa, Wyandot, and Ojibwe to settle nearby for trade. So many left Mackinac, the Jesuits were forced to close their mission at St. Ignace.
The Ottawa, Ojibwe, and Wyandot settled in the vicinity of Detroit, but the jostling for territory brought skirmishes between the Ottawa and Ojibwe who normally were on the best of terms. Worse things would follow. Cadillac ignored this ominous sign and, to keep them from trading with the British, invited other tribes to move nearby. Within a short time, more than 6,000 Saulteur, Saginaw, and Missisauga Ojibwe, Wyandot, Ottawa, Potawatomi, Miami, Illinois, and even Osage relocated to Detroit completely overwhelming the area's resources. During 1706 there were fights between the Ottawa and Miami, but the final straw occurred in 1710 when Cadillac invited the Fox. About 1,000 Fox arrived bringing with them many of their Kickapoo and Mascouten allies. Already antagonistic to the French from their experiences in Wisconsin, the Fox were returning to what had been their homeland before the Beaver Wars. They were not at all shy about letting other tribes know this, and in the tense situation which prevailed, the other alliance tribes demanded the French order the Fox to return to Wisconsin.
The French delayed a decision, and during the winter of 1711-12, the Ottawa and Potawatomi took matters into their own hands by attacking a Mascouten hunting party near the headwaters of St. Joseph River. The Mascouten fled east to their Fox allies at Detroit. As the Fox prepared to retaliate, the French commander at Fort Ponchartrain ordered them to stop. At this point, the Fox had had just about enough, and they attacked the French fort. In the midst of this, a relief force of Ojibwe, Ottawa, Huron, and Potawatomi arrived and almost annihilated the Fox. A few escaped and found refuge with the Iroquois. The others made their way back to their relatives in Wisconsin who retaliated by attacking the French and their allies. The Fox Wars (1712-16 and 1728-37) were actually a civil war within the French alliance. To fight the Fox and their Kickapoo and Mascouten allies, the French first had to rebuild the alliance.
They started with the Detroit tribes, but there were other problems. After the establishment of Fort Ponchartrain in 1701, many of the refugee tribes had left Wisconsin and moved east. This relieved the crowding, but the area had been over-hunted for many years, and as the Ojibwe ranged south from Lake Superior, there was renewed competition for hunting territory. The peace the French had arranged in 1701 between the Saulteur and Dakota allowed these two tribes to combine against the remaining Algonquin, and in 1711 the Saulteur were at war with the tribes near Green Bay. To the south, the Miami were fighting the Illinois. It took the French some time to organize enough allies to fight the Fox, but in 1715 the Potawatomi defeated the Kickapoo and Mascouten causing them to sign a separate peace with the French. Despite the loss of their allies, the Fox refused to quit.
The following year, the French mediated the dispute between the Ojibwe and Green Bay tribes allowing the Ojibwe and Potawatomi to join a French expedition against the Fox in southern Wisconsin. However, this failed to take the Fox fort, and the French offered peace to the Fox. The Fox accepted, but both parties were still angry and distrusted each other. The Fox continued to annoy the French by becoming involved in a long and bitter war with the Illinois. At the same time west of the Mississippi, they were also fighting with the Osage which disrupted the developing French trade along the Missouri River. To fight both of these wars, the Fox formed alliances with the Dakota, Kickapoo, Iowa, Mascouten, and Winnebago which the French suspected were directed against themselves. In the meantime, the Iroquois had been watching this fighting among their enemies with a certain amount of glee and, by offering access to British traders, continued to make inroads into French trade in the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley.
It took the Fox Wars for the French in Canada to convince their government in Paris that the suspension of the fur trade in the Great Lakes had been a terrible mistake, and they moved rapidly to correct things. Coureurs de Bois were legalized in 1715; their frequent intermarriage with native women (especially Ojibwe and Cree) eventually created a new group of mixed-blooded people that known as the Métis. They also reoccupied old posts and created new ones: La Baye, Chequamegon, Credit River, Des Chartes, La Pointe, Miami, Mackinac, Ouiatenon, Niagara, Pimitoui, St. Joseph, and Vincennes. But the damage had already been done. During 1717 the Saginaw Ojibwe and Ottawa had started trading with the British. Fort Oswego was built in the Iroquois homeland during 1727 to shorten the distance the Algonquin had to travel to reach the Albany traders. By 1728, 80% of the beaver on the Albany market had come from French allies.
Meanwhile, the Fox had continued to be a major problem for everyone, and the French were under increasing pressure from their allies to do something. French expeditions to support the Illinois against the Fox ended in frustration. The first suggestion of genocide was made in 1727, but this was not official policy until approved by the king 1732. The French first took the precaution to isolate the Fox from their Dakota and Winnebago allies and by 1728 were ready to strike. The Fox added to this by killing some of the Kickapoo and Mascouten after an argument, and the Kickapoo and Mascouten went over to the French. Under attack from all sides, the Fox accepted an offer of sanctuary from the Iroquois and left Wisconsin. Crossing northern Illinois in 1730, they became involved in fighting with the Illinois and were forced to fort up. This allowed the French to bring forces against them from all direction including Saginaw and Mackinac Ojibwe. When the Fox attempted to escape the siege, they were caught and massacred.
All that remained were the Fox who had chosen to remain in Wisconsin. They fled to the Sauk at Green Bay. The Sauk asked the French to make peace with the Fox, but this was refused. In 1734 a French expedition with Menominee and Ojibwe warriors arrived at the Sauk village to demand the surrender of the Fox. The Sauk refused, and during the ensuing battle the French commander was killed. In the confusion,the Fox and Sauk escaped west into eastern Iowa. The French attacked them again in 1736 without success, but by this time the French allies had lost their desire to "eat the Fox" and began urging the French to make peace. Faced with the rebellion of their allies, a war against the Natchez and Chickasaw on the lower Mississippi, and an uprising by the Dakota in Minnesota, the French reluctantly agreed. One of the largest Great Lakes tribes prior to contact, fewer than 500 Fox remained in 1737.
The Dakota uprising against the French in 1737 had been building for many years and would be the beginning of 130 years of continuous warfare between the Ojibwe and Dakota. There were hostilities between these two tribes before the first European saw the Great Lakes, but this had been low-level compared to what the fur trade created. Despite their close relationship with the Ojibwe, the French had been eager to trade with the Dakota. This frequently got them in trouble with their Algonquin allies who had no wish to see the Dakota either rich or well-armed. Competition from the British trading posts on Hudson Bay after 1670 only added to the French effort, and they encouraged Ojibwe expansion west along the northern shore of Lake Superior. This brought the Ojibwe into conflict with the Assiniboine who were allied with the Cree, the primary trading partner of the British at Hudson Bay. Although closely related, the Assiniboine were enemies of the Dakota, and it was the fact the Dakota and Ojibwe had mutual enemies which allowed DuLhut in 1680 to negotiate the peace between them.
It was, of course, an unnatural arrangement between two people who really did not like each other, and it was not accepted by all of the Ojibwe, most notably the Keweenaw. As a result, the French were kept busy during the next thirty years stopping the warfare which erupted periodically. In this, the Fox had been the third competitor for hunting territory at the west end of Lake Superior. The near annihilation of the Fox during the Fox Wars removed them from the picture leaving the Ojibwe and Dakota to face just each other. French traders had begun regular trade with the Dakota at Fond du Lac (Duluth) as early as 1712 and, for the most part, were bringing the Ojibwe with them. A post (and Ojibwe village) was established in 1717 at Thunder Bay, and by 1727 they reaching west to the Pigeon River from Grand Portage to Rainey Lake and Lake of the Woods to the Red River, Lake Winnipeg, and the northern plains. Pierre Vérendrye built Fort St. Pierre at Rainy Lake in 1731, Fort St. Charles at Lake of the Woods in 1732, and Fort Maurepas (Pembina) in 1734.
By this time, the Ojibwe had ended their hostilities with the Cree and Assiniboine, but the Dakota had not. With the Ojibwe neutral in these conflicts, their friendship was of less use to the Dakota. In addition, Ojibwe had used up most of the beaver on their own lands supplying the French. This forced them to rely more on hunting territory shared peacefully with the Dakota and to look with a jealous eye on the fur and rice lakes the Dakota had in Minnesota. The Dakota became increasingly disturbed by the heavy Ojibwe hunting, but the explosion came in 1736 when Vérendrye attempted to lure the Cree and Assiniboine away from the British by selling them firearms. The Dakota would not tolerate the French arming their enemies and attacked Fort St. Charles killing 21 Frenchmen (including Vérendrye's son). Perhaps more for their own reasons than to avenge the French, the Ojibwe swore revenge, formed an alliance with the Cree and Assiniboine, and attacked the Dakota villages on Lake Pepin on the Mississippi.
French traders at La Pointe tried to halt the fighting, but this had been coming for years, and neither the Dakota nor the Ojibwe would listen. Starting from Chequamegon (La Pointe), the Pillager Band began an invasion of the Dakota homeland. The initial movement was inland towards Lac Courte Oreilles and Lac Flambeau to take northern Wisconsin. From there they spread west into Minnesota to attack the center of the Dakota world, Mille Lacs. Allied with the Cree and Assiniboine, the Ojibwe at the same time advanced west from Thunder Bay up the Rainey River portage dislodging the Dakota from what is now the border of Minnesota and Ontario. Following the three-day battle at Kathio in 1750, the Dakota abandoned most of their villages in northern Minnesota (Mille Lacs, Sandy Lake, Red Lake, Leech Lake, Cass Lake, and Lake Winnebegosh) and retreated south. By 1780 there was not a single Dakota village north of the Minnesota River.
Since it occurred far from any white settlements, this epic struggle went largely unnoticed by Europeans. Their attention was focused on the confrontation between Britain and France for North America. The French had things pretty much their own way in the upper Great Lakes, especially after the Ojibwe victory over the Dakota, and were making their initial forays onto the plains. But back in the eastern Great Lakes and Ohio Valley, British and Iroquois traders were cutting into French trade. The Mississauga and Saginaw Ojibwe were taking most of their furs to Oswego, and after the Iroquois allowed British traders to enter the Ohio country, the Miami and Wyandot joined the defectors. South of the Ohio, the British had found an ally in the Chickasaw who often blocked the Mississippi to French trade, and which no combination of the French and their allies seemed able to defeat. By the beginning of the King George's War (1744-48), the infection had spread to the Choctaw, the most important French ally on the lower Mississippi.
There was almost no fighting between the Britain and France west of the Appalachians during this conflict, but the trade competition continued unabated. The Ojibwe and other Great Lakes tribes participated by sending warriors east to defend Quebec from a British invasion. The major victory in this war occurred in 1745 when the British captured the French fortress at Louisbourgh. This enabled them to blockade the St. Lawrence River and cut the supply of French trade goods. Without these, the French alliance collapsed. The Miami and Wyandot broke with the French and began to trade openly with the British. French traders were murdered, and the Fox, Sauk, and Mackinac Ojibwe were fighting with the Detroit tribes (Ottawa, Wyandot, and Potawatomi). Meanwhile, the Mississauga in southern Ontario were calling for a revolt against the French and alliance with British. When the war ended in 1748, the French rushed around with gifts and mediating disputes, but the unrest persisted.
In 1749 a conspiracy developed among the Saginaw Ojibwe, Ottawa, Wyandot, and Miami to trade with the British, and by 1752 even the Illinois were secretly organizing a coalition for this purpose. Meanwhile, large numbers of Shawnee, Delaware, and Mingo (independent Iroquois descended from adopted Huron and Erie) had settled in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio during the 1740s. Referred to collectively as the Ohio tribes, these newcomers were nominally members of the Iroquois Covenant Chain, but they had come west in defiance of the League's authority. Nevertheless, it suited them to trade with the British and honor the Iroquois claims to Ohio, if for no other reason than to counter French claims to the same area. In 1751 Chabert de Joncaire travelled through Ohio demanding the expulsion of British traders only to have the Mingo demand to know by what authority the French were claiming Iroquois land.
Unable to win over the Ohio tribes, the French in 1751 asked the Detroit tribes to attack them and expel the British traders. Using the smallpox epidemic which swept the area that year as an excuse, they declined, but it appears they were considering going over to the British themselves. Desperate, the French had to reach to the north for reliable allies. Charles Langlade, a Métis of French-Ojibwe heritage, gathered a war party of 250 Ojibwe and Ottawa at Mackinac and led them south in June, 1752 to attack the Miami village and British trading post at Pickawillany (Piqua, Ohio). One British trader was killed and five captured along with £3000 of trade goods. Thirty Miami were also killed in the attack including their chief, Memeskia (called La Demoiselle by the French and Old Britain by the British). Langlade's warriors afterwards boiled his body and ate it. Other French allies abandoned whatever thoughts they had of trading with the British. The Wyandot renewed attacks on Chickasaw that fall, and in 1753, the Miami, Potawatomi, and Sauk apologized to the French and returned the alliance.
With their alliance intact, the French began construction of string of forts across western Pennsylvania to block British access. The Ohio tribes appealed to the Iroquois who turned to the British. Virginia also claimed Ohio as a result of a questionable 1744 treaty with the Iroquois. In 1753 it sent a 23-year-old militia major named George Washington to demand the French remove their forts from "British territory." The French refused, and during a second mission to the area in 1754, Washington got into a fight with French soldiers and started the French and Indian War (1755-63). Determined to destroy the French forts, the British in 1755 assembled a large army under General Edward Braddock to capture Fort Duquesne (Pittsburgh). Since they had no desire to be dominated by either the French or British, the Shawnee, Delaware and Mingo remained neutral and refused to help the French defend the fort.
This forced the French to bring in warriors from Canada and western Great Lakes. Langlade and his Mackinac Ojibwe once again played an important part in the ambush which almost annihilated Braddock's command. The war moved east after this, and Ojibwe warriors went to Montreal to participate in French campaigns at Lake Champlain in northern New York. It was during these the Ojibwe contracted smallpox in 1757 which they brought back to their villages that winter. The resulting epidemic took many of the Great Lakes tribes out of the war, but the Ojibwe war chief Mamongesseda and his warriors fought at Quebec in 1759. The French were finished after the fall of Quebec. Montreal surrendered in 1760, and British soldiers took over the French forts across the Great Lakes with the Rangers of Major Robert Rogers occupying Mackinac.
Perhaps because they had traded with them for so many years, the Mississauga were the only Ojibwe to readily accept British rule. With the general breakdown of authority preceding the French defeat, the Mackinac Ojibwe in 1761 were on the verge of war with the Menominee and Winnebago. The British slipped into the old French role of mediator, but, while the agreement they negotiated ingratiated them to the Menominee and Winnebago, it aggravated the Ojibwe who remained hostile and dangerous. Meanwhile, the British commander in North America, Lord Jeffrey Amherst chose to ignore the advice of the British Indian commissioner William Johnson and ended the practice of making annual presents to tribal chiefs. This was taken as an insult. To make matters worse, Amherst raised the prices on trade goods and restricted their supply, particularly firearms and gunpowder. By 1761 the Seneca were circulating a war belt calling for a general uprising against the British.
Only the Delaware and Shawnee responded, but William Johnson discovered the plot during a meeting at Detroit with the tribes of the old French alliance. However, this did not prevent Minavavana, representing the Mackinac Ojibwe at this meeting, from complaining that the lack of presents was undermining the chiefs' authority. It also undermined British authority. During 1761 the Miami, Ottawa, Ojibwe, Potawatomi almost went to war against Shawnee, and the following year Fox warriors killed the important Ojibwe chief, Grand Saulteur. Drought hit the Ohio Valley and southern Great Lakes during the summer of 1762 followed by famine that winter. In the midst of this suffering, the prophet Neolin arose among the Delaware urging the tribes to reject their dependence on trade goods (especially alcohol) and return to their traditional values. His most important convert was Pontiac, the Ottawa chief at Detroit (his mother was an Ojibwe).
An important French ally in the old alliance, Pontiac interpreted Neolin's return to traditional values to mean getting rid of the British and bringing back the French. To this end, he began secretly organizing the Pontiac Conspiracy. When it struck in May of 1763, the British lost eight of their twelve forts west of the Appalachians. The Saginaw joined Pontiac's attack on Detroit while the Mississauga helped the Seneca to besiege Fort Niagara. At Fort Mackinac, word of the uprising had not reached its garrison by the time of the King's birthday on June 4th. The Ojibwe used a lacrosse game to lull the soldiers into false security while the warriors assembled as spectators and participants. Suddenly, the ball was launched towards the gates of the fort, and grabbing weapons hidden under the blankets of their women, the warriors rushed in and overwhelmed the garrison. Sixteen soldiers were killed outright, but the French were not harmed. A Jesuit priest and Charles Langlade intervened to save twelve others, including the commander, Captain George Etherington. Given to the Ottawa, they were joined by the garrison from Fort Edward Augustus (Green Bay) and escorted to Montreal.
Pontiac's rebellion collapsed as Forts Detroit, Pitt, and Niagara continued to hold and British forces began to arrive. The Mississauga, whose support had never been too strong, were among the first to make a separate peace. They joined with the Caughnawaga Iroquois to escort Colonel John Bradstreet's army to Detroit. The British issued the Proclamation of 1763 forbidding further settlement west of the Appalachians, and Amherst was replaced by Sir Thomas Gage. The Mackinac Ojibwe attended the general peace conference held at Niagara in July of 1764, but the La Pointe and Mississippi bands did not. The British restored annual presents to the chiefs and promised to reopen trading posts with more trade goods. Despite this, the Mackinac and Saginaw remained aloof and hostile for some time - the Saginaw attacked British traders on the Ohio River in 1767. At Mackinac, the British wisely started using French traders to deal with the Ojibwe. Alexander Henry and Jean Cadotte (Metis) organized the Voyagers who used large 36' canoes with 12-man crews, many of them Ojibwe, to bring furs to market.
Pontiac's reputation suffered with the collapse of his uprising. He signed his own peace with the British in 1766 and afterwards left Detroit to settle in northern Illinois where he still had a considerable following. Although he had promised never to fight the British again, he appears to have been trying to organize another rebellion in the west. In 1769 he was murdered in Cahokia by a Peoria (Illinois) after a drunken argument at the establishment of a British trader named Williamson. The British were suspected of having arranged the assassination, and Minavavana, the Ojibwe chief at Mackinac, arrived in Cahokia escorted by two warriors looking for Williamson. Not finding the man he wanted, he killed two of his employees. This was the beginning of a general war against the Illinois to avenge Pontiac. The Ojibwe had already fought the Illinois in 1752 and seized some of their territory in northern Illinois. Now they were joined by the Fox, Sauk, Kickapoo, Ottawa, Potawatomi, and Winnebago. After making their last stand at Starved Rock, fewer than 300 Peoria survived to flee down the Illinois River to the French at Kaskaskia - the victors taking over the lands formerly occupied by the Illinois.
The Proclamation of 1763 was doomed as soon as it was issued. American frontiersmen simply ignored it and came anyway to squat on native lands. The British could not stop them, and the inability to speculate in frontier lands was pushing the wealthier American colonists towards revolution. It was hurting the Iroquois who were losing their homeland east of the mountains to squatters and legal settlement. To solve this, the Iroquois and British met at Fort Stanwix in 1768 and signed a treaty where the Iroquois ceded their claims to Ohio and opened it for settlement. No one bothered to consult the Delaware and Shawnee who actually lived there. Their protests to the Iroquois ignored, the Shawnee took matters into their own hands and made overtures for an alliance to the: Illinois (the few who were left), Wea, Piankashaw, Miami, Kickapoo, Potawatomi, Wyandot, Ottawa, Delaware, Mascouten, Ojibwe, Cherokee, and Chickasaw. Meetings were held at the Shawnee villages on the Scioto River in 1770 and 1771, but William Johnson was able to prevent an alliance with threats of a war with the Iroquois.
This left the Shawnee alone to face the frontiersmen and Virginia militia during Lord Dunmore's War (1774). The British remained interested observers in the struggle for the Ohio Valley until the beginning of the American Revolution (1775-83), at which time they began actively supporting the Ohio tribes against the Americans. Only the Saginaw had any important part in this fighting. The Lake Superior and Minnesota Ojibwe took no interest, and Mackinac participation was very limited. However, the British remained in control of the Great Lakes throughout the war and their fur trade continued. To allow the northern tribes to be used against the Americans, the British in 1778 were finally able to resolve the still-smoldering dispute between the Mackinac, Menominee and Winnebago. The truce freed these in 1780 to participate in the British expedition which attacked St. Louis (Spain had joined the war against Great Britain). In the east, Mississauga warriors joined Joseph Brant's Mohawk in a series of attacks against frontier settlements in New York and Pennsylvania.
War between the Dakota and Ojibwe did not end when the Dakota were driven into southern Minnesota during the 1750s. Large battles gave way to continuous, raids designed make life miserable and give the other side little rest. These were mostly killing and burning. Few prisoners were taken. On most occasions, the Dakota got the worst of this. The Ojibwe were better armed and had the advantage of birchbark canoes (Dakota used dugouts). Neither had horses at the time, but to be fair, the Lakota (Teton Sioux) had already left Minnesota for the northern plains. With only 3-400 warriors, the Dakota were completely outnumbered, and even the Ojibwe admit they were a brave and dangerous enemy. Despite their disadvantages, the Dakota continued to resist and in 1780 formed an alliance with the Fox and Sauk to retake the St. Croix Valley. After a major battle at St. Croix Falls, the Ojibwe destroyed six Fox villages along the Chippewa River. By 1783 the Fox had withdrawn from Wisconsin and crossed the Mississippi into Iowa.
Allied with the Cree and Assiniboine, the Ojibwe had swept across northern Minnesota and western Ontario during the 1740s. By 1750 groups of Ojibwe (Pembina band) had reached the Red River at the edge of the plains in Manitoba and western Minnesota. They paused here, adapted to the plains culture, and began to venture onto the plains to hunt both buffalo and Lakota. The Ojibwe seemed determined to drive the Sioux into the Pacific Ocean. The Cheyenne, who lived in eastern North Dakota at this time, were caught in the middle. In 1770 the Ojibwe decided the Cheyenne were favoring the Lakota, and they destroyed their village while the warriors were absent on a hunt. The Cheyenne left soon afterwards and moved west to the Missouri River. Before 1750 the eastern Dakotas were dominated by the Mandan who lived in permanent, agricultural villages along the upper Missouri. The area was shared somewhat with the Lakota who spent their summers on the plains but returned to Minnesota each winter.
The Ojibwe invasion changed this, and the Lakota stayed permanently pushing the Mandan back towards the Missouri. On their heals, came the Assiniboine, Plains Cree, and Plains Ojibwe (Bungee or Plains Chippewa). The pursuit ended when the Lakota got horses, something their enemies also acquired, but never as many. As a result, the Lakota became the most powerful tribe on the northern plains, and the westward expansion of the Ojibwe into the Dakotas stopped at the Turtle Mountains. Smallpox struck the Red River during the winter of 1781-82. The Assiniboine, famous for large winter encampments, were especially hard-hit. The survivors left the valley afterwards and joined the Plains Cree moving west. The Ojibwe custom of small groups during the winter had protected them. Many stayed near the Red River, but others joined the westward migration. Because the Lakota controlled most of North and South Dakota, the remaining Ojibwe movement to the west occurred in Canada. Called Saulteaux by the French and Bungee by Hudson Bay traders, groups of Plains Ojibwe accompanied the Cree and Assiniboine, eventually reaching the foot of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta.
The Revolutionary War officially ended in 1783 with the Treaty of Paris, but in Ohio and Great Lakes, it continued until 1794. Under the terms of the Treaty of Paris, the boundary of new United States extended through the Great Lakes and west to the Mississippi River. The Americans were also required to compensate British loyalists (Tories) for their property losses during the revolution. Saddled with heavy debts from the war, there was no way the Americans could pay these obligations unless they could sell the land in Ohio. The British, of course, knew this, and continued to occupy their forts in the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes until the Americans paid. Meanwhile, they armed the tribes fighting to keep the Americans out of Ohio and sat back to watch their former colonies fall back into their hands through economic collapse.
Officially, the British had told their native allies in 1783 to stop their attacks on the Americans, but the year before, Simon De Peyster, the British agent at Detroit, had begun the initial steps towards an alliance by reconciling disputes between the: Ojibwe, Winnebago, Fox, Sauk, Menominee, Potawatomi, and Miami. The British did not attend the meeting held at Sandusky in 1783 where the alliance was formed, but they brought the Mohawk Joseph Brant west to speak for them and let it be known they would support the western alliance against the Americans. The United States were also active, and among the first things the new government did was to meet with the Iroquois at Fort Stanwix in 1784 and force them to confirm their 1768 cession of Ohio. Badly mauled by Americans during the war, the Iroquois did as demanded. American commissioners were sent west to gain the acceptance of the Ohio tribes. The treaty signed at Fort McIntosh in 1785 was the first between the Ojibwe and the United States.
The treaty recognized American authority in Ohio and established a boundary between white and native lands. Unfortunately, the chiefs who signed did not represent the alliance anymore than the American commissioners represented the interests of its frontier citizens. The encroachment continued, and settlements were attacked in retaliation. Frontier militia responded with their own raids against the southernmost alliance villages forcing the council fire to be moved from Shawnee village of Waketomica in Ohio to Brownstown near Detroit. In a final attempt to resolve this through treaty, the American governor of the Northwest Territory, Arthur St. Clair, in December, 1787 asked for a conference to be held at the falls of the Muskingum River (Fort Harmar). The alliance was divided on how to respond. Joseph Brant was opposed to the surrender of any land in Ohio. He stormed out of the meeting in disgust and went back to Ontario.
The Wyandot decided to attend and convinced the Detroit Ojibwe and Ottawa, Delaware, and Potawatomi to join them. The Saginaw Ojibwe and Ottawa expressed their opinion that summer by attacking soldiers building the meeting house at Fort Harmar. The Fort Harmar Treaty (January, 1789) establish the frontier on the Muskingum River but failed for the same reasons as the Fort McIntosh Treaty in 1785 - encroachment, raids, and retaliation. After Americans attacked the Wabash villages that summer, the militant Shawnee and Miami dominated the alliance, and the Americans decided on war. The first efforts met with disaster. Harmar's (1790) and St. Clair's (1791) defeats were the worst beatings ever inflicted on an American army by Native Americans. President Washington sent "Mad Anthony" Wayne to Ohio to take command. Wayne was anything but "Mad." A deliberate and cautious man, he took two years to train a large force of regulars to back the skittish frontier militia. In the meantime, constant warfare was taking its toll on the unity of the western alliance.
The alliance could muster more than 2,000 warriors, but it could not feed them. Hungry Fox and Sauk warriors went home in 1792. That same year, Americans captured many of the Wabash tribes (Wea, Piankashaw, and Kickapoo) women and children forcing them to make a separate peace. Meanwhile, Wayne's careful preparations were creating doubts within the alliance, most notably the Miami war chief Little Turtle who had given the alliance its greatest victories. American peace commissioners were sent to offer peace in exchange for acceptance of the Muskingum boundary. The Shawnee murdered two of them in 1792, but the delegation which included Hendrick Aupamut, a Stockbridge (Mahican) with relatives among the Delaware, arrived safely in 1793. The alliance was divided, but the arguments of Joseph Brant prevailed, and the conference ended without bringing peace.
The alliance had decided to fight but remained divided. After Wayne began his advance north from Fort Washington at Cincinnati, Little Turtle was replaced by Bluejacket (Shawnee). Saginaw and Detroit Ojibwe were among the warriors who faced Wayne at Fallen Timbers in August, 1794, but the 700 who participated were far fewer than in earlier battles. As the warriors retreated from the battlefield afterwards, the British at Fort Miami refused to open their gates. Great Britain had decided to reach an accommodation with the Americans rather than risk war.In November, it signed the Jay Treaty agreeing to withdraw from forts on American territory. Abandoned by the British, alliance chiefs signed the Fort Greenville Treaty in 1795 ceding Ohio except the northwest part. As part of the alliance, the Detroit and Saginaw Ojibwe also signed, but the loss of Ohio did not affect their lands which were north of the treaty line.
The British gave up the forts, but the Jay treaty allowed them to trade in American territory. American soldiers occupied Mackinac, but their activities were confined to the immediate vicinity of the fort. British and French Canadians dominated the region's tribes and trade until the 1820s. After the British had assumed control of Canada in 1763, the fur trade had continued to operate mostly from Montreal. In 1779 several Montreal traders merged to form the Northwest Company, and at their request, the British government called a council the following year at Mackinac with the Ojibwe, Dakota, Fox, Sauk, Menominee, and Winnebago to end the intertribal warfare which was crippling the fur trade. The resulting treaty brought 20 years of peace to the region with one very important exception: the Dakota and Ojibwe. Nothing could stop this, but the Northwesters still managed to bring a lot of fur back to Montreal. By 1798 they were making regular visits to the Mandan villages on the Missouri River. To counter the competition from the Northwesters, Hudson Bay traders began moving their posts inland from Hudson Bay. By 1793 they had a permanent post on the Red River at Pembina. A third competitor entered the scene with the formation of the XYZ Company. Before this three-way competition began, alcohol was not a major problem for the Ojibwe, but ruthless competition made it readily available.
The Northwesters and XYZ merged in 1804 ending the worst abuses, but British traders were all over the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Wisconsin and an increasing concern to the Americans. The factory system was created during the 1790s to compete with the British, but it was poorly managed and ineffective. During his exploration of the upper Mississippi in 1806, Zebulon Pike ordered the Ojibwe to stop trading with the British and arranged a truce between them and the Dakota. Pike had barely started back down the Mississippi, when war with the Dakota and trade with the British resumed. John Jacob Astor's American Fur Company entered the Lake Superior trade just after the War of 1812. The British were still allowed to trade in the area, but United States law now required a permit. For some reason, these were difficult to obtain, and Astor was soon able to buy out the Northwesters. However, farther west in Minnesota, the Dakotas, and northern plains, British and Métis traders from the Red River remained active for many years. Known to the Lakota as the Slota, Métis traders took their high, two-wheeled Red River carts out on the plains. They were an important source of firearms for the Lakota until the 1870s.
The years after the Greenville Treaty were terrible for the western alliance tribes. Defeated and crowded into a shrinking land base, there was widespread social disintegration and breakdown of tribal authority. Drinking was a serious problem, and "peace chiefs" trying to reach an accommodation with the Americans were often in danger of being killed by their own people. The alliance collapsed, although the Shawnee chief Bluejacket tied to resurrect it in 1801. Not satisfied with the lands gotten at Greenville, the Americans continued to whittle away at the remaining native lands in the Ohio Valley. William Henry Harrison, the American governor of the Northwest Territory, had instructions to extinguish native land titles, and he set about his work. The Illinois ceded southern Illinois in 1803 even though they no longer controlled it. That same year, the Delaware sold part of southern Indiana. This was followed by treaties in 1805, 1807, and 1808 wherein the Detroit Ojibwe, Ottawa, Wyandot, and Potawatomi ceded parts of northern Ohio and southeastern Michigan.
The times called for a prophet. In 1805 a Shawnee drunkard named Lalawethika received a spiritual vision. He never touched alcohol again and took a new name - Tenskwatawa (The Open Door). Unwilling to wrestle with the pronunciation of his Shawnee name, Americans called him "The Prophet." The Shawnee were surprised at the sudden change in this man, but after he predicted a solar eclipse in 1806, Tenskwatawa gained a large following from several tribes. His message was essentially the same as Neolin's in 1763 - reject the white man's trade goods and whiskey and return to traditional ways. His religious movement probably would have run its course and disappeared unnoticed into history, but his brother was Tecumseh. A spell-binding speaker and respected Shawnee war chief, Tecumseh added a political force to his brother's movement. His main argument was there were to be no more land cessions to the Americans ...period! This placed him in direct opposition to the peace chiefs and Harrison.
Tecumseh visited Canada in 1808 and received strong British encouragement and offers of support. The Prophet's messengers also made their first visits to the Ojibwe villages that year. Many listened, but there was the competing movement of Trout, an Ottawa mystic at Mackinac, and strong opposition from the Midewiwin, who were not only a healing society but a major political force binding the Ojibwe bands to each other. Despite this, some of the Ojibwe and Ottawa decided to visit the Prophet at Prophetstown (Tippecanoe) in western Indiana. They arrived skeptical, and a harsh winter with starvation and disease at Prophetstown made them more so. They left angry after killing a Shawnee woman and her child in defiance of Prophet's teachings and were planning an attack on Prophetstown until dissuaded by Michigan governor William Hull.
William Henry Harrison ignored the growing strength of Tecumseh and the Prophet and kept pressing for more land. In 1809 he negotiated treaties at Fort Wayne and Vincennes with the Delaware, Potawatomi Miami, and Illinois which ceded 3,000,000 acres in southern Indiana and Illinois. When he heard this, Tecumseh threatened to kill the chiefs who signed. He made good on this when his followers executed the Wyandot chief Leatherlips in 1810. The peace chiefs at Brownstown condemned the Prophet as a witch, but this was more a bark than a bite. Wyandot loyal to Tecumseh defied the council and brought the wampum belts of the old alliance to Prophetstown that year. Certain of war, Tecumseh left Tippecanoe to gather support from the tribes south of the Ohio. While he was absent, the Potawatomi attacked settlements in Illinois, and Harrison used this as an excuse to gather an army and march on Prophetstown in November, 1811.
Disregarding his brother's orders to avoid confrontation with the Americans while he was gone, Tenskwatawa attacked. The battle of Tippecanoe followed, during which Prophetstown was burned. The military defeat was not nearly as important as the damage done to Tenskwatawa's reputation as a prophet. After Tecumseh returned to Indiana, he had to use all of his powers to rebuild his alliance before the War of 1812 (1812-14) erupted that summer. Tecumseh and his followers fought on the British side during this conflict, but participation by the Ojibwe is more complex. Many of the Detroit and Saginaw Ojibwe joined Tecumseh until he was killed at the Battle of the Thames in 1813. Mississauga warriors helped the British defend Canada against American invasion. However, the Lake Superior and Mississippi (Minnesota) Ojibwe remained neutral, with their chief Bugonaykishig (Hole In the Day) as friendly to Americans as he was dangerous to the Dakota. The Mackinac helped the British capture Fort Michilimackinac in 1812, and two years later joined forces with the British garrison and 500 Menominee, Winnebago, Sauk, Dakota, and Ottawa warriors to defeat an American attempt to recapture it.
So far as Britain and the United States were concerned, the War of 1812 ended in stalemate, but for Native Americans it meant total defeat. The Americans were in control afterwards, and native lands began to dwindle away. The first treaties like the one at Spring Wells in 1815 were "kiss and make up" where tribes recognized United States authority and both parties agreed to forgive injuries which occurred during the war. The United States got down to business at the Fort Meigs Treaty (September, 1817) when the Ojibwe and others exchanged their remaining Ohio lands for reservations. The Saginaw surrendered a large part of southeast Michigan in 1819, followed in 1821 by the cession of northern Indiana lands by the Ojibwe and Potawatomi. Strangely enough, the first Ojibwe land losses occurred in Ontario with the Mississauga. This began shortly after 1783 to make room for the resettlement of Joseph Brant's Mohawk who had been forced from New York during the Revolutionary War. Thousands of British loyalists also left the United States to settle in Upper Canada, and in 1792 Moravian Delaware arrived to escape the fighting in Ohio. Game became scarce, and the Mississauga began attacking Delaware hunters. The Mississauga eventually lost almost all of their land. By the 1840s they were destitute, but they still managed to donate £50 (a considerable sum at the time) for Irish famine relief.
There were no wars and few confrontations between the Americans and Ojibwe after 1815, but this was not true about the Ojibwe and Dakota. The Ojibwe had driven the Dakota south of the Minnesota River by 1780, but the Dakota made up for their losses by taking territory from the much-smaller Iowa tribe. As the Iowa retreated southward they came into conflict with the Osage and formed an alliance with the Fox and Sauk - also at war with the Osage. Despite the brief Fox-Dakota alliance against the Ojibwe (1780-83) and British efforts to negotiate a peace at Mackinac in 1786, the upper Mississippi was a war zone in 1800. After the War of 1812, the United States, for the first time, had control of its own territory free from British interference, but settlement advanced up the Mississippi from St. Louis no farther than the present southern border of Iowa because of the warfare to the north. Although the French and British had both failed, the Americans were determined to stop this.
Fort Snelling (St. Paul, MN) was built in 1819 to control British traders in Minnesota and provide a barrier between the Dakota and Ojibwe. It was more effective in controlling the British than the Dakota and Ojibwe. Despite a major Dakota victory at Cross Lake, Ojibwe villages by 1800 were located as far south as the Crow Wing River with the Ojibwe usually attacking the Dakota rather than the other-way-around. One American in Wisconsin during the early 1820s observed an Ojibwe war party return to their village with more than 300 scalps. With the fighting occurring up to the gates of their forts, the Americans decided to solve the problem by defining tribal territories. To this end, a Grand Council was held at Prairie du Chien in August, 1825 (Ojibwe, Dakota, Fox, Sauk, Iowa, Ottawa, Menominee, Winnebago, and Potawatomi). William Clark (of Lewis and Clark fame) headed the American delegation and, using lavish gifts and the promise of American trade factories, secured a treaty with general boundaries. Final adjustments were to be made at the discretion of the United States.
Not all of the Ojibwe were represented at Prairie du Chein, and it took two other treaties - Fond du Lac (1826) and Butte des Morts (1827) to complete the process. Unfortunately, these treaties bought little peace. In 1826 the Ojibwe ambushed the Dakota just north of Fort Snelling, and the Dakota retaliated the following year with an attack on an Ojibwe chief visiting the fort. The Americans captured the responsible Dakota and turned them over to the Ojibwe. By 1828 full-scale warfare had resumed, with the soldiers at Fort Snelling as spectators. Despite this, American settlement surged up the Mississippi Valley after the Prairie du Chien treaty. The first target was the lead deposits between Prairie du Chien and Galena, Illinois. This caused a brief war with the Winnebago during 1828, after which, the Winnebago were forced to surrender their claim to the area. Additional treaties the following year with the Ojibwe, Ottawa, and Potawatomi completed the takeover.
Further south, Blackhawk's Sauk in 1832 refused to surrender their western Illinois lands as required by a questionable 1804 treaty, and this erupted into the Blackhawk War. Although Blackhawk thought the Ojibwe, Winnebago, and even British would support him, only a few Potawatomi in northern Illinois joined in. Soundly beaten, the Sauk were forced to cede their remaining lands in Illinois as well as parts of eastern Iowa. In the aftermath, pressure built to remove the other tribes from Illinois. At the Treaty of Chicago in 1833, the Ojibwe, Ottawa, and Potawatomi in northern Illinois ceded their remaining lands and agreed to move to Council Bluffs on the Missouri River in southwest Iowa. After a few years, the Illinois Ojibwe merged with the more-numerous Prairie Potawatomi. The combined tribe was forced from Iowa in 1846 and removed to eastern Kansas.
After the Blackhawk War, settlers moved into northern Illinois, southern Wisconsin, and eastern Iowa and then started looking north towards Minnesota for more land. In the meantime, fighting between the Dakota and Ojibwe had continued, and a government peace mission headed by Henry Schoolcraft in 1831 failed to produce lasting results. However, the Ojibwe over-hunted Minnesota, and as the fur dwindled, they acquired almost $70,000 in debt to American traders. The Dakota had similar problems and obligations. To pay these, both tribes agreed in 1837 (Treaty of St. Peters) to cede a disputed area between the Mississippi and St. Croix Rivers (including much of northwest Wisconsin) which they had fought over for a century but neither could safely use. The Ojibwe receive a $35,000 annual payment which gave the Americans leverage in preventing hostilities.
Unfortunately, many of the northern Ojibwe bands got nothing and continued to raid the Dakota. When the Ojibwe delegation came to Fort Snelling in the summer of 1839 to collect their annuities, the Dakota attacked them. 100 Ojibwe and 23 Dakota died in a battle which took place on the grounds of the fort itself. In 1848 the Winnebago (friendly with both tribes) were brought to Minnesota and placed at Long Prairie between the Ojibwe and Dakota. In 1851 a group of Ojibwe visiting the Winnebago agency slipped off unnoticed and killed five Dakota. Fighting between the Ojibwe and Dakota only slowed after the Dakota were moved to reservations in southwest Minnesota during the 1850s. However, occasional outbreaks continued until 1862 when the Americans drove the Dakota from Minnesota during the Minnesota Valley Uprising.
Until the late 1800s, many Ojibwe in Minnesota maintained closer ties with Canada than the United States. Winnipeg and Fort Geary were actually closer to them than the American traders at St. Paul, and the "medicine line" (U.S.-Canada border) meant little. Like the Americans, Canadian relations with the Ojibwe were mostly friendly, but there were major problems with the Métis (French-Ojibwe-Cree mixed bloods) who had settled in the Red River Valley and become almost a nation. The Hudson Bay Company began the first white settlements in the area in 1811. These was opposed by the Northwesters, who by 1815 were urging the Ojibwe, Cree, and Assiniboine to attack the settlements. The Ojibwe and others refused, but the Bois Brulé (French-Ojibwe mixed bloods) agreed. Disguised in native dress, they captured the governor and Pembina and forced 140 settlers to flee for their lives. The insurrection was finally crushed by Lord Thomas Selkirk in 1817. Selkirk reorganized the settlements and negotiated peace treaties with the Cree, Assiniboine, and the Ojibwe. He even managed a treaty with the Dakota who recently had killed 33 Saulteaux (Red River Ojibwe) in fighting near Pembina.
Hudson Bay and the Northwesters merged in 1821 ending their no-hold-barred competition, but Métis resentment against newcomers continued and erupted into the Red River Rebellion of 1869 led by Louis Riel. It took almost the entire Canadian army to put down this revolt, and Riel fled south to, of all places, the United States. Meanwhile, at the urging of mining and timber interests, the Canadian government was extinguishing Ojibwe land titles. Signed during the 1850s, the Robertson Treaties (Robinson-Huron and Robinson-Superior treaties) and Manitoulin Island Treaty cost the Ojibwe their lands on the northern and eastern shores of Lakes Superior and Huron and the Saugeen Peninsula. A series of five treaties (1871-75) followed with the Plains Ojibwe, Cree, and other tribes which are known only by their number (Treaty No. 1, etc.). This concluded in 1923 with the Williams Treaty with the Ojibwe of southern Ontario.
In the United States, the process was similar. Spread over such a large area, their lands passed into white ownership and the public domain through a series of treaties rather any single agreement. This initially happened where soil and growing season permitted agriculture: Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, southern Wisconsin. After their first cessions in 1819 and 1821, the Saginaw through six treaties (1836-39) ceded their lands and agreed to temporary reservations until arrangements could be made for their removal to Kansas. Only the Black River and Swan Creek bands actually moved. The others decided to stay in Michigan and refused to leave. Some joined the Ojibwe in upper Michigan, but the rest used the money from their original cessions to purchase new lands. By 1854 the government accepted this but required allotment (individual rather than tribal ownership). During the next fifteen years, the Saginaw lost at least 300,000 acres to fraud. The situation was so rotten even the federal government noticed and was forced to intervene.
Their treaty promised to send them to Minnesota, but the Black River and Swan Creek Ojibwe arrived in Kansas in 1839. They settled near Ottawa on lands originally intended for all of the Saginaw. When it became clear in 1854 the other Saginaw were going to stay in Michigan, 8,320 acres were given to the Black River and Swan Creek bands. After Kansas was opened to white settlement by the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, the immigrant tribes from the east began to sell their lands. This left a group of Moravian Delaware from Ontario without land, but the Ojibwe gave them permission to settle on their lands. The two groups merged shortly afterwards and, after agreeing to allotment and citizenship, stayed in Kansas when the other tribes left for Oklahoma after the civil war. Most still live in the vicinity.
Although it always took several treaties to reach agreement with every band, the United States initially treated the Ojibwe in upper Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota as one tribe. Since most of their land was useless for agriculture, pressure for land cessions occurred later than with other Ojibwe. Only a small area near Sault Ste. Marie for a fort and trading post and the St. Martin Islands were ceded in two treaties signed in 1820. The 1826 treaty at Fond du Lac was similar, but the Americans received permission to explore and mine the south shore of Lake Superior. Rich cooper deposits were discovered on the Keweenaw Peninsula, and at La Pointe in 1842, the Ojibwe ceded most upper Michigan and northern Wisconsin retaining only their right to hunt and fish. For this the United States paid $75,000 for the debts accumulated with American traders and an annuity of $36,000 for 25 years. However, the agreement split the Lake Superior Ojibwe (who got most of the money) from the Mississippi bands in Minnesota who had opposed the cession.
Whites rushed in to exploit the copper and timber, and by 1847 there was talk of moving all of the Ojibwe to Kansas. Three years later President Zachary Taylor ordered the removal, but his death that year postponed the implementation. This allowed time for opposition to organize - not only Christian missionaries working among the Ojibwe, but the Minnesota legislature in 1853 voted its opposition to removal. Taylor's order was rescinded by his successor, Millard Fillmore. Since it no longer intended to remove the Ojibwe, the government needed to assign reservations. In the treaty signed at La Pointe in 1854, the Lake Superior Ojibwe gave up seven million acres in exchange for six reservations too small to support them. It took twelve years and eight additional treaties to finalize the Ojibwe reservations in Minnesota.
Louis Riel went back to Canada to lead a second rebellion in 1884. This time he was captured, brought to trial, and hung. His supporters had included not only the Métis, but also Cree and Ojibwe, and afterwards, many found sanctuary in the United States. Ojibwe of Rocky Boy (Stone Child) Ojibwe crossed into northeast Montana and settled along the Milk River in 1886. The army considered them Canadian Indians and wanted to deport them, but with the support of Montana citizens, they were allowed to stay and given the Rocky Boy Reservation. In 1910 they were joined there by Little Bear's Cree. Back in North Dakota, the Plains Cree escaped the government attention until 1882. Whites moving into the area wanted to know why all of the "Indians" were still running loose. Since the United States no longer dealt with Native Americans through treaty, the Turtle Mountain Reservation was created that year by executive order.
The Plains Ojibwe did not always remain on this reservation and often left on extended buffalo hunts. During one of these absences of Little Shell's group of almost 5,000 Ojibwe and Métis in 1884, the government concluded Turtle Mountain was too large for the number of Ojibwe living there and reclaimed 90% of the reservation for sale to whites. This left Little Shell and his people stranded in Montana without land. The government offered to compensate the Ojibwe for the loss of ten million acres at the rate of 10¢ per acre - the "Ten Cent Treaty." Many Ojibwe took the money and returned to the crowded reservation in North Dakota, but Little Shell rejected the settlement, and his people have remained without recognition ever since. The real embarrassment to the government occurred when the reservation was allotted in 1892. Even without Little Shell's people, there was not enough land available on the reservation. 2,000 allotments had to be added from public lands in Montana and South Dakota.
After 1815 there were few confrontations between the Ojibwe and Americans, but the fight between the Army and Pillager Band of Ojibwe on October 5th, 1898 was the last official battle of the Indian Wars. Troops were sent to the Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota to arrest Bugonaygeshig, a dissident Ojibwe elder. Bugonaygeshig had been arrested once before and, after a trial in Duluth, had to walk back to Leech Lake. He was in no mood to repeat this experience. As the Ojibwe gathered to protect him, an army rifle accidentally discharged, and the soldiers suddenly found themselves surrounded and under fire from all sides. Cooler heads prevailed, and after a truce, the army withdrew without Bugonaygeshig. This skirmish produced the last Medal of Honor awarded in an Indian campaign. To Private O. Burchard: "For distinguished bravery in action against hostile Indians for action during the uprising of Chippewa Indians on Leech Lake, northern Minnesota." A soldier got the medal, but as was the case with almost every enemy they had ever faced, the Ojibwe had won the battle.
First Nations referred to in this Ojibwe History: