“My forefather kindled the first fire at Detroit; from thence,
he extended his lines to the head waters of Scioto;
from thence, to its mouth; from thence, down the Ohio,
to the mouth of the Wabash, and from thence to Chicago, on lake Michigan.
I have been the last to sign this treaty; I will be the last to break it.”
Hailed as the last Chief of the Miami Indians, he was born in 1747 near Devil’s Lake, northwest of Churubusco in Whitley county, Indiana. Little Turtle was the son of the Miami chief Acquenacke and a Mahican mother. His grandfather, Osandiah, was chief at the time of the Battle of the Johnston farm (as it is now called) in 1763. When the tribe ceded their last Indiana reservation in 1838 to the Government, they gave Me-Shin-Go-Me-Sia (Michikinikwa) ten sections of land in Grant County, Indiana
He led the confederation of Indians that defeated General Arthur St. Clair, at Fort Recovery on November 3, 1791. His force inflicted the worst defeat ever suffered by the U.S. Army at the hands of native Americans. St. Clair’s army consisted of 1300 soldiers. In the battle, 602 were killed and about 300 wounded. The Indian force consisted of approximately 1000 warriors. Only 66 Indians were killed in this battle! It was the greatest defeat the Americans ever suffered at the hands of the Indians. Even worst than the loss suffered at the Battle of Little Big Horn or Custer’s Last Stand. Custer only lost about 210 men compared to St. Clair’s loss of 602 killed! Me-she-kin-no-quah lived the village of Ke-ki-ong-a’. Kekinonga means blackberry patch. This was the Miami capitol (Ft. Wayne, IN).
He fought later against United States militias that had been punishing his and other tribes for raiding settlements in the Northwest Territory. He led defeats of Gen. Josiah Harmar’s and Gen. Arthur St. Clair’s troops in the early 1790s. Little Turtle and his warriors were not beaten until 1793, when Gen. Anthony Wayne and his garrison routed the Miami at the battle of Fallen Timbers in August 1794. This defeat effectively put an end to two decades of warfare. The battle site is now a state park southwest of Toledo, Ohio.
In 1795 Little Turtle signed the Treaty of Fort Greenville, ceding Indian lands in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan by a confederacy of Indians known as the Northwest Indian Confederation. The confederation included Miami, Chippewa, Iroquois, and others. Afterward, Little Turtle advocated peace and kept his people from joining Tecumseh’s confederacy. Little Turtle also encouraged his people to abstain from alcohol, to develop new farming techniques, and to be vaccinated against smallpox. He met with George Washington in Philadelphia in 1797. His portrait was painted by Gilbert Stuart before Little Turtle died on July 14, 1812, in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Oral history has it that Little Turtle didn’t like to see people being enslaved and mistreated, so he would capture the blacks and bring them back to his village at Kekeonga (present day Fort Wayne, Indiana). There, the blacks lived with the Miami Indians. Little Turtle left a will because of all the property he had acquired through the treaty process. In his will, he bequeathed these black people to his daughters and sons-in-law. No one has been able to do research to find out exactly what the situation was. Since he captured them and brought them back to Fort Wayne, the way he handled it in his will may have just been his way of making certain that his family was going to insure their continued freedom. There is nothing in the written record to indicate that they were used as slaves by Little Turtle and there is no written record of what happened to them after Little Turtle’s death.
Documentation can be found at the Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Library, 302 E. Berry St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802 Tel: 219-426-288.
“Father you have heard the observasions of my Brother Chief Pottawottama.
It gives us great pleasure that the Great Spirit who made us both has permitted
us to take you by the hand at the Great Council of the sixteen fires.
Father, it has again fell to my lot to make known to you the wish of your children. I was in hopes that my brethren the Great Chiefs would have spoken
for themselves, but by their desire I have undertaken to speak for them.”