August 3, 2017
From the moment the white man set foot in the New World, Native Americans and European settlers squabbled over land. As British colonists pushed westward, they were often met with resistance from native tribes, which usually ended in bloodshed.
In 1774, Ohio Country natives defended their land in Lord Dunmore’s War, which cumulated in one, significant fight at The Battle at Point Pleasant. (see ) Though the Shawnee lost this battle, one young brave stood out to his fellow Shawnee. He was known as Blue Jacket and became a predominate figure in the Shawnee community, eventually reaching the status of chief. For years he campaigned for unity within the native tribes in the resistance of the white man.
Before the colonists even made it home from Lord Dunmore’s War, settlers found themselves on the receiving end of British guns at Lexington and Concord. (see ). Blue Jacket and the natives immediately formed alliances with their former British enemies under the common goal of defeating the revolutionaries. Nevertheless, under the leadership of General George Washington, the colonists prevailed.
When the Revolutionary war ended, as part of the Peace of Paris Treaty (1783), Britain surrendered the Northwest Territory, including land in modern-day Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin, to America. However, the British retained possession of several important forts in the area, which would prove vital during the Indian Wars.
Because of the treaty, American frontiersmen believed they had the right to enter and settle in the Northwest Territory. The new government shared this belief, conducting expeditions into the area. Still wanting to defeat America even after the war, British commanders encouraged the Indians to resist these American expeditions. Just a short time before, the British fought the natives in efforts to take their land. Now the Red Coats were stating Ohio Country was, and should remain, exclusively Indian Territory. The natives were just pawns in the British agenda.
Some Native American tribes did unite against the colonists, attacking the expeditions and winning several significant battles. Lending support through their forts, Britain provided military backing to the Indian opposition. Blue Jacket, along with the Miami’s Chief Little Turtle, conducted the most significant defeat the Americans experienced by the Indians. On November 3, 1791, the Native Americans soundly triumphed over the expedition conducted by Arthur St. Clair, governor of the Northwest Territory, in the Battle of the Wabash, otherwise known as St. Clair’s Defeat. It would prove to be Blue Jackets’ pinnacle military achievement.
Feeling confident in their successes, Blue Jacket and other leaders, encouraged raids on settlements in the territory north of the Ohio River. Settlers and soldiers alike were slaughtered as a result of these attacks. President George Washington quickly reorganized America’s military under General “Mad” Anthony Wayne, who trained a new professional and experienced army to combat the Indians.
During this same period, the French Revolution erupted in Europe. (see and ) Those recent British allies quickly abandoned the Indians, trying to avoid another direct conflict with the United States while they were fighting France. Not wanting to be held responsible for the Indian resistance, or any likely defeats as a result of the British’s withdrawn support, Chief Little Turtle backed away and allowed Blue Jacket to assume overall leadership.
On August 20, 1794, the natives met Wayne’s infantry at Fort Miami, just southwest of modern-day Toledo, Ohio. Known as the Battle of Fallen Timbers, Wayne’s expedition of seasoned soldiers easily disrupted the native’s defense line, causing the Indians to flee. Without the British, the natives suffered a sound defeat.
Three months later, on November 19th, Britain signed the Jay Treaty, declaring they would officially withdraw from their Northwest Territory forts. This left Blue Jacket and the Native Americans with no choice but to make peace with the Americans.
A year after the Battle of Fallen Timbers, terms of an agreement were reached. Wayne, Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, (of the Lewis and Clark Expedition; see ), William Henry Harrison, Blue Jacket, and Little Turtle gathered at Fort Green Ville (now Greenville, Ohio) to finalize the Treaty of Greenville on August 3rd. Key points included the end to the warfare, the exchange of prisoners, and the establishment of a new border between America and Indian lands. The treaty relinquished the majority of eastern and southern Ohio to the United States. Furthermore, major sections of land beyond this line, including the areas now home to Fort Wayne and Lafayette, Indiana; Chicago & Peoria, Illinois; Toledo, Ohio, as well as Mackinac Island, and Detroit, Michigan, were also surrendered to America.
However, the American government did not leave the Indians empty handed. As part of the treaty, an immediate $20,000 payment in goods, such as blankets, domestic animals, utensils and tools, was given to the Indians. In addition, a yearly payment of $9,500 in goods would be given to the Native Americas, which they could distribute amongst the tribes as they see fit. The natives also retained the right to live and hunt in the Northwest Territories, which most did until the forced mass exodus of Native Americans during Progressive Democrat President Andrew Jackson’s administration. (see )
The treaty marked the end of the Indian Wars and the beginning of the State of Ohio. Blue Jacket tried desperately to hold on to his native land, but was unsuccessful. The new boundaries failed to contain the pioneer spirit of the frontiersmen as settlements developed within Indian territory almost immediately.
Ohio became a state in 1803, and two years later, Blue Jacket relinquished the remaining parts of modern-day Ohio in the Treaty of Fort Industry, a fort located in today’s Toledo area. As Blue Jacket’s prominence faded in his last years, another upcoming Shawnee leader, Tecumseh, continued the Native American struggle to win back their Ohio Country lands. Tecumseh persevered in his crusade into the War of 1812, losing his lifelong campaign upon his death in 1813 at the Battle of Thames.
Ohio has played an important role in the shaping of America. Eight presidents were either born or resided in Ohio at the time of their election, including William Henry Harrison. The first professional baseball team, the Red Stockings, formed in Cincinnati in 1866. Orville and Wilber Wright designed and perfected flight in Dayton and Cleveland houses the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame. In addition, Cincinnati played a significant part in the expansion westward. As the first major city founded after the American Revolution, as well as the first primary inland city and the largest western city at the time, many view it as the first truly “American” city. Leading industries such as Macy’s, Inc., Proctor & Gamble, The Kroger Company and the GE Aviation portion of General Electric are headquartered in Cincinnati, named after the Roman hero Cincinnatus. (see )
Yet, Ohio did not forget its Native American sons, Blue Jacket and Tecumseh. Ohioans honored the men in two separate and long-running plays, operating for decades in the late 20th century. Columbus’ hockey team even bears the name Blue Jackets.
The United State’s history and treatment of the Native Americans is not always a proud one. Some settlers, like William Penn, did truly desire to live side by side with the Indians. (see ). Unfortunately, many on both sides often resorted to violence, trying to keep the other group out. In fact, those claiming the natives lived in complete peace and harmony before the Europeans arrived are believing a false history. It was common for one tribe to attack, conquer and overtake another, including confiscating their land. Which may explain why some natives were instantly hostile to the Europeans regardless of their desires to live together. On the other hand, many Indians, including those in the Ohio Country, left their tribal life, choosing instead the European culture as their way of life.
Liberty, our history is our history. There may be parts we don’t rejoice over. However, we should not be punishing ourselves because of them either. Those moments and events, both good and bad, led us to become the most powerful country in the world. A country that has opened the doors to generations of people just wanting a better life for themselves and their families. A country that does not force one to stay in a particular social class or station because of who their parents are. A country where a farmer and a self-educated lawyer can become president, and then that president can return home to their ranch or quiet life once their service is over. A country whose citizens are by far the most generous in the world, not just towards their own, but to nations everywhere.
And that, sweet Liberty, is something worth being proud of.
That’s my 2 cents.
HOW THE NORTH