January 1789 Fort Harmar, Marietta, Northwest Territory (Ohio)
The majority of the tribes who had been formerly in the British interest, and have been threatened, forced out, or bought out by the Americans have now gathered into towns at the mouth of the Maumee River. The main town in this cluster of warrior villages is Kekionga, the home of the Miami Chief Little Turtle. From this location raiding parties continue to head south toward the Ohio River and Kentucky country in response to the Americans claiming all the lands that formerly belonged to the tribes north of the Ohio River. The principal war chiefs in what was becoming an increasing struggle against the Whites were now Little Turtle of the Miami, Buckangehelas of the Delaware, and Blue Jacket of the Shawnee.
Regardless of the attempts to stop the Whites from immigrating further down the Ohio River and particularly into the lands north of the Ohio, now claimed by the Americans, the settlers were streaming into these areas to the rate of 20,000 in this past year or more. Many pushed into lands not yet opened to settlement. On July 13, 1787, the former Native American lands were now made into the formal Northwest Territory by the signing of the Northwest Ordinance by congress. Marietta, established in 1788 at the mouth of the Muskingum River became it’s capitol in 1789, and Arthur St. Clair became governor. Cincinnati had now become settled as a town in December 1788. These were the first two permanent White settlements north of the Ohio River on former Native American lands.
Being well equipped by the British, Little Turtle and his confederacy continued committing one raid after the other, sometimes committing atrocities in hopes of stopping the invasion of Whites. Throughout all of this, Joseph Brant, Mohawk chief who formed a general Indian confederation of all tribes, was attempting to take conciliatory measures with the Americans in order to save their lands. He wrote letter after letter to congress requesting the tribes be given a fair voice. The Miami, Shawnee, and Kickapoo were angered over Brant’s willingness to negotiate and insisted the old boundary be kept. The Delaware, Wyandot, and Seneca were in favor of Brant’s negotiations. This all lead to the disastrous Treaty of Fort Harmar in January 1789, The Native tribes knew that at the negotiating table they had lost to the Americans. Brant also knew that the confederacy he painstaking worked to develop was falling to pieces. St. Clair wrote to George Washington regarding the tribes that he could easily “set them at a deadly variance” towards each other. In the meantime, rejecting all treaties or attempts at negotiation, raids by the tribes under Little Turtle continued. This set the stage for an aggressive military campaign against the Miami and their allies. An all out war to crush all tribal resistance to White settlement loomed on the immediate horizon. America would have it’s coveted lands for settlement – one way or the other.
“I have been here at Marietta for a week now. I am not accustomed to this harsh manner of living, and yet they call this a settlement. I fear that at any moment a heathen savage might burst through the door and take what little hair I have. I watched them at the negotiations across the River at Fort Harmar which I had the privilege……no, the displeasure of attending. The savages repeatedly begged and pleaded for the boundaries set at Fort McIntosh and Ft Finney to be changed to what existed prior to our war for independence, and for ‘fairness’ to be offered to them. General St. Clair wasn’t having any of it. He stood his ground. We listened as the chiefs offered to make the boundaries here and there, along the Muskingum and other places. How foolish can they be. offering to give us sections of land that we, not they, already own. They still do not understand they fought for the British, and the British lost. I don’t care if the tribes never lost one battle. They have no power to negotiate, I say. At least the Delaware, Wyandot, and Seneca are showing signs of giving up, as they have made no real attempt to resist us in the eastern part of this territory. Now Little Turtle and his confederates in the Maumee and Wasbash country, that’s a different story. I am convinced, having witnessed first hand their hostility and resistance to terms, that nothing less than an all out military campaign will put a stop to them. No, not some small punitive action. instead, an all out military thrust directly at Kekionga will do the job. To be sure I will use my influence with Arthur St Clair and George Washington as well to make this happen. All out war against these Indians is the only answer. Image them wanting us to sit there another day at this failed treaty attempt while they ‘ask the Great Spirit to give them words to say.’ There are no words accept give up or die.”
Robert K. Seymour , Citizen and speculator