Gayusuta and Washington

Gayusuta and Washington

Monday, September 4, 2017

Reprise: Tomochichi of the Yamassee Creek

Some Native leaders felt that the only way to deal with oncoming White settlers was to fight them.  However, many preferred to extend hospitality in an effort at co-existence and co-operation.

Tomochichi (c 1644-1739) was born a Creek.  For reason not known now, he was exiled with some 200 followers and settled on a site now occupied by the town of Savannah, Georgia.  Native societies were in turmoil at this time, the main issue being how to deal with advancing White settlement.  The Yamassee, who also experienced their own destructive internal conflicts over this issue, were just as divided as the Creeks and many Yamassee came to live in Tomochichi's town.  The combination of Creeks and Yamassees are sometimes termed Yamacraw, though Creek histories do not acknowledge the term.

Tomochichi was an older man, possibly in his nineties, when James Oglethorpe and his first group of colonists reached the area in 1733.  He decided to allow them to settle near his village, recognizing the opportunities for trade that the proximity of the colonists would allow.  Tomochichi himself did not know English, so both he and the colonists relied on a mixed-race Creek woman named Mary Musgrove to translate for them.  With her help and Tomochichi's influence, Oglethorpe quickly made contacts with various Creek leaders, facilitating the arrival of more settlers in Georgia.  Tomochichi believed in education so that his people could co-exist with Whites and allowed children from his town to attend school.  He also welcomed Methodist missionaries, though there is no record of his having converted.

At his death, he is said to have reminded those gathered around him to bear in mind the goodness of the King of England, whom he believed responsible for the benefits he felt his people were receiving, and to maintain allegiances and alliances with the British, which the Creek historically maintained up until the War of 1812.  Tomochichi's gravesite was built over by a monument to the founder of the Central Georgia Railroad in 1889.  A member of the founder's family realized the disrespect and had a new marker and plaque installed at the site.  The federal courthouse in in Savannah is named for Tomochichi, who became a prominent figure in Georgia history. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Indian Agent: William Clark, 1770-1838

William Clark wore many hats on the frontier, explorer, military officer, trader, Indian agent, planter and businessman.  Like many people who lived in close proximity with Native Americans, his attitude toward them and dealings with them were conflicted many times over.  Clark, 1770-1838, is best known as one of the co-leaders of the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804-1806.  That expedition and all that it accomplished are out of the scope of this blog and beyond encapsulating in a single post.  The point here is to look at Clark's dealings with Native peoples post-expedition, when his position as Indian Agent ad Missouri governor made him responsible for implementing United States policy toward them.

Clark was born in Ladysmith, Virginia to a large plantation family on the edge of the Virginia frontier.  Though he was too young to fight in the American Revolution, he was a remote witness to it.  His older half-brother was George Rogers Clark, renowned in his own time as an Indian fighter and scourge of the Redcoats and Natives on the frontier.  George and four other Clark sons fought in the War.  After the War, the Clark family moved first to Pennsylvania and later to Kentucky.  William first saw service at the age of 19 during the Northwest Indian War (1785-1795) as a member of a Kentucky militia.  There, he began lifelong habits of journaling and keeping his eyes open to the people, places and things he encountered.  This, and his older brother George's lessons on wilderness survival would stand William in good stead later in life.  William enlisted in the Regular Army in 1792 and saw service under General Mad Anthony Wayne.  He was present at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794,

Family connections and personal ability commended him to President Thomas Jefferson when the President was seeking leaders for an expedition to examine the Louisiana Purchase territory.  During the two years that the Expedition spent in the field, Clark would have plenty of opportunity to meet, study and become familiar with various Native tribes.  Like other men of the Corps of Discovery, when he returned from the Expedition, Clark's priority was to marry, establish a family and find a place to live.  He married Julia Hancock in 1808 and the couple settled in St. Louis, Missouri.  Situated on the Mississippi River, St. Louis had been a trading hub under the French, Spanish and now the United States.  As it had been for the Expedition, St. Louis was a staging area for many immigrants moving west, and for traders and trappers bringing furs in to trade for goods and supplies.  Natives also came to St. Louis, both to trade and for various treaty parleys.

Beginning in 1808, Jefferson made both William Clark and Meriwether Lewis Indian Agents, reasoning that their experience in the wilderness made them uniquely qualified to work with Native leaders.  In 1809, Lewis was also made Governor of Louisiana Territory, which for a time made Lewis his superior.  Rather than being jealous, the two men continued to work together, Clark often stepping in when Lewis, who had a great deal of personal life issues, couldn't discharge his duties.  The main job of an Indian Agent was to persuade Natives to cede land to accommodate the increasing number of Settlers heading west.  Like William Henry Harrison in Indiana, William Clark would sign a number of treaties with Natives.  While he gained a reputation among the Natives as being fair, there was no doubt which side Clark was on.  While he was willing to treat Natives as sovereign people and worked to keep trespassers off Native lands, he was equally quick to launch punitive raids against Natives who sided with Britain or made war on American settlers. 

Clark had a keen interest in Indian culture, preserving mementos from the various tribes with whom he worked, arranging for portraits or sketches to be made of them and reports about their ways of life.  George Catlin was one portraitist whom Clark patronized for many portraits and sketches of Natives.  During the War of 1812, he led several campaigns against Natives who fought for the British against the Americans.  In 1813, during the War, Clark became Governor of Missouri Territory.  He returned to being an Indian Agent in 1820, when he was voted out of office in his first gubernatorial race in the new state of Missouri.  By 1832, under the Jackson Administration, it was part of his duties to oversee the removal of Natives in his jurisdiction.  During the Black Hawk War, Clark wasn't afraid to use the word exterminate in framing orders for dealing with Black Hawk's warriors.  Rather than any personal animus against Natives, Clark seemed to believe that, by removing them from their Native land, he was protecting them from White interference.  By the time Clark died in St. Louis in 1838, millions of acres of Native land was under U.S, ownership and many of the peoples who formerly lived on it were miles away, in Indian Territory.

Reprise: Guyasuta of the Seneca

Guide to George Washington, mentor and foster father to Simon Girty, leader of Pontiac's Rebellion, uncle to Cornplanter and Handsome Lake, Guyasuta (1725-1794) played many roles as a great warrior and leader on the frontier.

He was born in western New York, though no one is sure of the location now.  His name means "one who stands up to the cross", though the circumstances under which it was bestowed are now lost to history.  His family and kinship network, not to mention his own personal abilities, would have position him for leadership within the Seneca Nation.  His first appearance in history is in 1753, when he guided George Washington, then a Virginia militia officer, to scout the French Fort la Boeuf.  Guyasuta gave Washington the name Tall Hunter, and in turn Washington referred to him only as "the Hunter' in his journals and correspondence.  A statue overlooking Pittsburg commemorates their collaboration.  Despite their personal regard, however, Guyasuta sided with the French during the French and Indian War and may have taken a hand in wiping out Braddock's Expedition in 1755.  During this same year, a young Scotch-Irish teenager taken captive on the Pennsylvania frontier in a Shawnee raid came to his attention.  Guyasuta noticed young Simon Girty's courage and took him into his family, training him as a Seneca warrior.

During Pontiac's War, 1764-1767, Guyasuta was one of many Native leaders who took a prominent role in fighting against the British in an attempt to restore French control over the Ohio Valley.  Some historians believe that he was a more prominent field commander than Pontiac, such that the entire episode should be named the Pontiac-Guyasuta war.  Whether Simon Girty fought beside his foster father remains unclear.  When the Rebellion was crushed and British authorities demanded that Native return all captives, Guyasuta gave Simon a horse and returned him to Pittsburgh.  The two kept in touch for many years, their relationship rupturing when Simon initially seemed inclined to side with the Americans during the outbreak of the Revolution.  Simon quickly learned the error of his ways and returned to British allegiance, but there is no record of whether he and Guyasuta had the opportunity to reconcile.

During the American Revolution, Guyasuta followed his family and people in siding with the British and may have participated in the Battle of Oriskany, though he was aging by this time and would not have played a prominent role.  Cornplanter succeeded in securing for some of their people a grant of land near what is now Corydon, Pennsylvania and Guyasuta retired there.  Old, ailing and disillusioned with how the Americans were treating Native peoples, Guyasuta became prey to drinking.  He died before his newphew Handsome Lake began receiving the visions that would reawaken Iroquois spirit and pride, including the message to abstain from alcohol. 

Today, there are several statues to him, including the "Point of View"sculpture over Pittsburgh.  I've included some of them here, plus a modern portrait bust.  A miniature exists, said to have been painted from life, though the result shows Guyasuta with a Muscogean style turban with a silver ring surrounding it and I wonder if it hasn't been mistakenly identified. 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Extinct Tribe: The Kaskaskia

Just because a Native tribe or its language have become extinct doesn't mean there aren't descendants today who  keep the heritage alive as best they can.  The Kaskaskia were a Northeastern Woodlands tribe who lived on the Great Lakes near what is now Green Bay Wisconsin when French missionaries first encountered them in 1687.  They were part of the Illini or Illinois Confederation, a network of more than a dozen tribes around the Great Lakes and upper Mississippi River. 

The first Europeans to have contacted the Kaskaskia were Jesuit missionary Jacques Marquette and French explorer Louis Jolliet, who were the first Europeans to sail down the Mississippi River in 1673.  They met the Kaskaskia, along with other tribes from the Illini Confederacy near what is now Utica, Illinois.  By 1703, the French had established a trading post at what is now Kaskaskia, Illinois, along with a mission station.  Like most of the other Illini tribes, the Kaskaskia were firm French allies, putting them into constant conflict with the Iroquois, who were allies of the British.  Because of the fur trade, many French men intermarried into the Kaskaskia and other Illinois tribes, further cementing the bonds between the two groups. 

The French and Indian War (1755-1762) proved a severe test of loyalty to the Illini tribes and the mixed race or Metis communities which had grown up along the Mississippi.  Constant warfare and strife with British-allied tribes along with communicable diseases wreaked havoc on the Illini peoples, including the Kaskaskia.  Today, the descendants of the Kaskaskia are enrolled in the Peoria Tribe of Oklahoma, a federally recognized tribe.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Eclipse of 1142

Throughout history and in many different societies, solar eclipses have often been seen as harbingers of either good or evil.  A solar eclipse may have played a role in the founding of the Iroquois/Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the five original tribes being the Mohawk, Seneca, Onondaga, Oneida and Cayuga.

According to Iroquois tradition, the five tribes were locked in inter-tribal strife and constant warfare.  A prophet known as Deganawida or the Great Peacemaker, visited the tribes from across the Great Lakes.  He won the confidence of Hiawatha, a noted Mohawk or Onondaga war leader, and a prominent clan mother known as Jigonhsasee.  Their access to other leader soon gained wide adherence to Deganawida's message among members of the five tribes.  But there were skeptics, and some among the tribes were more apt to continue their old ways of settling disputes through war.  Divisions arose, particularly among the Seneca, who were the last to join the Confederacy.  During a battle, a phenomenon occurred, which observers took to be a sign of support to peace over war.  Though it isn't specified exactly what happened, some sources believe the happening was a total or partial solar eclipse.  The five tribes gathered, buried their war implements and agreed to the Great Law of Peace, known today as the Iroquois Constitution.

So when was this eclipse and were other factors at work in bringing the tribes together.  Some sources indicate that the advent of agriculture may have been another factor making the people of the various tribes more receptive to peace.  Since the Iroquois tribes were allied under their Constitution prior to European contact, no one factor can be singled out as the one that tipped the scales.  However, if a solar eclipse was involved, it may be the one that happened in August, 1142, where the junction of the sun and moon would have been visible in what is now New York.  At that point in history, the Song Dynasty ruled what is now China and England was immersed in a period known as the Anarchy, when two factions of the Norman dynasty battled for control of the throne.  Ironically, while England was tearing itself apart in civil war, five North American tribes were embarking on a new period of peace and prosperity. 


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Natives versus Settlers: the Berkeley Hundred Massacre, 1622

Berkeley Plantation, the ancestral home of the Harrison family, including POTUS William Henry Harrison, is one of the oldest established homes in America.  Settlers first came to Berkeley, then known as Berkeley Hundred in 1619.  Hundreds were townships, meant to be settled by groups of individuals or family often working under a specific charter.  Berkeley's charter called for an annual service of Thanksgiving, which is why Berkeley can claim to be a site for the first Thanksgivings in America.  Of course, at that time, Thanksgiving referred to a solemn church service or day of fasting and prayer, not a feast with family and friends as we know today.

Berkeley is also known for the tragedy that took place there in 1622, during the early stages of the Powhatan Wars.  For the first few decades of settlement, the various Native tribes of the Powhatan Confederacy had been hospitable to English settlers, gladly sharing corn and other foodstuffs and trading for skins and trade goods.  As time wore on and more settlers arrived in Virginia, demands for foodstuffs from the local tribes became more insistent.  Native leaders rightly pointed out that they needed the food for their own families, too, but their concerns fell on deaf ears.  Tensions between the Natives and Settlers exploded into war in 1622, with local Native leaders being ordered to provide the foodstuffs and, when they did not, their villages were attacked.  The Natives had no choice but to defend themselves. 

Settlements throughout Virginia were attacked, and one of those was the settlement at Berkeley.  Nine settlers were killed in an attack on the settlement.  Word soon spread to the colony of Plymouth in what is now Massachusetts and sparked the beginnings of hand-picked companies of men who were familiar with the terrain and with hunting and fighting techniques of the local Natives.  In 1622, Captain John Smith (not that John Smith), wrote about his company of men that, after the Berkeley Plantation attack, he and ten men "ranged that unknown country for fourteen weeks", on the lookout for similar attacks from Natives around Plymouth.  Soon the words ranger and ranging became used to describe men who were experienced in this type of warfare, the distant forbears of ranger units in the United States Army and elsewhere. 

Friday Reprise: Egushawa of the Ottawa

The Northwest Indian War (1785-1795), brought together some of the finest Native commanders ever seen in this early period of American history.  We've focused on Blue Jacket of the Shawnee, Little Turtle of the Miami and Buckongahelas of the Delaware/Lenape.  There were others, too, among them Egushawa of the Ottawa, who may have been related to Pontiac.

Egushawa (c 1726-1796) would have been born in the area of the Detroit River region, not far from the later British Army outpost of Fort Detroit.  His name means "bringer together" in the Ottawa language, a skill he was good at when it came to uniting his people under his leadership later in life.  Little is known of his youth and early adulthood.  If he was born in 1726, he would have been old enough to participate in the Seven Years War (1755-1762) and later Pontiac's Rebellion (1764).  At some point, he became a war chief and later a principal political chief among the Ottawa.  He is sometimes called a successor to Pontiac, though Pontiac never had as much power during his lifetime.

The first time Egushawa appears on paper, he was mentioned in a land grant of an island in the Detroit River to Alexis Masonville in 1774.  At that time, Ottawa influence extended through what is now Michigan to Northwestern Ohio to the Maumee River.  When the Revolution broke out, Egushawa was living near the mouth of the Maumee River, near present day Toledo, Ohio.  He assisted British officials with efforts to recruit Native warriors to support the British war effort on the frontier.  Henry Hamilton, the British Lieutenant Governor at Fort Detroit, awarded him a sword.  Like many future Native leaders, he was present at the Battle of Oriskany.  In 1778, he accompanied Hamilton's expedition to recapture Fort Vincennes from General George Rogers Clark.  Hamilton was captured by Clark instead, but Egushawa escaped.  Later, he participated in an invasion of what is now Kentucky where two American outposts were captured. 

In 1783, the British ceded their land rights in the United States and Northwest Territory without consulting their Native allies.  This left tribes in the Northwest Region in the lurch, having to agree to peace treaties to keep what they could of their land and hunting rights.  Egushawa opposed this and considered none of these treaties to be valid.  When the Shawnee began agitating for the various tribes to come together to form the Western Confederacy, they found Egushawa and the Ottawa to be willing allies.  The British, who had not abandoned Detroit or Mackinack, clandestinely supported the Confederacy through advice and supplies of arms, but did not provide troops or leadership.  Egushawa was part of the Native army who defeated Col. Josiah Harmer in 1790.  Later, he was present at the Battle of the Wabash in 1791.

The tide turned at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794, when the Native forces were defeated and Egushawa was wounded.  With the British unwilling to provide shelter to their families or more open support of their effort, the Natives, including Egushawa, had no choice but to agree to the Treaty of Greenville in 1795, ceding most of Southwest Michigan but preserving at least some hunting range for the Ottawa in northwestern Ohio.  Egushawa, who was old by the standards of the time, died the following year.