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When I was in Northwestern Pennsylvania, I had the privilege of meeting members of the Eighth Pennsylvania Re-enactors. The original Eighth Pennsylvania’s leadership where the ones who signed the treaty with the Lenape.

When I was researching my book A Coward’s Solace, I discovered that the first American treaty with the Indians were between the Lenape or Delaware I decided to share this story this week as my focus for Native American History Month. I wrote about it at the end of my book A Coward’s Solace.

The Treaty with the Delaware, signed on September 17, 1778, at Fort Pitt (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), was the first formal written treaty between the new United States of America and any Native Americans. This treaty gave the United States permission to travel through Delaware territory and required the Delaware to allow American troops whatever aid they required in their war against Britain, including warrior support. What the Delaware and our story’s naïve protagonists did not know was that the United States planned an attack on the British fort at Detroit, and Lenape friendship was essential for that campaign’s success.

In exchange for the Delaware support, the United States promised to provide clothing, utensils, and weapons. They offered to build a fort in Delaware country with the promise that fort would provide safety for their women, elderly, and children while the warriors fought any common enemy. Although it was not specifically stated in the written treaty, the American Government assumed that along with their French allies, the Delaware would become active participants with the Americans against the British.

The Delaware, on the other hand, assumed, like their treaties with other Native American tribes, that the agreement simply allowed the Continental troops free passage through Delaware country and the building of a protective fort for defending white settlers. However, the American government wanted the Delaware to do much more. The United States intended to use the fort for offensive campaigns and wrote into the treaty that the Delaware would attack their native neighbors. This way, the Delaware would be responsible for controlling the other native tribes so that the Continental and militia troops could focus on subduing British forces.

The treaty recognized the Delaware as a sovereign nation, guaranteeing territorial rights, even encouraging the other Ohio Country Native American tribes who were friendly to the United States to form a state. A member of Delaware leadership would represent the Delaware state in Congress. This measure had little chance of success, and some experts believe that the authors of the treaty were dishonest and deceitful. Others believe that the Delaware chief White Eyes proposed the measure. The Delaware state was to become the fourteenth state of the United States. In any case, neither the United States nor the Delaware acted upon this measure.

Delaware Grievances

Before a year passed, the Delaware Indians expressed grievances with the treaty. A Delaware delegation visited Philadelphia in 1779 to voice their dissatisfaction to the Continental Congress, but nothing changed and peace between the United States and the Delaware Indians dissolved.

Of the members who signed the treaty on September 17, 1778, White Eyes, the tribe’s most outspoken ally of the United States, died in mysteriously. Initially the official army report stated that White Eyes died of smallpox on an expedition to attack Detroit, but upon farther investigation, an officer killed him in “friendly fire”. The stated reason for the cover-up was an attempt to keep the Delaware from seeking revenge for his death.
The Pipe had tried to stay neutral throughout the American Revolution even after General Edward Hand killed his mother, brother, and several of his children during a military campaign in 1778. Because Hand did not know the difference between the Native American tribes, he mistook the neutral Lenape for the Shawnee who allied with the British, so he attacked hoping to reduce Indian threats against settlers in the Ohio Country. When Pipe and other Lenape leaders protested the US interpretation of the treaty, General Lachlan McIntosh demanded that Lenape warriors assist the Americans in capturing Fort Detroit. If they refused, he would exterminate them. Pipe and other leaders left the Fort Pitt area and relocated to the Walhonding River near what is now Coshocton, Ohio.

Many Lenape joined the war against the Americans. In response, Colonel Daniel Brodhead led an expedition out of Fort Pitt on April 19, 1781, which destroyed Coshocton. Surviving residents fled to the north. The soldiers left the Lenape at the Moravian mission villages unmolested because they were Christianized and considered non-combatants.

Due to indiscriminate American attacks against the Lenape during the war, chiefs of several clans switched to ally with the British. After being pushed out as principal chief, the Pipe led an American attack on a major Lenape town, and then retreated to Fort Pitt. After the war, he converted to Christianity at a Moravian mission in Salem, Ohio, where he took the Christian name of “William Henry.”

The Lenape after the American Revolution

Pipe’s neutrality ended in 1781 when Colonel Daniel Brodhead attacked and destroyed Pipe’s village. He moved his people to the Tymochtee Creek near the Sandusky River. This village became known as Pipe’s Town. Captain Pipe spent the rest of the American Revolution resisting American expansion into the Ohio Country. He helped defeat the Crawford Expedition in 1782 headed by William Crawford, and Crawford was ritually tortured and then killed. After the Revolution, Pipe continued resistance efforts against white settlements in what the US called the Northwest Territory.
Over time, Pipe realized the futility of his attempts to defeat the Americans. so he negotiated treaties with the government. These treaties did nothing to limit the number of settlers who moved onto lands the American government reserved for the Lenape. Time after time, the Lenape moved only to be moved again when settlers wanted to settle on Lenape lands.
In 1812, the Lenape moved west again and the government moved them yet again in 1821. No one knows exactly where Chief Pipe died. Some say that he died in 1818 near Orestes; others say somewhere in Canada. His son also called Captain Pipe signed many treaties and moved with the tribe to Kansas.
Today, the tribe is organized west of the Mississippi. They have an official newspaper based out of Bartlesville, Oklahoma. The Delaware Indian News is the official publication of the Delaware Tribe of Indians. It is published by the Delaware Tribe and mailed free to tribal members. Check it out here http://delawaretribe.org/delaware-indian-news/

The Locket Saga

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If the land could talk, it would tell us about the people who lived here. It would tell you about the Erie, how they lived and how they died.

Last fall I saw that November was not only the National Novel Writing Month, but it was also Native American History Month. Since I did Black History Month in February, I thought that it was only right that I should also commemorate Native Americans this month.

I decided to start with Native Americans who used to live in the area where I grew up. I was born and raised in Northwestern Pennsylvania where the Erie Indians resided when the only white men in the area were a few French Jesuits. Several years ago I wrote an article on Hubpages called Whatever happened to the Erie Indians. Here’s a link if you’d like to read it. https://hubpages.com/education/What-Ever-Happened-to-the-Erie-Indians
This week, I am again honoring the Erie Indians.

What Do We Know about the Erie?

According to the History of Erie County Pennsylvania written In the 1880s, The State Library of Pennsylvania at Harrisburg had two ancient French maps. One of them was printed in 1763 and the other in 1768 and both maps show geographical features of parts of the US and Canada. Both represent the southern shore of Lake Erie as peopled with a tribe of Native Americans known as the Erie. A note in the margin of each reads, “The ancient Erie were exterminated by the Iroquois about one hundred years ago, and every since then they (the Iroquois) have been in possession of Lake Erie.”

On the earlier map the following is printed on the lake between what is now Cleveland and Sandusky. “The seat of war, the mart of trade, and chief hunting grounds of the six Nations on the lakes and the Ohio.”

This information is related to a French book published in 1703 which described the voyages of Le Baron de Lahonton an adventurous Frenchman who lived for ten years among the Indians from 1683-1693.

“The shores of Lake Erie,” he said, “are frequented by the Iroquois, the Illinois, the Oumanies, among others who are so savage that it is dangerous to stop with them.”

Frequent reference is also made in the letters and memoirs of Frenchmen -who visited this section, to the Flatheads, who would seem to have been settled somewhere south or west of the lake. All the authorities agreed that the date of the extermination of the Erie was somewhere about 1650. Most early historians claim that the word Erie was the Indian expression for wild cat, but a more recent writer contends that ” this is a mistake, that it does not mean wild cat, but raccoon. Raccoons were (and still are) abundant upon the lake shore while wild cats are seldom seen.”

A French memoir, written in 1718, relates that one island in the upper part of the lake was infested to so great an extent by wild cats, that ” the Indians killed as many as 900 of them in a very short time.” It is possible that the French explorers, from whom the supposed meaning of the word has descended to us, mistook raccoons for wild cats.
Students of Native American history believe that the tribe was at one time considerably ahead of the other tribes in progress and intellect.

Records show that French missionaries visited the Erie were visited by French missionaries as early as 1626. They claimed that the Erie were a neutral nation among the other more warlike tribes in the area. These Native Americans were governed by a queen, called in their own language, Yagowania, and in the Seneca tongue, Gegosasa. She was regarded as “the mother of nations,” and her office was that of “keeper of the symbolic house of peace.” The chief warrior of the tribe was Ragnotha, who had his principal location at Tu-shu-way, now the site of Buffalo, New York.

The End of the Erie

The Erie stayed neutral until 1634, when a bloody dissension broke out between the several branches of the Iroquois. During its progress two Seneca warriors appeared at Gegosasa’s lodge and were hospitably received. They were preparing to smoke the peace pipe when a deputation of Massassaugues was announced, who demanded vengeance for the murder of their chief’s son at the hands of the Seneca.

The queen granted the request promptly. She set out with a large body of warriors to enforce her decree, and dispatched messengers to Ragnotha to command his assistance. The visiting Seneca flew to their friends to notify them of the queen’s course, and a body of men hastily gathered in ambush on the road upon which her army traveled. The Erie did not know about the presence of the Seneca until the Erie heard their war-whoop. The Erie were ambushed. At first the queen’s forces gained the advantage, but the Seneca rallied and the Erie fled, leaving behind 600 dead. There are no accounts of any further hostilities at that time and the Queen did not appear to enforce her plan to avenge the grievances of the Massassaugues.

The war where the Erie were exterminated by the Iroquois occurred around 1650 and was one of the cruelest in history. From the beginning, both sides understood that one tribe or the other would be completely obliterated. The Erie organized a powerful body of warriors and hoped to ambush the Seneca in their own territory. A woman secretly alerted the Seneca of the Erie plan. The Seneca raised a force and marched to meet the invaders. The Seneca were completely victorious. Seven times the Erie crossed the stream that divided the hostile lines, but they were driven back with terrible losses.
At a later date, several hundred Iroquois attacked nearly three times their number of Erie, encamped near the mouth of French Creek, dispersed them, took many prisoners, and forced the rest to flee to remote regions.

In a battle near the site of the Cattauraugas Indian mission house, on the Allegheny River, the loss of the Erie was enormous. Finally, a disease broke out among the Erie, which “swept away greater numbers even than the club and arrow.” The Iroquois took advantage of their opportunity to end all fear of future trouble from the ill-fated Erie. Those who had been taken captive were, with rare exceptions, remorselessly butchered, and their wives and children were made slaves to the Iroquois villages. The few survivors “fled to distant regions in the West and South and had undying hatred the Seneca. Their council fire had been put out, and their name and language as a tribe lost.”
Sculptures and embankments on Kelly’s Island, in the upper end of the lake, was probably the last stronghold of the Erie. Traces of the tribe were occasionally found by the French Jesuits aw they wandered through the western wilderness. A number were living as slaves among the Onondagas of New York. They appealed to the missionaries to help them escape, but the French refused their requests. An early French writer described the Christian village of La Prairie and said that a portion of the settlement was made up of fugitive Erie.

How does this Tribe Relate to the Locket Saga?

The Locket Saga 5 books
In the Locket Saga series, I make no mention of the Erie because they were long gone by the time of the series. However, in The Anvil (Book VI), Luke mentions that the Erie had at one time lived in the area where they were moving.

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