Speech of the United Indian Nations, at Their Confederate Council, Held Near the Mouth of the Detroit River Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

PRESENT – The Five Nations, the Hurons, Delawares, Shawanese, Ottawas, Chippewas, Powtewattimies, Twichtwees, Cherokees, and the Wabash confederates.

To the Congress of the United States of America:

BRETHREN OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: It is now more than three years since peace was made between the King of Great Britain and you, but we, the Indians, were disappointed, finding ourselves not included in that peace, according to our expectations: for we thought that its conclusion would have promoted a friendship between the United States and the Indians, and that we might enjoy that happiness that formerly subsisted between us and our elder brethren. We have received two very agreeable messages from the thirteen United States. We also received a message from the King, whose war we were engaged in, desiring us to remain quiet, which we accordingly complied with. During the time of this tranquillity, we were deliberating the best method we could to form a lasting reconciliation with the thirteen United States. Pleased at the same time, we thought we were entering upon a reconciliation and friendship with a set of people born on the same continent with ourselves, certain that the quarrel between us was not of our own making. In the course of our councils, we imagined we hit upon an expedient that would promote a lasting peace between us.

BROTHERS: We still are of the same opinion as to the means which may tend to reconcile us to each other; and we are sorry to find, although we had the best thoughts in our minds, during the beforementioned period, mischief had, neverthless, happened between you and us. We are still anxious of putting our plan of accommodation into execution, and we shall briefly inform you of the means that seem most probably to us of effecting a firm and lasting peace and reconciliation: the first step towards which should, in our opinion, be, that all treaties carried on with the United States, on our parts, should be with the general voice of the whole confederacy, and carried on in the most open manner, without any restraint on either side; and especially as landed matters are often the subject of our councils with you, a matter of the greatest importance and of general concern to us, in this case we hold it indispensably necessary that any cession of our lands should be made in the most public manner, and by the united voice of the confederacy; holding all partial treaties as void and of no effect.

October 26, 1787

Instructions to the Governor of the Territory of the United States Northwest of the river Ohio, relative to an Indian treaty in the Northern Department.

Sir:

You are carefully to examine into the real temper of the Indian tribes, inhabiting the Northern Indian Department of the United States. If you find it hostile, and that the welfare of the frontiers, and the settlements forming in that country, demand a treaty, you will then, in conjunction with the Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Northern Department, unless the attendance of the said superintendent shall be prevented, by any unforeseen event, hold as general a one as you can, with all the tribes.

The primary objects of the treaty are, the removing all cause of controversy, so that peace and harmony may continue between the United States and the Indian tribes, the regulating trade, and settling boundaries. For these purposed, you will do every thing that is right and proper.

The treaties which have been made, may be examined, but must not be departed from, unless a change of boundary, beneficial to the United States, can be obtained.

Although the purchase of the Indian right of soil is not a primary object of holding this treaty, yet you will not neglect any opportunity that may offer, of extinguishing the Indian rights to the westward, as far as the river Mississippi.

You may stipulate, that the East and Wes line ordered to be run by the ordinance of the 20th of May, 1785, shall be the boundary between the United States and the Indian tribes: provided, they stipulate that it run throughout, unto the river Mississippi. And you may stipulate, that any white persons going over the said boundary, without a license from the proper officer of the United States, may be treated in such manner as the Indians shall think proper.

You will use every possible endeavor to ascertain who are the real head men and warriors of the several tribes, and who have the greatest influence among them; these men you will attach to the United States, by every means in your power.

Every exertion must be made to defeat all confederations and combinations among the tribes, and to conciliate the white people inhabiting the frontiers, towards them.

Charles Thompson, Secretary

1789

BROTHERS: We think it is owing to you that the tranquillity which, since the peace between us, has not lasted, and that that essential good has been followed by mischief and confusion, having managed every thing respecting us your own way. You kindled your council fires where you thought proper, without consulting us, at which you held separate treaties, and have entirely neglected our plan of having a general conference with the different nations of the confederacy. Had this happened, we have reason to believe every thing would now have been settled between us in a most friendly manner. We did every thing in our power, at the treaty of fort Stanwix, to induce you to follow this plan, as our real intentions were, at that very time, to promote peace and concord between us, and that we might look upon each other as friends, having given you no cause or provocation to be otherwise.

BROTHERS: Notwithstanding the mischief that has happened, we are still sincere in our wishes to have peace and tranquillity established between us, earnestly hoping to find the same inclination in you. We wish, therefore, you would take it into serious consideration, and let us speak to you in the manner we proposed. Let us have a treaty with you early in the spring; let us pursue reasonable steps; let us meet half ways, for our mutual convenience; we shall then bring in oblivion the misfortunes that have happened, and meet each other on a footing of friendship.

BROTHERS: We say let us meet half way, and let us pursue such steps as become upright and honest men. We beg that you will prevent your surveyors and other people from coming upon our side the Ohio river. We have told you before, we wished to pursue just steps, and we are determined they shall appear just and reasonable in the eyes of the world. This is the determination of all the chiefs of our confederacy now assembled here, notwithstanding the accidents that have happened in our villages, even when in council, where several innocent chiefs were killed when absolutely engaged in promoting a peace with you, the thirteen United States.

Although the interrupted, the chiefs here present still wish to meet you in the spring, for the beforementioned good purpose, when we hope to speak to each other without either haughtiness or menaces.

BROTHERS: We again request of you, in the most earnest manner, to order your surveyors and others, that mark our lands, to cease from crossing the Ohio, until we shall have spoken to you, because the mischief that has recently happened has originated in that quarter; we shall likewise prevent our people from going over until that time.

BROTHERS: It shall not be our faults if the plans which we have suggested to you should not be carried into execution; in that case the event will be very precarious, and if fresh ruptures ensue, we hope to be able to exculpate ourselves, and shall most assuredly, with our united force, be obliged to defend those rights and privileges which have been transmitted to us by our ancestors; and if we should be thereby reduced to misfortunes, the world will pity us when they think of the amicable proposals we now make to prevent the unnecessary effusion of blood. These are our thoughts and firm resolves, and we earnestly desire that you will transmit to us, as soon as possible, your answer, be it what it may.

Done at our Confederated Council Fire, at the Huron village, near the mouth of the Detroit river, December 18th, 1786.

The Five Nations,

Hurons, Ottawas, Twichtwees, Shawanese,

Chippewas, Cherokees, Delawares,

Powtewatimies, The Wabash Confederates.

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