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OHS AL02985.jpg
Reproduction of a portrait of Little Turtle, also known as Mich-I-kin-I-Qua, a war chief of the Miami Tribe, ca. 1790-1812. Little Turtle and Shawnee chief Tecumseh led the Miami and Shawnee people to resist white settlers in the western part of Ohio. They successfully defeated United States soldiers led by Josiah Harmar in October 1790 and soldiers led by Arthur St. Clair in 1791. An attack on Fort Recovery failed in 1794 and Little Turtle wanted to negotiate with the settlers. Other chiefs wanted to continue fighting. The American Indians lost at the Battle of Fallen Timbers and in 1795 they signed the Treaty of Greene Ville ceding most of Ohio to the settlers.

Little Turtle was a war leader of the Miami people. He was born around 1752 twenty miles northwest of modern-day Fort Wayne, Indiana. His Algonquian-dialect name was Michikinikwa. Little is known of his life before the 1790s, although he did help the British in the American Revolution.

With the Treaty of Paris (1783), England gave up all claims to the Ohio Country. Settlers rapidly came across the Appalachian Mountains to the Northwest Territory. Little Turtle played a leading role in American Indian resistance to the newcomers. In 1790 General Josiah Harmar led 1,400 soldiers into land claimed by the Miami natives and the Shawnee natives. In October, Little Turtle and his followers, including the future Shawnee chief Tecumseh, succeeded in driving out Harmar's men. This battle became known as Harmar's Defeat. In 1791, General Arthur St. Clair led two thousand U.S. soldiers against the American Indians in western Ohio. Once again, Little Turtle led the American Indians to victory at a battle known (by the settler army) as St. Clair's Defeat. This was one of the worst defeats ever sustained by the U.S. military in their conflicts with American Indians. During 1794, Little Turtle led attacks against supply trains belonging to the United States army. These trains were trying to supply the numerous forts that General Anthony Wayne had ordered built. They were to serve as staging areas for future campaigns against the Native Americans living in western Ohio.

Little Turtle also tried to seize Fort Recovery in 1794, but his men failed to do so. Following this defeat, Little Turtle realized that the British had no desire to help the American Indians against Wayne's army. Little Turtle encouraged his followers to negotiate with the United States. He understood that the U.S. far outnumbered the American Indians and had many more weapons.. Other native war leaders refused to listen, and insisted that Wayne's army must be fought .

Shortly after rejecting Little Turtle's call for peace, the American Indians lost the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794. In 1795, American Indians living in western Ohio sent representatives to Fort Greene Ville where they met in council with the U.S. After lengthy discussion, they signed the Treaty of Greenville. The natives, including Little Turtle, agreed to give all but the northwestern corner of modern-day Ohio to the United States. Little Turtle refused to take up arms against the United States ever again. He became a celebrity among the United States public. He visited many eastern cities and even met George Washington in 1797. He urged his fellow American Indians to keep the peace and also encouraged them to give up alcohol. During the early 1800s, he played an important role in preventing the Miami from joining Tecumseh's American Indian confederation during the 1810s American Indian resistance movement. Little Turtle died on July 14, 1812, in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

See Also


  1. Anson, Bert. The Miami Indians. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1970.
  2. Carter, Harvey Lewis. The Life and Times of Little Turtle: First Sagamore of the Wabash. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987.
  3. Hurt, R. Douglas. The Ohio Frontier: Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996.
  4. Young, Calvin M. Little Turtle (Me-she-kin-no-quah): The Great Chief of the Miami Indian Nation; Being a Sketch of His Life Together with that of Wm. Wells and Some Noted Descendants. Greenville, OH: Calvin M. Young, 1917.