If you live in Ohio, or have ever been to Ohio, you'll probably find it hard to believe that at one time it was the “Wild West.” Europeans viewed Ohio as the frontier before they began to explore the area in the seventeenth century.
The first explorers were French In 1670, Rene Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle is credited with being the the first European in the Ohio Country and it was he who discovered the Ohio River. The British soon followed. By the middle of the 1700s French and British traders arrived in the region, trading for furs with the local Indian. Tensions quickly mounted between the French and the British, resulting in the French and Indian War which took place from 1754 to 1763. Both sides had Indian allies. The British won the war and drove the French from the Ohio Country and the rest of North America.
British settlers soon moved into Ohio Country, despite British attempts to prevent it from happening. After the American Revolution the newly independent states controlled what is now Ohio and the government arranged for the surveying and sale of the land. Tensions between whites and the Indians quickly developed as more and more whites entered the region. The federal government, as it was to do many times in the future, secured the land for the whites through wars and “treaties.”
Today, there are no federally recognized Indian tribes in Ohio because most Native were forced to leave Ohio during the Indian Removals of the 1800's. The Indian Removal Act was signed into law by President Andrew Jackson on May 28, 1830, authorizing the president to grant unsettled lands west of the Mississippi in exchange for Indian lands within existing state borders. A few tribes went peacefully, but many resisted the relocation policy. None of these tribes are extinct, but except for the descendants of Ohio Indians who escaped from Removal, they do not live in Ohio anymore. They were moved to Indian reservations in Oklahoma.
As early as 1779, four or five hundred Shawnee had moved to Missouri. Other independent groups of Indians had also moved without waiting for their organized removal. Among them were the Kickapoo, Shawnee and Delaware, whom the Spanish had permitted to settle in the Missouri area in the 1790s.
On March 8 and 9, 1782 one of the blackest deeds ever committed against the Indians occurred when a group of Pennsylvania militiamen under the command of Captain David Williamson attacked the Moravian Church mission founded by David Zeisberger at Gnadenhutten. The militia attacked the American Indians in retaliation for the deaths and kidnappings of several white Pennsylvanians, although this particular group of so-called "Christian Delaware" had recently returned from their new outpost at Upper Sandusky to forage for crops and were not responsible for the Pennsylvania attack.
The militiamen attacked the Christian Delaware, although these peoples had not been involved in the previous incidents. The Christian Delawares had abandoned Gnadenhutten the year before, but some of them had returned to harvest crops that were still in the fields.
On March 8, the militiamen arrived at Gnadenhutten. Accusing the American Indians of the attack on the Pennsylvania settlements, the soldiers rounded them up and placed the men and women in separate buildings in the abandoned village overnight.
The militiamen then voted to execute their captives the following morning. Informed of their impending deaths, the Christian Delawares spent the night praying and singing hymns. The next morning the soldiers took the Christian Delaware in pairs to a cabin and murdered them. In all, Williamson's men murdered twenty-eight men, twenty-nine women, and thirty-nine children. There were only two survivors, who informed the Moravian missionaries and other Christian American Indians as to what had occurred. The Moravian church is one of the oldest Protestant denominations in the world.
General Anthony "Mad Anthony" Wayne’s campaign of 1792 through 1794 against the Indians ended forty years of war and border raids in the Ohio valley. In August of 1795, General Wayne and the Indians signed the Greeneville Treaty thereby in which the Indians gave up about 2/3s of present day Ohio. They continued to occupy the northwestern 1/3 of the state, but land speculators, settlers and developers began moving in and squatters began trespassing on the Indian reservation.
As early as July 1803, President Thomas Jefferson made an official proposal for the removal of the Indians to the west. The argument was that there the Indians would be free from white interference and would never have to face loss of their homes again.
In 1825, President James Monroe came up with a removal policy and in 1829 President Andrew Jackson and other political leaders wanted to ship the Indians west of the Mississippi and the Indian Removal Bill was passed in May of 1830.
By 1803 a sufficient number of whites lived in what is now Ohio for the region to become a state. When Ohio was admitted to the Union a sizable portion of the state remained unsettled by whites, but settlers continued to move in for the next forty years. By the late 1840s, the federal government had removed the last sizable group of American Indians from Ohio and the frontier had moved on.
The name "Ohio" is an Iroquoian Indian word that came from the Seneca name for the Ohio River, Ohiyo, which means "it is beautiful." The Senecas were not the original inhabitants of Ohio. The Indian tribes of the Ohio Valley were decimated by smallpox and other European diseases before the Europeans had even met them. Algonquian and Iroquoian tribes from neighboring regions moved into Ohio as European colonization forced them from their original homes. Only a few of the tribes who were living in Ohio before 1492 still survive today.
The original inhabitants of the Ohio area included:
The Iroquois Nations - Mohawks, the Oneidas, the Onondagas, the Cayugas and the Senecas. In 1712, the Tuscaroras were admitted to the tribal union, and the confederacy of the Iroquois became known as the Six Nations. The home of the Iroquois was in New York, but they were a very warlike people and their conquests extended from New York to the Carolinas and from New England to the Mississippi.
The Delaware, or Lenape - were once the formidable enemies of the Iroquois. The Delaware were conquered by the Iroquois in 1617, and became submissive in their dealings with the Iroquois Confederacy. At the time of the Pennsylvania charter to William Penn in 1681, the Delaware occupied New Jersey, the valley of the Delaware River and the entire basin of the Schuylkill. Subsequently they moved west to the Ohio Country.
The Shawnee - were described as a restless people, who were constantly engaged in war with some of their neighbors. The tribe originated near the Suwaney River in Florida. Around 1698, they first appeared in Pennsylvania, six miles below Pittsburgh. In 1728, they moved west and settled near the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers. In 1732, of seven hundred warriors in the State of Pennsylvania, 350 were Shawnee. They had several villages within the limits of the present counties of Allegheny and Beaver.
The Mingos - were an independent group in the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy and were mostly made up of Senecas and Cayugas. The Mingos were noted for having a bad reputation and were sometimes referred to as Blue Mingos or Black Mingos for their misdeeds. The people who became known as Mingos migrated to the Ohio Country in the mid-eighteenth century, part of a movement of various Native American tribes to a region that had been sparsely populated for decades but controlled as a hunting ground by the Iroquois.
In 2017, Ohio had a population of about 11.66 million, of which only about 25,300 were listed as Native Americans.
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