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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
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Chapter IV. — In the Contest for the Indian Power, between France and England, the Possession of the Mississippi Valley and of the Great Lake Basins became, in the End, the Prize Contended for.

THE close of the seventeenth century was marked by events which excite in us a more than usual degree of interest in the aboriginal policy. The settlements made at Bolixi, and on other parts of the open shores of the Gulf of Mexico, during the latter years of this century, were followed by the location of others in the Mississippi valley. New Orleans was founded in 1799. La Salle, by his discovery of the Mississippi river, had developed an important fact in North American geography. Such a river, and such a valley, could only be paralleled, in the history of the Old World, by the Nile and the Niger; and, in the New, only by the Amazon, the La Platte, and the Orinoco, of South America. But, unlike those streams, although passing through a region possessing an equally fertile soil, the climate and sanitary advantages of the country in its vicinage far transcended them.

The foundation of the city of New Orleans furnished a depot for the products of a region, whose extent and resources could scarcely be estimated. This entire territory, extending to the sources of the Arkansas, the Ohio, and the Missouri, as well as to the great chain of lakes, was filled with Indians, of various names and families, who roved in wild independence over its plains and through its forests, contributing to a new and most attractive branch of commerce, the fur trade. To wield political influence amongst them was, in fact, to secure the most direct means of promoting colonial success. The fine sylvan country of the Illinois had, from the period of its first discovery, been the universal theme of admiration. At an early day, posts were established, not only at Kaskaskia and Cahokia, but, having become the headquarters of mild ecclesiastical and commercial functionaries, they were continued up the Wabash, the Ohio, the Illinois, and the Wisconsin, where they were met by similar establishments, diverging from Quebec and Montreal. From this period may be dated the renewed prosperity of New France.

Fort Niagara, which commanded the Iroquois borders, had been founded as early as 1678;
Michilimackinac, on the peninsula, was erected in 1668; Fort Oswego, the

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ancient Gliuna, was built in 1727; Detroit in 1701; Vincennes in 1710; and, a short time subsequently, a series of minor posts, extending along the lake shores, from Green Bay and St. Joseph's to the Miami of the Lakes, and the Sandusky, and thence to Presque Isle, on Lake Erie. Among all the Indian tribes inhabiting these regions, the French king, French power and liberality, and French manners, were spoken of with praise, and regarded with admiration.

Such was the progress made by the new ecclesiastical establishments, that a commissioner, of high sacerdotal standing, was deputed by the Court of France to visit the western posts and tribes. Charlevoix, who performed this task, and whose journal and history furnish proofs of the zeal and learning he displayed, journeyed from Quebec, through the chain of lakes, to the Mississippi, which, in 1721, he descended to New Orleans. He made many valuable inquiries respecting the history and condition of the tribes, the results of which he reported to his government. In his era, the worship of an eternal fire, the great dogma of the Ghebir system, was still found to exist among the Natchez, or Chigantualga Indians, who accompanied its rites with imposing ceremonies.

The possession of the Mississippi valley was, in reality, the prize for which all these exertions were made; and the British colonies soon became aware, that a chain of military posts, extending from New Orleans to Quebec, was about to environ them.

In 1687, the Canadian authorities, with great formality, repossessed themselves of the Straits of Detroit, commemorating the event by the issue of a protocol. 245 In 1749, the Governor-General of Canada caused leaden plates, bearing suitable inscriptions, to be nailed to trees, and also others to be buried beneath the earth, in the Ohio valley, as a testimony of the re-occupancy of that valley by the French. They aimed, at least, to make the record strong. 246 But a fraction over fifty years elapsed, when these posts were extended up the Ohio to its source, at the junction of the Monongahela and Alleghany, where Fort Du Quesne was built, in 1753. The comprehensive and vigorous movements of the French secured the influence of the tribes, whom they supplied with goods, wares, and merchandise at all the posts. Virginia, the Carolinas, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, were the first to take the alarm. The French assumed the sovereignty of the country by right of its discovery by La Salle, and a long period had not elapsed when the western tribes attacked the southern and western frontiers, with a vigor which threatened the annihilation of the colonies.

In 1728, the Shawnees and Delawares, pressed by the Iroquois, and feeling the encroachments of the advancing settlements, fled across the Alleghanies to the Ohio valley. The Iroquois power had long previously driven the Lenno Lenapi in the same direction.

In 1736, the French local authorities reported to their home government, in Paris,

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that they exercised a control over 103 tribes, comprising a total of 16,403 warriors, representing a population of 82,000 souls. 247 It no longer admitted of a doubt, that the object of the French was, by drawing this line around the colonies, to prevent them from extending their possessions to the westward beyond the summits of the Alleghany mountains. Such, indeed, was the boast of some of the leading Indian chiefs, who regarded the English as the nation which designed to infringe on their forest domains, to impose upon them the yoke of labor and letters, and to tread out their very existence. 248 The sanguinary inroads of the French and their savage allies on the frontiers, first brought the youthful Washington into the field. He was but sixteen years of age when, in 1748, he made his first exploratory trip in that direction. 249 Five years subsequently, he undertook his perilous official journey to the French post on Lake Erie, thus obtaining his first knowledge of the habits of a subtle foe, whose instability of purpose, and cruelty of character, required perpetual vigilance.

With respect to the great lake basins, they were, at an early date, in possession of the French. Lake Ontario was commanded by Forts Cataraqui, Niagara, and Oswego; Erie was secured by the location of Fort Le Nou, on the Straits of Detroit, and Lake Huron by Fort St. Joseph (the site of the modern Gratiot), situated at the head of the river St. Clair, as also by the old peninsular fort of
Michilimackinac. Lake Superior was overlooked by the fort of St. Mary's, on the straits of St. Mary, and by that of Madaline, at Chegoimegon; Michigan by a Fort on Green Bay, another at the mouth of the St. Joseph's river, and by the post at Chicago. Small vessels transported arms and supplies to the various posts, and the heavy batteaux of the French, or the light Algonquin canoe, kept up a constant intercourse between the posts and missions, both by night and day. The English colonial governors, accustomed to the dilatory movements of their own regular soldiers and sailors, could scarcely conceive with what celerity intelligence was communicated.

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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
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