Thursday, June 20, 2013

Meshekinnoquah (Little Turtle)

A quote from Little Turtle at his memorial off Lawton Place.

by Tom Castaldi

Chief Little Turtle was one of the most feared and respected native leaders during the frontier wars of the 1780s and 1790s when Fort Wayne was born.  Known to his Miami people as Meshekinnoquah, Little Turtle is thought to have been born in 1752 in a village along the Eel River, a few miles northeast of Columbia City.

He rose to prominence as a warrior in 1780 when he destroyed the United States irregulars of Colonel August LaBalme who had attacked the Miami town of Kekionga (present –day Fort Wayne, Ind.).  When the U.S. Army under General Josiah Harmar was sent by President Washington to destroy the Indian towns at the Three Rivers, Little Turtle assembled warriors from the region and defeated General Harmar’s troops at the Battle of Kekionga on October 22, 1790.  In 1791, at the present-day site of Fort Recovery, Ohio, the Indians under Little Turtle again defeated U.S. Army troops, this time under territorial governor General Arthur St. Clair, in the Army’s worst defeat ever at the hands of native peoples.

 When Major General Anthony Wayne finally defeated the Indians at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794, Little Turtle was not the leader; he had urged the Indians to avoid a “climactic” battle with General Wayne because of information about the strength of Wayne’s forces he was receiving from Wayne’s Chief of Spies and Little Turtle’s friend and son-in-law, William Wells.

After his military career, Little Turtle became a diplomat for his people.  He was a principal negotiator for the Indians at the Treaty of Greenville in 1795 and made four trips to the nation’s capital, meeting with presidents George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson (twice).  He sought U.S. assistance to end the destructive and illegal liquor trade and help from the Society of Friends to bring new farming methods to his people.  He also attempted to bring the new process of vaccination against the dreaded smallpox to his people.

Little Turtle died peacefully on July 14, 1812, and was laid to rest with military honors in the Miami’s ancient burial grounds.

The Little Turtle Memorial is just off Lawton Place. Turn right from Spy Run and look for the sign in the median.

Plaque you will see in the Little Turtle Memorial.

You can learn more about Little Turtle in another blog post:
 and see photos of some of the Little Turtle artifacts owned by the History Center on our Facebook page at

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