Potawatomi, signifying "the place of the fire," were closely related to the
tribes and had a common or
similar language, manners and customs. At the beginning of the 19th
century, they were bound by compact to support each other in peace and war.
Potawatomi were divided into two bands -- the Northern
of Wisconsin and Michigan (Potawatomi of the Woods), and the Southern, of
Illinois and Indiana (the Prairie Band). Their homes were scattered from Lake
Superior to the southern shore of Lake Erie, and to the Illinois River, they
having crowded the Miami
Indians from the vicinity of
The first treaty between the
tribe and the United States
made at Fort Harmar, Ohio, the Commandant at the
fort, Arthur St. Clair, being Commissioner on the part of the United States.
This, like the treaty negotiated at Greenville by General Anthony Wayne on August
3, 1795, the one negotiated at Fort Wayne by William Henry Harrison in
June, 1803, and several that succeeded, was a treaty of peace and settlement of
boundaries with the Potawatomi, in common with the
Ottawa, and other
tribes. At the Greenville Treaty, the first
annuities were paid the Potawatomi, the amount being $1,000.
This treaty was signed by the chiefs of the Potawatomi of the River St. Joseph and
of the Potawatomi of Huron.
Potawatomi Rain Dance, probably at the Prairie
Band Reservation in Kansas, 1920.
During the war of 1812 with Great Britain, a portion of the
tribe allied themselves with that nation, and under the leadership of Sunawe-wone,
Chief of the Prairie Band, made war upon the Americans, and were
engaged in the Massacre at Fort Dearborn in present-day
Chicago. A treaty was made with this
band at Portage des Sioux, on July 18, 1815, William Clark, Ninian
Edwards and August Choteau being United States Commissioners. By the terms of
this treaty, the tribe again placed themselves under the protection of the
United States, were reinstated in their privileges, and solemnly agreed to
preserve "perpetual peace and friendship" with the Americans. The treaty was
signed by Sunawe-wone, and it is said that it was never broken by his band. The following September, a general treaty with the remainder of this
others was made near Detroit, Michigan.
By the treaty of August 29, 1821, at
Chicago, the Potawatomi of the St. Joseph River, Michigan, ceded a large portion of their
land, reservations being granted to John, James, Abram, Rebecca and Nancy
Burnett, "which are children of Kaw-kee-me, sister of Top-ni-be," principal
chief of the Pottawatomie nation. Land was also reserved to the Bertrands and
On September 26, 1833, a treaty was concluded at
which the United Potawatomi,
tribes ceded to the United States
about five million acres. By this treaty, the Potawatomi were assigned a
tract between the
Rivers for a permanent home. Their
first location was in the irregular triangle afterward known as the "Platte
Purchase," then a part of the
Indian Territory. In 1836, the land thus
occupied became a part of Missouri, and those of the Potawatomi who had
removed to the reservation, numbering between 1,000-2,000, again
removed to a tract above the northern line of
Missouri, in what is now Southwest
Iowa, their village being on the river near the present site of Council Bluffs,
By treaty of February 11, 1837, the United States agreed to
convey "to the
Potawatomi of Indiana a tract of country on the
southwest of the
River sufficient in extent and adapted to their
habits and wants."
band of Potawatomi, led by Chief Menominee refused to leave their
homelands at their Twin Lakes village
in Indiana. Menominee was soon joined by hundreds of other Potawatomi who did not want to leave
their homeland. Over time, Menominee's band grew from four wigwams to more
than a hundred in 1838. However, in August, 1838, they were forced by
soldiers to begin a march to Kansas, which is now known as the
Potawatomi Trail of Death.
During the forced removal, 42 of
the 859 Potawatomi had died.
The tract selected was in the southwest part of what is now
Miami County. The Potawatomi of the Woods and the Mission Band settled on
this tract, made many improvements, and remained nine years, when the United
States granted to the tribe a tract bought from the
Kee-Waw-Nay Potawatomi Village, council between Potawatomi
leaders and U.S. government
representatives in July 21, 1837 to settle details for the impending removal of the Potawatomi from northern Indiana. Painted by George Winters.
bands disposed of their lands on the
Osage River and in Iowa, for the sum of $850,000,
and in 1847 moved to the new reservation. The treaties were made June 7 and
17, and the tract granted was described as "a tract of land containing 576,000
acres, being thirty miles square, and being the eastern part of the lands ceded
to the United States by the Kanza
on January 14, 1846.
The tract adjoined the
Indians on the south, and the
Shawnee on the east, on both
sides of the Kansas River." it was located in the present-day counties of
Pottawatomie, Wabaunsee, Jackson and Shawnee,
In 1850, a band of Michigan
Potawatomi, numbering about 650, joined the tribe at St. Marys. The two bands occupied the
reservation in common from 1847 until November 15, 1861, when a treaty was made
with the tribe, by the provisions of which "land was to be allotted in severalty
to those members of the tribe who have adopted the customs of the whites, and
desire to have separate tracts assigned to them," and a portion of the reserve
was to be assigned, in a body, to those who should prefer to hold their land in
common. The Mission Band generally were allotted land in severalty. The Prairie
Band elected to continue tribal relations.