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featuring Ohio Indian White Eyes
The title of this blog post are words that could have been heard had history turned a different corner. Unlikely, but possible.
On September 17th, 1778, the first formal treaty with Native Americans was signed between the newly formed United States and the Delaware (Lenape) Indians in the Treaty of Fort Pitt in present-day Pittsburgh PA.
Representing the Delaware was Chief White Eyes or Koquethagechton in Lenape. Thomas Lewis signed for the Americans.
Instead of claiming land like most treaties we've come to know, the intention of this treaty was to secure safe passage and have the Delaware provide assistance if needed to American troops through the Ohio Country against the British in Detroit, thus becoming somewhat neutral allies with the US. This was supposed to also guarantee that they would not ally themselves with the British.
Interestingly, there was a section in the treaty regarding the sovereignty of the Delaware and their territory in which they were encouraged to have other Indian tribes join. It stated, "...to form a state whereof the Delaware nation shall be the head, and have a representation in Congress" (Article VI). This meant an Indian led territory in most of present-day Ohio could have become the 14th US State after the original 13 colonies had ratified the new US Constitution. I'm sure they all had a good chuckle when they wrote that one. Of course this likely never would have happened for many reasons. Alliances and treaties were never observed long. Historians speculate that the US really had no intention of ever fulfilling this portion of the treaty since it was subject to such vague conditions just as the land grab treaties were. It didn't really matter anyway. Less than a year later in 1788, this new alliance fell apart after Chief White Eyes was murdered by American militia. Meanwhile, it was clear that the new American forts and settlers in the Ohio Valley were being used offensively and not defensively per the terms of the treaty. The Delaware and other tribes finally turned their allegiance to the British for the remainder of the war as their best hope for survival.
Also noteworthy was the fact that the first US State was Delaware, however "Delaware" was just the English designated name for the Lenape people who once lived along the Delaware River. The name Delaware actually comes from Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr, an English nobleman and Virginia's first colonial governor. The 14th US State ended up being Vermont and most of the Ohio Valley became Ohio, the 17th US State in 1803.