[Note: This is a single part of what will be, by my classification, about 240 compact tribal histories (contact to 1900). It is limited to the lower 48 states of the U.S. but also includes those First Nations from Canada and Mexico that had important roles ( Huron, Assiniboine, etc.).
This history's content and style are representative. The normal process at this point is to circulate an almost finished product among a peer group for comment and criticism. At the end of this History you will find links to those Nations referred to in the History of the Mascouten.
Using the Internet, this can be more inclusive. Feel free to comment or suggest corrections via e-mail. Working together we can end some of the historical misinformation about Native Americans. You will find the ego at this end to be of standard size. Thanks for stopping by. I look forward to your comments... Lee Sultzman.
Linguistic affiliation and early French accounts indicate that, prior to contact, the Mascouten occupied the southwestern part of Lower Michigan. Attacked by the Ottawa and Neutrals in the 1640s and the Iroquois during the decade following, the Mascouten by 1660 had abandoned their Michigan homeland and joined other refugee Algonquin tribes in Wisconsin. The refugee villages which formed in Wisconsin during this time usually had mixed populations. Intermarriage became fairly common, and
in the chaotic conditions which prevailed, tribal affiliation disintegrated. It did not re-assert itself until after 1680. The Mascouten apparently arrived in Wisconsin in two groups: a northern, or upper, band settled with the Wea (Miami) near the south end of Lake Winnebago (Fox River portage); while a southern (lower) band mixed with the Fox and Kickapoo on the Milwaukee River. By 1710 the northern and southern Mascouten groups had switched geographical locations relative to each other.
Beginning about 1680, the northern band followed the Wea relocation to the south. These Mascouten settled first on the Ohio River in southern Illinois but soon moved north to the middle Wabash River. For the remainder of the 18th century, they were a member of what has been called the Wabash Tribes - Mascouten, Wea and Piankashaw of the Miami, and the Vermillion Band of the Kickapoo. The Mascouten along the Wabash would ultimately be absorbed by these neighboring tribes. The other Mascouten (southern or lower) band, actually remained farther to the north during the 1700s and became associated with the Fox and Prairie Band of the Kickapoo. By 1712 all three of these allied tribes had moved east to the vicinity of the new French trading post at Detroit. Although this was most likely their homeland before contact, it was already occupied by other French allies. The crowded condition erupted into the Fox Wars (1712-16 and 1728-37). These conflicts pretty well decimated the southern band of Mascouten (now living in the north) and forced them back west into northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. By 1770 the survivors had been absorbed by the Prairie Bands of the Kickapoo and Potawatomi.
Before contact the Mascouten may have numbered as many as 6,000, but by 1670 the French estimated them at less than two thousand. There were few estimates of the Mascouten population in the years which followed, most listing only a few hundred for each of the two groups. When the British took control of the region after the French and Indian War, Sir William Johnson gave no mention of the Mascouten in 1764. However, another British officer that year reported 500 Mascouten located just west of Lake Michigan. The Wabash Mascouten went largely unnoticed until 1779 when 800 of them were listed as living along the Wabash with Piankashaw and Vermilion Kickapoo. American records from 1813 and 1825 only mention the Mascouten as having been absorbed by the Kickapoo.
We have no idea what they called themselves. Mascouten apparently comes from a Fox word meaning "little prairie people." In its various forms: Mascoutin, Mathkoutench, Musketoon, Meadow Indians (George Rogers Clark's journal), and possibly Rasaouakoueton (Nicollet). Aside from Nicollet, the earliest mention of the Mascouten was by the French which used their Huron name, Assistaeronon (Assitaehronon, Assitagueronon, Attistae) which translates as Fire Nation (Nation of Fire). This has only confused things, since the Huron used this name to describe all of the tribes in lower Michigan - during the 1630s and 40s, this would have included not only the Mascouten, but also the Kickapoo, Fox, Sauk, and Potawatomi. The Iroquois name, Ontouagannha, is even more general and referred to any tribe which did not speak an Iroquian language.
Algonquin. The dialect Mascoutin dialect belonged to the southern Great Lakes (Wakashan) group. Other speakers were the Kickapoo, Fox, and Sauk.
Two distinct groups in 1667: the Northern (Upper) Mascouten and Southern (Lower) Mascouten. As already mentioned, the two bands after 1700 switched geographical positions relative to each other.
In most ways, including language, the Mascouten resembled other Algonquin tribes from the southern Great Lakes which has made it difficult to single them out as a distinct group. The Mascouten have usually appeared in history in association with some other tribe - in most cases either Fox, Kickapoo, or the Wea and Piankashaw of the Miami. This lack of a unique cultural characteristic has made the Mascouten something of a mystery. They never played a major role in the history of the Great Lakes, and since so little is known about them, there has been a tendency among scholars to make them a part of some other tribe. However, their frequent and specific mention in the French accounts clearly indicates the Mascouten's status as a separate tribe. It is bad enough they failed to continue as a tribal unit, but to deny there ever were Mascouten is an insult (perhaps unintentional) to their descendents among the Kickapoo and other Algonquin tribes from the region.
The Mascouten were not part of the Potawatomi who before contact also lived in lower Michigan (the northern part, however). Among the Ottawa and Ojibwe, the Potawatomi were known as "keepers of the fire." Because of this, some have suggested the Potawatomi as the Fire Nation mentioned in the early French accounts. Indeed, this may well have been the reason the Huron used this name for the tribes in lower Michigan, but the Assistaeronon, of which the Mascouten were a part, probably were several allied tribes which fought the encroachment by French trading partners during the 1630s and 40s. The fact Mascouten means "little prairie people" has also added to the confusion leading to the suggestion the Mascouten were either the Prairie Band of Potawatomi or the Prairie Band of the Kickapoo - something both the Potawatomi and Kickapoo deny. "Prairie" has also been thought to refer to the prairies of northern Illinois and that the Mascouten were part of the Illinois or Miami. Again unlikely, since they spoke different Algonquin dialects. All of which explains who the Mascouten were not, not who they were. Unfortunately, there are no Mascouten left to tell us.
The Mascouten puzzle begins with the Jesuit Relations of 1639-40 which describe the exploration of the north end of Lake Michigan by Jean Nicolet in 1638. Nicolet never got anywhere near the south end where the Mascouten most likely were at the time and makes no mention of them by name. From the Winnebago at Green Bay, however, he learned the names of the tribes along the lake, all of which have since been identified except one, the Rasaouakoueton. With a little effort, this can be made to sound very much like Mascouten. Throughout the 1630s, the French were aware that their trading partners from the east side of Lake Huron were engaging in wars to seize hunting territory from tribes farther west. Although the purpose of Nicollet's journey was to arrange a peace between the Winnebago and Huron, this was an exception. For the most part, the French looked the other way at this aggression and stuck to trading fur and making conversions. The French themselves never accompanied the war parties into Michigan, but the European weapons they provided were a different matter.
Before 1632 the French had provided few firearms to their native allies. While these were unreliable matchlocks with a limited supply of gunpowder, the psychological effect of these new "thunder weapons" on Michigan Algonquin must have been enormous. Even worse were steel weapons, easily available through the fur trade, which provided an tremendous advantage over traditional materials. Most details of this warfare have been lost - the exception being when Jesuit missionaries among the Huron learned in 1641 of a recent Ottawa and Neutral victory over the Assistaeronon, or Nation of Fire. What they heard was specific and filled with grim detail. After a ten-day siege, 2,000 Ottawa and Neutral warriors finally captured a fortified Assistaeronon village. 800 women and children were captured and taken to the Neutral villages for either adoption or torture, but 70 Assistaeronon warriors taken prisoners were burned at the stake. Old men suffered even a crueler fate. They were blinded and then set free in the woods to wander aimlessly until they starved.
From the distance and direction described from the Huron villages, the location of this massacre was somewhere in southwest Michigan, and the victims would have been Mascouten. Jesuit Relations continued occasional mention of the Fire Nation during the 1640s, but this ended in 1649 when the Huron suffered a similar fate at the hands of the Iroquois. During the next two years, the Tiononati and Neutrals were also destroyed, after which the western Iroquois (Seneca, Cayuga, and Onondaga) finished driving the Mascouten and other Algonquin tribes from Lower Michigan. By 1655 the Mascouten survivors had retreated around the south end of Lake Michigan and attempted to settle first in southeast Wisconsin. Unfortunately, they found no welcome from the resident Winnebago who forced them farther west to the Mississippi River. Here they finally found a refuge among the Wea (Miami) and Kickapoo who had also been forced to relocate.
The initial success of the Winnebago in defending their homeland did not last. As the Iroquois onslaught drove more tribes west, the Winnebago soon had more enemies than they could handle. War erupted with the Fox, and in this conflict, the Winnebago suffered a disaster when 500 warriors travelling by canoes to attack a Fox village were caught in a storm and drowned. Epidemics brought west by the refugees struck next, after which the Winnebago got into a major war with the Illinois Confederation and were nearly annihilated. These reversals left the once-powerful Winnebago too weak to resist the refugee tribes, and by 1658 some of the Mascouten were able to leave the Mississippi with the Wea and establish themselves in a mixed village near Green Bay. However, the new location was too exposed to Iroquois attacks, and during 1660 they moved inland to the Fox River portage south of Lake Winnebago.
In the years after the defeat of the Huron Confederacy in 1649, the French had tried to protect their own fragile peace with the Iroquois by ending almost all of their travel to the western Great Lakes. Despite this, they still tried to maintain their fur trade by urging former trading partners - now far to the west - to bring furs to Montreal. However, Iroquois war parties roamed the Ottawa Valley making this long, dangerous journey impossible for anyone except large, heavily-armed groups. Peace between the French and Iroquois collapsed in 1658. After years of raids and harassment, the French government in 1664 sent a regiment of soldiers to Canada to deal with the Iroquois. Their offensive against villages in the Iroquois homeland marked a new level of military confrontation with the Iroquois and the beginning of the wars with Great Britain for control of North America.
In keeping with this new militant French attitude, the fur trader Nicolas Perot, Father Claude-Jean Allouez, and four other Frenchmen in 1665 accompanied a large Huron-Ottawa trading party (400 warriors) on its return journey to the western Great Lakes. After fighting their way past the Iroquois blockade on the Ottawa River, the French finally reached Green Bay. What they found was chaos. Too far north for reliable maize agriculture, the large number of refugees had been forced to rely more heavily on hunting and had exhausted the available resources. Tribal identity and authority had mostly collapsed, and the starving populations of the mixed village were not only fighting among themselves, but subject to attack from the Dakota (Sioux) to the west and Iroquois from the east. The previous winter, the Seneca had struck a Fox village while its warriors were absent killing 70 women and children while taking 30 as prisoners.
Iroquois attacks in 1665 also struck the Mascouten-Wea village near the Fox Portage causing another retreat inland to the Mascouten and Kickapoo who had remained near the Mississippi in southwest Wisconsin. Because of hostilities with the Dakota, this did not prove much of a refuge. Back in New York, however, the French attacks on the Iroquois homeland were having an effect. By 1667 the Iroquois were ready for peace, but unlike earlier agreements, the treaty they signed that year with the French included French allies in the western Great Lakes. This ended the threat of Iroquois attack, and the Northern Mascouten and Wea returned to their old village at the Fox Portage leaving the Southern Mascouten with the Kickapoo on the Mississippi. The peace with the Iroquois also gave the French free access to the western lakes, and they established themselves at Green Bay to resume their fur trade in the region. In 1668 Perot made the first French contact with both the Mascouten (also Wea and Kickapoo) at their Fox Portage village.
Although typical of the refugee populations in Wisconsin at this time, the mixed population Perrot encountered at the Fox Portage has contributed to the confusion over the Mascouten. The following year, however, the Jesuit Claude-Jean Allouez also visited this village and made the first clear identification of the Mascouten as a distinct tribe. Because the Mascouten, Kickapoo, and Wea (Miami) were not quite sure whether he was either a "manitou" (spirit) or witch, Allouez's reception was not nearly as warm as Perot's, but in the course of their conversations, the Mascouten told Allouez that they were definitely the tribe from lower Michigan who the Huron called the Assistaeronon. Perhaps because of the chilly reception he received, Allouez concentrated his efforts on the Huron and Ottawa and made few other visits to the Mascouten. However, the French fur trade at Green Bay flourished after 1667, and the Mascouten maintained regular contact and trade.
The mixed villages had been primarily for defensive purposes, and peace also allowed old tribal identities to reassert themselves. Several of the smaller Algonquin groups in the area disappeared in this process - most notably the Kitchigami, Assegun (Bone), Mundua, and Noquet - and were probably absorbed by the Mascouten and others. By the time Father Jacques Marquette visited the Mascouten in 1673, the Wea had separated from the Mascouten and moved south to start their own village near Chicago. The Mascouten settled nearby on the Melleoki (Milwaukee) River but in their own village. Despite their relocation, both groups maintained close ties with the French traders at La Baye (Green Bay), and it was the Miami who provided the guides which led Marquette and Louis Joliet to the Mississippi River. Also living in the same general area were Fox, Kickapoo, Piankashaw (Miami) and Illinois. Although the French had done much to mediate disputes and end intertribal fighting in the region, there was still a great deal of antagonism and distrust between the tribes with which they traded.
Such was the case between the Wea and Mascouten (newcomers) and Illinois (original residents). Actually, the French were having enough trouble getting along with themselves. It is a common misconception to view French exploration and fur trade in the Great Lakes as a single, united effort when competition between French traders was often as treacherous as any intertribal rivalry. When Robert LaSalle attempted in 1679 to open trade with the Illinois Confederacy to the south, rival traders at Green Bay took advantage of the long-standing animosity between the Miami and Illinois to secretly urge the Miami and Mascouten to settle at the south end of Lake Michigan to block his access to the Illinois River. LaSalle, however, slipped past and built a post at Fort Crèvecoeur on the upper Illinois in 1680. Even then, the Mascouten chief Manso, claiming he was speaking for the Iroquois, attempted to coerce the Illinois into expelling LaSalle.
Given the Miami and Iroquois alliance against the Illinois at the time, there may have been some truth in what Manso said, but the Illinois refused and LaSalle stayed. Quickly, thousands of natives relocated near LaSalle's post and began to hunt beaver to trade to the French. The concentration of so many potential enemies attracted the attention of the Iroquois. It was further aggravated by incursions of Illinois hunters east into territory claimed by the Iroquois and killing every beaver they could find. At a meeting held at an Ottawa village, a Seneca sachem sent to protest this encroachment was murdered by Illinois warriors, and with this incident, the peace in the western Great Lakes ended. The Seneca in New York assembled a large war party to retaliate and, joined by their Miami allies, proceeded west to deal with the Illinois.
The French made an attempt to stop the war but were manhandled by the Iroquois and forced to leave. What followed was a brutal massacre even by the standards of the Beaver Wars (1630-1700). Thousands of Illinois, including women and children, were either killed outright or tortured to death. It was a blow from which the Illinois never recovered. The Mascouten, because of their association with the Miami, were spared both that time and when the Seneca returned for a second attack the following year. By 1682, however, the Miami alliance with the Iroquois had collapsed. Threatened by their former allies, the Miami switched sides and moved west to be nearer the new French trading post at Fort St. Louis (Utica, Illinois). The Mascouten village southwest of Chicago suffered its first attack by the Iroquois that year. The Iroquois struck them again the next year, this time killing 60 of them, and the Mascouten - whether they wanted to or not - had become part of the French alliance.
Despite attacks on outlying groups, the Algonquin population in the vicinity of the French post continued to increase, and the Iroquois were determined to disperse it. In 1684 the Iroquois made a direct attack on Fort St. Louis but encountered strong resistance and, after a siege failed, were force to retreat. This was the turning point of the Beaver Wars, but the Iroquois were still dangerous. The Mascouten living with the Miami near Fort St. Louis had some degree of protection, but the other group living with the Kickapoo had meanwhile moved east from southwest Wisconsin and settled along the Fox River in northern Illinois. An Iroquois attack during 1685 sent them west again back to the Mississippi. The French, however, had decided to fight and were taking the first steps to organize a Great Lakes Algonquin alliance against the Iroquois.
Jacques-Renede Denonville first strengthened French forts in the region and provided the necessary firearms and ammunition. Coinciding roughly with the outbreak of the King William's War (1688-96) between Britain and France, the Algonquin offensive against the Iroquois in the Great Lakes (of which the Mascouten were a part) was one of the dramatic, but mostly overlooked, events in North American history. It began in 1687, and by the 1690s the Iroquois were on the defensive and retreating towards their homeland in New York. A peace signed in 1701 left the Algonquin and French in control of the Great Lakes. Unfortunately, the French were already throwing away the fruits of victory. A glut of beaver fur on the European market during the 1790s caused a drastic drop in price. This provided an opportunity for the French crown to respond to Jesuit protests about the corruption the fur trade was causing among Native Americans. Trade licenses were revoked in 1696, and the fur trade suspended in the western Great Lakes.
Trade was what held the French alliance together, and when this ended, the alliance quickly came undone saving the Iroquois from total defeat. However, the beaver glut and price drop were felt even sooner in Wisconsin. As the French commander at Green Bay, Nicolas Perot had reached west to open trade with the Dakota. For this purpose, he built Fort St. Nicolas at Prairie du Chein in 1685 and Fort St. Antoine at Lake Pepin on the Mississippi the following year. The Mascouten (southern group), Kickapoo, and Fox also traded at these locations and at first tolerated French trade with their Dakota enemies. Unfortunately, the drop in the price paid for fur coincided with a new outbreak of fighting along the Mississippi in 1691 between the Mascouten, Fox, Kickapoo, and Dakota. An understanding of relationship between supply and demand was not the Mascouten's strong point, and angry over what was perceived as French greed, they were no longer willing to accept the sale of firearms to their enemies. Several French traders were killed as a result, and the Mascouten robbed Perot of his trade goods and threatened to burn him at the stake.
The Kickapoo intervened to save Perot's life, and although he remained at Green Bay until his trading license was revoked in 1696, he went back to Quebec and never returned to Wisconsin. The defeat of the Iroquois allowed the French allies to move south into areas more suitable for agriculture, and the Mascouten near Chicago left during 1695 to follow the Wea south into western Indiana. By 1701 they had settled on the Ohio River in southern Illinois. Within a year, they were decimated by a smallpox epidemic. The location also exposed them to attack by pro-British Chickasaw, and weakened by the epidemic, these Mascouten moved north to the middle Wabash Valley and formed an alliance with the Wea and Piankashaw (both Miami) - an association which eventually would become known as the Wabash Tribes. By 1710 malaria was making its first appearance in the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys, and the populations of the Miami, Illinois, and Mascouten in the area went into a rapid decline.
The suspension of the Great Lakes fur trade was a disaster for the French in North America, but their protests to Paris were ignored. Even in defeat, the Iroquois were quick to take advantage of the situation and began to lure French allies by offering trade with British merchants at Albany. The French in Canada finally won a reprieve from their own government which allowed Antoine Cadillac to open Fort Pontchartrain at Detroit to trade with the Great Lakes tribes. Rather than solving the problem, it proved a disaster which seriously strained what remained of the French alliance. Cadillac invited just about every tribe in the region to move to Detroit, and the result was overcrowding and warfare between former allies. None of which kept Cadillac from inviting even more to prevent trade with the British. In 1710 he extended an invitation to the Fox, Kickapoo, and Mascouten from southern Wisconsin.
Over 1,000 Fox accepted and accompanied by Kickapoo and Mascouten allies settled near Detroit. Tensions were already near the boiling point before they arrived. The area had been their homeland before the Beaver Wars, and the Fox and Mascouten were not shy about letting other tribes know this. Within a short time, the Potawatomi, Huron, and Ottawa wanted the Fox and Mascouten to leave and were demanding the French make this happen. Meanwhile, they were expressing themselves by attacking Fox, Kickapoo, and Mascouten hunting parties in the area. Perhaps Cadillac himself might have been able to handle the increasing turmoil, but he was absent leaving Joseph Dubuisson in charge. Early in the spring of 1712 Potawatomi and Ottawa warriors attacked a Mascouten hunting party near the headwaters of the St. Joseph River in southern Michigan. The Mascouten fled to their Fox allies near Detroit who prepared for war. When Dubuisson attempted to intervene to stop retaliation, it proved the "last straw," and the Fox, Kickapoo, and Mascouten attacked Fort Pontchartrain beginning the First Fox War (1712-16).
The initial assault failed and was followed by a siege. In the midst of this, a relief party of Huron, Ottawa, Potawatomi and Mississauga (Ojibwe) arrived and fell upon the Fox. In the slaughter which followed over 1,000 Fox, Kickapoo, and Mascouten were killed. Some Fox managed to reach safety with the Iroquois, but the others, together with the Kickapoo and Mascouten, fled west to their angry relatives in southern Wisconsin. From there, they made the French and their allies pay dearly during the next three years with raids to avenge their defeat at Detroit. Before the French could retaliate, they first had to repair their alliance. By 1715 they had managed this somewhat, and a French and Potawatomi expedition defeated the Mascouten and Kickapoo. Afterwards, they made a separate peace with the French, leaving the Fox to fight on without allies. The Fox managed very well, and after failing to take a Fox fort in southern Wisconsin, the French offered peace in 1716.
The Fox accepted officially ending the First Fox War. It was, however, more of temporary truce since neither the French nor the Fox forgave and trusted each other. Even worse, the peace did nothing to end the fighting between the Fox and Peoria (Illinois). The problem was the prisoners taken and tortured by the Peoria in 1712 at the outbreak of the First Fox War. The Fox apparently returned the compliment by torturing Peoria prisoners, and after the war ended with the French in 1716, the Peoria refused out of pure spite to return their Fox prisoners. Efforts by the French to mediate failed, and war erupted between the Peoria and Fox with the Mascouten and Kickapoo being drawn in as Fox allies. The Illinois had no shortage of enemies, and by 1724 the Fox had added the Winnebago and Dakota to their ranks against the Illinois. All of which convinced the French that the Fox, probably as part of a British plot, were trying to forge a secret alliance against them.
The combination of French paranoia and Fox hostility escalated until the French decided in 1726 to intervene on behalf of the Illinois. Like other French military efforts against the Fox, this ended in frustration. By 1728 the French had decided to exterminate the Fox, but having fought them before, they took the precaution of first using diplomacy to isolate the Fox from the Winnebago and Dakota. This left the Mascouten and Kickapoo as the only allies available to the Fox, but at the outbreak of hostilities, the Fox cut their own throats. An argument developed at a meeting between the Fox and Mascouten over the Mascouten's and Kickapoo's refusal to kill French prisoners they were holding. The Fox angrily stalked out of the conference and on their way home murdered a Kickapoo and Mascouten. After this incident, the French had little trouble persuading the Kickapoo and Mascouten to switch sides and join them against the Fox. This left the Fox completely alone, and in 1730 both Kickapoo and Mascouten warriors participated in the battle in northern Illinois during which the French and their allies almost annihilated the Fox.
The Fox afterwards were saved from complete destruction by the Sauk, but in the years that followed, there would never again be the same degree of close cooperation between the Wisconsin Mascouten and Fox as had existed before 1728. This falling out, however, provided little relief to the increasingly beleaguered Illinois. In 1746 the Mascouten joined the Potawatomi, Menominee, and Ojibwe to force the Peoria from their last strongholds in southern Wisconsin. Despite French efforts to stop the fighting, the Wisconsin Algonquin tribes continued the pressure, and between 1751 and 1754, the Mascouten, Kickapoo, and Potawatomi took more territory from the Peoria -this time in northern Illinois. Smallpox struck the Mascouten and their allies during 1751. By the start of the French and Indian War (1755-63), war and epidemic had reduced the Wisconsin Mascouten to less than 300, and they were very close to being a Kickapoo sub-tribe.
The Wabash Mascouten in the meantime were undergoing a similar loss of identity and becoming increasingly integrated into the tribes along the Wabash River. As an example of how rapidly this was taking place, a Mascouten and a Kickapoo chief appeared in 1750 before the French commandant at Fort de Chartres in southern Illinois to ask for the release of Le Loup, a Piankashaw (Miami) chief, being held prisoner in the French jail. Normally, it would have been expected that the Miami would make such a request for one of their chiefs, but Le Loup's father was a Kickapoo and his mother a Mascouten! Tribal affiliations along the Wabash at the time were obviously becoming blurred. The French seemed to have understood this new arrangement and honored the Mascouten and Kickapoo request. Le Loup proved grateful and his leadership was a major factor which kept the Wabash tribes loyal to the French at a time when many French allies were turning to British traders who had entered the Ohio country after 1748 to compete with the French.
Mascouten service during the French and Indian War was mostly limited to participation in joint raids by the Wabash tribes against the British-allied Chickasaw south of the Ohio River. The Mascouten continued to trade with the French at Fort Ouiatenon (Lafayette, Indiana) until after the fall of Quebec in 1759. The following year the British occupied Ouiatenon forcing the Mascouten, Wea, Piankashaw, and Vermillion Kickapoo to trade with them instead. The Mascouten and others tried to make the best of the situation, but with their victory assured over the French in North America, the British military commander, Lord Jeffrey Amherst, ordered an increase in the price of trade goods, restricted their supply (especially gunpowder), and ended annual presents to chiefs. Not only had the former French allies become dependent on trade goods while the French controlled the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley, but a drought struck the region during the summer of 1762 creating widespread famine.
The British made some attempt to calm the increasingly explosive situation, and in 1762 sent Lieutenant Thomas Hutchins to Ouiatenon to speak to the Wabash tribes. In the course of the meeting, a Mascouten chief arose to ask Hutchins for supplies for his people who were ill and starving. Hutchins, of course, had nothing to offer except promises. At the same time, a prophet arose among the Delaware adding a religious element to the crisis. Neolin, the Delaware Prophet, taught a rejection of all European trade goods and a return to traditional Native American values. While Neolin did not actually advocate violence, his teachings were seized upon by Pontiac, the Ottawa chief at Detroit and a bitter enemy of the British. Throughout the winter of 1762-63, Pontiac organized a secret uprising which, when it struck the following May, captured six of the nine British forts west of the Appalachian Mountains.
The Wabash tribes joined the rebellion but seemed to have mixed feelings about its eventual outcome. Although they captured Fort Ouiatenon and its garrison, the Wea and Piankashaw took the precaution of protecting their British captives who were eventually repatriated. This was not easy since the Mascouten and Kickapoo were among the most violently anti-British of Pontiac's allies. Taken by surprise, the British held the three forts which remained and began to retake those they had lost. The intractable Amherst was replaced by Sir Thomas Gage in November, 1763, and as British military pressure mounted, Pontiac's alliance collapsed. Tribes deserted to make their own peace with the British, and Pontiac was forced to abandon the siege of Detroit and retreat west to safety among his followers in Indiana. Through the intercession of the Miami and after meetings at Ouiatenon and Detroit, Pontiac finally made peace with the British in 1765 and afterwards left Detroit for northern Illinois.
The Pontiac Rebellion apparently caught the French as much by surprise as it had the British. Although they still controlled the Illinois country and Fort de Chartres, the French were on the verge of signing a peace with the British in 1763, and rather than intervening as Pontiac had hoped, they actually urged the tribes to stop fighting. More than any other factor, this lack of French support caused the collapse of the uprising. This was especially difficult for their former allies to accept. In 1764, the Mascouten, Wea, Piankashaw, Miami, and Kickapoo visited Fort de Chartes to ask Pierre de Villiers, the last French Commandant of Illinois, for supplies to continue their war against the British. He thanked them for past service but refused. Their last hope gone, the Wea, Piankashaw, and Miami sent a delegation east to make peace with the British, but the Mascouten and Kickapoo remained at war.
Their hostility succeeded in keeping the British from claiming the Illinois country for another year, but in 1765 the British sent Colonel George Croghan west from Fort Pitt (Pittsburgh) with a Shawnee escort to accept its surrender from the French. In June near the mouth of the Wabash River, his party was attacked by eighty Kickapoo and Mascouten warriors. Grogan was captured, and most of his escort killed, including two important Shawnee chiefs. The incident, however, actually ended Mascouten and Kickapoo resistance because of the reaction of other tribes. The Miami, Wea, and Piankashaw were furious because it happened in midst of their peace negotiations with the British, and if something was not done immediately, the Shawnee planned to attack the Kickapoo and Mascouten to avenge the deaths of their chiefs. In the end, the Kickapoo and Mascouten were forced to release Croghan unharmed and ask him to make amends for them with the Shawnee. Croghan reached Illinois, and at later meetings at Fort de Chartres and Detroit, in 1766 he got the Wabash tribes, including the Mascouten and Kickapoo, to allow the British to occupy the old French forts and trading posts in the Wabash Valley.
The Wisconsin Mascouten were last mentioned in the report of Thomas Hutchins in 1768. It can be presumed that shortly afterwards they were absorbed into the Prairie Bands of either the Kickapoo or Potawatomi in northern Illinois. As such they would have participated in the wars to avenge Pontiac's murder in 1769 by a Peoria. The last remnants of the Illinois Confederation were almost annihilated in these conflicts. The Mascouten along the Wabash, however, continued to receive occasional notice for another 30 years. During 1768 the Iroquois League signed the Fort Stanwix treaty ending their claim to the Ohio Valley and opening the area to white settlement. Neither the Mascouten nor the Wabash tribes were active in the initial conflicts which marked almost 50 years of warfare for control of the Ohio Valley. Threatened by the British with war with the Iroquois, the Wabash and Mascouten refused to join the Shawnee and Mingo against the "Long Knives" (American frontiersmen) during Lord Dunmore's War (1774).
They also chose to remain neutral during the initial years of the American Revolution (1775-83). This changed in 1778 when a 200-man army of Virginia militia commanded by George Rogers Clark invaded and seized control of the lightly-defended Illinois country from the British. Clark did a masterful job of winning the allegiance of the French in the area to the new United States, but his diplomacy failed completely when it came to Native Americans. The reason for this was simple: Clark hated them. So much so, he lost a opportunity to use them as allies to take the British fort at Detroit, a victory which eluded him and probably would have ended most of the fighting in the Ohio Valley. Despite the French failure to help Pontiac in 1763, the Wabash tribes had never forgotten their loyalty to the French. When Clark won over the French population in Illinois, he also won the support of the Wabash tribes who offered to help him take Detroit.
Instead, Clark spurned their offer of assistance so rudely that he drove them straight into the arms of the British. By the summer of 1778, a delegation of the Mascouten and the other Wabash tribes was in Detroit pledging loyalty to the British. This offer, of course was readily accepted, and Clark's journal mentions an attempt by the Meadow Indians (Mascouten) to ambush his army. The Mascouten remained British allies for the remainder of the war and are mentioned in a 1782 British report as having requested supplies at Detroit and reaffirmed their allegiance to the British. After the war the Mascouten, through the Wabash tribes and Miami, became part of the western alliance which fought to keep the Americans south of the Ohio River. Hostilities began in 1786 after Americans had settled illegally among the French population in the lower Wabash Valley. This fighting continued until Kentucky militia under Colonel John Hardin attacked the Wabash villages in 1791 capturing 52 of their women and children. The prisoners were taken back to Kentucky as hostages, and anxious for their return, the Wabash Tribe signed the Putnam Treaty in 1792 and withdrew from the western alliance.
This agreement was signed by 31 chiefs, two of whom were Mascouten and, so far as is known, this was the only treaty the Mascouten ever signed with the United States. Beyond this, there was only occasional mention of the Mascouten during this period, some of it strange. A Mascouten chief who lived along the Wabash River in 1788 reported that every year he sent a war party against the Illinois at Kaskaskia to support the French. This is just a little confusing since France had left North America in 1763, the Illinois were loyal French allies, and Kaskaskia was a French settlement. Spanish records from St. Louis during this period show that the Mascouten presented themselves there to collect their annual gifts from the Spanish government in 1788. The visits continued until 1792 when Spain reached an agreement with the United States and discontinued the practice. After the United States acquired the Louisiana Territory in 1803, there were only two mentions of the Mascouten in official reports. The first was in 1813 and mentioned the Mascouten only as having become a part of the Kickapoo. A final reference was made in 1825 again as being a part of the Kickapoo. After that ...silence.
First Nations referred to in this Mascouten History: