This article was written by Dorthey J. Clark.

According to most historians, the Potawatomi were the most populous tribe between the Great Lakes and the Ohio River, the Wabash River and the Mississippi River.

At the close of the Revolutionary War many Indian tribes and confederacies inhabited the Northwest Territory. Chief among these were the Wyandottes, Miamis, Shawnees, Delaware, Ottawas, Chippewa, and Potawatomi. These were the seven tribes known in later years as the "western confederacy," who fought so long and bitterly against the government of the United States, and who were at last conquered by the arms and genius of General Anthony Wayne in the year 1794.

The Ottawas, Chippewas, and Potawatomi formed a sort of a loose confederacy known as the Three Fires, and Massas, a Chippewa chief, so referred to them at the treaty of Greenville.

The Miamis, the most powerful of the confederates, were subdivided into the Eel Rivers, the Weas, and the Piankeshaws. The Kickapoos, a small tribe which lived on the Sangamon, and the Vermillion of the Wabash, were associated generally with the Potawatomi and were always the allies of the English.

The Miamis have been described by General William Henry Harrison as the most extensive landowners in the northwest. However, about the year 1765, the Sacs and the Foxes, the Kickapoos and the Potawatomi conquered the old remnants of the Illinois tribes in the buffalo prairies and divided the country among themselves.

Exterminate Illinois

Says Hiram Beckwith, in speaking of the Potawatomi: "Always on friendly terms with the Kickapoos with whom they lived in mixed villages, they joined the latter and the Sacs and Foxes in the exterminating war upon the Illinois tribes and afterwards obtained their allotment of the despoiled domain."

The Potawatomi advancing by sheer force of numbers, rather than by conquest, finally appropriated a large part of the lands in the present state of Indiana, north of the Wabash, co mingling with the Kickapoos at the south and west and advancing their camps as far down as Pine Creek.

The Miamis were loud in their remonstrances against this trespassing, and denounced the Potawatomi as squatters, "never having had any lands of their own and being mere intruders upon the prior estate of others," but the Potawatomi were not dispossessed and were afterwards parties to all treaties with the United States government for the sale and disposal of said lands.The Miamis also lost a part of their lands on the lower west side of the Wabash to the Kickapoos. Pressing eastward from the neighborhood of Peoria, the Kickapoos established themselves on the Vermillion, where they had a village on both sides of that river at its confluence with the main stream. "They were," says Beckwith, "greatly attached to the Vermillion and its tributaries and Governor Harrison found it a difficult task to reconcile them to ceding it away."

To the last, however, the Miamis remained the undisputed lords and masters of most of the territory watered by the two Miamis of the Ohio, and by the Wabash and its tributaries down to the Ohio. The great head and center of their power was at Kekionga (now Fort Wayne), always referred to by President Washington as the Miami village."

The Potawatomi loved the remoteness and seclusion of the great prairie and many of their divisions have been known as the "prairie" tribes. They seem to have lived for the most part in separate, roving bands which divided "according to the abundance or scarcity of game, or the emergencies of war."

Horse-thieving Marauders

Encouraged by the English, they joined in the terrible expeditions of the Shawnees and Miamis against the keelboats on the Ohio and against the settlements of Kentucky. They were inveterate horse-thieves. Riding for long distances across plain and prairie, through forests and across rivers, they suddenly swooped down on some isolated frontier cabin, perhaps murdering its helpless and defenseless inmates, and taking away a child or a young girl, killing cattle or riding away with the horses and disappearing in the wilderness as suddenly as they emerged from it.

There was nothing romantic about the Potawatomi. They were real savages and known to the French-Canadians as "Les Poux," or those who have lice, from which it may be inferred that they were not generally of clean habits.

In general appearance they did not compare favorably with the Kickapoos of the Vermillion River. The Kickapoo warriors were generally tall and sinewy, while the Potawatomi were shorter and more thickly set, very dark and squalid. Numbers of the women of the Kickapoos were described as being lithe, "and many of them by no means lacking in beauty." The Potawatomi women were inclined to greasiness and obesity. The Potawatomi had little regard for their women. Polygamy was common among them when visited by the early missionaries. The warriors were always gamblers, playing heavily at their moccasin games and lacrosse.

Nothing, however, revealed their savage nature so well as their rapid decline under the influence of whisky. One of the great motives that impelled their desire not only for plunder but for rum.

The boats generally contained a liberal supply. Nothing was more common than drunkenness after the greedy and avaricious traders of the Wabash got into their midst and bartered them brandy for their most valuable peltries. Potawatomi were found camping about Vincennes in great numbers and trading everything for liquor.

In General Harrison's day, he endeavored time and time again to stop this nefarious traffic. On all occasions when treaties were to be made or council fires kindled, he issued proclamations prohibiting the sale of liquor to the Indians.

These proclamations were inserted in the Western Sun at Vincennes on more than one occasion but they were unavailing. The temptation of a huge profit was too strong. Carousals and orgies took place when the Indians were under the influence of "fire-water." Fights and murders were frequent. At the last, whiskey destroyed the last vestige of virtue in their women and valor in their warriors.