Mihšihkinaahkwa – A Brief Biography of ‘Little Turtle’

Akima Mihšihkinaahkwa ‘Chief Little Turtle’ (~1747-1812) was a prominent Myaamia leader from 1780 until 1809. Not much is known about his childhood. Little is known about his parents, but he did share one parent in common with the Myaamia leaders Pakaana and Tahkamwa. It is likely that he grew up in the area between the headwaters of the Taawaawa Siipiiwi ‘Maumee River’ and the headwaters of the Kineepikwameekwa Siipiiwi ‘Eel River.’ [1]

Mihšihkinaahkwa initially rose to leadership through a decade and a half of military service to his community. In November of 1780, Augustin Mottin de la Balme led a Franco-American invasion of the Myaamia village at Kiihkayonki (Fort Wayne, IN) and Mihšihkinaahkwa led the counter attack that destroyed this invading force. Mihšihkinaahkwa went on to serve his community throughout their war against the United States (1780-1794). He led Myaamia soldiers in the Battle of Kiihkayonki (Harmar’s Defeat), the Battle of the Wabash (St. Clair’s Defeat), and the Battle of the Maumee (Fallen Timbers).

2019 Portrait Mihšihkinaahkwa by Julie Olds based on historical texts that describe his appearance as well as knowledge of attire common in the 1790s.
2019 Portrait Mihšihkinaahkwa by Julie Olds (https://julieolds.com/). This portrait is based on historical texts that describe his appearance as well as knowledge of attire common in the 1790s.

In 1794, prior to the Battle of the Maumee, Mihšihkinaahkwa concluded that the Myaamia should seek peace with the United States, but he could not convince his community to do so at that time. Mihšihkinaahkwa‘s decision to take steps towards peace was the likely the result of the influence of his son-in-law Eepiihkaanita ‘William Wells.’ Eepiihkaanita traveled to Fort Washington (contemporary Cincinnati, Ohio) to negotiate for the freedom of his wife, child, and other Myaamia people. Following a lengthy visit and the return of the captives, he reported back to his Myaamia relatives about the strength of the American forces deployed against them.[2]

Eepiihkaanita went on to serve as a scout in the service of the American army and Mihšihkinaahkwa continued to serve as a war leader for the Myaamia community. Privately, both men worked together to achieve peace.

Following the military defeat on the banks of the Maumee River, Mihšihkinaahkwa transitioned to civil leadership, serving as the council speaker for Myaamia communities at the Treaty of Greenville in 1795. After the treaty, Mihšihkinaahkwa was instrumental in making the first steps toward the consolidation of many diverse Myaamia villages into a singular political entity: the Miami Nation.

In 1807, visitors to the Miami Nation’s lands near Kiihkayonki described Mihšihkinaahkwa as exceeding “all his brother chiefs in dignity of appearance—a dignity which resulted from the character of his mind. He was of medium stature, with a complexion of the palest copper shade, and did not wear paint. His hair was a full suit, and without any admixture of gray… His dress was completed by a long red military sash around the waist and his hat (a chapeau bras) was ornamented with a red feather.”[3]

Mihšihkinaahkwa was removed from civil leadership following the tumultuous Treaty of Fort Wayne in 1809. During that treaty, Mihšihkinaahkwa advocated for the inclusion of Delaware and Potawatomi leaders in the negotiation. The majority of the Myaamia community felt that the lands in question belonged only to the Miami Nation and that other tribal nations should not benefit from their sale. He died three years later at the home of his son-in-law, Eepiihkaanita ‘William Wells,’ and was buried nearby in the Kiihkayonki village cemetery in July, 1812. [4]

Within months of his death, the clouds of a new war descended on his people. During the War of 1812, Mihšihkinaahkwa’s village was completely burned to the ground by the American military. By the end of the war, the Mihši-maalhsa ‘Americans’ destroyed nearly every Myaamia village in the Wabash River Valley.

If you want to learn more about Mihšihkinaahkwa‘s name as well as the often exaggerated claims about his father, please read the post – Was “Aquenackwe” Little Turtle’s Father? (linked here).

[1] Mihšihkinaahkwa‘s year of birth is unknown but was likely sometime between 1747-1752. The best biography of Mihšihkinaahkwa is Harvey Lewis Carter, The Life and Times of Little Turtle: First Sagamore of the Wabash (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987). Carter does an admirable job of addressing the rumors and conjecture around Mihšihkinaahkwa‘s childhood, but he accepts the mistaken notion that the elder Mihšihkinaahkwa (who was an adult in 1747) was the younger man’s father. This flies in the face of well documented naming practices among the Myaamia. There is no primary source evidence linking the two men as relatives.
[2] Carter, Life and Times of Little Turtle, 112-15.
[3] Gerard T. Hopkins, A Mission to the Indians, from the Indian Committee of Baltimore Yearly Meeting, to Fort Wayne, in 1804.  Compiled by Martha E. Tyson in 1862 (Philadelphia, T.E. Zell, 1862), 192-199. neewe to Cameron Shriver for supplying this quote.
[4] Carter, Life and Times of Little Turtle, 177-79.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Kimberly S Rammel says:

    Hello George,
    I recently purchased this print of Mihsihkinaahkwa by Julie Olds while in Oklahoma for the Miami Winter Gathering. I ask your permission to re-print this post to hang with Julies print at the Fort Recovery Museum.
    Thank you!
    Kim Rammel

    1. aya Kim, you have my permission to use this text as you describe. In the future, feel free to email me at ironstgm@miamioh.edu

  2. Dani Tippmann says:

    Aya George, I really enjoyed this bio of Mihšihkinaahkwa. Could I please have your permission to include it as part of the Whitley County Historical Museum display about Myaamia people? Neewe, Dani

    Sent from my iPhone


    1. aya eeweemilaani, iihia! Please share it!



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