The Peace of Montreal, 1701

Chichicatallo* stood, an old and venerated Myaamia akima ‘chief,’ in front of hundreds of onlookers. Interpreters listened, and then a babble of languages filled the air as they translated his words into Wyandot and Seneca, Ojibwe and Mohawk. It was August 4, 1701. That was 321 years ago.[1]

Days later, Chichicatallo signed the Great Treaty, as did many others. Soon after, he died of plague near Montreal.

A hand-drawn picture of a bird; the Miami chief's signature.
“Marque de chichicatallo chef du village.” Chichicatallo’s crane signature, Peace of Montreal, 1701. Wikimedia commons.

Chichicatallo’s crane signature is an enduring image for Myaamiaki. But the larger context begs many questions. Why was Chichicatallo and other, unnamed Miamis, in Montreal in 1701? Why did over a thousand Indigenous diplomats converge there, and why at that time?

The Great Peace of Montreal marked the end of a six-decade-long conflict called the Beaver Wars. The war, like most 60-year intercontinental conflicts, is complex. From about 1640 to 1701, Haudenosaunee, or Five Nations Iroquois, acquired guns from the Dutch and their successors the English. With a firepower advantage, they expanded west to hunt for beavers for European trade. In the process, they obliterated or dispersed some Indigenous nations. Haudenosaunee leaders claimed they had conquered as far west as “the Twichtwichs,” an eastern name for the Myaamia (often written “Twightwee,” a reference to the sandhill crane squawk.) Frequently, the Haudenosaunee (think Senecas, Cayugas, Onondagas, Oneidas, and Mohawks) adopted captives taken in war, absorbing people into their communities. Yet in the decades leading to 1701, they faced fiercer resistance from western Algonquians, such as the Miamis, Ottawas, and Ojibwes. Those Algonquians also wanted the freedom to trade at Albany, New York, which was competing for fur traffic with Montreal. In 1700 and 1701 Haudenosaunee leaders forged peace with the Miamis and many other nations, but also with both the English and the French. Most Algonquians had friendly relations with French traders, while the Haudenosaunee had a long amity with the English colonies. The Peace of Montreal smoothed over decades of violence between the Algonquians (and their French allies) and Haudenosaunee.[2] That summer, about 1,300 Indigenous folks from 39 nations outnumbered the approximately 1,200 residents of Montreal.

Complicated? Oh yes. Let’s focus on what we know about the Miami at that moment, and Chichicatallo in particular.

We do not know what his name means, and it apparently fell out of use by Myaamia families. Clearly, his community symbol was a sandhill crane, cecaahkwa. Based on the sounds in his name, the crane might be holding a rattle in front of him, although that is speculative. (The line between the crane and rattle may hold significant meaning itself.) The French historian Bacqueville de Potherie, who wrote the most accessible first-hand account of the talks at Montreal, said Chichicatallo was “a person of singular merits, whose air very much resembled those Roman Emperors.” The Miami delegation brought “the Slaves they had taken from the Iroquois” to turn over to their new allies, a common gesture for peace. Perhaps Chichicatallo’s most important contribution was the pipe he brought. “Since our Father [the Governor of New France, named Callière] wants the earth to be united, and all his children to become friends, here is a Calumet of Peace that I present to you, so that you can smoke with all your children, and the Iroquois that we are uniting to our body, and that we also make our Brother,” he announced, holding out the large feathered stem attached to the red stone pipe bowl. “Make it strong that all the Miamis Nation can gather in one place, near the Saint Joseph River; therefore receive the Calumet.”

This was one of the few times that a Myaamia leader used a specific metaphor of sharing territory. “When we meet, we will look at each other as brothers, and we will eat the same piece together.” This language, albeit written only in French (and translated into English) alludes to the “dish with one spoon” metaphor. Nations in the Great Lakes, both Algonquian and Iroquoian, referred to eating from a single common dish, and using a spoon, to express sharing territory and not harming each other.[3]

He ended his speech saying to the gathered men and women, and the French governor: “Please smoke peacefully in my calumet, and remember me.” He died a week later of an unidentified communicative illness.[4]

A picture of a white wampum belt with a purple symbol.
“Dish with one spoon” wampum belt. Reproduction by Ken Maracle, Six Nations of the Grand River, 2016.
CMH, 2016.48.1 Musée canadien de l’histoire.

Who else was with Chichicatallo? He had an entourage, because Potherie writes that “the Miamis arrived” in canoes. Courtemanche, the French commandant of Fort St. Joseph (MI), was one attendee. The others are unnamed. However, in the years surrounding 1701, Miami leaders named Innokinsa, Chachagouesse, Michanchilia, Agocha, and Apictaganne* speak or are present in Montreal, according to French records.[5]

The Peace of Montreal made it safe for Myaamia families to move back east; violence with the Haudenosaunee ended. Throughout the period of the Beaver Wars, the Miamis and their confederates lived toward the West, on the Inohka Asiipiomi (the Illinois River), near Green Bay, at Šikaakonki (Chicago), and on the Saakiiweesiipiiwi (Coming Out River, also called the St. Joseph River in Michigan). At the same time that Chichicatallo signed his crane signature to the peace treaty, Antoine de la Mothe, Sieur de Cadillac was busy leading a team of builders constructing the first European settlement at Detroit. Many Miamis moved from the Saakiiweesiipiiwi to Detroit, joining with Wyandots and Ottawas there. Within a generation, most Miami families moved to the Wabash and Maumee River valleys, and profits from trade with both French and British merchants increased.

To examine the period after 1701, check out George’s earlier post “Again We Travel a Good Path, Part 1.” In future posts, we’ll look at the larger conflict dubbed the Beaver Wars, including some Myaamia oral history surrounding that violent period. Teaser: Miami-Seneca relations is much friendlier now than in the 1680s!


[1] The spelling of Chichicatallo is according to French records, not modern Myaamia orthography. We use an asterisk to note these instances.

[2] Gilles Havard, The Great Peace of Montreal of 1701: French-Native Diplomacy in the 17th Century (2001); J. A. Brandao and William A. Starna, “The Treaties of 1701: A Triumph of Iroquois Diplomacy,” Ethnohistory 23, no. 2 (spring 1996): 226 (“Twichtwichs”).

[3] Victor P. Lytwin, “A Dish with One Spoon: The Shared Hunting Grounds Agreement in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Valley Region,” Papers of the Twenty-Eighth Algonquian Conference (1997).

[4] Claude-Charles Le Roy, Marquis de Bacqueville de La Potherie, Histoire de l’Amerique Septentrionale (1722), volume 4. Translations from French are mine.

[5] I did not include Leblat (I suspect Le Rat) or Sastaressy, as I think these may be referencing the Wendat leader called Sastaretsi, also known as Le Rat, also known as Kondiaronk, who probably accompanied Miamis on their trips to Montreal in this period. See Constance Delbreil, “Ce mémoire intitule: Les relations diplomatiques franco-autochtones à Montréal, 1701-1713,” (M.A. Thesis, Université de Montréal, 2019), 117. These spellings reflect French spelling at the time, not modern Myaamia orthography.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Michael Stachnik says:

    Thank you very much for sharing this information. Your emails always have fascinating topics.

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