Was “Aquenackwe” Little Turtle’s Father?

Was “Aquenackwe” Little Turtle’s father?  Probably not.  Like many Myaamia (Miami) children, I grew up with stories of family genealogy.  One common story that I heard was that my family descended from Little Turtle’s sister, Tahkamwa (Maria Louisa Richardville).  In family genealogies, Little Turtle and Tahkamwa’s father was always listed as “Aquenackwe” or “Aquenackqua” sometimes with the English “The Turtle.”  Later in life, as I began learn to speak our heritage language and started to investigate historical documents for myself, I learned how much confusion there was around this name and how small mistakes, made by amateur American historians, spread this confusion far and wide.

The confusion began in the late 1800s, as early midwestern historians misread an already poorly recorded version of the name Mihšihkinaahkwa.  Through a series of errors in hearing and writing, this common Myaamia name was replaced by “Aquenackwe” in the historical record.  This elder Mihšihkinaahkwa was born sometime in the early 1700s and died sometime in the mid to late 1700s.  The younger Mihšihkinaahkwa, who would become famous as the Myaamia war leader called “Little Turtle,” was born around 1750 and died in 1812.  These two men may have been father and son, but there is substantial doubt around that point as well.  The story of how the name of the elder Mihšihkinaahkwa became confused as “Aquenackwe” is an interesting one that shines a light on the difficulties that historians have had understanding Myaamia names and kinship.

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