Native American's & Early Statehood

Northeastern Ohio’s first humans were the Paleo-Indians, who as early as 12,500 years ago called the area home.  These people descended from the peoples who last crossed the Bering Straight during the final Ice Age.  Unfortunately, there is little known about the Paleo-Indian People.  Archaeologists discovered Clovis and Folsom spear point types that show these people hunted large Arctic mammals like caribou, mastodon, and mammoth.  A warming climate meant a retreating ice sheet, and with this the mammals and their Paleo-Indian hunters disappeared from Ohio.

The Archaic People followed the Paleo-Indians and they are distinct for burying their dead in gravel hills, which was more elaborate and ceremonial than previous burials.  The Archaic People were also hunter-gatherers and more sedentary than the Paleo-Indians.  The Adena, Hopewell, and Fort Ancient peoples followed the Archaic People, but they were situated in Central and Southern Ohio.  These people had elaborate religious and burial systems which culminated in intricate mysterious earthworks such as Serpent Mound in Adams County; these peoples also enjoyed extensive trade networks and created defensive measures for their villages.

The next group of ancient peoples to populate northeast Ohio was part of the Whittlesey Focus which lived after 1000 A.D., and they were previously thought to be precursors to Erie culture which was further to the East.  These people were sedentary farmers with defensive stockades to block entrance to villages, but they disappeared with the advent of Iroquois guns and European diseases in the seventeenth century.

Northeast Ohio Native Americans

The Mingos and the Delaware were the two tribes that lived in the Akron area after the arrival of European immigrants and the disappearance of the ancient peoples.  The area had been claimed by the powerful Iroquois confederacy as a hunting ground, which left northeast Ohio sparsely settled until Mingos moved into the area in the 1740s and the Delaware in the 1750s. 

The Mingos were an Iroquoian group which consisted of mostly of former Seneca as well as Cayuga, Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Tuscarawas, and a few non-Iroquoian Mohicans.  These people migrated from overcrowded up-state New York in search of better hunting and farming land and for better trading opportunities with the French and British.  The latter reason underlies the increasing importance of trade to Native American peoples, and it also shows how dependent these people had quickly become on European goods.  European impact and influence would later play an important role in Native wars for sovereignty over their ancestral land.

The Mingos lived along the Allegheny River and the banks of the Ohio River in northeast Ohio, but they were eventually pushed further west and south by white settlers into central Ohio by the 1770s.  Logan was the most famous Mingo leader, and retaliatory violence by white settlers and natives led to the murder of his family.  According to custom Logan was allowed appropriate revenge, and this increasing cycle of violence eventually led to Lord Dunmore's War.  In 1774 Capt. William Crawford attacked a chief Mingo village (around present day Columbus) at the end of Lord Dunmore's War. 

By 1800 the Mingos lived in the Sandusky River area in northwest Ohio with other tribes, principally Miami and Shawnee, in the hopes that large numbers would staunch white settlers.  The Mingos became sedentary farmers and established schools in their villages, but they were removed from Ohio with the 1830 Indian Removal Act.  They moved to reservations in Kansas and finally Oklahoma.

The Delaware were an Algonquin people originally from the New Jersey/ Delaware River valleys, and called themselves Lenni Lenape meaning “real people”.  They were old enemies of the Iroquois.  Defeat at the hands of the Iroquois, combined with European expansion, guns, and disease forced these people into Pennsylvania and Ohio in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  Delaware and other tribes often took white prisoners, and Cuyahoga Falls has a connection to one of these stories.  Mary Campbell Cave in Gorge Metro Park is named for Mary Campbell, a woman taken by Delaware in 1759 and then adopted by Chief Netawatwees, whose village was located near present day Cuyahoga Falls.  She was liberated in 1764 by Colonel Henry Bouquet following the French and Indian War.  Many Delaware also converted to Christianity through contact with Moravian missionaries and they established villages. The Delaware participated in the frontier wars of the 1790s, and were allies of the British during the War of 1812.  After this war the Christian Delaware voluntarily migrated to Canada while the decreasing remainder of the tribe moved to Kansas and eventually Oklahoma where they lived with the Cherokee tribe on a reservation.

The Native American Wars of the 1790s in the Northwest Territory

After the American Revolution the new United States claimed the former British territories west of the Appalachians and victory over the native allies of the British as well, even though no treaties of surrender were signed.  The influx of American settlers into Ohio with the passing of the Land Ordinance Act (1785) and the Northwest Ordinance (1787) sparked raids and violence by both sides, and the new American government worked to remove all Native Americans from the Ohio territory.  In 1790 President Washington called for an American expedition to remove the native tribes; the 1790 force led by Gen. Josiah Harmar was defeated by Miami chief Little Turtle as was the 1791 force led by Gen. Arthur St. Clair.  Washington named Gen. Anthony Wayne as newest leader, and he built a string of defensive forts in northwest Ohio.  In 1794 he defeated Little Turtle at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, and in 1795 the Treaty of Greenville pushed Ohio's tribes into a demarcated section of northwest Ohio. 

The Treaty of Greenville opened up Ohio for American settlement, and the Western Reserve east of the Cuyahoga River filled quickly.  The towns of Cleveland, Hudson, Poland, Warren, and Youngstown were founded, and increased settlement in the Western Reserve made Americans call for the full Western Reserve to be opened up for settlement.  This meant crossing the Cuyahoga River boundary of the Treaty of Greenville with the Treaty of Fort Industry (1805).

The Ohio Confederacy and the War of 1812

The new boundary for Ohio settlement angered the younger generation of native tribal leaders in Ohio.  The Shawnee brothers Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa, the Prophet, reinvigorated the Ohio Confederacy of tribes to withstand American settlement and the influence of western lifestyle practices. 

The Prophet led the religious aspects of the confederacy and called for a return to native ways of life, while Tecumseh was the military leader of the confederacy, and he traveled across the Midwest and Southeast to attract more tribes to his confederacy. 
In 1811 at the Battle of Tippecanoe, while Tecumseh was in the southeast talking to the Creek, Choctaw, and Cherokee villages, the Prophet decided to fight against William Henry Harrison and lost.  This defeat convinced Tecumseh that an independent Native alliance could not succeed, and he sought monetary and military aid from the British on the Great Lakes.  The Battle of Tippecanoe made William Henry Harrison an instant celebrity, and it pushed the western territories into military action.  In the ensuing War of 1812, Tecumseh died at the Battle of the Thames in October 1813.  This battle removed the “Indian menace” from Ohio and defeated the Ohio confederacy for good.




Edmunds, R. David, Frederick E. Hoxie and Neal Salisbury.  The People: A History of Native America.  Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 2007.

Knepper, George W.  Ohio and Its People.  Kent: Kent State University Press, 2003.