For the first day of my A to Z Challenge, I resisted choosing the arena for the War of 1812 – America. But first what caused the conflict? Unsettled issues between the British and the United States after the War of Independence were a factor, as was the Royal Navy attempting to press gang American sailors. However, the US also thought that American settlers in the territory that would become Canada would support their invasion across the border. Canada then consisted of the maritime colonies and parts of southern Quebec and Ontario. But let’s start with the First Nations, who were the other major players on both sides.
A is for the Anishinaabe (Ojibwe, Odawa, Potowatomi), who were among two dozen tribal nations that were involved in the conflict.
When war was declared, there were 8,410 warriors of the Western Confederacy, who included Ojibwe, Odawa, Potowatomi, Huron, Shawnee, Mississaugas, Nipissings and Algonkians. The Anishinaabe made up 7,410 of this number, an overwhelming majority. Although the Shawnee war chief Tecumseh is most associated with the war, it was the Anishinaabe that formed the majority.
The tribes met for military and political purposes and maintained relations with fellow Anishinaabeg nations (Mississauga, Algonquin, and Nipissing) from Michilimackinac, an island between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, It’s always been revered, although opinion is divided whether it is because the island is the turtle of creation or the place of origin of the spirits now called Bgoji-anishnaabensag.
Major General Brock, aware that there were not enough regular forces available to defend Upper Canada, suggested that capturing Michilimackinac and Detroit, from the US, would allay the suspicions of the natives who no longer trusted the British after the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1796. The chiefs constantly recalled when the Americans overpowered the Western Confederacy and the British abandoned the retreating Anishinaabeg to massacre, by locking the gates to Fort Miami.
When Brock’s forces fought alongside the Anishinaabe to secure Fort Michilimackinac, many more of the western nations joined the British.
Throughout the war, the Anishinaabe were repeatedly told that their interests would not be forgotten when peace was made. So much so that at the conclusion of the War of 1812, the Odawa suggested that the British negotiators offer the Americans a greater quantity of Anishinaabe land on the mainland in order to keep Michilimackinac in their possession.
The possibility was there, but in the end the British meekly vacated Michilimackinac to the United States. It is totally conceivable that at least a portion of upper Michigan or Wisconsin could have been set aside as an “Indian country” as the British had promised. The mechanisms were in place but not the honour. This is why the Anishinaabeg say that “we did not lose the war but we lost the peace”.
Further reading on the Anishinaabe and the War of 1812:
The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behaviour.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, we blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 3 is “C,” and so on. Please visit other challenge writers.
My theme is ‘The War of 1812’, a military conflict, lasting for two-and-a-half years, fought by the United States of America against the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, its North American colonies, and its American Indian allies. The Memoirs of a British naval officer from the war is central to my novel “Seeking A Knife” – part of the Snowdon Shadows series.
Further reading on The War of 1812: