The Burning of Pickwaawilenioki
The Raid on Pickwaawilenioki is a key event in Ohio history, and one of the events that led up to the French and Indian War. Pickwaawilenioki is located near present day Piqua, Ohio. Pinkwaawilenionki (the place of the Ash People) is the name that the Miami use to refer to this village in their language today. There is not a record of how the people who lived in this historic village referred to their community in their language. However, at the end of the 1800s, Myaamia people called the villagers from Pickawillany “Pinkwaawilenia” and “Pinkwi Mihtohseenia.” Both of those terms can be translated to mean “Ash Person” in English.
In August of 1747, Coldfoot, a leader from the Myaamia village of Kiihkayonki (Ft. Wayne, Indiana), began the long trek to Montreal. This trip came at the request of the Meehtikoošia (the French), but Coldfoot’s community had its own reasons for supporting his journey. French trade supplies had become more and more scarce and expensive because of wars with the British. The Myaamia were upset over the resulting trade policies. From the Myaamia perspective, the fur trade was the symbolic and literal means through which the Meehtikoošia, their “father”, provided for the needs of the alliance. As the quantity of trade goods declined and the price of metal goods, firearms, lead, and gunpowder rose, Myaamia people perceived the Meehtikoošia as acting in a stingy uncaring manner.
Unfortunately, Coldfoot never had the opportunity to deliver his message. He only made it as far as the French fort at Detroit before violence erupted throughout the Great Lakes. In his home village of Kiihkayonki, some of his own community joined in this region-wide effort to punish the Meehtikoošia for their failures.
Sometime after Coldfoot departed Kiihkayonki, a group of Myaamia men attacked the French trading post called Fort St. Phillipe, which was located adjacent to the village. They captured eight Frenchmen, seized all of the trade goods contained within, and burned down a part of the structure.
Most of the Myaamia men who attacked the fort came from a village that in most historical works is associated with its well-known akima, or civil leader, Meemeehšihkia (La Demoiselle). After their attack on the French Fort, most of this community moved to Pinkwaawilenionki. Pinkwaawilenionki was an ancient village site and many groups had been drawn to the area in part because of its geography. Myaamia may have used it as a hunting camp, but there had been no village there since before the Beaver Wars.
The first families of this village had a difficult winter. They had to survive on what they carried with them on the trail, what they could hunt in the surrounding lands, and whatever supplies visiting traders from Pennsylvania could bring to the village. The families were far from Meehtikoošia, though.
After that first hard winter, Pinkwaawilenionki became a gateway village for groups who wanted to build relationships with eastern peoples like the Seneca, Shawnee, Delaware, British Pennsylvanians, and British Virginians. By building alliances with eastern communities, the Pinkwaawilenionki villagers could distance themselves from the Meehtikoošia who had grown neglectful and even abusive. They could also enter into these new alliances as “brothers,” who were interdependent and responsible for each other. The villagers could also stay connected to their Myaamia relatives along the Waapaahšiki Siipiiwi (Wabash River) or their Meehtikoošia father. Portages and trails made it easy for people and goods to move from Pinkwaawilenionki to the Wabash River Valley.
In a few years, the rivers and trails brought hundreds of people from a variety of communities to Pinkwaawilenionki. Some wanted to live in the new village and some wanted to visit and trade. British Pennsylvanians came to the village to trade and built a blockhouse, which made their trade easier and more permanent. British Virginians came to the village to build a diplomatic relationship with Myaamia people and to survey the Ohio Valley, land that they believed belonged to the colony of Virginia. By 1751, the population of Pinkwaawilenionki skyrocketed to around 2,000.
The growth stretched resources of the village. The hunting grounds quickly became depleted, and hunters had to journey farther to get meat and hides. Villagers had to clear more and more land for farming.
In the summer of 1752, most of the villagers had temporarily moved away to access hunting grounds. This meant there were very few people to defend the village when, 250 Ottawa and Ojibwe attacked. They took the village by surprise and the villagers who remained were caught in the cornfields that surrounded the village. The Ottawa and Ojibwa warriors attacked the British blockhouse where some of the villagers were hiding. After a short standoff the villagers surrendered. The Ottawa and Ojibwe killed a few of the wounded and ritually executed the village’s civil leader Meemeehšihkia.
The Ottawa and Ojibwe attacked Pinkwaawilenionki because to them it represented a threat to the family alliance headed by the Meehtikoošia (the French). As the Myaamia at Pinkwaawilenionki began to look away from the French and towards a newer family in the east, their Ottawa and Ojibwe elder brothers became concerned. The Ottawa had tried to use diplomatic means to bring the Myaamia back to Kiihkayonki. But those negotiations ended with anger and insults. So the Ottawa with the support of the Ojibwe and the French attacked in order to violently close the doorway to the east that the Pinkwaawilenionki villagers had so skillfully opened.
After the attack, the villagers of Pinkwaawilenionki tried to rebuild. But they needed the assistance of their new brothers in the east, especially the Seneca and the Pennsylvanian British. However, none of the eastern groups would agree to send armed men to support Pinkwaawilenionki. As a result, the majority of the Pinkwaawilenionki villagers returned to Kiihkayonki and the Waapaahšiki Siipiiwi.
The Myaamia still used Pinkwaawilenionki as a camp for hunting and war parties until the 1790s. In the 1800s, the Miami-Erie canal was dug along the Ahsenisiipi (Great Miami River) past the village site. Myaamia people were taken by the old village site during their forced removal from their homelands. Despite these events, Myaamia connections to Pinkwaawilenionki continue. At least once every couple of years, groups of Myaamia make a trip to the Johnston Farm and Indian Agency and visit the site where the ashes from the fires of Pinkwaawilenionki still sit beneath the surface.