How Did Little Turtle Die?


Little Turtle, a well known Indian leader, died on July 14, 1812 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He is believed to have died from gout and rheumatism.

Little Turtle's Death

It may surprise you to learn that gout and rheumatism are the reasons Little Turtle died. Those who know of Little Turtle may have thought he died during revolts he led against American settlers. However, this is not the case.

Who Was Little Turtle?

Little Turtle was a formidable leader of the Miami Indians who were living in the Northwestern part of Fort Wayne, Indiana. His Indian name was Michikinikwa. Before the year 1790, very little is known about his life. However, it is known that he was born in this location in the year 1752. During his lifetime, he was known for leading successful revolts against American settlers who were flocking to the area.

What Did Little Turtle Do?

After the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783 between England and the United States, England had given up all claims to the Ohio Country. Settlers began to cross the Appalachian Mountains and flock to the area to set up new establishments. These new establishments encroached on the Indians who already lived there. One of these Indian tribes that felt threatened by this encroachment were the Miami Indians.

  • Little Turtle led revolts against the American settlers as he convinced his people that the encroachment on their land was threatening their way of life.
  • Although the settlers tried to convert and reform the people of the land to their ways of life, Little Turtle refused the assimilation.
  • The first revolt occurred in 1790 when General Josiah Harmar led 1400 people to a part of the location that had been claimed by both the Miami Indians and the Shawnee Indians.
  • The revolt occurred in October of that same year and included people from both the Miami tribe and the Shawnee tribe, including a future well-known chief of the Shawnee Tecumseh. The battle became known as the Harmar’s Defeat and because the combined efforts of these two tribes were successful in eliminating the settlers from the area.
  • One year later, in 1791, the General Arthur St. Clair gathered together two thousand American soldiers and again tried to move in to settle and claim the area. Once again, Little Turtle led a revolt against the American troops and was successful. This became known as St. Clair’s Defeat. The defeat of these troops became one of the worst defeats in the history of America concerning Native Americans up until that point in time.
  • In 1794, fighting for the land was still going strong. Americans were trying to set up supply forts for more fighting against the Indians to oust them from their land. The supply areas were set up to receive supply trains, which the Indians led by Little Turtle often attacked.
  • In that same year, Little Turtle also led an unsuccessful campaign in an attempt to take over Fort Recovery. This loss hurt the Indians and Little Turtle finally decided that it would be best to befriend the settlers and adopt their ways. He encouraged his people to do the same.
  • In 1795, the Treaty of Greeneville was signed and this officially ended the hostilities between the Americans and the Indians.
  • After that point, Little Turtle refused to take up arms against the United States and he also refused to become part of Tecumseh’s Indian confederation. He also encouraged his people to give up alcohol.

After ending the hostilities against America, Little Turtle visited many cities in the east and met the future first President of the United States George Washington in the year 1797.

Fifteen years later, the well-known Indian leader died in 1812 in Fort Wayne, Indiana on July 14th.