Treaty of Greenville: An Uneasy Peace to the Northwest Indian War

Signing The Treaty Of Greene Ville, by Howard Chandler Christy
1795: Signing The Treaty Of Greene Ville, by Howard Chandler Christy. The painting depicts the signing of a peace treaty with several Indian tribes at Fort Greenville, Ohio, which ceded much of the Northwest Territories to the US.

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The Treaty of Greenville was a peace treaty between the United States and Native Indians of the U.S. Northwest Territory, signed on August 3, 1795, at Fort Greenville, now Greenville, Ohio. On paper, the treaty ended the Northwest Indian War and further expanded American territory westward. Though it established a brief uneasy peace, the Treaty of Greenville intensified Native American resentment for white settlers, leading to more conflict in the future. 

Key Takeaways: Treaty of Greenville

  • The Treaty of Greenville ended the Northwest Indian War facilitating the further westward expansion of the United States.
  • The treaty was signed on August 3, 1795, at Fort Greenville, now Greenville, Ohio.
  • The treaty resulted in the division of disputed lands in modern-day Ohio and parts of Indiana, as well as payments of “annuities” to Native Indians.
  • Though it ended the Northwest Indian War, the treaty failed to prevent further conflict between Native Indians and settlers.

Northwest Indian War

The Treaty of Greenville was signed one year after the U.S. Army defeated Native Americans in the August 1794 Battle of Fallen Timbers, the final battle of the Northwest Indian War of 1785 to 1795. 

Fought between the United States and a coalition of Native American tribes, aided by Great Britain, the Northwest Indian War was a decade-long series of battles for control of the Northwest Territory—today the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and a portion of Minnesota. The war was the culmination of centuries of conflict over the territory, first between the Indian tribes themselves, and later between the tribes as they aligned with colonists from France and Great Britain.

The United States had been granted “control” of the Northwest Territory and its many Indian tribes under the 1783 Treaty of Paris, which ended the American Revolutionary War. Despite the treaty, the British continued to occupy forts in the territory from which their troops supported the Natives. In response, President George Washington sent the U.S. Army to end the conflicts between the Natives and settlers and to enforce U.S. sovereignty over the territory. 

Made up at the time by untrained recruits and militiamen, the U.S. Army suffered a series of defeats highlighted by St. Claire’s Defeat in 1791. Some 1,000 soldiers and militiamen were killed, with total U.S. casualties far exceeding Native losses. After St. Claire’s Defeat, Washington ordered Revolutionary War hero General “Mad Anthony” Wayne to lead a properly trained force into the Northwest Territory. Wayne led his men to a decisive victory at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794. The victory forced Native tribes to negotiate and agree to the Treaty of Greenville in 1795.

Terms of the Treaty of Greenville 

The Treaty of Greenville was signed at Fort Greenville on August 3, 1795. The American delegation was led by Fallen Timbers hero General Wayne, along with frontiersmen William Wells, William Henry Harrison, William Clark, Meriwether Lewis, and Caleb Swan. Native Americans who signed the treaty included leaders of the Wyandot, Delaware, Shawnee, Ottawa, Miami, Eel River, Wea, Chippewa, Potawatomi, Kickapoo, Piankashaw, and Kaskaskia nations. 

The stated purpose of the treaty was, “To put an end to a destructive war, to settle all controversies, and to restore harmony and friendly intercourse between the said United States and Indian tribes…” 

Division of Lands and Rights

Under the treaty, the defeated Native tribes gave up all claims to present-day Ohio and parts of Indiana. In return, the Americans gave up all claims to lands north and west of the disputed territory, provided the Native tribes allowed the Americans to establish trading posts in their territory. In addition, the tribes were allowed to hunt game on the lands they had relinquished. 

Also in 1795, the U.S. had negotiated the Jay Treaty with Great Britain, under which the British abandoned their forts in the U.S. Northwest Territory while opening some of their colonial territories in the Caribbean for American trade. 

U.S. Annuity Payments

The U.S. also agreed to pay the Native Americans an “annuity” in return for their relinquished lands. The U.S. government gave the Native tribes an initial payment of $20,000 worth of goods in the form of cloth, blankets, farm tools, and domestic animals. In addition, the U.S. agreed to pay the tribes an ongoing $9,500 a year in similar goods and federal grants. The payments enabled the U.S. government to have a degree of influence in tribal affairs and control over Native American life. 

Tribal Dissention 

The treaty resulted in friction between the “peace chiefs” led by Little Turtle of the Miami tribe, who had argued for cooperation with the United States, and Shawnee chief Tecumseh, who accused the peace chiefs of giving away land they did not control. 

Aftermath and Historical Significance

By 1800, five years after the Treaty of Greenville, the Northwest Territory had been divided into Ohio Territory and Indiana Territory. In February 1803, the State of Ohio was admitted as the 17th state of the Union. 

Even after their surrender at Fallen Timbers, many Native Indians refused to honor the Treaty of Greenville. As white settlers continued to move on to land reserved for the tribes by the agreement, violence between the two peoples also continued. In the early 1800s, tribal leaders like Tecumseh and the Prophet carried on the American Indian’s struggle to regain their lost land. 

Despite Tecumseh’s masterful fight against superior American forces during the War of 1812, his death in 1813 and the subsequent dissolution of his tribal confederacy effectively ended organized Native American resistance to the U.S. settlement of the Northwest Territory.

Sources and Further Reference