Power of Confluence: Natives & 3 Rivers
Planes, trains, and automobiles! We depend on them. Without them we wouldn’t get where we need to be or get the things we want. What a luxury! That, in short, expresses what the three rivers were to the Native Americans that set up posts along the rivers. No doubt, the Huron, the Shawnee and the Ottawa’s had decided to make a home here because of the confluence, and most notably, so did the Miami’s.
The Miami’s and other natives not only depended on the rivers for sustenance like fish, water, and game the rivers attracted, but to take them where they needed to go. The St. Marys, St. Joseph and Maumee rivers provided access to travel in 3 different locations! Being stationed at the confluence put the Miami’s in a strategic position to control routes to Lake Michigan, and the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. These rivers were not only important for top of the line transportation, but also for a diversion of arduous life (Anson). Living near the rivers ensured that the natives would have wetlands, woodlands, prairies, and river bottomlands to hunt, fish and plant corn with ease.
Kekionga (Miami town), now the Lakeside Park Neighborhood, was also the only portage point in a series of channels from the Greats Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. Talk about strategy! The Miami’s established themselves early on as “Lords of the Valley” (Anson). This position allowed the natives to use the confluence as a way of developing strong alliances with their neighbors, and soon it became the center of trading activity. Having control of the rivers meant the Miami’s were a very wealthy tribe! They continued to benefit from the headwaters until the 1790s when Chief Little Turtle signed a treaty with Anthony Wayne.
Today, the rivers are equally as important! Instead of just transportation, sustenance and mercantile significance these rivers offer us a living past, recreational opportunities, and the bright future of Riverfront Fort Wayne!
View of the Miami towns and the confluence (photo courtesy of ARCH, Inc.)
“The Miami Indians” by Bert Anson, 1970
“Coveted Portage Anchored Early Fort Wayne’ by Michael Hawfield, the News Sentinel, October 1993
Blog by Brittneay King. Brittneay is a Program Specialist at ARCH, Inc. She is also a Northeast Indiana Water Trails Committee Member, Event Designer and Social Media Manager.
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