Orontony

(fl.1739-1750)




Orontony, (Orontondi, Rondoenie, Wanduny, Nicolas), a Huron chief, reportedly a member of a sept of the Turtle clan; fl.1739-1750.

          Driven by the Iroquois from their original homes in the Ontario peninsula in the mid-17th century, parts of the Huron and Tionontati tribes (commonly known afterwards as Wyandots) resettled in the vicinity of Detroit.  Dissension between them and the nearby Ottawas led in 1739 to a request by Orontony and two other Huron chiefs that their people be settled nearer the centre of New France.  The following year Orontony went in person to press their wish on Governor Charles de Beauharnois.  The Hurons feared for their lives at Detroit, and when the French authorities failed to act promptly, some of the tribe left Detroit and established themselves at the village of Etionnontout (Ayonontout, Junundat) near Sandoské (Sandusky) Bay, where they came under the influence of British traders and of a mixed Indian population, partly Iroquois, settled on the Cuyahoga River (near present Cleveland, Ohio).

          To strengthen these relations, three "Janondides," headed by Orontony, appeared at Albany, New York, on 30 July 1743 with a wampum treaty belt given to the Hurons 40 years earlier, at the time when Michipichy was attempting to bring English traders into the Detroit region.  The Hurons' new request for trading privileges was readily granted.

          Traders, especially those from Pennsylvania, were moving into the region south of Lake Erie.  French countermoves had limited success, since the price of their trade goods remained high.  Orontony and some other chiefs also complained that the French "wou'd always get their [the Indians'] Young Men to go to War against their Enemies and wou'd use them as their own People, that is like Slaves..." The outbreak of King George's War in 1744 led to acts of open hostility.  In the spring of 1747 five French traders returning to Detroit were killed near Cuyahoga.  Orontony's people were implicated, and the commander at Detroit, Paul-Joseph Le Moyne de Longueuil, weighing the significance of the episode, saw the whole French position in the region imperilled.

          George Croghan, the chief British trader at Cuyahoga, called upon Pennsylvania in May 1747 to support the Indians' further endeavours.  In November ten Iroquois warriors from the Ohio, undoubtedly encouraged by Croghan and alert to personal advantage, appeared at Philadelphia professing their eagerness to strike the French.  The province voted a present of £150 for the Ohio Indians and one of £50 for those of Cuyahoga.  The Iroquois had not in fact declared war on the French, but Detroit was uneasy.  The Ottawas Of Mikinak's band and the Potawatomis and Ojibwas in the neighbourhood of the fort were in sympathy with Orontony, and normal Indian trade and diplomatic relations with the French were disrupted.  Orontony continued to be visited by English traders in his fortified village at Sandoské, and about August 1747 he persuaded the Miamis to destroy a French trading post in the Miami country.  He appeared at Detroit professing to seek peace, but while he was there a party of Indians killed three Frenchmen near the fort and then took refuge on nearby Bois Blanc Island.

          Late in September 1747 a convoy of French reinforcements reached Detroit and on 7 April 1748 Longueuil learned that Orontony had burned his fort and town and had set off for the Ohio valley with 119 warriors.  The Hurons' retreat had the support of the Indians in the Ohio country, and about 70 of the warriors and their families settled at Conchaké (Coshocton, Ohio).  The remainder went farther east to build a new town at Kuskusky (near New Castle, Pennsylvania).

          Conrad Weiser, Pennsylvania's Indian agent, arrived at Logstown (Chiningué, now Ambridge, Pennsylvania) near the end of August 1748 with a present of some £700 worth of goods.  Conspicuous in the impressive aggregation of Indians who met Weiser were Orontony and four other Hurons from Kuskusky, who "behav'd like People of good Sense & Sincerity; the most of them were grey headed..."  They displayed again the treaty belt that Orontony had carried to Albany five years earlier; and a Six Nations spokesman, on behalf of the other Indians and of Pennsylvania, received them to the council fire as allies.

          Unknown to these treaty makers, Anglo-French hostilities had ceased; and by October 1750 Orontony was dead, probably the victim of an epidemic that decimated his band.  Trade rivalry continued unabated, however.  An English trader who visited Conchaké in December 1750 described it as consisting of a hundred families of Hurons, and he found English flags flying at "the King's House" and at Croghan's store.

          Writing on 10 August 1751 the governor of New France, La Jonquière [Taffanel] reported the arrest of John Pattin and some other English traders south of Lake Erie, whom he accused of trying to revive the projects of Orontony.  The defiant Indians and associated English traders suffered a second blow when on 21 June 1752 a group of Miamis who had made peace with the English and had settled at Pickawillany (Piqua, Ohio) were routed and their chief killed by Charles-Michel Mouet de Langlade and a party of pro-French Indians.

          At some time before 1755 Orontony's people abandoned their villages in the Ohio valley and apparently returned to Etionnontout.  In August 1755 a Huron delegation visited Philadelphia in response to an invitation.  Its embassy coincided inopportunely with Jean-Daniel Dumas's defeat of Major-General Edward Braddock, of which the Indians learned on their way.  They found the Pennsylvania governor hospitable but militarily powerless.  Taking leave at the end of their visit, the Hurons thanked the officials for their kind treatment, assured them of their friendship, and added somewhat drily that "We live on this side Lake Erie, at a place called Deonandady.  If you should get the better of the French and come into our parts you will find us your Friends and we will join you."

—  William A. Hunter, Chief, Division of history
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission,
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.





Source: Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online
Orontony (the original article)
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