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The Treaty of Fort Pitt

The Treaty With the Delawares
September 17, 1778

The Treaty of Fort Pitt  (AKA the Treaty With the Delawares, the Delaware Treaty, or the Fourth Treaty of Pittsburgh) was signed on September 17, 1778. It was the first written treaty between the new United States of America and any of the American Indians. Although other informal treaties were made with Native Americans during the American Revolution years, the Treaty With the Delawares was the only one that resulted in a formal document.
Click here to read the full text of the treaty.

Shortly after Brigadier General Lachlan McIntosh replaced General Hand as the commander of the Western Department at Fort Pitt, Chief White Eyes of the Lenape (Deleware) Indians contacted him and asked for a meeting between the Delawares and the Americans to work out a peace treaty. At the invitation of General McIntosh, three Delaware Chiefs visited Fort Pitt to work out the details of the treaty between the Delaware Nation and the United States. The three chiefs each represented one of the three Delaware clans: Chief White Eyes represented the Turkey Clan (Treaty was his idea), Chief Pipe (Hopocan) represented the Wolf Clan, and Chief John Kill Buck (Gelelemend) represented the Turtle Clan.

On September 17, 1778, those three Delaware chiefs signed the Treaty of Fort Pitt. (Treaty With the Delawares).  Andrew Lewis and Thomas Lewis signed on behalf of the Americans with Brigadier General Lachlan McIntosh, Colonel Daniel Brodhead, Colonel William Crawford, and several others signing as witnesses.

The treaty recognized the Lenape (Delaware) Indians as a sovereign nation. The Lenape promised to remain neutral during the conflict between the British and the Americans except that the Delawares would provide certain assistance to the Americans. The treaty also granted permission for the Americans to travel through Delaware lands and to build a fort in Delaware country "for the better security of the old men, women and children.”  In exchange, the Americans promised to protect the Delawares from harm and to provide them with “articles of clothing, utensils and implements of war.”

In addition to recognizing the Delaware Nation as a sovereign entity, the treaty allowed the Delawares to invite other Indian groups to become part of their nation and provided that the Delaware nation would have a representative in the Continental Congress subject to the approval of the Congress: “And it is further agreed on between the contracting parties should it for the future be found conducive for the mutual interest of both parties to invite any other tribes who have been friends to the interest of the United States, to join the present confederation, and to form a state whereof the Delaware nation shall be the head, and have a representation in Congress.” The Congress never approved that provision and never formally recognized the Delawares as a sovereign nation.

The Americans began violating the treaty less than a year after it was signed. In 1779, a delegation of Delawares attended a meeting of the Continental Congress to lodge a complaint. However, the Congress had never formally approved the treaty, so the complaint was to no avail.

Shortly after the Treaty of Fort Pitt was signed, Chief White Eyes joined General McIntosh as a guide on an expedition north along the Ohio River to the mouth of the Beaver River where McIntosh built a fort that he named after himself. After completing Fort McIntosh, the expedition continued into the Ohio Country where they built fort Laurens just south of the current town of Bolivar, Ohio. While on that expedition and in November of 1778, Chief White Eyes was murdered by some of the militiamen.
White Eyes was married to a white woman, named Rachel Doddridge, who had been taken captive by the Lenape at age 5 and adopted into the tribe. Rachel was murdered in 1788. They had one son who was raised by a white man named George Morgan after Rachel’s death.

Earl Nicodemus
January 16, 2018

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