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Fort George National Historic Site of Canada



After suffering great losses during the American Revolution the Aboriginals in and around Upper Canada went through a period of attempted renewal.

The depletion of their population, land base and fractures within their confederacies (both due to European and Colonial alliances and conflicts amongst those groups) led spiritual and political leaders like Handsome Lake, Joseph Brant and Tecumseh to try to return to traditional spiritual values or reunite their people for defensive alliances. These groups represented 2 different outlooks, the Grand River or Six Nations Indians who sought (under the direction of Joseph Brant) to create a British-style settlement and assimilate, and the Western Tribes (associated with Tecumseh and his brother the Prophet (Tenskwatawa) who sought to create an independent Native state around the western Great Lakes to prevent American colonial expansion into their territories. A united aboriginal population may have been able to create a political power strong enough to stop the ravaging tide of European colonisation. Unfortunately, these attempts at unification failed, and with the renewal of hostilities in 1812 the last hope was destroyed.

Especially devastating to the Western Tribes was the exchange of land that occurred with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. For twenty years the western Tribes had fought for possession of their territories, which were given to the United States by the Treaty of Paris. Since title to the land had been given, the States negotiated, fought for and settled most of that territory, forming the new states Kentucky (1792), Tennessee (1796) and Ohio (1803). Napoleon needed to raise money for his war and the United States were sympathetic to the French and wanted the territory. The United States purchased 2.1 million square kilometres of land for roughly 15 million dollars. For the Western Tribes who lived in the area the purchase led to war against the Americans who were trying to lay claim and expand settlement into those areas.

American and British boundaries prior to the War of 1812
American and British boundaries prior to the War of 1812
© Parks Canada / Gavin Watt

By 1820, all of the land east of the Mississippi and south of the Great Lakes, was settled and divided into States.