Little Turtle, whose Miami Indian name was Michikinikwa, began his illustrious life in 1752 in a village close to Fort Wayne, Indiana. His mother was a Mahican and his father a Miami Chief.
Little Turtle was destined to become the greatest of all the Miami Chiefs. For many years, Little Turtle fought bitterly against the encroachment of Indian lands. Yet with the increasingly high loss of life among the Native Americans, Little Turtle changed his position with the American settlers. As he aged, he began preaching peace with the settlers rather than face complete extinction. Little Turtle became a rational voice in a troubling time.
It was 1790, General Harmar suffered defeat at the hands of the 38 year old Little Turtle, as did General St. Clair the following year thanks in large part to Little Turtle's future son-in-law, William Wells.
Wells was a white settler that had been captured by a band of Miami when he was about 12 years old. Like many young children that were captured by Native Americans, he was raised as a member of the clan and would slowly be indoctrinated into their ways and their thinking. Ultimately, he would learn their language and be accepted as a member of the clan.
Eventually Wells married a Miami woman and had a child, but they were captured and presumably killed by British forces. This further enraged his hatred towards the British and Americans. To enact revenge on those responsible for his wife and child's death, Wells led a small band of select Miami warriors and captured St. Clair's artillery positions before they could inflict heavy casualties they might otherwise have caused. This raid caught the attention of Little Turtle and his daughter, Wanagapeth, whom he would marry and have 4 children.
In 1794 Little Turtle tried to seize Fort Recovery after being encouraged by the British, but his men failed in the attempt. Following this defeat, Little Turtle realized that the British had no desire to help the Indians against General Anthony Wayne's army. It was at this point in Little Turtle's life that he, along with several other Native American leaders including the Wyandotte Chiefs Leatherlips and Tarhe. Together they encouraged their clans to negotiate with the Americans and accept the offer that had been presented. Although many Native Americans did not, or could grasp the concept of the Americans, these leaders understood that the Americans far outnumbered the Indians and with their great supply of weapons and materials, would soon make it impossible for them to compete. Other Native Americans refused to listen, and insisted that they continue the fight against Wayne's army.
But it was Little Turtle along with a number of other leaders that placed their mark on the Treaty of Greene Ville, and never went to war again. Although Tecumseh tried desperately to gain his support for a new war against the Americans, it was Little Turtle that became a great advocate for peace. During the remaining years of his life he would make many trips to the eastern cities. On one of those trips, he met President George Washington in Philadelphia. He was given a government stipend on which to retire, and the Governor of the Indiana territory built him a house on the Maumee River, where, in 1812, he died from gout. A year later Tecumseh would be killed in the War of 1812.