Dr. Dwight Ericsson, PhD., will appear at the April 3rd meeting of the Huntington County Genealogy Society, to be held at 7 pm in the Indiana Room at Huntington City-Township Public Library. Dr. Ericsson will be speaking about Jean Baptiste Richardville, the last great Akima, or civil chief of the Myaamia, or Miami people.
Dr. Ericsson is retired from the Merillat Center for the Arts at Huntington University, and is the co-author, along with his wife, Ann Ericsson, of the book, The Forks of the Wabash : an historical survey; published in 1994 by the Historic Forks of the Wabash, Inc.
This event is free and open to everyone - you do not need to be a member of the Huntington County Genealogy Society to attend. Are you interested in local history and genealogy? New members are always welcome to the Huntington County Genealogy Society. Attend a meeting or call the Indiana Room for more information about the Genealogy Society @ Your Library!
Jean Baptiste Richardville, born in 1761, was the son of a French fur trader father – Antoine Joseph Drouet de Richardville - and a Myaamia mother — Tacamwa, sister of both the Miami war chief Little Turtle, and the village chief Pacanne. Richardville, whose Myaamia name was Peshewa or Pinšiwa, meaning “wildcat”, was culturally Miami, and lived in a multicultural trading village on the Maumee River in what is now Fort Wayne. Richardville and his mother Tacamwa were among the earliest entrepreneurs native to the Allen County area. Together they built a trading empire based on control of the “long portage” between the St. Mary’s and Wabash rivers, which completed a pathway for trade that extended from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.
He was also a skilled negotiator who won important concessions from the U.S. Government in treaty negotiations, many of which were held at the Forks of the Wabash Treaty Grounds in Huntington. He signed the Treaty of Greenville in 1795 and several other treaties in which parts of southern Indiana were ceded in return for annuities. Richardville, as well as the Miami people in general, did not support Tecumseh.
By 1818, the Miami people depended on annuities for survival and signed the treaty of 1818, ceding most of central Indiana to the United States. At this time, Richardville was the main leader of the Miami, having replaced Pacanne, who died in 1815. He was a wealthy and successful trader and businessman, who used his wealth to help needy Myaamia and his business contacts and skills as a negotiator to try to prevent the federal government from removing the Miami people from Indiana.
In 1840, as the principal chief he signed the treaty in which the Miami people ceded all their land in Indiana, but he obtained personal title to almost 5,000 acres of land, where in later years, landless Myaamia settled. His efforts helped a large number of the Miami people retain a home in Indiana.
He was said to have been the richest Native American in North America when he died in 1841, with an estate valued at about $1 million at the time (about $23 million today). At the time of his death, Richardville was the most wealthy man in the state of Indiana.