MINWEWEH (“the one with the silver tongue,” Menehwehna, Minavavana, Ninãkon), Ojibwa chief, also known as Le Grand Sauteux because of his six-foot height; b. c. 1710; d. 1770.
Nothing is known of Minweweh’s early life. By 1761 he had emerged as a war chief of the Ojibwas on Mackinac Island (Mich.). During the Seven Years’ War he had been a firm ally of the French, and after their defeat he refused to accept English domination. When Alexander Henry*, one of the first English traders to come to the region, arrived at Fort Michilimackinac in 1761, Minweweh and 60 warriors confronted him. Minweweh declared that “the French king is our father,” and that “although you have conquered the French, you have not yet conquered us. We are not your slaves. These lakes, these woods and mountains were left us by our ancestors. They are our inheritance; and we will part with them to none.” Although the Ojibwa chief permitted Henry to remain unmolested because the Englishman was a trader, he never changed his view of the English and actively resisted them for the rest of his life.
On 2 June 1763, encouraged by Pontiac’s siege of Detroit, Minweweh organized a surprise attack on Fort Michilimackinac under the guise of a lacrosse game. The 35 English soldiers of the garrison, including John Jamet, were killed or captured. Only one of the four English traders was killed, but all were plundered. In the days following the attack other unsuspecting traders arrived and were robbed. One of these victims was William Bruce, who developed a passionate hatred for Minweweh.
When the British army reoccupied Fort Michilimackinac in 1764, Minweweh did not resist but moved his band westward. In 1765 he travelled through the Illinois country and the region around Fort Saint-Joseph (probably Niles, Mich.), planning with the Potawatomis, Ottawas, and Miamis to renew the war that Pontiac had begun. Indians friendly to the English reported the scheme to their anxious allies. Despite attempts by Sir William Johnson*, the superintendent of northern Indians, to win his friendship, Minweweh remained hostile.
The Ojibwa band then migrated to the Wisconsin country, where they met several parties of the expedition that Major Robert Rogers* had dispatched in 1767 to search for the elusive northwest passage. Minweweh confronted Captain James Tute with an “insolent” speech at Prairie du Chien (Wis.) and greeted Captain Jonathan Carver in an unfriendly manner at Lake Pepin. He worked actively with French traders from Louisiana to lure the Indians southward to trade. In doing so he was competing with the English who were trading in the Wisconsin area. William Bruce, who had married a Fox woman and had been made a chief of the tribe, was put in serious financial trouble by this rivalry. An attack against the Foxes by an Ojibwa scalping party worsened matters. In the fall of 1770, Bruce led a war party that attacked Minweweh’s band of 15 to 20 warriors encamped near Michilimackinac. Minweweh died in his tent – the victim of a well-placed knife. Upon learning of his death Daniel Claus*, the deputy Indian superintendent, commented, “I think his being out of the way avails us as much as the Death of Pondiac or Akaasdarax [Gaustrax] as many Machinations among the Illinois Indns will thereby be quashed & the white people live undisturbed. . . .”
Clements Library, Thomas Gage papers, American series, Turnbull to Gage, 29 May 1771, 27 June 1771. Jonathan Carver, Travels through the interior parts of North America, in the years 1766, 1767, and 1768 (London, 1781; repr. Minneapolis, Minn., 1956), 95–99. Alexander Henry, Travels and adventures in Canada and the Indian territories, between the years 1760 and 1766 (New York, 1809); repr. as Attack at Michilimackinac, ed. D. A. Armour (Mackinac Island, Mich., 1971). Johnson papers (Sullivan et al.). NYCD (O’Callaghan and Fernow), VII, 785.