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Who had the power to choose where they worked?

In the 1720s the Meskwaki (named the Fox Indians by Europeans) began a long series of skirmishes and raids against the French, their Native allies, and other competing Tribes in order to gain control over hunting grounds.

French Colonizers

The French arrived and claimed ownership of Native land in the early 1700s. They formed alliances with Native people who helped them hunt and trap furs.


The Meskwaki

The Meskwaki were hunters and fur traders. They viewed the French and their allies as competitors. The Meskwaki wanted to eliminate these competitors.

Who had the power?

In the summer of 1730, the Meskwaki — having suffered several major defeats — attempted to flee to the east to join the Iroquois. On their way through Illinois, they found themselves blocked by enemy Potawatomi, Kickapoo, Mascouten, and Illini people.

The Meskwaki decided to build a defensive fort near present day Arrowsmith. They believed they had ample supplies of food and gunpowder, and that other Native Tribes would not want to engage in a long siege. But they were wrong.

On August 17 the French military and their Native allies laid siege to the Meskwaki warriors and their families, cutting off their water and food supplies.

Under constant fire the Meskwaki held off their attackers for 23 days. But their supplies were running out.

They tried to slip away under the darkness of night. But the cries of their children alerted the French, who overtook and killed all but about 50 Meskwaki, who escaped.

Located throughout Michigan, southern Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana, the Meskwaki were fierce warriors who showed no mercy to their enemies.

Fur traders

The furs were transported to southern ports, then shipped to Europe to be used on clothing, like the hat and fur trimmed coat worn by the man in this portrait by Nicolas Bernard Lépicié, circa 1755.

French map indicating the locations of the French and their allies as they surrounded and laid siege to the Meskwaki at their temporary fort near what later became the village of Arrowsmith.

Evidence of Trade

Items recovered from the Arrowsmith battlefield site are evidence of trade between Native and European people, as well as of the 1730 siege.

Land Ownership Booklet

Browse this booklet that shows how land ownership changed in McLean County as a result of conflict. Use the left and right arrows (or the arrow keys on your keyboard) to flip through the pages.

Trade Axe, circa 1730

Gun Flint, circa 1700s


Musket Balls, circa 1730


Gun Trigger, circa 1750


Knife Blade, circa 1750


Madison Points, circa 800 - 1800

Donated by: Glenn Dodds

Gun Barrel Fragment, circa 1730

Donated by: John H. Burnham

Reflection Questions

Why did some Native groups ally themselves with the French?

Who controlled who hunted the land?

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