Chief Five Medals
On August 3, 1795, at Fort Greenville, Ohio Country, the Treaty of Greenville was signed. In signing, Native Americans agreed to formally cede most of Ohio and parts of the rest of the Northwest Territory to the Americans; the Native Americans also agreed to let the Americans peacefully settle in those lands without fear of attack. Present were famous leaders Mad Anthony Wayne, Little Turtle, William Henry Harrison, Blue Jacket, William Wells, White Pigeon, William Clark, Topinabee, Merriwether Lewis, Winamac, and a well-re-guarded chief of the St. Joseph River Band of Potawatomi named Wonongaseah (as his name was ascribed on the treaty next to his mark.) “Wonongaseah” roughly translated reverence to the medals he wore. Wonongaseah became known more simply as “Five Medals.”
Five Medals lived on the Elkhart River, northwest of present day Ligonier. His tribal roots lie in an area now known as Elkhart, Lagrange, and Noble Counties in northern Indiana. Five Medals traveled with Little Turtle to Philadelphia in 1796. There, he met with President Washington. In 1801, he traveled to Washington DC where he met with, and delivered an oration to, President Thomas Jefferson. Five Medals was also present and delivered an oration at the famous Mississineway Conference of September 1809.
In the late 1790s, Five Medals’ village was served by successive agents William Wells and John Johnston. There were at least two significant villages to the northwest of Fort Wayne. The main route north from Fort Wayne passed across the grounds on which Stone’s Trace, just south of Ligonier, stands today. That route was trailed by both Native Americans and Europeans.
The events put into motion by the Battle of Tippecanoe on November 7, 1811 swallowed Five Medals’ entire home region. He was caught in the storm, ultimately placing him at the Siege of Fort Wayne in September 1812. General William H. Harrison’s troops relieved the siege and immediately dispatched columns to conduct punitive raids. On September 14, 1812, Five Medals’ village was raided and burned to the ground.
On June 10, 1813, future U.S. President Harrison (soon-to-be the proclaimed hero of the Battle of the Thames) led a return raid against Five Medals’ relocated village. Five Medals and other Native American leaders attended the Greenville council in July 1814, which sought to end the hostilities, though other chiefs stayed away. A treaty of peace was finally signed on September 8, 1815, ceding 1,550 acres of Potawatomi land in western Indiana (Wabash River west) and in eastern Illinois.
Today, Stone’s Trace sits at a crossroads of history in this region. It is humbling to think that important leaders, including Five Medals, who earned lasting fame passed this way. Five Medals at the Trace is dedicated to those leaders as well as people who, today, strive to re-enact events through living history programming so we can learn and remember the past.
Five Medals at the Trace will be held October 22-23 at Stone’s Trace, located at 5111 Lincoln Highway South, in Ligonier. During the festival, Chief Five Medals reenactor, Dr. Dan Lima, will delight visitors with stories and the early history of Five Medals’ people and time.
We hope to see you there! Visitors are encouraged to wear comfortable walking shoes, because the reenactment will cover several acres, some accessible by trails. The reenactment will occur rain or shine.
Learn more on the Stone’s Trace website.