The two principal adversaries in the conflict, chief Tecumseh and American politician William Henry Harrison, had both been junior participants in the Battle of Fallen Timbers at the close of the Northwest Indian Wars in 1794. Tecumseh was not among the Native American signers of the Treaty of Greenville, which had ended the war, when the Shawnee and other Native Americans ceded much of their historic territory in present-day Ohio to the United States. However, many Indian leaders in the region accepted the Greenville terms, and for the next ten years pan-tribal resistance to American hegemony faded.
The Treaty of Fort Wayne, sometimes called the Ten O’clock Line Treaty or the Twelve Mile Line Treaty, is an 1809 treaty that obtained 3,000,000 acres (approximately 12,000 km²) of American Indian land for the white settlers of Illinois and Indiana. The tribes involved were the Delaware, Eel River, Miami tribe, and Potawatomi in the initial negotiations; later Kickapoo and the Wea, who were the primary inhabitants of the region being sold. The negotiations did not include the Shawnee who were minor inhabitants of the area purchased and had been asked to leave the area previously by Miami War Chief Little Turtle. Territorial Governor William Henry Harrison negotiated the treaty with the tribes. The treaty led to a war with the United States began by Shawnee leader Tecumseh and other dissenting tribesmen in what came to be called “Tecumseh’s War“.
Tecumseh was outraged by the Treaty of Fort Wayne, believing that American Indian land was owned in common by all tribes, an idea advocated in previous years by the Shawnee leader Blue Jacket and the Mohawk leader Joseph Brant. In response, Tecumseh began to expand on the teachings of his brother, known as The Prophet, who called for the tribes to return to their ancestral ways. He began to associate the teachings with the idea of a pan-tribal alliance. Tecumseh traveled widely, urging warriors to abandon the accommodationist chiefs and to join the resistance at Prophetstown.
The treaty also has two nicknames, the “Ten O’clock Line Treaty of 1809” and the “Twelve Mile Line Treaty”. The first nickname comes from tradition that says the Native Americans did not trust the surveyors’ equipment, so a spear was thrown down at ten o’clock and the shadow became the treaty line. There are other myths that say it was either a tree or a fence that was used. The Twelve Mile Line was a reference to the Greenville Treaty and the establishment of a new ‘line’ parallel to it but twelve miles further west.
In 1809 Harrison began to push for a treaty to open more land for settlement. The Miami, Wea, and Kickapoo were “vehemently” opposed to selling any more land around the Wabash River. In order to influence those groups to sell the land, Harrison decided, against the wishes of President James Madison, to first conclude a treaty with the tribes willing to sell and use them to help influence those who held out. In September 1809 he invited the Pottawatomie, Lenape, Eel Rivers, and the Miami to a meeting in Fort Wayne. In the negotiations Harrison promised large subsidies and payments to the tribes if they would cede the lands he was asking for.
Only the Miami opposed the treaty. They presented their copy of the Treaty of Greenville and read the section that guaranteed their possession of the lands around the Wabash River. They then explained the history of the region and how they had invited the Wea and other tribes to settle in their territory as friends. The Miami were concerned the Wea leaders were not present, although they were the primary inhabitants of the land being sold. The Miami also wanted any new land sales to be paid for by the acre, and not by the tract. Harrison agreed to make the treaty’s acceptance contingent on approval by the Wea and other tribes in the territory being purchased, but he refused to purchase land by the acre. He countered that it was better for the tribes to sell the land in tracts so as to prevent the Americans from only purchasing their best lands by the acre and leaving them only poor land to live on.
After two weeks of negotiating, the Pottawatomie leaders convinced the Miami to accept the treaty as reciprocity to the Pottawatomie who had earlier accepted treaties less advantageous to them at the request of the Miami. Finally the Treaty of Fort Wayne was signed on September 29, 1809, selling United States over 3,000,000 acres (approximately 12,000 km²), chiefly along the Wabash River north of Vincennes. During the winter months, Harrison was able to obtain the acceptance of the Wea by offering them a large subsidy and the help of Miami Chief Pacanne who helped to influence the Wea leaders. The Kickapoo were closely allied with the Shawnee at Prophetstown and Harrison feared they would be difficult to sway. He offered the Wea an increased subsidy if the Kickapoo would also accept the treaty, causing the Wea to pressure the Kickapoo leaders to accept. By the spring of 1810 Harrison had completed negotiations and the treaty was finalized.