Potawatomi Leader Onaxa and the Removal of Native Peoples from Elkhart County

A commemorative rock in River Preserve County Park marks the legacy of the Potawatomi leader, Onaxa. Also known as Wonyanoshonya or Five Medals, Onaxa was a leader of the Potawatomi of the St. Joseph River. He was involved in major treaty negotiations, including the 1795 Treaty of Greenville, as Native territory was invaded by Americans moving west. The Treaty of Greenville concluded the Northwest Indian War after the Western Confederacy of Native American tribes' defeat at the Battle of Fallen Timbers. The treaty forced the Native tribes, including the Potawatomi, to cede their lands in areas of Ohio and Illinois Country.

After the treaty was finalized, Wonyanoshonya, along with other Native leaders, accepted the invitation to travel to Philadelphia to meet President George Washington. Five years later in 1801, Wonyanoshonya was part of a delegation led by Topinabee (He Who Sits Quietly) and Mishikenikwe (Little Turtle) to meet with President Thomas Jefferson. After these meetings, Wonyanoshonya advocated to the people of his village for a shift to the American practices of agriculture as a way to save their land. He made agreements with a group of Quakers in Pennsylvania for equipment and to train his people, but the agreement never materialized, and the people of Five Medals’ village never adopted American farming methods.

During the War of 1812, with Natives allying themselves with the British, American troops came into the region to engage Native people and their villages. Under the command of the American Colonel Samuel Wells, soldiers marched from Fort Wayne and came across Five Medals' village on September 16, 1812. Finding the village abandoned, the troops burned the village and the surrounding 70 acres. The village was rebuilt in 1813, and Americans, looking to send a message, deployed 600 soldiers to the area. Spies tracked Native trails to the rebuilt village, and it was burned a second time. After its second destruction, the village was not rebuilt, leaving no concentrated populations of Native people left in what would become Elkhart County in the 1830s.



67380 Co. Rd. 29, New Paris, IN 46553