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Chief Cornstalk

Shawnee Indian chief
Born: c. 1720
Birthplace: western Pennsylvania?

Little is known of Chief Cornstalk, whose Indian name was Wynepuechsika, before the 1750s, when he fought with the French against the British during the French and Indian War. In 1763 he led an expedition of warriors against white settlements along Muddy Creek in Greenbrier County in what is now West Virginia. Over the next decade, he continued to lead the resistance to white encroachment into the Ohio River Valley.

In the early 1770s, Chief Cornstalk became the leader of a confederacy of Indian tribes living in Ohio, including the Shawnee, Wyandots, Delawares, and Mingos. On Oct. 10, 1774, he led a large war party against troops from Virginia. The battle took place at Point Pleasant, near the juncture of the Ohio and Kanawha rivers in present-day West Virginia. Both sides suffered heavy losses, and Chief Cornstalk later signed a peace treaty with Virginia governor Lord Dunmore.

During the American Revolution the British tried to build a coalition of Indians to fight against the colonists. Chief Cornstalk alone refused to join, although many members of his tribe opposed him. Chief Cornstalk, however, had come to believe that his people's survival depended on their friendly relations with the Virginians. In the spring of 1777, he visited the garrison at Point Pleasant with a small contingent of Indians, and he informed the colonials of the coalition that was forming. While the Virginians waited for reinforcements, the Indians were held as hostages. Following the killing of a white man outside the fort by other Indians, Chief Cornstalk and his men (including his son, Elinipsico) were murdered by the soldiers.

Chief Cornstalk was admired, even by his enemies, as a fine orator and courageous warrior.

Died: 1777

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