Chief Jean Baptiste de Richardville
As the nephew of great tribal chief Chief Little Turtle, Jean Baptiste de Richardville was born into leadership of the Miami Nation of Native American Indians. After he succeeded Little Turtle as tribal chief, Richardville oversaw Miami affairs that included lands from Kekionga (Fort Wayne) to the Forks of the Wabash. With his son-in-law Francis LaFontaine, Richardville negotiated the treaty that would eventually move the Miami Nation across the Mississippi River.
Richardville’s mother was Tah-kum-wah, sister of Little Turtle. A half-white, half-Miami with blue eyes, Richardville was initially viewed with suspicion, but eventually earned the respect of the Miami tribesmen with his bravery and dedication to the tribe. According to legend, Richardville rescued a white prisoner from burning at the stake. That led to his election as tribal chief following Little Turtle’s death in 1812.
Richardville, known as Peshewa (meaning “wildcat”), gained title to the land at the Forks of the Wabash through the Treaty of St. Mary’s in 1818. But it wasn’t until 1831 that Richardville moved the Miami tribal headquarters from Kekionga (Fort Wayne) to the Forks.
He built a trading post at the Forks, and secured the land to keep it free from other traders, except those the Miami trusted. He built a treaty house, the “Richardville House” in 1827 in Fort Wayne, the oldest Native American house in the state, which was designated a national Historic Landmark in 2012. By the time of his death on August 13, 1841 he was considered the wealthiest man in Indiana.
The Historic Forks of the Wabash was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985 as the Chief Richardville House and Miami Treaty Grounds.