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On the Back of a Turtle: A Narrative of the Huron-Wyandot People

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On the Back of a Turtle is an all-inclusive history of the Huron-Wyandot people—from before the creation of the Great Island, now called North America, to the present day. No other full-length history of the Huron-Wyandot people exists. Presented in a conversational, easy-to-read style, the book is a compelling and informative telling of the story of the Huron-Wyandot people as told by a tribal historian.

As characters and tribes emerge in the Huron-Wyandot’s oral tradition of creation, and take their respective places upon the Great Island, the author reveals the most difficult element of the Huron-Wyandot’s history: how the tribal name was obtained. With the knowledge of how both Huron and Wyandot are relevant names for one tribe of people, the author then shares his tribe’s amazing history. The reader will be fascinated to learn how one of the smallest tribes, birthed amid the Iroquois Wars, rose to become one of the most respected and influential tribes of North America.

ISBN-13: 9780814255148

Media Type: Paperback(1)

Publisher: Ohio State University Press

Publication Date: 02-02-2020

Pages: 424

Product Dimensions: 7.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.70(d)

Lloyd E. Divine Jr. (dárahǫk) is a citizen of the Wyandotte Nation who has served on his tribe’s cultural committee for more than twenty-five years.

Read an Excerpt

“The Discharging of a Debt We Owe”

Wyandottes love their turtles. Just about everywhere you look in Wyandotte, Oklahoma, you will see turtles; big turtles, little turtles, ceramic turtles, metal turtles, beaded turtles, turtles on signs, turtles on coffee mugs, turtles on pens, turtles on T-shirts, turtles on all kinds of jewelry, turtle tattoos, and of course the Turtle Stop. The mascot for the Wyandotte Nation Casino is a turtle. The mascot looks a lot like the 1960s Hanna-Barbera cartoon classic Touché Turtle, minus the cute little musketeer hat. While holding a handful of cash and wearing a strand of beads, the little guy comes close to convincing you are going to win some cash.

Drive a mile west to the Twin Bridges that span the Spring and Neosho rivers and you will find even more turtles, the real kind: box turtles, red-ear turtles, soft-back turtles, and snapping turtles. If you’re lucky, you may even get a glimpse of a special treat, an alligator snapping turtle. The alligator snapping turtle looks like a common snapping turtle, or the moss-back turtle in the Huron-Wyandots’ oral narratives, that the Bad Twin blew way out of proportion. These turtles are embedded with spikes reminiscent of the dinosaurs and nothing less than slow, lumbering monsters. Watch out! These boys and girls are big and really bad turtles that in spite of their size can bite in the blink of an eye! If you get bitten by one, just sit down and get comfortable. Think again! As if that’s going to happen! This turtle will not let go until lightning strikes—that would be a thunderbolt from Henǫ, the Spirit of Thunder.

Growing up in Wyandotte, Oklahoma, my siblings and I had turtles as pets, the little red-eared turtles you could buy at Walmart. Then someone realized they carried salmonella, and their days as pets were numbered. Still, at some point during the summer months my girls would invariably find a turtle in the back yard, and the next thing we knew it was in the living room—a box turtle in a box. The turtle quickly became the newest family pet for two or three days, and then I had the girls turn it loose. Turtles, turtles, turtles. They were everywhere.

When I chose On the Back of a Turtle in 1989 as the title of this book, the name derived from the fact that Earth resides on the back of the Big Turtle—the moss-back turtle. In time, as I researched and studied, I came to understand that the turtle, and the title of this book, have a much deeper meaning. From the perspective of Creation Earth resides on the back of a turtle, as do the Huron-Wyandot people, reflecting an ancient position of status for the Big Turtle clan. There is little dispute of this fact even if you are a Little Turtle, Deer, Wolf, Snake, Porcupine, or Bear. All Huron-Wyandot clans reside on the back of the Big Turtle. William E. Connelley made a statement that still holds true to this very day: “The turtle idea was interwoven with the whole social and political fabric of Wyandot institutions.” Turtles rule! However, without the Little Turtle, Deer, Wolf, Snake, Porcupine, or Bear clans, the Big Turtle would not and could not be complete.

Table of Contents


List of Illustrations


Chapter 1 “They Became Known as Wyandots”

The Great Island

The Tribe with No Name

Children of the Bad Twin

Chapter 2 “They Act Like Foxes”

“People Are Dispersing in Every Direction”

Be on Your Guard against the Hurons

The Rat

Allotted for the Wiandóts

Nicholas: Full of Savage Cunning

“This Continent Is Not Wide Enough for Us Both”

Chapter 3 “Wyandots Will Not Be Taken Alive”

“These Horrible Hell-Hounds of Savage War”

The Death of Miss Jane McCrea, 1777

Siege of Fort Henry, 1777

Battle of Little Mountain, 1782

Gnadenhutten Massacre, 1782

Battle of Sandusky, 1782

The Struggle of Big Foot and Adam Poe, 1782

Big Bottom Massacre, 1791

Massacre at Beaver Hat Town, ca. 1792

Battle of Fallen Timbers, 1794

Battle of River Raisin, 1813

Chapter 4 “Farewell Ohio and Her Brave”

“I Cannot Agree to Quit Painting My Face”

“Very Similar to That of the Cherokees”

“Like Sheep among Wolves”

Chapter 5 “Strangers in a Strange Land”

The Decisions We Make

Conquer or Be Conquered

The Richest and Most Valuable Territory

Land Bribes and Floats to Nowhere

Citizen versus Indian

Chapter 6 “Preserving the Future of Our Past”

Indian Reunion and Barbecue

Potatoes, Hay, and Ham

Indian School, Quapaw Agency

Sacred Ground

We Want Our Land Back

The Gathering of Traditions




Illustration Credits

About the Author