1795 Treaty of Greenville: Definition & Summary

Instructor: Erica Cummings

Erica teaches college Humanities, Literature, and Writing classes and has a Master's degree in Humanities.

The 1795 Treaty of Greenville was one among the many controversial agreements between Americans and Native American tribes. It expanded American territory westward, but it also fomented Native American resentment.

The Treaty of Greenville: A Treaty for Peace?

Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan owe their statehood partly to the 1795 Treaty of Greenville, in which Native Americans ceded land in what is now those states to American settlement. After the American Revolution ended in 1783, the American population was growing, and they were looking to expand westward, often into lands where Native Americans resided. This led to several skirmishes between the two groups in the 1780s and '90s. The conflict subsided a bit with the Treaty of Greenville. But even though the treaty established temporary peace, it also set the stage for more conflict in the future.

Painting from 1795 of the Treaty of Greenville
Painting from 1795 of the Treaty of Greenville

Native American Relations

To understand the importance of the 1795 Treaty of Greenville, we have to look at a couple events that led to the treaty. As American settlers moved into the Northwest Territory (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and some of Minnesota), they encountered Native American tribes. Ensuing conflicts between the settlers and the Native Americans came to be known as the Northwest Territory Indian War of the 1780s and '90s. The Americans thought it was their right to move into the Northwest Territory that they had won from the British after the Revolutionary War, while the Native Americans (backed by the British, who were still trying to disrupt American endeavors) resented the settlers moving into their hunting grounds.

Depiction of Battle of Fallen Timbers in Northwest Territory Indian War
Depiction of Battle of Fallen Timbers in Northwest Territory Indian War

In the 1790s, General Anthony Wayne (1745-1796), who had gained fame for his military prowess during the Revolutionary War, trained a legion of American troops specifically designed to confront Native American warriors in the Northwest Territory Indian War. On August 20, 1794, Wayne led his troops against an alliance of Native American fighters at the Battle of Fallen Timbers near Toledo, Ohio, which was the final major conflict in the Northwest Territory Indian War. The Native Americans surrendered the battle, and they agreed to meet the following year for peace negotiations.

Portrait of Anthony Wayne
Portrait of Anthony Wayne

What Did the Treaty Say?

A year after the Battle of Fallen Timbers, Native American leaders and Anthony Wayne met at Fort Greenville in Ohio to negotiate an end to the Northwest Territory Indian War. On August 3, 1795, both sides signed the Treaty of Greenville.

By signing the treaty, the Native Americans agreed to formally cede most of Ohio and parts of the rest of the Northwest Territory to the Americans; the Native Americans also agreed to let the Americans peacefully settle in those lands without fear of attack. In exchange, the Americans would pay the Native Americans one lump sum and an additional sum every year in payment for the land. The Americans also agreed that they would not officially settle beyond the borders established by the treaty, and they would continue to allow the Native Americans to hunt the lands they had ceded. In addition, prisoners were released from both sides.

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