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White Eyes (c.1730–November 1778), was a leader of the Lenape (Delaware) people in the Ohio Country during the era of the American Revolution. Sometimes known as George White Eyes, his given name was something like Koquethagechton, which was rendered in many spelling variations. White Eyes was a tireless mediator in turbulent times, negotiating the first Indian treaties with the fledgling United Statesmarker, always working towards his ultimate of goal of establishing a secure Indian territory. His death under mysterious circumstances during the American Revolutionary War may have been an act of murder covered up by United States officials.

Before the Revolution

Nothing is known about White Eyes's early life. He first enters the historical record near the end of the French and Indian War as a messenger during treaty negotiations. By 1766, he was apparently a tavern keeper and trader in a Delaware town on the Beaver Rivermarker, a tributary of the Ohio River in present-day western Pennsylvaniamarker. This occupation suggests he may have been well suited for interaction between Indians and whites, though he could not read or write, and probably did not speak English—at least not well.

After the French and Indian War, white colonists began settling near the Delaware villages around Fort Pitt in western Pennsylvaniamarker, and so the Delawares removed to the Muskingum River valley in present-day eastern Ohiomarker. By this time, many Delawares had converted to Christianity and were living in villages run by Moravian missionaries. The missionary towns also moved to the Muskingum, so that the Delaware people, both Christian and non-Christian, could stay together. Though not a Christian himself, White Eyes made certain that the Christian Delawares remained members of the Delaware nation.

White Eyes established his own town, White Eyes's Town, near the Delaware capital of Coshoctonmarker. In 1774, White Eyes was named principal chief of the nation by the Delaware Grand Council.

In the early 1770s, violence on the frontier between whites and Indians threatened to escalate into open warfare. White Eyes unsuccessfully attempted to prevent what would become Lord Dunmore's Warmarker in 1774, fought primarily between Shawnee Indians and Virginiamarker. White Eyes served as a peace emissary between the two armies, helping to arrange the treaty that ended the war.

Revolution and death

General Lachlan McIntosh
When the American Revolutionary War erupted soon after Dunmore's War had ended, White Eyes was in the midst of negotiating a royal grant with Lord Dunmore that was intended to secure the Delaware territory in the Ohio Country. Dunmore was forced out of Virginia by American revolutionaries, and so White Eyes had to begin anew with the Americans. In April 1776, he addressed the Continental Congress in Philadelphiamarker on behalf of the Delawares, and eventually negotiated an alliance with the United States in 1778 at Fort Pitt. This treaty called for the establishment of a Delaware Indian state, with representation in the American Congress, provided that the Congress approved. As it turned out, White Eyes would be dead before the matter proceeded further, and the possibility of a Delaware Indian state died with him.

An article of the treaty called for Delawares to serve as guides for the Americans when they moved through the Ohio Country to strike at their British and Indian enemies to the north (in and around Detroitmarker). Accordingly, in early November 1778, White Eyes joined an American expedition under General Lachlan McIntosh as a guide and negotiator. Soon after, the Americans reported to the shocked Delawares of Coshocton that White Eyes had contracted smallpox and died during the expedition. After the death of White Eyes, the Delaware alliance with the Americans eventually collapsed.

Years later, George Morgan, Congressional agent and close associate of White Eyes, revealed in a letter to Congress that White Eyes had been "treacherously put to death" by American militiamen, and his murder had been covered up in order to prevent the Delawares from immediately abandoning the United States. No other details of what happened have survived; historians generally accept Morgan's claim that White Eyes had been murdered, though the reasons remain obscure. White Eyes had placed himself in harm's way during Dunmore's War to prevent bloodshed; a similar effort during the Revolution may have cost him his life.

White Eyes was married; his wife was reportedly murdered by white men in 1788. White Eyes's son, George Morgan White Eyes (1770?–1798) was educated at the College of New Jersey (later Princeton Universitymarker) at the expense of the American government.[100156]

See also


  • Booth, Russell H. The Tuscarawas Valley in Indian Days: 1750-1797. Cambridge, Ohio, 1994.
  • Calloway, Colin G. "White Eyes" in American National Biography. Oxford University Press, 1999.
  • -----. The American Revolution in Indian Country. Cambridge University Press, 1995.
  • Dowd, Gregory Evans. A Spirited Resistance: The North American Indian Struggle for Unity, 1745-1815. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1992.
  • Weslager, C. A. The Delaware Indians. New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1972.
  • White, Richard. The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815. New York, 1991.

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