Isadore Chene

By Katie Chinn 

Isadore Chene was born of a Wyandott woman from the Deer Clan and a French man.  He became the Wyandott Chief of the Deer Clan, but never became the Sachem, or Head Chief, for the entire tribe.  Although he was the “heir apparent” to the proceeding Sachem, who bore no children, he was not eligible to assume the position because he was not full-blooded Wyandott.  For this reason, the Sachemship passed from the Deer Clan to the Porcupine Clan, allowing Tarhee to become Chief.  Under Tarhee, who was guided by the Wyandot leader Leatherlips, the Wyandott Nation attempted to work with European settlers to avoid violence.  Leatherlips signed the Treaty of Greenville, in which tribes ceded much of Ohio to the United States.

Although he was not able to succeed to the Sachem position, Isadore was an important Wyandott Chief in the Canada-Michigan area in the time of Tecumseh and the War of 1812.  General Harrison of the United States appointed Isadore as the head of an embassy of Michigan Wyandotts sent to speak with Tecumseh, the Shawnee leader, about withdrawing from the British Service.  Tecumseh was creating a confederacy of Indians strongly opposed to many tribes’ policy of accommodating Europeans in order to avoid violence.  He despised the Wyandott Chief Tarhee and his confident Leatherlips for their appeasement of the United States.  To stop United States settlers’ encroachment into Indian land, Tecumseh and his supporters chose to aid the British against the United States.

Despite his involvement in General Harrison’s embassy, Isadore became a speech writer and adviser to Tecumseh.   Also among General Harrison’s embassy was Peter Gould, who eventually executed Leatherlips in 1810 according to Tecumseh’s wishes.  Isadore and two other Wyandott Chiefs, Walk-in-the-Water and Greyed-Eyed Man, authored Tecumseh’s well known and emotionally charged speeches.  Unlike the other two men, however, Isadore was eloquently fluent in Shawnee, as well as Wyandott.  With the help of Isadore and his speech-writing skills, Tecumseh gathered enough support to aid the British in capturing Fort Detroit.  Isadore was taken captive during the War, as were many other Michigan Wyandotts.  Despite his captivity and Tecumseh’s use of his literary skills, unless forced, Isadore took no active part in the War.

Although Tecumseh died in 1813, Isadore lived on in Canada.  On July 21, 1828, Isadore died in Amherstburg, Ontario.  He is now buried in the Cemetery of St. Jean Church in Amherstburg, Ontario.   Barbeau noted that his wooden bowl originated in  Amherstburg and was used in Wyandotte, Oklahoma.

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