The Wea were a Miami-Illinois-speaking tribe originally located in western Indiana, closely related to the Miami. The name Wea is used today as the a shortened version of their numerous recorded names. The Wea name for themselves (autonym) in their own language is waayaahtanwa, derived from waayaahtanonki, 'place of the whirlpool', their name where they were first recorded being seen and is where they were living at that time. The different spellings of their name is numerous, as they were made by different settlers from different language and educational backgrounds. One French version is Ouiatenon; another Ouiateno; there were Wea villages, whose sites are now known as Lafayette and Terre Haute, Indiana, respectively. In 2004 the Indiana Historical Bureau installed a marker commemorating the Wea Village in Terre Haute and its living descendants. The Wea spoke a dialect of Miami, the same language as the Miami Tribe, both from the Algonquian languages.
When the Wea had increased considerably in numbers at their village of Ouiatenon, near present-day Lafayette, Indiana, Piankeshaw offered to move and take part of the people with him further downriver to start a new village, which he established near the mouth of the Vermilion River. He had tribal markings of holes or slits in his ears, and he was called Piankeshaw ("the Torn-Ears People"). The Piankeshaw were the Deer Clan of the Wea.
During the 19th century the Miami, Wea, Eel River and Piankashaw all occupied areas of Indiana. These tribes all signed treaties separately with the United States government and were considered to be distinct polities.
The Wea also had villages in present-day Wisconsin, Illinois, and Ohio. Their main homeland in the 18th century was in Indiana, as well as a few villages in Illinois and Ohio. The three largest villages of the Wea were Fort Ouiatenon, west of what is now Lafayette; a location now occupied by Terre Haute, and Chipicokia, at present-day Vincennes (founded by French Canadian colonists.), Indiana.
Lesser settlements included five villages on the South side of the Wabash across from Fort Ouiatenon, occupied by the Wea, Piankeshaw, Pepicokia, and Gros clans. Toward the west near present-day Granville were villages of the Kickapoo people.
With increased Euro-American settlement and Indian removals, the United States made many treaties with these tribes. A Treaty in 1854 was made that confederated the Wea who went west, the Kaskaskia, Peoria, and Piankeshaw as the Confederated Peoria Tribe of Kansas, then Indian Territory. After moving West, later they were known as the Peoria Tribe of Oklahoma.
Many of the Wea Tribe did not go west in the removals and remained in Indiana. They were referred to in treaties as the Wea on the Wabash, or the Wabash Wea. In historical records, they have been called the Wabash Confederacy or the Wabash Indians.
Descendants of the Wea reside today in Indiana, the United States and abroad.
Former village sites
Listed are just a few villages that were located in Indiana and Illinois.
- Chicago Chicago, Illinois
- Kenapacomaqua Logansport, Indiana
- Ft. Ouiatenon Lafayette, Indiana, where a marker notes the site
- Kethtippecahnunk Lafayette
- Sugar Creek Village/Reserve Sugar Creek, Indiana
- Weauteno / Jacco's Towne Terre Haute, Indiana (a marker is placed at Fairbanks Park)
- Upper Wea Village/Town 2 miles above Terre Haute
- Old Wea Town Between Terre Haute and Vincennes
- Wea Reserve Parke County, Indiana (a marker notes the site)
- Wea Village Danville, Illinois
Below are some of the many Treaties were made between the US and the Wea.
was not at the original treaty but signed later
- Vincennes, Indiana Territory, Aug 13, 1803
- Grouseland Indiana Territory, Aug 21, 1805
- Vincennes Indiana Territory, Dec 30, 1805
- Fort Wayne Indiana Territory, Sept 30, 1809
- Vincennes Indiana Territory, Oct 26, 1809
- Fort Harrison, Indiana Territory, June 4, 1816
- Vincennes Indiana Territory, Jan 3, 1818
- St Mary’s Ohio Oct 2, 1818
- Vincennes Indiana Aug 11, 1820
- St Joseph Michigan Sept 21,1826
- St Joseph Michigan Sept 24, 1828
- Caster Hill Missouri, Oct 29, 1832
- Washington DC May 30, 1854
- Washington DC Feb 23, 1867 (1)
The following referred to Wea who chose to stay in Indiana: Treaty of St. Marys 1820 in Article 3: “As it is contemplated by the said Tribe, to remove from the Wabash, it is agreed, that the annuity secured to the Weas, by the Treaty of Saint Mary's, above mentioned, shall hereafter be paid to them at Kaskaskia in the state of Illinois. “
Treaty of Castor Hill 1832 in Article 4: “The United States will also afford some assistance to that part of the Wea tribe now residing in the State of Indiana”,
Many of the descendants of these Wea still live in the state.
- Costa, David J. 2000. "Miami-Illinois Tribe Names", In John Nichols, ed., Papers of the Thirty-first Algonquian Conference 30-53. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba.