KIALA (Quiala), Fox chief hostile to the French; fl. 1733–34.
Little is known about Kiala. The French colonial manuscripts make only a few references to him in the years 1733 and 1734. On the basis of this fragmentary evidence, however, Louise P. Kellogg, author of The French régime in Wisconsin and the Northwest, concluded that he was a chieftain of great courage and influence, and the principal architect of the policy his tribe followed towards the French from the early 1720s until 1734. She first presented this view in a paper read to the Wisconsin Historical Society in 1907 and it was subsequently accepted by other historians who dealt with the Fox Indians during the French régime.
Following La Porte de Louvigny’s expedition against the Foxes in 1716, these Indians had become divided into two factions. A pro-French party under Ouachala sought to maintain good relations with New France; but it was opposed by a war party which gradually gained the upper hand. Kellogg conjectured that the latter was led by Kiala and that his goal, like that of Pontiac* and Tecumseh* at a later date, was to build up a great confederacy of tribes that would rise against the white man’s domination of Indian territory. It would have included tribes as far apart as the Abenakis in Acadia, the Sioux at the headwaters of the Mississippi, and the Chickasaws on the frontiers of Louisiana. Had this design been successful, Kellogg states, the French might have been driven from the St Lawrence, the Great Lakes, and the Mississippi.
This theory is difficult to accept. It is true that during the 1720s the Foxes carried on negotiations with the Iroquois, the Chickasaws, and the Abenakis [see Nescambiouit] in order to confirm old alliances and form new ones, but this does not prove the existence of an anti-French conspiracy. The Foxes may simply have been attempting to recruit reinforcements to help them in their war against some of the western tribes. Kellogg’s theory is weakened most of all by the silence of the governments of Canada and Louisiana on the subject of an anti-French plot. The officials of these two colonies, who were usually well informed of Indian activities, had a different understanding of the situation. They claimed that the Foxes were waging war in order to foil French attempts to penetrate the lands west of Lake Superior, which were inhabited by the Sioux. The Foxes feared that the sizable trade they carried on with these Indians would be greatly reduced by the competition of European traders.
Governor Rigaud de Vaudreuil, whose 35 years of service in Canada had taught him to fear the consequences of Indian wars, had followed a conciliatory policy towards the Foxes; but his successor, Charles de Beauharnois* de La Boische, decided to reduce them by military means. His decision was motivated by reports of English intrigue in the west, by renewed acts of violence committed by the Foxes and, perhaps, by the hope of beginning his tenure of office with a spectacular victory over the Indian enemies of New France.
In 1728, the Foxes managed to elude the first army sent against them under the command of Le Marchand de Lignery, but they gained only a temporary respite. French diplomacy was at work across the west and the Foxes soon found themselves isolated, ringed by hostile tribes. In 1730, somewhere south of Lake Michigan, they suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of a contingent of 1,400 western Indians, commanded by Nicolas-Antoine Coulon de Villiers. In the winter of 1731–32, they were again defeated with heavy losses by an army of Iroquois and Hurons from the Canadian missions. All that was left of them after this battle was a miserable group of approximately 40 warriors and 10 boys who came to the French post at Baie des Puants (Green Bay), begging for peace and their lives. Unable to grant this request on his own authority, the commander, Coulon de Villiers, set out for Montreal with four of the principal Foxes. Two were former chiefs and one of these was Kiala.
They found Beauharnois in a merciless mood. The governor had been exasperated by these Indians, who had blocked the colony’s westward expansion and obliged it to wage a costly war, and he laid down terms that amounted to total extermination. The remnants of the tribe were to be transported to Canada and scattered among the missions, and all were to be killed if they made any resistance [see Coulon de Villiers]. Kiala, whom the French regarded as the instigator of all the Fox misdeeds, was to be deported to Martinique. His wife, who had followed him to Montreal, was given to the Hurons of Lorette, who adopted her into their tribe.
In September 1734, Kiala was placed aboard the Saint-François bound for Martinique. “We must warn you that this man has had a reputation for dauntlessness among his people, who are our enemies, and that he should be closely watched,” Beauharnois and Hocquart* wrote to the authorities of that colony. As far as is known, the Fox chieftain died on this tropical island, perhaps as a slave on one of the plantations. His wife, more fortunate, managed to escape from the Hurons and presumably found her way back to her native land.
AN, Col., B, 61; C11A, 47, 50, 57, 61; C13A, 8. Wis. State Hist. Soc. Coll., XVI, XVII. “Calendar of manuscripts in the archives of the Chicago Historical Society,” PAC Report, 1905, I, lxix. Alvord, Illinois country. F.-É. Audet, Les premiers établissement français au pays des Illinois; la guerre des Renards (Paris, 1938). L. P. Kellogg, French régime; “The Fox Indians during the French régime,” Wis. State Hist. Soc. Proc., 1907 (1908), 142–88.