OUACHALA (Ouachalard, Ouashala, Ouashalas, Ouechala), chief of the Fox tribe and leader of the peace faction; fl. 1716–27.
In 1716 Rigaud de Vaudreuil dispatched lieutenant La Porte de Louvigny to the upper lakes to impose a peace on the Foxes. This tribe resented the French arming of their enemies, the Illinois and Chippewas, and blamed the French for the Ottawa massacre of a Fox village near Fort Pontchartrain (Detroit) in 1712. With over 400 Frenchmen Louvigny attacked the Fox villages and forced Ouachala, a Fox chief, to come to terms in the name of the tribe. The Foxes agreed to make peace with all the tribes allied to the French, and “by forcible or friendly means” to induce the Kickapoos and Mascoutens to do the same. The first condition of the French was that all prisoners be returned, which was done immediately; they required also that slaves be captured in “distant regions” to replace any casualties. The final term, an agreement “to hunt to pay the expenses of the military preparations made for this war,” suggests an attempt to draw the Foxes into the orbit of French trade. As a guarantee, Louvigny brought back six hostages.
Pemoussa and another of the hostages died of smallpox in Montreal, and word of the disease kept the other Fox chiefs from coming down to ratify the peace. In 1717 Louvigny returned to Michilimackinac to reassure them, and the hostage who accompanied him reproached Ouachala for failing to appear at Montreal. The chief admitted that he was at fault and agreed to come down the next year; and Ouenemek promised to use his influence with the Foxes to persuade them to carry out the French terms. It was only in 1719, however, after the return of 12 more Fox prisoners in 1718, that Ouachala was persuaded to come to Montreal to cement the peace.
The peace of 1716 proved fragile, in part, it seems, because the Illinois and Chippewa allies of the French attacked the Foxes. Ouachala complained that he was unable to control his young men; apparently they despised him “because he seemed too well-affected towards the French.” In 1722 he led an attack on the Illinois who had killed his nephew Minchilay, but in 1723, when he could not restrain his men from attacking Chippewa raiders at the St Joseph River, he accompanied them to ensure “that the French there would not be harmed.”
Vaudreuil was reluctant to get embroiled in an Indian war and claimed that “the Foxes are less to blame than the Illinois.” Le Moyne de Longueuil, his successor, wanted to end war between the Illinois and Foxes by alliance, and detach the latter from the Sioux. With these ends in mind, on 7 June 1726 Le Marchand de Lignery gathered the Fox, Sauk, and Winnebago chiefs at Baie des Puants (Green Bay) to reaffirm the peace. Ouachala suggested that a “French leader” [“chef françois”] be sent among them to act as a check on his men. Convinced of Ouachala’s good faith the French began planning for a gathering of representatives from the western tribes at Montreal to seal a formal pact. Within a year, however, the new governor, Charles de Beauharnois* de La Boische wrote, “we can no longer rely on the promises the Foxes made to M. de Lignery to live in peace, especially since the death of their chiefs, which has unleashed the war parties that they have sent out and still send out daily.” Because the fur trade of the Illinois was more important to the French in the west than that of the Foxes, plans were made to force the Foxes into submission. Since peace was not restored until after 1734 when the French subdued the Foxes and deported their war chief Kiala, it seems likely that Ouachala was one of the chiefs whose death was noted in 1727.
Ouachala was referred to by the French as “the great chief” or “the principal chief” of the Foxes. Apparently he was one of the civil chiefs, whose authority was superseded in time of conflict by that of the war chiefs. In such cases the civil chiefs often represented, as Ouachala did, a peace faction in the tribe, at variance with the more warlike elements. In exploiting this division of influence the French were following a policy which marked European dealings with Indians up to the end of the nineteenth century.