"spell of warm, dry, hazy weather after the first frost" (happening anywhere from mid-September to nearly December, according to location), 1774, North American English (also used in eastern Canada), perhaps so called because it was first noted in regions then still inhabited by Indians, in the upper Mississippi valley west of the Appalachians, or because the Indians first described it to the Europeans. No evidence connects it with the color of fall leaves, or to a season of renewed Indian attacks on settlements due to renewed warm weather (a widespread explanation dating at least to the 1820s).
It is the American version of British All-Hallows summer, French été de la Saint-Martin (feast day Nov. 11), etc. Also colloquial was St. Luke's summer (or little summer), period of warm weather occurring about St. Luke's day (Oct. 18). An older and simpler name for it was autumn-spring (1630s).