Beaver Wars of America

As rivalries between the French, Dutch, and English traders increased, the native peoples began to struggle among themselves for an economic advantage. The competition among the Europeans led to conflicts among their native trade partners that became known as the Beaver Wars. In the 1640s, the long struggle between the Huron and the Iroquois illustrated not only the seriousness of these wars for animal pelts preferably beaver but also the increasing ferocity of such contests. The Dutch merchants in the Hudson River Valley, attempting to enter the lucrative fur trade, turned to the Iroquois League as a trading partner, as the French had already done with the Huron. In the beginning, these trade partnerships were on equal ground trading furs for similar goods accessible to both the French and Dutch. Since the beaver was hunted to extinction in most of Europe, the demand for North American beaver pelts was high. In their attempt to satisfy this demand, the Huron and Iroquois both hunted beaver at a pace previously unknown to them. At first, the Native Americans sought trading within their own cultural boundaries. They perceived all things, material as well as living, as possessed with some spiritual power an animistic concept of the world. Therefore, the allure of the shiny objects that both the French and Dutch offered for beaver pelts was irresistible. By the 1630s, the high demand for pelts resulted in the killing of nearly all the beavers on the lands of the Huron and Iroquois. This caused these native peoples to look elsewhere for furs. The Huron began by clearing new fields to increase their corn harvest, resulting in a surplus that they could trade for furs with tribes north of the Great Lakes, an area where the beaver were still abundant. The Iroquois responded quite differently: They began to raid Huron trading parties and attack Huron villages. The Iroquois were victorious, because the Dutch readily supplied them with guns, and the French were reluctant to supply guns to their own trading partners, the Huron. The end of the first phase of the Beaver Wars came as the Huron were destroyed; thousands were killed or captured, while some fled westward. This cycle of warfare for pelts did not end with the demise of the Huron. The victorious Iroquois, in an attempt to maintain control over the fur supply, began to challenge other native nations in areas where beavers were still found. A brief renewal of the Beaver Wars occurred in the 1680s as the French began to look for new trading partners to replace the Huron. Once again, this pitted the French against the more powerful Iroquois nation. Penny M. Sonnenburg See also: Dutch; French; Furs; Hudson River; Huron; Iroquois Confederacy; Native American-European Conflict. Bibliography Axtell, James. The Invasion Within: The Contest of Cultures in Colonial North America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985. White, Richard. The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650 1815. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991. Beaver Wars *** alltravel8The Good Path: Part I Aacimotaatiiyankwi alltravel8Presentation “The Onondaga, Modoc, Navajo, & Iroquois. The … alltravel8

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