Native Americans

At approximately the same time as Bacon’s Rebellion, King Philip (Massasoit’s son, Metacom) was inspiring Native Americans to fight English encroachment, both physical and cultural, in southern New England. By 1675, the Puritans numbered 60,000 and had taken an increased interest in converting the native peoples to Christianity. Young Wamapanoag men in particular had grown increasingly uncomfortable with the English. The years between 1637 and 1675 witnessed a lengthy period of peace between the English and the Wamapanoag. In 1675, however, Metacom’s forces attacked the English settlements at Plymouth. Soon, other native communities saw the chance to inflict pain on the English, and the conflict exploded into a regional war.

Native Americans dominated the early stages of the war, destroying a number of towns on the Massachusetts frontier. In 1676, food shortages, as well as an alliance between New York and the Mohawks, convinced most Native Americans to give up the fight. Metacom himself was killed in the summer of that year. This was basically the last gasp for the native peoples of southern New England. Many sought refuge among the Iroquois. Still others went to live in praying towns early reservations set up for the purpose of Christianizing natives.

The Southeast, which had largely escaped conflict in the late seventeenth century, became a bloody battleground in the early eighteenth century. Native Americans found themselves wedged in between three European rivals. The crumbling Spanish Empire maintained a presence in the form of missions in central Florida and the Gulf Coast. The French controlled Louisiana, and the English at Charles Town had established a wide-ranging trade in deerskins, firearms, native slaves, and cloth.

In the early decades of the eighteenth century, several major wars broke out. The Tuscarora War (1711 1715) erupted when the Tuscarora, upset by the expansion of North Carolina, struck settlements along the Neuse River, killing 130 Swiss, German, and English colonists. Although North Carolina’s colonial forces were unable to respond, South Carolina sent an army of 500 Native Americans and a handful of whites and African Americans to stop the Tuscarora. This attack succeeded in capturing slaves and plundering several Tuscarora towns. Later, in 1712, a larger force of Cherokees fighting with South Carolina defeated the Tuscarora. The defeated Tuscarora migrated northward to New York, where they became the Sixth Nation of the Iroquois in 1722.

In 1715, the Yamasee, and in fact most of the native peoples in the Southeast, launched a furious assault on South Carolina. The war began because English settlements were expanding and Carolina traders were driving the Yamasee more and more into debt. The Yamasee and Creek managed to drive the line of settlement to within 30 miles of Charles Town, but the English and their Cherokee allies fought back. The Yamasee retreated to the protection of Spanish Florida.

Imperial conflict began to reshape the Southeast early in the eighteenth century. Chickasaws who were allied with the Carolina traders fought Frenchallied Choctaws. Joint Carolina-native armies seriously weakened the Spanish mission system in 1704, when they burned Apalachee, its most prosperous province, and carried hundreds of mission natives off into slavery.

The Seven Years’ War which, in America, lasted from 1754 to 1763 and was known as the French and Indian War expanded on earlier types of war, but it was also a new kind of conflict. Although the war erupted in America, it originated in London and France, where the two major imperial powers forced a showdown over North America, and it was fought all over the world.

The French had become worried that they were losing the continent of North America to Great Britain. In the 1750s, they and their native allies (mainly from the Great Lakes region) began to assault frontier outposts in the Ohio River Valley. These early attacks were a great success, and, by 1754, a joint French-native venture had established Fort Duquesne (present-day Pittsburgh). The British Empire struck back, though their initial attempts at retaliation were ineffective. In 1755, for instance, a major British army was routed by a much smaller French and Native American force near Fort Duquesne. Native Americans at the outskirts of Virginia and Pennsylvania seized the opportunity to block colonial expansion. At one point, the fighting ranged within about 30 miles of Philadelphia, the largest English city in America. To sum up, 70,000 French colonists and their native allies had attacked British North America, with a population of around 1.5 million, and had beaten them badly.

Native Americans played a crucial role in turning things around for the British. William Pitt, the new British prime minister, began to pour extraordinary amounts of money and resources into the conflict. The Iroquois, who had remained neutral, were persuaded to join the British. After 1759, the IroquoisBritish alliance won major victory after major victory, taking Montreal and Quebec by the early 1760s and finally forcing the French to surrender their claim to North America.

The last Indian war of the colonial period was the War for Independence, and it was a disaster for Native Americans. A few groups sided with the Americans, but most native communities, sensing that an independent America would overrun what remained of their land, sided with the British. In the aftermath of the war, it made no difference what side Native Americans had fought on. The American Revolution spurred a new wave of white settlement in the Ohio River Valley, the Midwest, and the South, and this expansion brought with it a new wave of violence.

Matthew Jennings See also: Bacon’s Rebellion; Beaver Wars; French and Indian War; Furs; Military and Diplomatic Affairs (Chronology); Military and Diplomatic Affairs (Essay); Militias; Native American-European Relations; Native Americans; Revolutionary War; Tuscarora War; Yamasee War. Bibliography Calloway, Colin G. New Worlds for All: Indians, Europeans, and the Remaking of Early America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997. Gleach, Frederic W. Powhatan’s World and Colonial Virginia: A Conflict of Cultures. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997. Jennings, Francis. “Wars: Colonial Era.” In Encyclopedia of North American Indians, edited by Frederick E. Hoxie, 668 70. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996. Nash, Gary B. Red, White and Black: The Peoples of Early North America. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2000.

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