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Just saw this.
Tough question, I really need to read up on this. But here’s what I know.
When the then English hit Jamestown the Powhattan tribe entered a sort of love hate thing with them, depending on who was in control of the tribe. The peak of this was the “Killing Times” when Indians managed to almost utterly wipe out the entire colony except for those who managed to fortify themselves inside the stockade. Jamestown limped by with last minute help from new incoming settlers but there was no Pilgrim dinner with the Indians, though they had helped them before this. The “Starving Times” suggest a lack of willingness to help, and they only gave permission to the English to settle there because the land was useless to them. That’s what I’ve heard anyway.
Moving on to 1760ish. Things have changed, British and French colonial expansion has boomed, spreading down the whole east coast, and the French cutting into the interior. The Indian tribes now played a different game, instead of waiting the foreigners out or immediatly trying to wipe them out, they allied with one or the other and traded with them.
The reasons for this is quite simple, most Eastern tribes were now semi economically dependent on the European trade. A traveller once said that not one Indian item he came across had been made with traditional materials. They had guns, cloth, glass, mirrors, steel and all sorts to make forest life easier. The problem was how to remain sovreign.
The British and French didn’t go in for the utter destruction of races (intentionally that is, disease was something they had no control over, save for the psycho’s who gave out the smallpox blankets) the British certainly depended on trade to make their empire, and Indians were both skilled trappers and many of them held the land that was rich in furs. The British colonial system was for protectorates, dependencies and allies, all operating under the hood of the British empire, but still essentially and culturally seperate, this gave them allies, this gave them trade and it gave them the land without having to fight for it.
The problem was the French were doing similar, and they were doing it better. The Iroqouis played the game the best of all the tribes, and kept head above water for a considerable time. It was a long held tradition amongst the confederacy to be neutral from the French and the British and to dominate neighbouring tribes through the uniting force of “Pax Iroqouia”, on a small scale it was imperialism in itself. But the Europeans threatened their hold on power so they artfully played them off agaisnt one another. It came back to bite them when the French and Indian War broke out and they were forced to choose sides from who they thought was the lesser of two evils (The Iroqouis had been friends with British Indian agent Sir William Johnson and he convinced the Mohawks to go with them).
With the French eliminated things might have got dodgy, the British might well have eventually betrayed the Iroqouis but they never got the chance, the Americans got in the way of British Indian exploitation and the Iroqouis confederacy split in two over who to fight with, it utterly destroyed their league. After that it was all up to America really.
This is my series on the Iroqouis so far. I should have a source list at the bottom of each post.