A sweeping history of the cultural clashes between Indians and the British, Spanish, Mexicans, and Americans. A story of the contest for land and power across multiple and simultaneous frontiers.
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News that the French and the British had stopped fighting reached the Indian nations west of the Appalachians between November 1762 and January 1763. The word spread to the Delaware villages on the Tuscarawas and to the Shawnees camped along the Scioto. The Wyandots near Sandusky, the Miamis in northwestern Indiana, and even the Kickapoos and Potawatomies in the Illinois country heard it. To the south the Chickasaws and Creeks learned of it as well, colored by Spanish interpretation from New Orleans about what it meant. Many of the trans-Appalachian Indians considered the Treaty of Paris, signed on February 10, 1763, which ended the French and Indian War and transferred all French claims on the North American continent to the British, as bad news and a harbinger of difficult days to come.
By 1763 the Indian nations west of the Appalachians had relied on either French or British traders for a long time. Goods, such as blankets, knives, guns, and cooking utensils, that had once been luxuries now served as necessities. The Indians satisfied their wants by exchanging deerskins for the items that the traders brought to their villages. The British American traders who operated out of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and the Carolinas sought economic gain, but both the British and colonial governments that supported or regulated their ventures desired influence with the western nations more than profits. Both wanted to control the trans-Appalachian frontier or backcountry that Britain now claimed by right of conquest. Control, of course, meant power, and power meant empire, which involved the acquisition and settlement of Indian lands. But neither Britain nor the colonies that had aspirations for western expansion marshaled the strength to seize those lands. Instead a host of Indian nations, such as the Shawnees and Delawares, who lived north of the Ohio River, and the Creeks and Chickasaws who lived to the south, occupied those lands, and they did not intend to abdicate sovereignty to either Britain or the Americans.
At the end of the French and Indian War, the Shawnees and Delawares were the most important Indian peoples who lived north and west of the Ohio River. They had migrated into the Ohio country from Pennsylvania and the Delaware River valley, respectively, between the late 1730s and the early 1750s, and they claimed the Ohio country as their own. While their women cultivated corn, beans, and squash near their villages in the river valleys, the men hunted and developed their own economic network with the Pennsylvania and Virginia traders. By the 1750s, the Shawnees and Delawares had distanced themselves from the Iroquois who also claimed the Ohio country, and the men of both nations earned reputations that recognized their war-making ability, such as "Shingas the Terrible," chief of the Delaware's Turkey division.
Politically, the Indian nations in the Ohio country had a loose unity. The Shawnees divided into five groups-the Chillicothe, Hathawekele, Kispoko, Mequachake, and the Piqua, which became the most complex political organization north of the Ohio. Among the Shawnees, the chiefs inherited their positions patrilineally through the Chillicothe division while the warriors predominately came from the Kispoko. Similarly, the Delawares organized through the Turtle, Wolf, and Turkey divisions. Matrilineal succession through a particular lineage determined the village chiefs, who essentially exercised only ceremonial powers. Among the Ohio nations, each band had a peace and a war chief, but the latter could be earned only through bravery. Above all, the Shawnees and Delawares had been forced into the Ohio country either directly or indirectly by westward moving white settlers. By 1763, they had no intention of moving again.
South of the Ohio River, the Creeks held the reputation as the major Indian nation west of the Appalachians. At the end of the French and Indian War, they essentially occupied present-day Alabama. They were less a nation than a loose confederation of people with enough similarities to foster unity. These Muskogean-speaking natives had organized for mutual support by the time of European contact in the mid-sixteenth century. They shared a common culture and a network of related, matrilineal clans. The Creeks divided into two geopolitical divisions, called the Upper and Lower Towns, in part resulting from two main trade routes to South Carolina. The Upper Creeks and Lower Creeks held separate councils, claimed their own lands, and often pursued different diplomatic policies. From the end of the Yamasee War in 1717 to the American Revolution, the Creeks enjoyed a reliable trade with the British colonies. Between 1763 and 1783, the foundation of British policy toward the Creeks involved regulating the deerskin trade to bind them to the empire, keeping the Creeks from American influence, and treating both white and Indian traders equitably.
The Chickasaws lived north and west of the Creeks, primarily in northern Mississippi and western Tennessee. Like the Choctaws, with whom they had a close cultural affiliation, they too spoke Muskogean. One contemporary called the Chickasaws the "Spartans" of the Lower Mississippi Valley because they honored "martial virtue, and not riches" as a cultural standard. The war-like spirit of the Chickasaws differentiated them from the other Indian nations in the trans-Appalachian southwest. They readily kept the French at bay, in part by refusing to accept missionaries during the early eighteenth century, but they welcomed British traders who came among them as early as 1698. By 1705, Chickasaw men had become commercial hunters to supply deerskins as well as captives for trade goods, horses, and black slaves. When French traders arrived in their villages, the Chickasaws invariably complained that they offered shoddy and overpriced goods compared to British traders. By 1706, the French considered the Chickasaws their enemies, because of their close trading relations with the British. Consequently, the French began to arm the Choctaws, who lived between the Chickasaws and the Gulf Coast, against them. By so doing, the French began a nearly perennial war between the Chickasaws and the Choctaws. When the French and Indian War ended with the Treaty of Paris, the Chickasaws had been friends with the British and enemies of the French for a long time. Thereafter, the British worked to keep the Creeks and Chickasaws loyal through trade. Pensacola and Mobile became the major trading centers in West Florida, which served the southwestern trans-Appalachian frontier.
Newcomer, head of the Delawares, was "[s]truck dumb for a considerable period of time" when he learned of the peace treaty in 1763. The French father had abandoned his children. George Croghan, the British trader and Indian agent operating out of Pennsylvania, reported that the Ohio Indians on learning the news angrily contended that the "French had no Right to give away their Country; as, they Say, they were never Conquered by any Nation." While the new British father assured the Indians that he would treat them well, they were not convinced. The western Indians, who had been largely tied to the French through trade, but who had never been opposed to playing off one side against the other for their own advantage, now felt isolated and reliant on an enemy to meet their needs for European goods. They worried most, however, about the insatiable demands of the British Americans for land. Indeed, while the French had come among them to trade for furs, they did not stay in great numbers, and they made no personal claims to lands for private use. The British Americans, personified by the Pennsylvanians and the Virginians, whom they fearfully called the "long knives," already spilled over the Appalachians and claimed lands for their own use and built cabins with the intent to stay. Even so, most Indians were not willing to continue the war. Instead, they recognized that the British were few in number, traders still entered the backcountry, and the French might return. For the moment they would wait and see what the Treaty of Paris really meant.
They did not wait long. By early 1763, the British clearly signaled a new relationship with the western Indians that involved both restricted trade and exclusive land ownership west of the Appalachians. Soon the Indians complained that the British had not replaced the French traders on the scale that their needs required. Goods offered by British traders always proved insufficient and the prices high. At Detroit they complained about shortages of lead and powder, unaware that the British, in contrast to the French, deliberately restricted the distribution of munitions as a matter of defense, while the Indians considered them necessities for providing food for their families and deerskins for trade. At the same time, settlers continued to cross the mountains and claim Indian lands as their own. Early thoughts of peace and cooperation quickly gave way to arguments for resistance and war.
Some of the Indians in the Ohio country registered their displeasure with the new British order and loss of their lands to whites by raiding across the Ohio River to steal horses and livestock from garrisons and settlers, and they plundered and sometimes killed traders who came among them. Others turned to spiritual revival to counter the British threat, achieve intercultural harmony, and improve their lives. Neolin, a Delaware prophet who mixed Christianity with native religion, led the spiritualists or nativists and urged all who would listen to reject European goods and return to their traditional cultural practices and thereby purify themselves of "sins and vices." Cultural separation rather than accommodation as well as belief in an all-powerful creator or Master of Life would enable the Indians to lead a good life on earth and in the next world. In the spring of 1763, Neolin's teachings spread quickly through the Ohio and Illinois country. Among the Ottawa, Pontiac, whom a French contemporary called "[a] proud, vindictive, war-like and easily offended man," combined Neolin's call for spiritual purification and a return to traditional ways of living with his own, urging them to mobilize a pan-Indian uprising and forcefully resist all British attempts to upset the generations-old social and political order in the trans-Appalachian West. Increasingly, those such as Tamaqua among the Delaware, who sought accommodation with the British, lost influence. Instead, Indian leaders who demanded resistance to the British, whose presence west of the Appalachians threatened native sovereignty and security, gained the attention of the young men. They agreed that the British had become "too great a People," and that the whites could only be stopped from taking their lands by war.
By the spring of 1763, many of the Indians west of the Appalachians believed that military power, not accommodation, offered the best response to the new order created by the Treaty of Paris. Although many tribal members realized that a complete return to past cultural practices would be impossible because they had become dependent on both the French and British for trade goods, they could still use military power to drive white settlers from their lands. Consequently, when Pontiac counseled the need for war the Indians listened. He reportedly said the "Master of Life put Arms in our hands" and that "[i]t is important for us, my brothers, that we exterminate from our lands the nation which seeks only to destroy us." In May 1763, when the Ottawas, Potawatomies, and Hurons, known as Pontiac's Confederacy, attacked Detroit, they were taking responsibility for their own affairs by an act of war that the British called the "conspiracy of Pontiac."
The Shawnees, Delawares, Wyandots, Munsees, and Senecas followed the Ottawa leader by forming an alliance that they called the "Five Nations of Scioto." Acting alone and together these tribes struck white settlements east of the Ohio River, killing more than six hundred Pennsylvanians. By the autumn of 1763 the Indians had destroyed or captured every British post west of the Appalachians except Detroit, Fort Niagara, and Fort Pitt, even though they lacked tribal unity and adequate munitions, and they had essentially stopped westward expansion by the British Americans. George Croghan held the Shawnees responsible, reporting that they had "[m]ore to Say with the Western Nations then any othe[r] [nation] this Way." Whether led by Pontiac, who sought a return of the French, or by the Shawnees, who fought for the control of their lands and cultural autonomy, the Indians essentially engaged in a defensive war designed to protect their own interests.
While British officials worked to formulate a rational, effective, and equitable Indian policy, and while the frontier people claimed Indian lands whenever possible, the army had the responsibility of keeping the peace and defending the frontier. It did not do its job effectively or well. Prior to the Treaty of Paris, Sir Jeffrey Amherst, commander-in-chief of the British Army in America, had great difficulty recruiting soldiers and keeping an army in the field. The defense of Detroit against Pontiac's siege and the Canadian garrisons took most of his men, trained or otherwise, and Amherst necessarily turned to Pennsylvania militia and a ragtag collection of soldiers at Fort Pitt to bring peace to the Ohio country. But, during the spring and summer of 1763, the Indians held firm in the Ohio River valley, and the army had neither the men nor the resources or the will to strike west of the river and inflict a decisive defeat. By July 1763 desperation laced with racial hatred now motivated Amherst to ask Colonel Henry Bouquet, commander of the Southern Department of the British Army in North America, "Could it not be contrived to send the Small Pox among those disaffected tribes of Indians[?]" Given the inadequacy and failure of British military power, he contended, "We must, on this occasion, Use Every Stratagem in our power to Reduce them." Bouquet agreed and responded, "I will try to inoculate the [Indians] with Some Blankets that may fall in their Hands." When a party of Indians arrived at Fort Pitt for trade and negotiations on June 24, 1763, they were given two blankets and a handkerchief from the Small Pox Hospital at the fort. William Trent, who engaged in the Indian trade from Fort Pitt, hoped they would have the "desired effect." Smallpox soon devastated many Indian communities in the Ohio country, but it may have been brought home by the Indians who had attacked white settlements that suffered from the disease. By casting morality and ethics aside, however, Amherst revealed the all-pervasive hatred of Indians by whites on the trans-Appalachian frontier, which, when combined with the insatiable lust for land by the frontier people, jeopardized, if not prevented, a realistic and equitable Indian policy.
By the autumn of 1763, the Shawnee, Delaware, and Mingo villages in the Ohio country suffered from both sickness and deprivation. Their attacks on settlements east of the river had depleted their supplies of powder and lead, and they hungered for a restoration of trade. As the Ohio tribes began to think of peace, if not accommodation, General Thomas Gage, newly appointed commander at Fort Pitt, scavenged enough men to form a 1,500-man force under Henry Bouquet to march deep into the Ohio country. Before Amherst departed from the colonies in November 1763, he intended to break Pontiac's insurgency and gain control of the Ohio country. Bouquet's expedition fit his plans either to coerce the Indians into submission or inflict sufficient casualties for them to accept peace. When confronting the Indians, Amherst had told Bouquet as early as the summer of 1763, "I Wish to Hear of no Prisoners, should any of the Villains be met with in Arms." Bouquet also considered the Indians to be nothing less than rebels who inhabited their domain by the grace of the conqueror, that is, Great Britain, after the French and Indian War. For him, they had the choice of submitting to British rule or annihilation.
Bouquet departed for the Tuscarawas River valley on October 3, and he reached the Delaware and Mingo villages in mid-October. There, he met with a Delaware by the name of Beaver, chief of the Turkey clan and a few Shawnees and Senecas. Bouquet told them that the Ottawas, Ojibwas, and Wyandots had already made peace and that the French Canadians were not coming back because they were now "subjects of the king of Great-Britain." Speaking on behalf of the king, Bouquet told the Tuscarawas villagers that the British would grant them a truce if they returned all of their prisoners. Then they could discuss peace terms. If they refused, he would destroy them. But, Bouquet told his audience, "the English are a merciful and generous People, averse to shedding the Blood, even of their most cruel Enemies. And if it was possible that you could convince us, that you sincerely repent of your past conduct, and that we could depend on your good behavior for the future, you might yet hope for Mercy and Peace."
Bouquet's expedition of intimidation and his threats achieved greater success than anyone expected because he caught these Ohio Indians at the right time. Weakened from smallpox, low on powder and lead, and impressed with the number of soldiers who had come among them, the Shawnees, Delawares, Mingos, and Senecas realized that they could not drive the British away and that their villages lay at considerable risk. Consequently, they agreed to return their captives and make peace, or at least accept an armed truce, pending a formal treaty in the spring. By so doing they could protect their villages and avoid any land cessions, although the Shawnees reportedly were "very crabby" about the whole affair
By the time spring came the Shawnees, Delawares, and Senecas had thought about the terms of peace throughout the winter. Although they had been surprised by Bouquet's march to the Tuscarawas and intimidated by his large expedition, they understood that they could not decisively defeat Bouquet's force so they asked for and received important concessions. As a result, the peace negotiated in the spring obligated the British to protect Indian lands from the relentlessly westward-moving settlers and reopen the Indian trade. In turn, the Ohio Indians agreed to end their attacks on frontier settlements and send intermediaries to the Illinois country to represent the goodwill of the British among the Kickapoos and Potawatomies. Simply put, however, in 1764, the peace negotiated with the western Indians essentially returned the Ohio Valley to the status quo prior to Pontiac's war, that is, to a stalemate in which the Indians north of the Ohio could not drive white settlers from the trans-Appalachian frontier and the British army could not defeat the Indians. The British won the return of many white captives, control of the French posts, and the right of passage through the region, as well as recognition of title to all lands south of the Ohio to the Tennessee River, but they did not gain the right to claim Indian lands north and west of the Ohio River. Most important, while the Ohio Indians technically became British subjects, William Johnson, superintendent of Indian affairs for the Northern District, understood that this designation applied only "so far as the same can be consistent with the Indians['] native rights," particularly regarding lands. Without the ability to decisively defeat the other, diplomacy and accommodation by the Indians, British, and Americans remained essential to maintaining the peace and the intercultural affairs that followed. Pontiac's Rebellion, however, proved the need for imperial supervision of the trans-Appalachian frontier. Whether the Americas would be willing to finance a new Indian policy and accept British administration and regulation remained an important, but unanswered question
While the army and frontier people reeled from Indian attacks, British officials had already formulated a new Indian policy for implementation after the French threat to the continent had ended. As early as 1761, the British government planned to temporarily restrict trading and settlement west of the Appalachians to bring system, order, and efficiency to both the Indian trade and the acquisition of tribal lands. The British particularly worried that if settlers occupied Kentucky, the Indians would attack and military expenditures would be exorbitant to restore the peace. Better to keep the peace first, the ministers decided, than to reestablish it later. Formally announced as the Proclamation of 1763, this royal policy sought to gain British control of the West by licensing traders and restricting them to specific garrisoned posts in order to control pricing and restrict the liquor trade. No longer would traders be able to freely visit the Indian villages whenever they pleased, far from the watchful eyes and regulations of their superiors. In this proclamation, the British also prohibited settlement beyond the crest of the Appalachians until officials could purchase Indian lands, survey "fixed boundaries," and thereby permit an orderly, peaceful settlement of the backcountry.
British officials, however, miscalculated the obedience of their white subjects. The Proclamation of 1763 proved to be nothing more than a paper barrier, and it had little effect except on land companies and large-scale speculators who could not claim and settle western lands without a legal title that involved securing a government grant. Individuals acting on their own could go wherever their courage let them and claim lands with the authority of their long rifles. Indeed, white settlers and traders paid little attention to the proclamation. One contemporary observed that "not even a second Chinese wall, unless guarded by a million soldiers, could prevent the settlement of the lands on the Ohio and its dependencies."
The frontier people, then, who aggressively seized Indian lands contributed most to the continuing hostility of the western nations, and British officials could do little to restrain them. In the autumn of 1763, General Thomas Gage, who replaced Jeffery Amherst as commander-in-chief of the British forces, considered them "a Sett of People . . . near as wild as the country they go in, or the People they deal with, & by far more vicious & wicked." The frontier people demanded the right to seize unoccupied Indian lands, that is, those lands not settled and under cultivation, and they proved as dangerous as the young men in the Indian villages who championed war against the Americans. Still, the Indians in the Ohio country were not without blame. They had killed traders, hunters, and settlers for revenge, and they met every violent act by whites with similar retribution
While the British grappled with the problems of enforcing the Proclamation of 1763 and defending settlers in the Ohio Valley, the argumentative and restive colonists along the eastern seaboard increasingly challenged the authority of Parliament, including its avowed power to tax them to pay for their defense. After the Stamp Act crisis in 1765, the British government began to withdraw troops from the trans-Appalachian frontier because it could not support them or enforce the provisions of the Proclamation of 1763 without additional funds, the receipt of which became increasingly problematic with every colonial rejection of a new taxing scheme. It also shifted soldiers from the western posts to the increasingly volatile eastern cities to help maintain the peace. The government also contended that the colonists could best manage the Indian trade because the British army could not enforce Parliament's trade regulations or evict the settlers who moved in great numbers onto Indian lands in the Ohio Valley and as far west as the Illinois country. At the same time, Pennsylvania and Virginia proved unable or unwilling to administer British Indian policy, that is, protect tribal sovereignty to the land, promote equitable trade, and provide for their own defense. As the years passed, the Shawnees increasingly became the spokesmen for Indian demands in the Ohio country, and their words carried influence westward to the Wabash and Upper Mississippi River country and south to the Tennessee River valley.
Insufficient support for the army, colonial unrest, and an unenforceable Indian policy brought paralysis to government affairs west of the Appalachians after 1765. The British could not raise sufficient revenue to support garrisons in the trans-Appalachian West and white settlers encroached on Indian lands with impunity. At the same time, the Ohio Indians bitterly complained that the British did not honor their agreements and keep settlers off of their lands. Scalp hunters brought fear to the Indian villagers, and the chiefs demanded that the British control their young men. In several respects, however, the Indians had won Pontiac's war, because they learned the British could be coerced, if not defeated. By the time the fighting ended in 1765, the British had repealed every policy that the trans-Appalachian nations opposed. The British reinstituted the diplomatic policy of gift giving, renewed limited trade of guns, powder, and lead, as well as liquor. The Indians also learned that the British could not stop white settlers from spilling over the mountains and taking their lands. Moreover, continued violence, committed by both Indians and whites in the Ohio Valley, threatened to deteriorate into a full-fledged war the British could not afford in terms of men or money. Consequently, the Crown attempted to try, once again, to establish a boundary that both Indians and whites would respect and thereby prevent the seemingly never-ending attacks and festering grievances of each culture against the other. As a result, the Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1768 became the last desperate effort of the British to create order west of the Appalachians
By the spring of 1768, the Indians in the Ohio country had begun to stiffen their resistance to white settlement beyond the Appalachians by making specific land claims that they intended to maintain by either diplomacy or war. When the major tribes met at Fort Pitt in late April and early May, Tamaqua of the Delawares told George Croghan that "the Country lying between this River [the Ohio] and the Allegheny Mountains, has always been our Hunting Ground." Among the Shawnees, Nymwha blamed the British for the violence in the Ohio country because the army had failed to keep settlers east of the mountains and had abandoned their forts. Indian leaders also demanded that the British prevent settlers and hunters from going into Kentucky, which the Shawnees considered their major hunting grounds. Nymwha put it simply, saying that the Ohio Valley "is the Property of us Indians
The British, however, asserted that the Iroquois, not the Shawnees, owned the land south of the Ohio River by right of conquest. The Six Nations, however, had not been active in the region since the outbreak of the French and Indian War. By 1768, they exercised only rhetorical control of the Ohio country and the lands south of the river, and they understood that further white settlement would bring full-fledged war to the Ohio River valley. Although they enjoyed British friendship and trade, they made it clear to William Johnson, superintendent of Indian affairs for the Northern District, and trader and emissary George Croghan that they would not support the British in a war against the western tribes. With the Six Nations favoring a peaceful resolution of the land problem, Johnson recognized the opportunity to seize as much territory as possible under the guise of Indian support. Consequently, he issued a call for the Six Nations and their "dependents," that is, the Ohio tribes, to meet at Fort Stanwix in New York State in October to resolve a boundary that would meet the needs of both sides.
Following Johnson's lead, land speculators, traders, and political representatives from New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, as well as more than two thousand Indians opened the treaty congress on October 24. The Shawnees and Delawares found themselves outnumbered and outvoted. The result proved less a negotiated than a British-imposed treaty. By accepting the fiction that the Six Nations controlled the land south of the Ohio, the British recognized the confederacy's cession of that area for a land adjustment in the Mohawk Valley. As result, the Six Nations astutely gave up lands that they claimed but neither controlled nor possessed for land accommodations closer to home. By so doing, they also reinforced their position as Britain's major Indian allies. At the same time, they washed their hands of potential troubles between white settlers and the Indians in the Ohio country
Although the Shawnees and Delawares could not prevent the Six Nations from crafting an agreement with the British based on their seniority in an extensive alliance or covenant chain that linked the Indians from New England to the Ohio country, they had no intention of accepting a treaty that did not protect their interests. Red Hawk, a Shawnee leader, succinctly expressed this position by saying that the Six Nations were like an "elder brother" who often offered good advice, but who had no power over them. As a result, when the Ohio Indians learned about the Treaty of Fort Stanwix they immediately rejected it, because the Iroquois had no right to cede their lands. Negotiation and diplomacy had failed to safeguard their interests; only war remained to guarantee their security and lands. But war required both unity and strength. As the months following Pontiac's rebellion faded into years, the Shawnee leaders in the villages along the Scioto River valley planned to use the promise of spiritual renewal and a pan-Indian confederacy to marshal both the strength and will of the western nations to drive the British Americans from the trans-Appalachian frontier. General Thomas Gage, commander of the American forces, considered this plan "a very dangerous Event."
In the spring of 1769, the Shawnees, Delawares, and Mingos sent emissaries to the Miamis, Piankishaws, Weas, and Misquetons living along the Wabash and Miami Rivers to form an alliance. They also contacted the Creeks, Chickasaws, and Choctaws south of the Ohio. If these nations could unify against the Americans, they would form the largest and strongest Indian confederacy ever created. The far western and southern nations, however, were too divided to form such a confederacy. The Creeks and Choctaws fought a grueling war among themselves between 1765 and 1771 that claimed more than six hundred lives. Moreover, nearly all the southern nations considered at least one of the northern tribes to be their enemy, and as George Croghan reported to William Johnson, many of the western Indians were "very averst to Makeing paice with ye Southern Nations." Consequently, Indian raids across the Ohio River against other Indians gave the Americans their best protection from a general Indian attack. Even so, the Shawnees, Delawares, and Mingos believed they could fashion a confederacy, because the time was right. The Indian nations west of the Appalachians, they believed, wanted to stop the settlement of the "Virginians," the term they used for all white settlers. A nativist movement now smoothed differences while emphasizing common grievances. By 1770, most nations north of the Ohio had extended peace offerings to all tribes south of the river and west of the Appalachians to the Mississippi. Although no grand Indian confederacy emerged, the Shawnees, Delawares, and Mingos used their diplomatic skills to make the Treaty of Fort Stanwix a dead letter for more than a decade.
The tribes west of the Appalachians, however, could do little more at first than continue their isolated attacks on white settlements because they lacked unity for a confederacy that would enable them to marshal their strength in numbers against British soldiers, American militia, and white settlers. The Shawnees remained divided for nearly a decade after the Treaty of Fort Stanwix concerning a commitment to outright war, while the Miamis in the Wabash River valley preferred to campaign against the Cherokees, their enemy to the south. In turn, the Cherokees and Chickasaws attempted to form a confederacy with the Ohio tribes against the Miamis. While the western Indians, then, fought among themselves, Virginia long hunters continued to decimate their hunting grounds south of the Ohio and endanger their food supplies and way of life. The Virginians also jeopardized Indian safety. Missionary David McClure called them "white Savages," who took Indian lives as easily and willfully as they killed deer.
By 1774, approximately fifty thousand whites had crossed the Appalachians, and the British had neither the desire nor the ability to control them. General Gage understood the impossibility of keeping them from infringing on Indian lands, saying they were "too Numerous, too Lawless and Licentious ever to be restrained." Gage reflected that they were "almost out of Reach of Law and Government; Neither the Endeavors of Government, or Fear of Indians has kept them properly within Bounds." McClure also noted that they seemed "freed from the restraining influence of religion." By the eve of the American Revolution, then, the British were no longer the major enemy of the Ohio Indians; instead, their major adversaries were the incessantly westward-moving Americans
Confronted with these aggressive, pressing settlers, George Croghan reported that the Indians did not consider themselves safe even north of the Ohio. He also reported to William Johnson that the settlers in western Pennsylvania "thought it a meritorious act to kill Heathens whenever they were found." Johnson observed that this attitude seemed to be "the opinion of all the common people." Many of the young Shawnee and Delaware men who lived in the villages along the Muskingum and Scioto Rivers eagerly returned the hostility and willfully crossed the Ohio on raids into western Pennsylvania in an effort to maintain control of their Kentucky hunting grounds and slow the encroachment of settlers on their lands. Frequently, the Pennsylvania militia responded and the killing intensified.
By the eve of the American Revolution, mutual reciprocity between whites and Indians based on trade and friendship had degenerated to exchanges of violence. On October 10, 1774, Cornstalk led a force of approximately one thousand Shawnees across the Ohio to strike an equal force of Virginia militia at the mouth of the Kanawha where they were building a fort. This engagement, perhaps the hardest fighting along the Ohio River, became known as the Battle of Point Pleasant. Neither side could claim a battlefield victory, but the Shawnees eventually withdrew and the Virginians pursued them across the Ohio and up the Hocking Valley, where, on the Pickaway Plains, Lord Dunmore, governor of Virginia, negotiated a truce. Known as the Treaty of Camp Charlotte, it required the Shawnees to accept the Treaty of Fort Stanwix, abide by British trade regulations, return all white captives, and stop attacking immigrant barges floating down the Ohio. For their part, the Virginians promised not to hunt north of the river. Colonel William Crawford boasted that "[w]e have made them sensibler of their villainy and weakness." Dunmore agreed, contending that he had "impressed an Idea of the power of the White People, upon the minds of the Indians." Many whites, both officials and settlers, hoped that the Indian problem had now been solved.
In reality Dunmore's War occurred because the Virginians, whom competing Pennsylvanians called "men without character and fortune," planned to use a militia force to seize Kentucky for themselves and displace both Indians and Pennsylvanians who also had aspirations to claim the area as their own. Indeed, Dunmore's War was little more than a preemptive strike against the Indians in order to claim Kentucky and keep non-Virginian speculators and settlers at bay, and it did not persuade the increasingly hostile Shawnees to accept the continued seizure of their hunting lands south of the Ohio River. Most important, however, Dunmore's War marked a turning point in Indian-white relations in the Ohio country, because the fighting occurred in the Indians' home territory, and because it resulted in the first land cession by the Shawnees. It also proved that the colonials, in this case the Virginians, would act as they thought best in order to seize Indian lands. British power over the Americans clearly waned, especially west of the Appalachians where land-hungry and Indian-hating settlers did as they pleased. By the mid-1770s, they began to crowd the very banks of the Ohio River and looked longingly and aggressively at the vast Indian lands to the north and west. By the eve of the American Revolution, then, Indian-white relations in the Ohio country centered only on one issue-control of the land. Both Indians and whites were determined that their people alone would exclusively exercise that power.
By the summer of 1775, however, both Indians and whites in the Ohio country had learned about the fighting between British soldiers and colonists east of the mountains. Although many of the Shawnee leaders saw war impending between the British and Americans and counseled neutrality, the young men saw the conflict as an opportunity to strike the Americans in a time of weakness and thereby regain their lands south of the Ohio and ensure the defense of their villages north and west of the river. Moreover, the British were quick to encourage them to "take up the hatchet" against the Americans. If they did not, the British argued from Detroit, they would not only lose more land, but their way of life as well as their lives. Still, the British, in contrast to the French during the previous war, were unwilling to commit to a full-fledged Indian war merely to guarantee Indian land claims. Consequently, the Indians in the Ohio country could not use them as a counterweight to stop American expansion. If the Ohio Indians chose to stand against the Americans, they would essentially stand alone.
Throughout the summer of 1775, the Shawnees remained divided over casting their fate with the British to keep the Americans at bay. Although the Wyandots near Sandusky had remained hostile to the Americans since the French and Indian War, many Delawares and Shawnees along the Tuscarawas, Muskingum, and Scioto River valleys worried that war between the British and Americans would sweep them into the conflict. The members of the Continental Congress worried too, but they feared the western Indians would join the British. As a result, on July 12, 1775, Congress authorized Indian commissioners to "treat with the Indians in their respective departments, in the name and on behalf of the united colonies, in order to preserve peace and friendship with the said Indians, and to prevent their taking part in the present commotions." Congress also drafted a message for the commissioners to deliver to the tribes. It urged them to stay out of their quarrel with Great Britain and to "love and sympathise with us in our troubles; that the path may be kept open with all our people and yours, to pass and repass, without molestation." Traders operating out of Fort Pitt with the intent of keeping the Shawnees and Delawares neutral if not allied to the American cause reported that "the Women all seem very uneasy in Expectation that there would be war."
In an attempt to keep the Indians in the Ohio country neutral, the Americans held a general council at Pittsburgh in the autumn of 1775. The Shawnees, Wyandots, Delawares, Mingos, Senecas, and Potawatomies attended and pledged friendship with the Americans and reaffirmed the Treaty of Fort Stanwix. The American representatives also pledged to keep their people south of the Ohio. But considerable acrimony and argument plagued the peace meeting. White Eyes, a Delaware leader, used the proceedings to cast off the long-recognized subservience of his people to the Iroquois, and dramatically claimed tribal lands to the west by pointing to the Allegheny River, saying, "All the country on the other side of that river is mine." White Eyes's pronouncement carried a less-than-veiled threat. If the Americans did not guarantee Delaware lands, he would lead his people into the British camp. Moreover, among the Ohio tribes, British agents operating from Detroit now began supplying the Indians with a host of trade goods in both quantity and at the right prices. In contrast, the Americans struggled with their own political organization, and they had little money to buy Indian friendship or keep them neutral. Consequently, the Ohio Indians drifted toward the British camp.
By 1777, war parties of Shawnees, Delawares, Wyandots, and Mingos regularly crossed the Ohio to strike frontier settlements from Wheeling to Boonesborough. The Americans could not marshal sufficient force to march deep into the Ohio country and strike the hostile villages because their war with the British consumed their time and military resources. The Indian problem could not be resolved by force until the British had been defeated. In the meantime, they attempted to win Indian neutrality by persuasion. In March 1778, for example, Colonel George Morgan met with the Delawares at Coshocton on behalf of the governor of Pennsylvania. Morgan urged the Delawares to stay out of the war. "The Tempest," he told them, "will be over in a few Months. You will then enjoy the Sweets of Peace whilst your restless Neighbors are suffering the Punishment due to their evil deeds."
Soon thereafter the Delawares asked Congress to consider them friendly to the United States, with their leaders saying that their young men who had sided with the British were similar to the Tories. The Delawares sought peace and asked Congress to "make a proper Distinction between our nation and Individuals-who, on Account of their Conduct have become Outcasts from it and whom we will never receive as Friends untill you agree to receive them as your Friends or you obtain full satisfaction for the Injuries they have done you." Ultimately, however, peace for the Indian nations proved impossible, because both the British and Americans pressured them for a commitment, or at least neutrality. Daniel Broadhead, the American commander at Fort Pitt, for example, told the Shawnees that the British had come only "to rob & Steal & fill their Pockets."
While Henry Hamilton, the British lieutenant governor at Detroit, urged the Ohio Indians against the Americans and provided them trade goods and munitions for their raids and money for white scalps, Morgan asked them to be patient. If they kept the peace and remained out of the fight, he told them, "your wants shall be all supplied by and by." If they did not keep the peace, however, they would suffer destruction. The Delawares listened apprehensively and ultimately signed a peace treaty on September 17, 1778, at Fort Pitt (the first between whites and Indians and the only one approved during the American Revolution) that proclaimed a "perpetual peace and friendship" between them and the United States and mutual aid against the British. But it soon collapsed after the murder of White Eyes by frontiersmen, and the Delawares cast their fate with the British. In the meantime, the Shawnees, Wyandots, and Mingos resolved to drive the Americans from the Ohio country with or without British aid.
The American Revolution, then, meant little to the Shawnees, Wyandots, and Mingos in the Ohio country other than the continuation of war with the whites, particularly the Virginians, to stop settlers from seizing their lands. By the spring of 1778, they looked north to Detroit for leadership and supplies to fight the Americans, and they began to strike the settlements south and east of the Ohio with impunity. The Shawnees also sent emissaries to the Creeks and Chickasaws to gain their support against the Americans throughout the trans-Appalachian frontier. American militia retaliated in kind, crossing the Ohio and killing villagers, both peaceful and hostile, burning towns, and destroying crops. Yet, despite their raids across the Ohio, the Americans particularly feared the Shawnees, because they believed in total war. By 1780, they no longer adopted their white captives into their villages and families to replace loved ones lost in battle. Now they marked them for torture and death by painting their faces black. The Shawnees also remained elusive and out of reach by American forces. In August 1780, when George Rogers Clark led a personal army of volunteers against the Shawnee villages in the Miami River valley, he burned several towns and destroyed crops, but the Shawnees melted away before him. After the Americans departed, they rebuilt their homes and continued to rely on British supplies to cover their losses. By September 1782, the Shawnees remained in control of the Ohio River valley. At that time, Colonel William Christian informed Virginia Governor Benjamin Harrison that if the war continued for another year the settlers in Kentucky would be killed, held captive in Detroit, or forced to flee
Between 1763 and 1783, most of the Indian nations between the Great Lakes and the Gulf Coast had united, at least in spirit, against the Americans, while giving tacit support to the British. South of the Ohio River and Kentucky, the Chickasaws, Creeks, Choctaws, and Chickamaugas particularly resisted American expansion. In 1763, the British, of course, wanted to ensure peace with the southern nations as well as those north of the Ohio River, but the pressure of white settlers made peace through diplomacy difficult to achieve. In May 1765, the British met with the Creeks in a council known as the Congress of Pensacola. Emisteseguo, Mortar, and The Wolf of the Upper Creeks, and Captain Allick, White Cabin, and Escochabey of the Lower Creeks, and some two dozen other leaders met with Governor George Johnstone and John Stuart, superintendent for Indian affairs in the Southern District. The British convinced them that the French would not return, and they promised to trade at Pensacola and Mobile at fair prices. The Creeks, in turn, agreed to a boundary running between Pensacola and Mobile and to the execution of all Creeks who killed whites. The Creeks were not happy about the agreement, but they did not want war. They quickly learned, however, that the British could not enforce treaty obligations and violations by the young men of both sides went unpunished. Persistent settlement of Creek lands by whites, who also stole their horses, kept relations tense. On November 2, 1771, Emisteseguo responded to Stuart's request for a land cession by saying, "My nation is numerous and every child in it has an equal property in the land with the first warriors[;] making any alteration in the boundary without the consent of the whole is improper." But their ongoing war with the Choctaws affirmed their need to keep the peace with the British. Moreover, Creek relations with the Spanish, operating from New Orleans, remained uneasy, because the Spaniards pressed them to accept Christianity and offered few trade goods, while the British sought trade and allegiance
Among the Indian groups in the Old Southwest, however, the Chickasaws had the reputation as the most skilled in the art of war. In 1775, the Chickasaws marshaled approximately 475 fighting men in a nation of 1,900 men, women, and children. Despite their small number, however, the other southern Indian nations, particularly the Choctaws, feared them. One observer noted that the Chickasaws were "arrogant and conseited [sic], high minded[,] touchy as tinder," and John Stuart recorded that they were "esteemed the bravest Indians on the Continent." The confident and often hostile spirit of the Chickasaws made them a nation of consequence and, in the words of Piomingo, chief of Techoukafala (the most populous village), they talked and fought to remain independent as a "people to our Selves
During the French and Indian War, the Chickasaws had relied on British trade to keep their enemies, both Indian and French, at bay. The British considered their allegiance "as Strong as Iron," and British Superintendent John Stuart always used the Chickasaws as a model of fidelity. When the war ended the British worked to keep the Chickasaws loyal and crafted an administrative system to help maintain mutual reliance. In 1764, the British divided Florida at the Chattahoochee River into East and West Florida. West Florida extended to the Mississippi River and bordered the thirty-first parallel on the north. Governor George Johnstone, along with John Stuart, administered British Indian policy from Pensacola, the capital of West Florida, for the territory south of the Ohio River. The Chickasaws were most concerned about protecting these lands from white encroachment and maintaining trade. To do so, they had to rely on the British to protect them from settlers whom they called Virginians. The Chickasaws, led by full-bloods Payamataha and Piomingo, particularly feared encirclement by whites, and they demanded the British survey a boundary and enforce it. After 1763, however, whites rushed into the Lower Mississippi Valley via the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers and crossed Chickasaw lands. Some did not leave. Traders also came among them and sometimes tampered with tribal politics. The British traders also wrought havoc in Chickasaw villages by exchanging rum for deerskins. The Chickasaws, then, were dependent on the British for trade and the guarantee of their lands, and they hoped the British would fulfill both responsibilities in reciprocity for Chickasaw loyalty. In 1765, Payamataha, the leading war chief and prophet, told the British during a council at Mobile that "My Heart & the Superintendents are as one, it is well known I never deserted the British Interest and I never will. Tho' I am a Red Man my Heart is white from my Connections with & the Benefits I have received from the white People, I allmost [sic] look upon myself as one of them." Even so, the Chickasaws thought their own thoughts and acted in their own interests, not those of the British
On the eve of the American Revolution, the Spanish began their attempts to lure the Chickasaws away from the British as part of their plan to regain West Florida. At the same time, the Chickasaws refrained from getting involved in the conflict between the Shawnees and Virginians that led to Dunmore's War, and they maintained their British loyalty. In Detroit, commander Henry Hamilton planned to enlist the Chickasaws and the other tribes in the Lower Mississippi Valley, along with the Cherokees farther east, with the Shawnees and Delawares to strike the Americans. General Thomas Gage, in October 1775, ordered Superintendent Stuart to rally the tribes and "when opportunity offers . . . make them take arms against his Majesty's Enemies." Stuart responded in December 1775 by sending arms and ammunition to the Indian nations under his charge, including three thousand pounds of powder and lead to the Chickasaw villages to help them halt any American attack on British posts along the Gulf Coast. Gage, however, only wanted to use the southern Indians in coordination with his army to gain the best results, rather than encourage independent attacks that would endanger Loyalists while striking traitors. Essentially, then, the British offered trade, friendship, and limited military action, while the Americans sought neutrality. Neither, however, offered a guarantee of Indian lands. To the surprise of the British, however, the Chickasaws hesitated to give them their support by scouting along the Mississippi and Tennessee Rivers in order to report Spanish activities. The Choctaws also refused to act until the Chickasaws made a commitment to the British, Americans, or Spanish. For the moment, they, too, would wait and see.
Superintendent Stuart, who had long advocated the importance of controlling the Indian trade to tie the southern nations to Great Britain and foil American and Spanish overtures, now gained authority to control all facets of that trade to bring and keep the Indians in the British camp. Stuart especially believed that if the British did not control the Indian trade, the rebels would use it to gain Indian allies and send them against the British. Stuart used Indian contacts, trade goods, tribal dependency, and American hostility, exemplified by violence and land grabbing, to strengthen the British presence in the South. The efforts of Stuart and his agents proved successful. In the spring of 1777, the Chickasaws told a British trader they could not "look upon them [the Americans] as brothers as they are surrounding them on all Sides, and debar[r]ing them from all Necessaries and Destroying their friends." At the same time, Stuart called for the Chickasaws, Choctaws, and Creeks to send delegates to a council in Mobile where the British would then gain their support against the Spanish and Americans. Beginning on May 1 and continuing into June, some 2,800 villagers listened to the British agents, who told them about the relentless American theft of Indian lands. Thereafter, American initiatives among the Chickasaws met rejection. Later that year, Stuart told a delegation of Lower Creeks at Pensacola that "if the Rebels should prove victorious you may be certainly assured that they would immediately endeavour to possess themselves of all your lands and extirpate you.
The southern Indians did not doubt that the Americans wanted their lands, and they knew their needs for trade goods could only be met by the British, not the Americans, while both made war. This assessment proved correct because rebel traders had difficulty acquiring goods, but British agents at Pensacola had considerable supplies received by sea. Moreover, many southern Indian leaders trusted Stuart, and he encouraged them to side with the British for trade and protection. As a result, in 1778, George Rogers Clark sent couriers to the Chickasaws, whom he considered the "most potent southern nation," to make peace, but he reported, "[T]heir conversation on the subject was cool and answered no great purpose."
A year later in May 1779, Virginia sent a message to the Chickasaws that offered them either peace or war. War leaders Mingo Houma, Payamataha, and Tuskau Pautaupau responded that the Ohio Indians constantly warned them that the Americans would stop at nothing to take their lands, so peace and friendship was an impossibility. The Chickasaw leaders clearly and emphatically also told the Virginians that "[w]e desire no other friendship of you but only desire you will inform us when you are Comeing and we will save you the trouble of Coming quite here for we will meet you half Way. . . . Take care that we don't serve you as we have served the French before with all their Indians, send you back without your heads." Clearly the Chickasaws could not be intimidated by the Americans. "We are," they said, "a Nation that fears or Values no Nation as long as our Great Father King George stands by us for you may depend as long as life lasts with us we will hold him fast by the hand." Then, the chiefs asked the Virginians to print their message in the newspapers so "that all your people may see it and know who it was from, We are men & Warriors and don't want our Talks hidden." When the Americans built Fort Jefferson five miles below the mouth of the Ohio on the Mississippi River, the Chickasaws and Choctaws made it too dangerous to occupy, and the fort was abandoned in June 1781. Thereafter, the Americans remained content with the Ohio River as their line of conquest
When Spain declared war on Great Britain in June 1779, Governor Bernardo de Galvéz at New Orleans also attempted to strike an alliance with the Creeks and Choctaws to remove them as British auxiliaries and enhance his chance to seize Natchez and Pensacola and occupy West Florida. But when Payamataha learned about these overtures, he warned the Choctaws to "return immediately to the English," or he would send the Chickamaugas, the pro-British Cherokees who had recently settled west of the Appalachians, and the Shawnees against them, which Alexander Cameron, agent for the Chickasaws and Choctaws, reported "had a good effect upon them." Improved trade also encouraged the Creeks and Choctaws to help the British defend Pensacola in April 1780. At that time, some 1,500 Creeks, led by Alexander McGillivray, assistant British commissary in the Upper Creek towns, who also had blood ties to the Creeks through his mother, helped the British discourage the Spanish from attacking. Several months later on September 14, the Creeks helped foil an American attack on Augusta in a sharp fight in which 250 Creeks joined British regulars in driving back 600 Americans. Creek losses, however, proved heavy, and they executed the captured Americans in retribution. This engagement was the only major Indian contribution to the war in the Southwest, in part because the British focused their effort in Georgia and the Carolinas. Even so, the war bitterly divided the Creeks, whose factions remained hostile within the nation as well as against the Americans long after the conflict ended.
By the early 1780s, British supply of trade goods had become parsimonious for reasons of political economy. As British trade goods declined, Chickasaw leaders increasingly turned their attention to accommodation with the Americans and the Spanish, the latter of whom had captured Baton Rouge, Natchez, and, on May 9, 1781, Pensacola, the last British stronghold and Indian supply center in West Florida. The Chickasaws, however, remained loyal and struck Spanish positions in West Florida and closed the Mississippi River to shipping between New Orleans and St. Louis, even capturing Donã Anicanora Ramos, the wife of Francisco Cruzat, lieutenant governor of Spanish Illinois, and her four children. The Spanish could not muster sufficient strength to invade Chickasaw territory and ultimately negotiated for the return of these high-priced captives. By the end of the American Revolution, however, factions emerged with the anti-British Chickasaws supporting the Spanish, while the old British allies transferred allegiance to the Americans. During the last eighteen months of the war, then, British influence over the southern Indians declined rapidly and the Americans gave all the nations west of the Appalachians little attention, because they were preoccupied with the British army to the east. At best, the British could only encourage the southern nations to make peace with the Spanish in order to strike the Americans. In the end, Great Britain's strategy to use the southern Indians against the settlers in the backcountry drove those villagers into the American camp for the want of needed trade goods on which they depended, and both the British and the Indians lost the war on the trans-Appalachian frontier
In the summer of 1783, the Shawnees, Delawares, Chickasaws, Creeks, and other tribes west of the Appalachians learned that the British and Americans had inexplicably made peace. The British told their Indian allies that they had ceded all lands south of the Great Lakes, but that the Americans would respect the Ohio River as the boundary with the Indian nations to the north as provided by the Treaty of Fort Stanwix. The Treaty of Paris, however, offered no such guarantees, and it did not even mention the Indians. The Shawnees, Delawares, and Munsees were "thunder struck" by the terms of the Treaty of Paris, because the British essentially had given away Indian lands that the Americans had neither held nor won, and they doubted the frontier people would respect their lands north of the Ohio. The northern and western Indian people, however, believed the Treaty of Fort Stanwix should be respected by the whites, whether British or American. They may not have liked the treaty when the Iroquois negotiated it in 1768, but they had come to accept it, and they thought the American government should also honor it. Frederick Haldimand, governor of Canada, understood their apprehension and unwillingness to forfeit more land, because the Americans said they were entitled to the land for defeating the British. In November 1783, Haldimand told Lord North, who headed the British government during the war, that the tribes would not give up easily because "these People my Lord, have as enlightened Ideas of the nature & Obligations of Treaties as the most Civilized nations have, and know that no Infringement of the Treaty of 1768 . . . Can be binding upon them without their Express Concurrence & Consent." Peace for the British, however, was now more important than war, and although the British intended to maintain friendly relations with the Indians in order to use them as auxiliaries against the United States if war came again, they considered the Indians expendable in 1783. To the south, the Creeks called the news a "Virginia Lie
While the British had been swift to give away Creek, Chickasaw, and Choctaw lands, the Americans had been even quicker to take it. Although the Indians did not consider themselves defeated, officials of the republic considered the United States a conqueror and acted accordingly by dictating, blustering, and ordering about the Indians as a defeated people. Almost immediately they antagonized the western nations with their victory. At a prisoner exchange in July 1783 near the falls of the Ohio (present-day Louisville), an officer told the Shawnee that "Your Fathers the English have made Peace with us for themselves, but forgot you their Children, who Fought with them, and neglected you like Bastards."
To the southwest, the Chickasaws somewhat ambivalently accepted the news that the British and Americans had made peace. In November 1783 many Chickasaw chiefs met in council with the Americans at French Lick near Nashville and agreed to a treaty. There, they pledged to return their prisoners and expel the enemies of the United States from the Chickasaw territory. Mingo Houma and Tuskau Pautaupau (referred to as the Red King in the treaty) received a promise from the American commissioners that whites would respect Chickasaw boundaries, stop settling on their lands, and recognize the Cumberland-Tennessee divide from the Ohio to the Duck River as the boundary between them.
The Chickasaws firmly reminded the commissioners that they would never cede their land and that they had no power to sell it. After the treaty council, the majority of the Chickasaws drifted into the American camp because they were most like the British, and they hated the Spanish for sending the Kickapoos against them during the war. Spain, however, moved quickly to counter American influence and signed its own treaty with the pro-Spanish Chickasaws in June 1784, at Mobile. Here these Chickasaws pledged loyalty to Spain and promised to release their captives. They also accepted Spanish protection and traders. Spain, in turn, pledged to expel white settlers and provide abundant goods at fair prices.
In the days ahead, however, the friendly association of the Chickasaws with the Americans caused the Creeks to worry about their security. Alexander McGillivray quickly saw the Chickasaws as a danger to his plans for the creation of a pan-Indian alliance against the Americans. Soon the Creeks responded to the Treaty of Paris by making war on both the Americans and the Chickasaws. Led by McGillivray and supported by the Spanish at New Orleans, the Creeks held firm against the Americans, who considered all lands west of the Appalachians theirs by right of conquest after defeating the British. By the mid-1780s with the British gone and the Americans pressing onto Creek lands, McGillivray sought a marriage of convenience with the Spanish to ensure trade and recognition of their sovereignty. McGillivray did not believe the American government would be able to restrain land-hungry settlers from seizing Creek lands, but he thought the Spanish might be interested in helping them keep those lands from the Americans. McGillivray intended to encourage the Spanish to guarantee Creek lands as a buffer between Spain and the Americans and thereby help the Spanish press their claims north of the Tennessee River
The Spanish proved receptive because they planned to extend the disputed northern boundary of West Florida as far north as possible, and they intended to use the Indian nations to help consolidate their claims to the Mississippi River valley. In the spring of 1783, Don Esteban Miró, governor of Florida, met with the Creeks, Chickasaws, Choctaws, and Chickamaugas at Pensacola. Miró opened the council by telling them: "Do not be afraid of the Americans. You our brothers the red men, are not without friends. The Americans have no King, and are nothing of themselves."
Meanwhile, the Confederation Congress gave the Indians little thought, and it did not authorize a commission to negotiate peace treaties with them until March 15, 1785. By that time, however, McGillivray and the Creeks had asserted leadership among the southwestern tribes. As a result, on July 10, 1785, the Creeks, Chickasaws, and Choctaws met in council at Little Tallahassee in the Creek Nation and agreed to support McGillivray in rejecting the British land cession to the Americans west of the Appalachians, because they were not party to the Treaty of Paris. At that time, McGillivray, speaking for the assembled nations, warned that "as we were not partys, so we are determined to pay no attention to the Manner in which the British Negotiators has drawn out the Lines of the Lands in question Ceded to the States of America-it being a Notorious fact known to the Americans, known to every person who is in any ways conversant in, or acquainted with American affairs, that his Brittannick Majesty was never possessed either by session purchase or by right of Conquest of our Territory . . . which the Said treaty gives away." McGillivray, who had a quick mind and skillful prose, further proclaimed: "On the contrary it is well known that from the first Settlement of the English colonys of Carolina and Georgia up to the date of the Said treaty no tittle has ever been or pretended to be made by his Brittanic Majesty to our lands except what was obtained by free Gift or by purchase for good and valuable Considerations."
Yet, the Chickasaws remained divided and on January 10, 1786, Piomingo, Mingatushka, and Latopoia signed a treaty with the American commissioners at Hopewell, South Carolina. In the Treaty of Hopewell, the Chickasaws agreed to peace and placed themselves "under the protection of the United States of America, and of no other sovereign whatsoever." In a little understood, but ominous clause, these Chickasaws also agreed "for the benefit and comfort of the Indians" that the United States would manage their affairs as the government officials "think proper." To the north the Ohio Indians prevented the Americans from seizing their lands and overrunning Detroit during the war, but they had been too far from the major fighting to affect the outcome of the American Revolution. Yet during the war they had fought for their independence as much as the white American patriots. Once the war ended, however, they collectively became the enemy of the new nation. In addition, many villages relocated to escape American pressures and the inhabitants suffered dislocation, and polyglot communities formed, often under new leaders. At the same time, white outsiders increasingly interfered with tribal politics, and British, American, and Spanish emissaries cultivated client chiefs to help them work their will against the others. The war also made the tribes increasingly dependent on the Americans for trade goods. Certainly, the American Revolution did not bring peace to the Indians west of the Appalachians, but no one could foresee that both Indians and whites would contest for the trans-Appalachian frontier militarily and politically to gain exclusion and power over the other for another thirty years.
Still, no American soldiers occupied Indian lands north of the Ohio when the war ended, nor did they occupy the Illinois country or the Mississippi River valley, and the Shawnees, like the Creeks and other tribes, were unwilling to accept defeat based on a piece of paper. The war had ended, not because the Americans had forced the Indians to surrender, but because the British decided to make peace and urged the Indians to stop fighting. They had not lost militarily, but they had been defeated diplomatically. At the same time, the American Revolution created a greater sense of pan-American identity. So far as the Indians in the Ohio country were concerned, even though the great tide of white settlement had cost them their lands south of the river, the land north of the Ohio belonged to them. Anyone who claimed Indian land would pay a high price in blood to take it. Soon after the war, in 1785, Captain Johnny or Kekewepelethe, a Shawnee war leader, told the Americans at a council, "You are drawing so close to us that we can almost hear the noise of your axes felling our Trees and settling our Country." If white settlers crossed the Ohio, he warned, "[W]e shall take up a Rod and whip them back to your side." The future loomed ominously for both Indians and whites north and south of the Ohio.
Meet the Author
R. Douglas Hurt is professor of history at Iowa State University. He is also the author of The Ohio Frontier: Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830.
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