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5.3 Northeastern Tribes

In 1503 the Abenakis and Passamaquoddy of Maine started to trade with the English fishermen who visited their land while fishing off the Atlantic coast. Micmacs, Malacites, Penobscots and others who lived along the coast traded fur and food for metal tools, kettles and clothes. Diseases unknown to the Indians soon appeared. The fishermen kidnapped some Indians to sell as slaves and as a result they were not allowed to land anymore.

In 1609, Henry Hudson claimed what is now New York for the Netherlands. He started the fur trade for the Dutch giving the Indians alcohol in exchange.

In 1613 the French and the Micmac invaded Newfoundland. The French armed the Micmacs against the Beothuk who had killed some 37 French fishermen. Soon the Beothuk were all killed.

In 1615 the Hurons welcomed Samuel de Champlain, leader of New France as their guest. There were about 30,000 Hurons living in village of up to 3,5000 people near the lake Huron. They lived in long houses and were expert in agriculture (corn, beans, squash, sunflowers, tobacco). They had good relations with the French (especially from 1615 to 1649) with whom they traded mainly fur in exchange of manufactured goods, knifes, clothes, guns, … French missionaries tried to convert them. They also fought the Five nations of the Iroquois Confederacy who wanted to invade their best hunting lands.

A smallpox epidemic ravaged coastal New England in 1616-1619 from Massachusetts to Maine. Entire tribes disappeared. The disease is believed to have been brought by French fishermen and the Indians had no immunities and no experience in dealing with it so that many that could have survived died of starvation and dehydration.

The land of the state known today as Massachusetts was the home country of the Massachusetts, the Pawtucket, the Nipmuck and the Wampanoag Indians. One of the best-known Wampanoag’s chiefs was Massasoit also known as Usamquin or Yellow Feather. On December 21, 1620 the Wampanoag saw a ship (The Mayflower) entering the harbour called “Little Bay” by the Patuxet. One hundred and two people landed on the Indian land, they installed a cannon and staked lots at the mouth of the river. Many of the colonists died in the cold winter and because the food was scarce.  Samoset, an Abenaki Indian from Maine and Squanto, a Patuxet, who both spoke some English, welcomed the Colonists. By spring of 1621 50 of the 102 colonists had died from scurry, pneumonia or tuberculosis including their governor. Massasoit asked Squanto to teach the survivors how to plant corn, to build shelters and to catch fish. Massasoit, together with 60 warriors met the English in 1621 to sign a mutual peace and collaboration agreement that also included a pact to defend each other against the Narragansetts of what is now Rhodes Island. In October 1621 Massasoit invited the Pilgrims to a feast that is now known as Thanksgiving (President Lincoln moved the feast to November in 1863). Massasoit’s two sons, Wamsutta (Alexander) and Metacomet (Philip), went to the English school. In the next twenty years 20,000 more colonists joined the Pilgrims. Wamsutta succeeded his father who died in 1661. The Colonists arrested him while participating to a Peace Council with the governor of Massachusetts. He was kept prisoner until he swore loyalty to the Crown of England. He died soon afterwards (some believe that he was poisoned by the English) and Metacomet replaced him. Over a period of 40 years there were more colonists (40,000 arrived between 1621 and 1660) than Wampanoag Indians.

Soon new settlements appeared in Lynn, Watertown, Salem, Roxbury and Boston. The principle of private property being unknown to the Indians they went on hunting and fishing on land they had sold to the colonists and trouble soon followed.

In 1623 English settlements were established at Dover and Portsmouth, New Hampshire; Casco Bay and Saco Bay, Maine; Cape Ann, Gloucester, Massachusetts. All these settlements were organised under the Council of New England.

The Dutch West India Company built Fort Orange (present-day Albany, New York) in 1624. This company had been founded in 1621 to trade (mainly fur at first) in the New World. They claimed most of New York State and called it New Netherlands. The following war between the Huron and the Iroquois was in fact a war between France and Netherlands.

In 1623/24 the Narragansett and Delaware Indians were met by Verrazano who was travelling along the Atlantic coast. France had hired him to survey the eastern coast of the USA. He found the Narragansett Indians, who had never met any Europeans, friendly and ready to trade trinkets. He was also impressed by the Wampanoag of Massachusetts writing: “They are the most beautiful and have the most civil customs; their women are very gracious, of attractive manner and pleasant appearance”.  On the other hand the Indians of the Maine coast who had had previous bad experiences with Europeans (kidnapping, violence) were less friendly.

In 1626, Peter Minuit, the Governor of New Holland, bought the island of Manhattan from the Shinnecock Indians for goods worth 60 Dutch Guilders ($24) and called it New Amsterdam. They had to buy it a second time from the Reckgawawane Indians who claimed hunting rights on this land. The Dutch west India Company created new settlements that same year in Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania.

Smallpox and other diseases spread through New France, New England and New Netherlands in 1633/1635 and more than 10,000 Huron died. In 1633 in Massachusetts it was decided to make the Indian issue the responsibility of the central government.

In 1636 Roger William, minister at Salem, founded Rhode Island. He disliked the Massachusetts Bay Company for expropriating the Indian’s tribal land against the law. He said that the settlers should buy the land they require from the Indian Narragansett of Rhode Island. To this effect he organised a government in Providence in which Church and State were separate.

In order to get their land, Massachusetts and Connecticut went to war against the Pequots in 1636/37. On May 26, 1637, 90 white men under Captain John Mason with 200 Mohegan and Narragansett attacked the Pequot fort at the mouth of the Mystic River killing over 700 men, women and children. Connecticut claimed the Pequot’s land.

There was a full war between the Huron and the Iroquois between 1636 and 1640. This was a war by proxy between France and The Netherlands. A smallpox epidemic killed half the Huron population in 1639 (10,000 Indians died) and the Iroquois invaded Huronia. Other Algonquian speaking nations were also affected.

The English Puritans imposed an agreement on the Quinnipiacs (Wappingers) of New Haven, Connecticut, took most of their land and established the first Indian reservation in Connecticut in 1638 (1,200 acres). The Indians were put under the jurisdiction of an English agent; they could not sell or leave their land or receive Indians from other nations; they could not buy gun, powder or whiskey; they had to reject their old religion and accept Christianity.

In 1640 New Netherlands’s governor, Willem Kieft, was at war with the Esopus, Wappinger and Manhattan tribes. He had to hire English mercenaries to protect him.

The Five nations of the Iroquois Confederacy tried without success to make peace with the French in 1641. They agree to talk with the Huron to gain some access to the fur market. The French refused because they feared to loose a fraction of this trade to the Dutch. The French founded Montreal in 1642 on the former Iroquois village of Hochelaga. It started as a Jesuit mission to become an important military and fur trading post. Continuous Iroquois attack on the French and on the Huron disrupted the fur trade.

In 1643 the Mohawks of the Iroquois Confederacy signed a treaty with the Dutch and began a war that lasted until 1701 against the French-allied tribes, especially the Huron. The first battle took place at the mouth of the Richelieu River in Quebec between the Huron and the Iroquois armed by the Dutch. In the end the Huron were defeated as well as the other pro-French tribes such as the Tobacco, Neutral, Illinois, Susquehannock and Erie.

In 1646, John Elliot, a Puritan minister, translated the bible into Algonquian and tried to convert Massachusetts Indians to protestant Christinity.

In 1655 the Ojibwa attacked the Iroquois near Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

In 1656 the Onondagas from the Iroquois Five Nations invited the French Jesuits to open a mission on their land hoping for guns and special favours from the French. Four Jesuits and fifty retainers founded a mission in Onondaga in 1656 but two years later an epidemic killed 500 Indians. Baptism provided no immunities and this caused friction between the traditionalists and the Christian convert Onondaga.

In 1656 the Iroquois decimated the Erie tribe in the Lake Erie region and in 1658 the Mohawks destroyed the French mission near Onondaga. The French had left and the Onondaga did not resist. As a result, the Mohawks led the Iroquois Five nations Confederacy.

In 1658 the Esopus of the Hudson Valley revolted against New Netherlands but they were defeated when the Dutch hired the Mohawks to help them. The survivors dispersed in various tribes.

Massasoit the leader of the Wampanoag in Massachusetts died in 1661 and was succeeded by his 2 sons, Metacomet and Wamsutta. Wamsutta, the older son, became the Sachem. He had to decide if to accept English request for more land or to resist.

Wamsutta died in 1662 after a peace council with the governor of Massachusetts. He could have been poisoned. Metacomet succeeded to his brother Wamsutta as sachem of the Wampanoah Indians. He was also forced to swear fidelity to the English Crown and to the governor of New Plymouth. He could not sell any of his land without previous authorisation and he had to pay a hundred pounds a year in tribute to the British authorities. Metacomet secretly organised the Nipmucks, Sakonnets, Pocassets, Nausets, Pamets and Narragansetts for a future revolt.

From 1664 the English took over from the Dutch in supplying weapons to the Iroquois to help them win the trade war with the French and their Indian allies. The French, on the opposite, refused to arm their allies until they converted to Christianity.

Also in 1664, the Esopus revolted a second time, but now against the English who, like the Dutch before, hired the Mohawks to fight them along the Hudson River. The survivors joined other tribes.

In 1666 the French destroyed Tionontoguen near Canajoharie, New York and de Tracy burned some Mohawk villages.

The “praying” Indians, those converted to Christianity, were induced to attack the Mohawks of western Massachusetts and New York State in 1669 but the operation failed. John Eliot, the translator of the Bible in Algonquian, founded the village of Natick on the Charles River for converted Indian. Natick had the first Indian church in New England.

Metacomet, also known as King Philip by the settlers, organised a revolt against the settlers in 1675-1676. The Indian coalition that included Wampanoags, Narragansetts, Nipmucks, Mohegans and Podunks attacked 52 of 90 towns in Massachusetts and Rhode Island destroying 12 of them. Deerfield and Lancaster in Massachusetts were burned, the men killed and the women and children taken prisoners. However they soon ran out of ammunition and the militia raised by the Puritan soon fought back with success. The Narragansetts were destroyed outside Kingston, Rhode Island; the Nipmucks, Mohegans and Podunks were annihilated; the Wampanoags were imprisoned including the Christian converts. Metacomet was betrayed and taken near Swansea, Massachusetts and beheaded. Five hundred Wampanoags were sold as slaves in the West Indies including Metacomet’s wife and son.

After 1701 the French concentrated their new missions in Michigan and Illinois. Antoine de Cadillac founded Fort Pontchartrain in Detroit.

In 1703-1704 a French mission was founded in Illinois near present day Utica. It became also the home of the Illinois Confederacy (about 6,000 Indians at that time), the best allies of the French through intermarriage, Christianization, and commerce.

In 1712 the French in Detroit, along with the Huron and Ottawa allies, massacred several hundred Masquackies (Fox) who had been harassing the Illinois Indians. This was the beginning of the FOX War that lasted from 1712 to 1736. The surviving Masquackies moved to Wisconsin where they gathered allies (the Sauk, Mascouten, Kickapoo and Dakota) to harass the French and their allies in the Great Lakes waterways. The French then started  a war of extermination that lasted two decades while the Fox regrouped in different locations with new allies. Many tribes –with the exception of the Huron and Powatomi- moved away from Fort Detroit.

In 1717 the Iroquois made some agreement with the settlers in Pennsylvania to manage land sales and to negotiate with some other tribes. As a result the Delaware who lived in what was now claimed to be Iroquois lands had to move west. The Shawnee and the Delaware refused to recognize the Iroquois rights on their lands in Ohio and Kentucky.

The “Walking Purchase” took Delaware lands and obliged thousands of Delaware/Lenape Indians to leave Pennsylvania. A treaty signed by 3 Delaware Indians apparently gave much of the Delaware/Lenape lands in Pennsylvania (as far as a man can go in a day and a half)to Williams Penn, the colony founder. The colonists selected their three best runners and offered land and money to the one who could travel the longest distance. Two of the runners died on the run and the third one covered 65 miles in one day and a half. In doing so he secured 1200 square miles of good land to the colonists. The Delaware refused to move.

In 1742 the Iroquois league enforced Pennsylvania’s land claims from the Walking Purchase and ordered the Delaware/Lenape to move off their land. Finally they settled in western Pennsylvania.

In 1753, Benjamin Franklin, a Pennsylvania’s Indian representative, met with Ohio Indians in Pennsylvania regarding lands in Ohio.

The French and Indian War in America lasted from 1754 to 1763. It took place mainly in western Pennsylvania and in the New York-Canada corridor along Lake Champlain. The French and their Indian allies won a few battles at first capturing Fort Oswego on Lake Champlain in 1756 and Fort William Henry in 1757. Both forts were retaken by the British in 1759. Most Indians fought with the French because they saw the conflict as a contest between French fur-trading interests and the British land-owning interests. The Indians wanted to keep their lands –wanted by the British- whereas the French only wanted military and trading posts. The British prevailed in the end and the Indians lost their lands.

In 1760-1763 a Delaware Indian named Neolin was seen as a Delaware prophet in Ohio. He had a militant attitude and suggested that the Indians should drive the Europeans out of the America continent and to return to the traditions of the ancestors renouncing, among other things, guns, trade and all contacts with the Europeans. According to him by doing this the Indians would be restored to their former prosperous and harmonious state.

In 1775 Franklin tried to obtain the Six Iroquois nations neutrality in the coming war but he did not succeed. This meeting took place in German Flats, New York.

In 1777 the Iroquois central council was divided and could not take any decision as the Mohawk supported the British crown, the Seneca and the Onondaga favoured neutrality and the Oneida and Tuscarora sided with the colonies. Each individual villages and nations made their own decisions about alliance or neutrality in the coming was and this caused deep fissures in the Iroquois Confederacy that finally collapsed after the battle of Oriskany Creek in New York where a party of Mohawk, fighting for the British, ambushed Oneida troops fighting for the Americans.

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