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The First Continental Congress of representatives from all the colonies took place in 1774. It committed £40,000 to Indian affairs and appointed a Committee on Indian Affairs to negotiate terms of neutrality or support from the Indian nations. Indian relations were considered important to the success of the coming War for Independence.

The second Continental Congress of 1775 established Indian Commissioners for three departments –Northern, Southern and Middle departments of Indian affairs. The Congress took centralised control over Indian affairs, not leaving it to the individual colonies as the British did. Each department was authorized to make treaties and to arrest British Indian agents.

In 1778 the Delaware Indians signed a peace treaty with the USA at Fort Pitt. This treaty gave them the potential right to send Delaware representatives to Congress (it was never implemented)in return for supporting the colonies against the British. This practice went on until 1871 when the Congress prohibited any further treaties with the Indians. However between 1778 and 1871, the Senate ratified 370 treaties with the Indian people. After 1871 agreements with Indian groups were made by Acts of Congress, Excecutive order, or executive agreement.

In 1779, the Continental Congress passed a law that only the federal government, not individual states, could transfer ownership of Indian lands.

At the battle of Yorktown in 1781, Washington with the help of the French generals Lafayette and Rochambau surrounded and defeated the British led by General Corvallis. The French fleet entered Cheasapeake Bay. Although the peace treaty was only signed in Paris in 1783 this victory marked the end of the war for Independence. The Americans disregarded their French allies and signed a separate peace with Britain.

In 1789 the Indian Affairs were moved to the War department. Secretary of War, Henry Knox, agreed that Indian nations had legal title to their lands “until the government, by negotiation or war, extinguished that title2.

Between 1789 and 1850 the US government “acquired” over 450 million acres of Indian lands for less that 190 million dollars ($0.42 an acre).

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