The American Revolution & After
Early Relations Between Native Peoples and Settlers in the Thirteen Colonies

In the early 1600s, Britain established 13 colonies in what is today the northeastern seaboard of the United States. They included Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

Thus began the Indian Wars in the United States, whereby the indigenous peoples were violently displaced from their lands as these growing colonies pushed further west into the Appalachian Mountains.

The Thirteen Colonies were officially part of British North America, along with colonies in what is now Canada.

The first settlers arrived around 1600. Many British colonists created bad relations with Native Peoples by totally misunderstanding and even mistreating them.

At that time, many white men in Europe were fervently evangelical, and saw the world divided into Christians and heathens, races of colour of various kinds, who should be forcibly converted to Christianity, or exterminated if they failed to see the light.

So during the years of European expansion and exploration - 1400 to 1800 - white explorers spread out across Africa, Asia, and North America, with the bible in one hand and the sword in the other. And not often in that order.

So when European settlers arrived, some, "hardly off the boat", acted as if they owned the place. They built settlements on Native land, without negotiating any agreements. They ignored local Aboriginal laws and spiritual practices.

The newcomers were often sexually rapacious and loose because they considered Aboriginal women to be heathens who did not have to be treated with Christian civility reserved for white ladies.

And white people also seemed to have a penchant for "kidnapping" aboriginal specimens to take back to Europe to put on display.. These kidnap victims often failed to return home.

Almost from first contact, fledgling white settlements thrived for a few years then disappeared from the face of the earth, killed off or absorbed into the tribal societies that they had wronged or offended once too often.

For example, several groups of settlers who had started a settlement on Roanoke Island, North Carolina, in 1685, disappeared without a trace. Jamestown, founded in Virginia in 1607, barely survived Indian attacks.

The fur traders and explorers, for the most part, were different, out of necessity. They depended on First Nations help to survive, travel, and trade for furs.

Through the 17th and 18th centuries, the British and the First Nations had enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship.

The British needed their First Nations allies to defeat the French in the fur trade and in battle for their territories. 

In return, the British had tried to protect First Nations from the worst excesses of their American colonists.

Painter - Charles Bird King c1816-1835

The first 13 American Colonies

Painter - Charles Bird King c1816-1835

  Pocahontas: A Famous Story
Painter - Charles Bird King c1816-1835

Pocahontas was the girl, who saved the man, who saved the first successful European colony in the United States.

Indians were angered when the English founded a settlement on their land in 1607. Capt. John Smith was made the Governor.

When he and some hunting companions strayed too far from the fort, they were captured, and killed - all except John Smith.

His bearing impressed the chief Powhatan, and his daughter - history records - also intervened to save his life. John Smith was returned alive to Jamestown.

The colony was torn by dissension and faced disintegration, until the forceful Smith took charge again, reorganized and reinvigorated the settlement, ensuring its survival. The white man had a foothold in North America, thanks to the forbearance of Powhatan, and the "gentle nature" of the 11 year old Pocahontas.

Other First Peoples across North America could trace their coming trials and tragedies, at the hands of white men, to this fateful intervention.

Go to Murder of Miss Jane McCrae
The American Revolution, 1776
Painter - Charles Bird King c1816-1835

In 1776, American colonists rebelled against the British Crown and fought to create an independent country.

First Nations, such as the Iroquois and Cherokee, for the most part sided with the British.

First Nations were against American settlers who were encroaching on their land without agreements.

These settlers were ignoring the British law that only the Crown could negotiate for land rights, and that land could not be taken without a legal treaty.

Joseph Brant, a leader of the Mohawks and a close friend of Crown representative William Johnson helped mobilize many First Nations tribes to fight alongside the British.

Brant had been educated in the British tradition and had traveled to England.

However, the Americans still won, and created the United States of America as a separate nation.

The Treaty of Paris II, 1783  

The Treaty of Paris in 1783 delineated the border between the United States of America and what remained of British North America, including Canada.

During the American Revolution, many First Nations people allied themselves with the British. Joseph Brant and the Mohawks were loyal and powerful allies.

The Crown excluded First Nations people from the Treaty of Paris. Lands were divided between British and Americans, with no provision for First Nations lands. People who had lived on the lands longer than either the British or the Americans now had no say in whether their tribes would be living under American jurisdiction or British.

By setting up the border and ignoring Native input, the Treaty negotiators ignored the Fort Stanwix and the Covenant treaties which had been based on the understanding of a mutual friendship solidified by constant communication and open negotiation.

However, Frederick Haldimand, the Governor of Quebec understood the problem. He negotiated with the Mississauga Indians north of Lake Ontario for two plots of land, which he set aside for First Nations people who had been British allies and were now fleeing north to escape the new American jurisdiction.

This land would eventually become the Six Nations Reserve for Joseph Brant and his followers.

Signing of the Treaty of Paris

American leaders pose for a painting that was supposed to include British signers, but the Crown representatives never posed and the painting was never finished.
Creation of the Grand River
Six Nations Reserve, 1783

The Iroquois nations were disgruntled over not participating in the Treaty of Paris, and over not receiving any benefits or land for their participation in the American Revolution on the side of the British.

In an effort to restore peace with the Iroquois, Governor John Graves Simcoe, representing the crown, granted a reserve along the Grand River for those members of the Six Nations who lost their land to the United States and who remained loyal to the British Crown.

The Six Nations Reserve is still home to descendants of First Nations people who remained loyal to the Crown, and emigrated to what is now Canada after the American Revolution. .

St. Paul's church at Brantford was built on the reserve two years later. It was the site of active conversion to Christianity of many of the native population. It is the only Royal chapel outside of Britain, and still stands today as Ontario's oldest Protestant Church.
The Jay Treaty, 1794  

The Jay Treaty was negotiated between the Crown and the United States, to prevent any further conflict. 

The British removed their forts south of the Great Lakes, in return for the agreement that First Nations people could cross the border at any time, without any hassle.

A Copy of the Jay Treaty
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Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. 2007