treaties & cultural change
The War of 1812 and After
The War of 1812 map
Map of Canada and US Territory circa 1812

During the War of 1812, the Iroquois fought on the British side, and  the Indians played an important role in defeating the Americans, and keeping British North America out of American hands.

The Americans were terrified of the Indians, and American volunteers often fled in terror when they learned that Indians were fighting on the British side.

First Nations support turned the tide of battle at the Battle of Queenston Heights where Americans invaded Canada.

Native leaders like John Norton and Tecumseh played a key role in keeping Canada British with their contingents of warriors fighting alongside British regulars and Canadian volunteers.


This is the only image of Tecumseh that has any credibility to being in his likeness, because he died early. His brother lived long enough to have his portrait painted.
The Two Shawnee Brothers

Tenskwatawaw and Tecumseh were two Shawnee brothers who preached for the unity of their people, who lived in the Ohio area south and west of Lake Erie. At first, Tenskwatawaw preached with religious fervor, and was the better known.

However, as the War of 1812 approached, Tecumseh stressed the need for unity of his people, amidst the war, as a means of survival, both for themselves as a people and also for their lands that were already being misappropriated by Americans.

Tecumseh proposed a central Confederacy for dealing with treaties, so that diverse native groups could have more understanding and more control of the land being discussed.

When an American general refused to allow Tecumseh's Confederacy to have its capital at Tippecanoe, it became apparent that the Confederacy needed a strong ally.

Tecumseh and his forces became a major ally of Britain. Without this support, we in Canada might now be Americans.

However, when Tecumseh was killed in 1813, the plans for a First Nations Confederation fell apart.

Painter - Charles Bird King c1816-1835

Go to Currier's Tecumseh

The Death of Tecumseh 1813. This Currier print from 1846 summarizes, perfectly, America's favourite policy towards its native populations in the 19th c.

Tecumseh was killed at Moraviantown in southwestern Ontario and his body spirited away by his people. This American born chief today lies in his adopted country, Canada.

After the War of 1812  

With the coming of peace new settlers flocked into Canada along the St. Lawrence River and the southern Great Lakes. Many were refugees from the United States who did not want white settlers with British loyalties.

These settlers wanted to cut down the timber and clear the land for farming. Upper Canada urgently needed First Nations land.

By the 1830s, the Crown had used the treaty process to obtain title to most of present-day Ontario south of the Pre-Cambrian Shield.Most

First Nations people readily accepted the terms offered by British authorities.

Because of past military alliances, they trusted the government to look after their best interests, and protect them from land-grabbing American expansionists.

Clearing the Land by JD Kelly (detail)

JD Kelly painted many of Canada's finest historical pictures in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Go to JD Kelly
American Native People Immigrate
to Upper Canada

After the war, Americans tried to force natives on United States soil into Oklahoma, creating a path dubbed 'the trail of tears.'

However, many were unhappy with the move and instead relocated on reserves and settlements in Southern Ontario along the Northern shores of the Great Lakes.

Chief among these were the Iroquois - under John Brant, son of Joseph Brant - who were granted a vast tract of virgin forest country along the Grand River in southern Ontario.

In the short term it looked to them like they got a good deal.

Two hundred years later these territories, hugely encroached upon by advancing white civilization has created areas of civil turbulence at countless places, like Ipperwash, Caledonia, Deseronto, etc., where native experts say treaties were ignored and terms not followed or clearly transgressed by ruthless unprincipled white men.

To get justice, Canadian Aboriginal peoples are seeking redress through the courts and by civil disobedience.

Painter - Charles Bird King c1816-1835
Native Peoples & the Building of America
Painter - Jeanette McClelland Brookes 1995


Painter - Charles Bird King 1820

Not even women and children were safe from the avenging wrath of invading racist settlers, genocidal local militiamen - like Col. Chivington of Colorado, who carried out the Sand Creek Massacre - and the heartless steamroller of the United States Army and its ruthless generals like Custer and Sheridan.

No wonder American Indians sought a kinder, gentler place of refuge, Canada...

Sadly, sometimes they weren't even safe there. The Cyprus Hills Massacre in 1873 was carried out by American wolfers who crossed the border to kill dozens of Indian men, women, and children, before scurrying back across to the US and safety... Canadian police tried to bring them to justice in Canada but were stymied by US officials.

This US depredation actually motivated the Canadian Government to form the North West Mounted Police to patrol the area, and prevent future massacres, which though commonplace in the US, it did not want in Canada.

Left and below disarmed Sioux men, women, and children lie frozen, shot to death, amid the ruins of their tent camp at Wounded Knee.

Almost from the beginning native people have been seen - at best - as a great inconvenience to Americans in their drive to create living space for white people.

Today's American folk heroes, like Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett, were actually frontiersmen who fought Indians so they could steal their land and bring white settlers into Kentucky in the early 19th century.

The success of this policy to wipe out the Indian was reflected in the literature of the time; an American classic "The Last of the Mohicans" could very well stand for the aim of the government's Indian policy of the time.

It mirrored the quintessential American approach to the "noble Red Man" during the "building of America" from 1600 to 1900 - kill them wherever they got in the way of white development, then write about them, name rivers, towns, and counties after them. And celebrate - their passing...

When small time private groups like those of Boone couldn't manage it, the American Army was used to do the job and teach the "noble Red Man" his place in the American scheme of things. Thousands of men, women, and children, were routinely massacred to make way for development.

As late as December, 1890, the American Army used a machine gun to massacre some 300 helpless and freezing men, women, and children in the winter snows of Wounded Knee in South Dakota. Below the peaceful Chief Bigfoot shot and frozen.

This was a huge difference in policy from that pursued by Britain and Canadians north of the border, where genocide was never a government or private policy.

And which is why, on many occasions, various American Indian tribal groups, fearing they would be exterminated, fled across the border to Canada for safety from pursuing American armed forces.

Countless thousands of other, like the Nez Perce under Chief Joseph, died in failed attempts to reach the safe haven of Canada.

Go to Massacre at Wounded Knee

Trophy pictures of the victorious South Dakotan settlers, militiamen, and US Army soldiers piling the corpses of entire families into mass graves.

Their descendants would pose for their own trophy pictures, a century later, at Abu Ghraib, in Iraq.

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Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. 2007