Colonial-Indian Relations

By 1640 the British had established colonies along the New England coast and the Chesapeake Bay.

Sometimes friendly, sometimes hostile, eastern Indian tribes were no longer strangers to the Europeans. Native Americans benefited from the new technology and trade brought by the early settlers, but European diseases and a way of life that required freely roaming the land posed a serious challenge to the Indians' way of life.

Trading with the Europeans brought benefits such as knives, axes, weapons, cooking utensils, fishhooks and other goods. Indians who traded initially had significant advantage over rivals who did not. In response to European demand, tribes such as the Iroquois began to focus on fur trapping during the 17th century. Cash received for furs and pelts provided tribes the means to purchase colonial goods until late into the 18th century.

Early colonial Native American relations were a mix of cooperation and conflict. Skirmishes and wars most often resulted in an Indian defeat and further loss of land. The first of the important Native American uprisings occurred in Virginia in 1622, when some 347colonistswere killed.

The steady influx of settlers into the backwoods regions of the eastern colonies disrupted Native American life. As more and more game was killed off, tribes were faced with the difficult choice of going hungry, going to war, or moving and coming into conflict with other tribes to the west.

The Iroquois were more successful in resisting European advances. In 1570, five tribes joined to form the most complex Native American nation of its time, League of the Iroquois, run by a council. The league traded furs with the British and sided with them against the French in the war for the dominance of America between 1754 and 1763. The Iroquois League stayed strong until the American Revolution.

Source: Colonial-Indian Relations
© 1994-2012 GMW - University of Groningen - Humanities Computing

Back to top