Friday, December 31, 2021

What is Yuletide?

Yule was typically celebrated for three days from the first night of the Winter Solstice, December 21 or 22, to December 24 or December 25.

Germanic & Northern European peoples observed Yule or Yuletide, a Winter Solstice festival connected with the worship of the Norse god Odin & the celebration of Odin’s Wild Hunt, where Odin & his goddess Frigg rode through swathes of winter light in the night sky to chase damned souls to the underworld. People feared that if they witnessed or in any way mocked the hunt, they too could be taken into the underworld.

Starting in December, some peoples celebrated Yule for a whole month, often up to three. People slaughtered animals, cooking the meat to enjoy with wine & ale. But, purposely, they saved the blood. Blood was used ritually to decorate the people & the statues of their gods & goddesses.
The solstice brought the darkest & longest night of the year. Celebrations were lit by firelight from masses of candles, bonfires, & the burning of a large log called the Yule Log, which was sprinkled with salt & oil so that when it burned down the ashes could be scattered around homes to ward off evil spirits.
Other customs carried to the modern era included decorating homes with trees covered in candles, metal ornaments, & fruit, & caroling or wassailing, where wandering groups of singers were rewarded with warm mugs of cider or ale.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Timeline of Judaism/Christian History to Colonial America

Timeline of Judaism/Christian History

Judaism developed among the ancient Hebrews. Judaism is characterized by a belief in one transcendent God who revealed himself to Abraham, Moses, & the Hebrew prophets & by a religious life in accordance with Scriptures & rabbinic traditions. Judaism is the complex phenomenon of a total way of life for the people, comprising theology, law, & innumerable cultural traditions.  The history of Judaism can be divided into major periods: biblical Judaism (c. 20th–4th century BCE), Hellenistic Judaism (4th century BCE–2nd century CE), Rabbinic Judaism (2nd–18th century CE), and modern Judaism (c. 1750 to the present).

c.2100 BC Calling of Abraham - the Father of the nation.

c.2000 BC Birth of Jacob, Israel. 12 tribes of Israel are named after Jacob's sons.

c.1900 BC Joseph slavery Egypt. Israelites become captives in the land.

c.1446 ?      Exodus begins by Moses, Israelites leave Egypt & settle in Canaan.

c1010 BC David becomes king of Israel, making Jerusalem his capital.

c970 BC David's son Solomon becomes king & builds a temple in Jerusalem..

c930 BC Kingdom is divided into 2 sections: Northern (Israel) & Southern (Judah).

753 BC Traditional date for the founding of Rome.

722 BC Fall of the kingdom of Israel to the Assyrians.

586 BC Babylonians take Jerusalem & destroy  temple. Jews taken to Babylon.

c538 BC Return of some of the exiles. Start of reconstruction of the temple.

c512 BC Completion of the temple.

c330 BC  Conquest by Alexander the Great. Rise of Hellenism (Greek culture).

c.250 BC  Translate the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek. 

63 BC Roman rule of Israel begins.

Christianity is a faith tradition that focuses on the figure of Jesus Christ. Christianity is more than a system of religious belief. It has generated a culture, a set of ideas & ways of life, practices, & artifacts that have been handed down from generation to generation, since Jesus first became the object of faith. The agent of Christianity is the church, the community of people who make up the body of believers.

c.4 BC Birth of Jesus Christ, in Bethlehem.

c30 AD Death of Jesus Christ.

c33    Pentecost & the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2).

c33 Stephen - First Christian martyr (Acts 7).

c.48 Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15). Gentiles included

c.60 First Gospel published (often thought to be that written by Mark).

62 Martyrdom of James, "The Lord's Brother."

c.67-68 Apostles Peter & Paul martyred in the reign of the Roman emperor Nero.

70 Judaism rebellion on Roman empire ends. Destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.

Fr 70 Christianity moves to Antioch, Alexandria & Rome.

c.90 Book of Revelation & Gospel of Saint John written.

161-80 Persecution of Christians by Emperors Marcus Aurelius. Decius & Diocletian.

301 Armenia becomes 1st country to adopt Christianity as the state religion.

312 Rome emperor Constantine envisions a flaming cross "By this sign conquer." 

313 Edict of Milan by Constantine - Christianity is religion in the Roman empire.

325 Nicene Creed declares "Begotten, not made; of one being with the Father"

367 Saint Athanasius is the first to list all 27 New Testament books

381 Ecumenical Council at Constantinople revises Nicene creed to current form.

c.382 Saint Jerome begins translating the Bible into Latin.

397 Synod at Carthage ratifies the 27 books of New Testament as sacred.

431 Ecumenical council at Ephesus where Mary is declared "Mother of God"

449 At Ephesus, Pope Leo I defends orthodox belief & claims Papal supremacy.

589 Insertion of  "and the son" into the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.

597 St. Augustine becomes the first Archbishop of Canterbury.

664 Synod of Whitby ratifies the authority of the Pope in England.

731 Bede writes his Ecclesiastical History.

800      Charlemagne is crowned emperor of Holy Roman Empire by Pope Leo III.

988 Conversion of Prince Vladimir to Christianity in Russia.

1054 Great Schism - Eastern Orthodox & Western Catholic churches separate.

1095 Pope Urban II orders the 1st Crusade to recover the Holy Land from Moslems.

1099 Crusaders conquer Jerusalem.

1182 Massacre of Latin inhabitants of Constantinople.

1187 Jerusalem recaptured by a Moslem army.

1189 Third Crusade led by Richard the Lionheart of England.

1204 Sack of Constantinople during the 4th crusade.

1216-23 Papal approval of the Dominican & Franciscan orders.

1266-73 Thomas Aquinas writes of systematic Theology: Summa Theologiae.

1305 Papacy moved to Avignon following a dispute with Philip IV of France.

c.1376 John Wycliffe writes for reform of the church.

1378 Return Papacy to Rome, Antipopes emerge. Ends in 1417 with Pope Martin V.

c.1380 John Wycliffe translates the Bible into Middle English.

1453 Constantinople falls to the Ottoman Turks.

1517 Martin Luther posts 95 Theses in Germany; begins the Protestantism.

1525 William Tyndale completes his translation of the Bible into English.

1534 Ignatius of Loyola founds the Jesuits.

1534 Act of Supremacy passed - Henry VIII becomes head of the English church.

1536 John Calvin publishes his Institutes of the Christian Religion.

1545-63 Council of Trent - Roman Catholic counter reformation.

1549 Book of Common Prayer published  in England (revised in 1662).

1555 Peace of Augsburg ends religious wars in Germany.

1611 Publication of the King James Version of the Bible.

1618-48 Protestant/Catholic conflict in Germany (30 Years War).

1738 John & Charles Wesley form the Methodist church in England

1730-60 The "Great Awakening" - A revival movement among Protestants in the USA.

Monday, November 29, 2021

A Brief Overview of Hanukkah

Photo by Lawrence Peskin, History Professor at Morgan State University in Baltimore

Hanukkah, (Hebrew: “Dedication”) also called Festival of Lights, or Feast of the Maccabees, Judaism festival that begins on Kislev 25, the Judaism calendar, & is celebrated for 8 days. Hanukkah reaffirms the ideals of Judaism & commemorates in particular the rededication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem by the lighting of candles on each day of the festival. Although not mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures, Hanukkah came to be widely celebrated & remains one of the most popular Judaism religious observances. 

Origin & History

Hanukkah commemorates the Maccabean (Hasmonean) victories over the forces of the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175–164 BCE) & the rededication of the Temple on Kislev 25, 164 BCE. Led by Mattathias & his son Judas Maccabeus (died c. 161 BCE), the Maccabees were the first Jews who fought to defend their religious beliefs rather than their lives. According to I Maccabees, a text of the Apocrypha (writings excluded from the Judaismcanon but included in the Roman Catholic & Eastern Orthodox Old Testament canons), Antiochus had invaded Judaea, tried to Hellenize the Jews, & desecrated the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Following the Judaism victory in a three-year struggle against Antiochus, Judas ordered the cleansing & restoration of the Temple. After it was purified, a new altar was installed & dedicated on Kislev 25. Judas then proclaimed that the dedication of the restored Temple should be celebrated every year for eight days beginning on that date. In II Maccabees the celebration is compared to the festival of Sukkoth (the Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of Booths), which the Jews were unable to celebrate because of the invasion of Antiochus. Hanukkah, therefore, emerged as a celebration of the dedication, as the word itself suggests.

Although the traditional practice of lighting candles at Hanukkah was not established in the books of the Maccabees, the custom most likely started relatively early. The practice is enshrined in the Talmud (Shabbat 21b), which describes the miracle of the oil in the Temple. According to the Talmud, when Judas Maccabeus entered the Temple, he found only a small jar of oil that had not been defiled by Antiochus. The jar contained only enough oil to burn for one day, but miraculously the oil burned for eight days until new consecrated oil could be found, establishing the precedent that the festival should last eight days. The early date for this story or at least the practice of lighting eight candles is confirmed by the debate of the 1st-century-CE scholars Hillel & Shammai. Hillel & his school taught that one candle should be lit on the first night of Hanukkah & one more each night of the festival. Shammai held that all eight candles should be lit the first night, with the number decreasing by one each night thereafter.

The celebration of Hanukkah includes a variety of religious & nonreligious customs. Like Purim, Hanukkah is a joyous festival that lacks the work restrictions characteristic of the major festivals of Rosh Hashana & Yom Kippur.


The most important of all Hanukkah traditions is the lighting of the menorah each evening. Also known as the Hanukkah lamp, the menorah recalls the Temple lampstand & is a simple or elaborate candelabra with eight branches plus a holder for the shammash (“servant”) candle that is used to light the other eight candles. One candle is lit on the first evening, & an additional candle is lit on each subsequent evening until eight candles are burning on the last evening. Olive oil was traditionally used for lighting the menorah, but it was replaced by candles, which are inserted in the menorah incrementally each night of the festival from right to left but are lit from left to right. A blessing is also offered while the candles are lit each night. The menorah was originally kindled outside the home, but it was brought inside in ancient times to guard against offending neighbors.

Liturgy & Prayers

The Hanukkah observance is also characterized by the daily reading of Scripture, recitation of some of the Psalms, almsgiving, & singing of a special hymn. The liturgy includes Hallel, public readings from the Torah, & the ʿal ha-nissim (“for the miracles”) prayer. The Scroll of Antiochus, an early medieval account of Hanukkah, is read in some synagogues & homes. Along with the daily prayers, thanks are offered to God for delivering the strong into the hands of the weak & the evil into the hands of the good. The word Hanukkah in Hebrew also means “education,” & rabbis & educators try to instill in their congregants & students the notion that the holiday celebrates Judaism's strengths, perseverance, & continuity.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

The Winter Solstice - 3200 BC Prehistoric Passage Tombs or Monuments

Newgrange in County Meath, Ireland

Newgrange is a prehistoric structure in County Meath, Ireland.  It was built during the Neolithic period around 3200 BC, making it older than Stonehenge & the Egyptian pyramids.  According to carbon-14 dates, it is about 500 years older than the current form of Stonehenge, and the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, as well as predating the Mycenaean culture of ancient Greece.  The site consists of a large circular mound with a stone passageway & interior chambers. The mound has a retaining wall at the front & is ringed by engraved kerbstones. 
Entrance to Newgrange in Ireland in  1905, when the mound had become largely overgrown.

Newgrange contains various examples of abstract Neolithic rock art carved onto it. These carvings fit into 10 categories, 5 of which are curvilinear (circles, spirals, arcs, serpentiniforms & dot-in-circles) and the other 5 of which are rectilinear (chevrons, lozenges, radials, parallel lines & offsets). There is no agreement among archaeologist & historians about what the site was used for, but it has been speculated that it had religious significance – it is aligned with the rising sun & its light floods the chamber on the winter solstice.
Entrance to Newgate in Ireland today

A passage grave or tomb or monument consists of a narrow passage made of large stones & one or multiple burial? chambers covered in earth or stone. The building of passage tombs usually dates from the Neolithic Age.  Those with more than one chamber may have multiple sub-chambers leading off from a main chamber.  One common layout, the cruciform passage grave, is cross-shaped.  Not all passage graves have been found to contain evidence of human remains. One such example is Maeshowe in Scotland.  Maeshowe is a Neolithic chambered passage monument or grave situated on Mainland, Orkney, Scotland.  It was probably built around 2800 BCE.  Megalithic art has been identified carved into the stones at some sites. The passage itself, in a number of notable instances, is aligned in such a way that the sun shines into the passage at a significant point in the year, for example at the winter solstice.
Maeshowe in Orkney, Scotland

Passage tombs or monuments are distributed extensively in lands along the Atlantic seaboard of Europe. They are found in Ireland, Britain, Scandinavia, northern Germany, & the Drenthe area of the Netherlands. They are also found in Iberia, some parts of the Mediterranean, & along the northern coast of Africa. In Ireland & Britain, passage tombs or monuments are often found in large clusters. Many later passage tombs were constructed at the tops of hills or mountains, perhaps because their builders intended them to be seen from a great distance.
Maeshowe Entrance today

The Winter Solstice - The Druids & Mistletoe

Druids formed the professional class in ancient Celtic society. They performed the functions of modern day priests, teachers, poets, ambassadors, astronomers, genealogists, philosophers, musicians, theologians, scientists, & judges. Druids led public rituals often held within fenced groves of sacred trees.  

The word "Druidae" is of Celtic origin. The Roman writer Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus, 23/24-79 A.D.) believed it to be a cognate with the Greek work "drus," meaning "an oak." "Dru-wid" combines the word roots "oak" & "knowledge" ("wid" means "to know" or "to see" - as in the Sanskrit "vid"). The oak (together with the rowan & hazel) was an important sacred tree to the Druids. In the Celtic social system, Druid was a title given to learned men & women possessing "oak knowledge" (or "oak wisdom").

Some scholars have argued that Druids originally belonged to a pre-Celtic ('non-Aryan') population in Britain & Ireland (from where they spread to Gaul), noting that there is no trace of Druidism among Celts elsewhere - in Cisalpine Italy, Spain, or Galatia (modern Turkey). Others, however, believe that Druids were an indigenous Celtic intelligentsia to be found among all Celtic peoples, but were known by other names.

The Winter Solstice is the time of the death of the old sun & the birth of the dark-half of the year.   The Winter Solstice was called "Alban Arthuan," Welch for "Light of Winter" by the Druids.  This was a time of dread for the ancient peoples, as they saw the days getting shorter & shorter. A great ritual was needed to revert the course of the sun. 
This time for the ritual may have been calculated by the great circles of stone & burial grounds which are aligned to the Winter Solstice, such as Stonehenge in England & Newgrange in County Meath, Ireland.   John Aubrey, writing in the 17C first thought it a "probability" that stone circles, such as Stonehenge, "were Temples of the Druids" titling his text on stone circles the "Templa Druidum."   This idea was picked up by William Stukeley, in the early 18C, who subtitled his 1st book, Stonehenge, published in 1740, "a Temple Restored to the British Druids, and his 2nd publication on Avebury, published in 1743, "a Temple of the British Druids."   Although later, in the 19C, Sir John Lubbock (1834-1913) dated Stonehenge to a period much earlier than the time of the Druids (that is, to about 3000 B.C., whereas the Druids don't appear in the historical record until 1800 years later), nonetheless the view was maintained by some, that Druids were pre-Celtic inhabitants of Britain & that the religious beliefs & practices for which Stonehenge was built are ancestral to those of the laterday Celtic Druids.  And the speculation continues.

Sure enough, the next day after the great Druid Winter Solstice celebration, the Sun began to move higher into the sky, showing that it had been reborn.  For the Druids, the Winter Solstice is the end of month of the Elder Tree & the start of the month of the Birch.  This is the time of the Serpent Days or transformation.  The Elder & Birch stand at the entrance to Annwn or Celtic underworld where all life was formed. As in several other Druid myths, they guard the entrance to the underworld.  At this time, the Sun God journeys through the underworld to learn the secrets of death & life and to bring out those souls to be reincarnated. 
Mistletoe has a compelling Druid history. According to ancient Druid tradition, Mistletoe was the most sacred of all plants. Mistletoe was used by Druid priests in a ceremony which was held 5 days after the New Moon following Winter Solstice. The Druid priests would cut Mistletoe from a holy Oak tree with a golden sickle. The branches had to be caught before they touched the ground.  The priest then divided the branches into sprigs & dispersed them to the people, who hung them over doorways as protection.  Druids believed Mistletoe had miraculous properties that could cure illnesses, antidote poisons, ensure fertility, & protect against evil witchcraft. It was also a sign of peace & goodwill. When warring tribes came across Mistletoe, a temporary truce would be observed until the next day. 
Tradition relates that on the Winter Solstice, Druids would gather by the oldest mistletoe-clad oak. The Chief Druid would make his way to the mistletoe to be cut whilst below, other Druids would hold open a sheet to catch it, making sure none of it touched the ground.  With his golden sickle the Chief Druid would remove the mistletoe to be caught below.  It is said that the early Christian church banned the use of mistletoe because of its association with Druids.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Native American Heritage Day

Native American Heritage Day is a national holiday observed on the day after Thanksgiving in the United States.

President George W. Bush signed into law legislation introduced by Congressman Joe Baca (D-Calif.), to designate the Friday after Thanksgiving as Native American Heritage Day. The Native American Heritage Day Bill was supported by only 184 out of 567 federally recognized tribes, & designates who approved the Friday following Thanksgiving, as a day to pay tribute to Native Americans for their contributions to the United States.

The Native American Heritage Day Bill encourages Americans of all backgrounds to observe the day after Thanksgiving as Native American Heritage Day, through appropriate ceremonies & activities. It also encourages public elementary & secondary schools to enhance student understanding of Native Americans by providing classroom instructions focusing on their history, achievements, & contributions.

The United States House of Representatives originally passed H.J. Res. 62 on November 13, 2007. The bill was passed with technical adjustments by unanimous consent in the United States Senate on September 22, 2008. Then, on September 26, 2008, the House of Representatives unanimously voted to pass the legislation again, including the adjustments from the Senate. The legislation was signed into public law by the President on October 8, 2008.

There is conflict about the day chosen to honor Native Americans.  In addition to calling Thanksgiving the "National Day of Mourning," some Native Americans believe it is "poor taste" for Native American Heritage Day to be on Black Friday - "a day of greed & aggressive capitalism."

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

9000-year-old Obsidian Tools Found at Bottom of Lake Huron

The two ancient obsidian flakes recovered from a now submerged archaeological site beneath Lake Huron represent the oldest & farthest east confirmed occurrence of western obsidian in the continental United States.

Obsidian, or volcanic glass, is a prized raw material for knappers, both ancient & modern, with its lustrous appearance, predictable flaking, & resulting razor-sharp edges.

As such, it was used & traded widely throughout much of human history.

Obsidian from the Rocky Mountains & the West was an exotic exchange commodity in Eastern North America.

“Obsidian from the far western United States is rarely found in the east,” said Dr. Ashley Lemke, an anthropologist in the Department of Sociology & Anthropology at the University of Texas at Arlington.

The two ancient obsidian artifacts were recovered from a sample of sediment that was hand excavated at a depth of 32 m (105 feet) in an area between two submerged hunting structures at the bottom of Lake Huron.

“This particular find is really exciting because it shows how important underwater archaeology is,” Dr. Lemke said.

“The preservation of ancient underwater sites is unparalleled on land, & these places have given us a great opportunity to learn more about past peoples.”

The larger artifact is a mostly complete, roughly triangular, biface thinning flake made from a black & translucent material with a sub-vitreous texture.

The second artifact is a small, very thin, translucent flake on a material visually similar to the larger specimen.

“These tiny obsidian artifacts reveal social connections across North America 9,000 years ago,” Dr. Lemke said.

“The artifacts found below the Great Lakes come from a geological source in Oregon, 4,000 km (2,485 miles) away — making it one of the longest distances recorded for obsidian artifacts anywhere in the world.”

See: PacTV site 16th November, 2021

Monday, November 15, 2021

DNA Tracks mysterious Denisovans to Chinese cave, just before Modern Humans Showed Up

DNA Tracks mysterious Denisovans to Chinese cave, just before Modern Humans Showed Up

29 OCT 2020 By Ann Gibbons

For today's Buddhist monks, Baishiya Karst Cave, 3200 meters high on the Tibetan Plateau, is holy. For ancient Denisovans, extinct hominins known only from DNA, teeth, and bits of bone found in another cave 2800 kilometers away in Siberia, it was a home. Last year, researchers proposed that a jawbone found long ago in the Tibetan cave was Denisovan, based on its ancient proteins. But archaeologist Dongju Zhang of Lanzhou University and her team wanted more definitive evidence, including DNA, the molecular gold standard. So in December 2018, they began to dig, after promising the monks they would excavate only at night and in winter to avoid disturbing worshippers.

After working from dusk to dawn while temperatures outside plunged to –18°C, then covering traces of their dig every morning, the scientists' persistence paid off. Today in Science, Zhang's team reports the first Denisovan ancient DNA found outside Denisova Cave: mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) gleaned not from fossils, but from the cave sediments themselves. Precise dates show the Denisovans took shelter in the cave 100,000 years and 60,000 years ago, and possibly as recently as 45,000 years ago, when modern humans were flowing into eastern Asia.

The find shows that even though their bones are rare, "Denisovans were widespread in this hemisphere," says University of Oxford geochronologist Tom Higham, who was not part of the study. It also ends a long quest for Denisovan DNA outside Siberia. "Every year, I've said we will find this," says co-author Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (EVA). "It's been a decade."

The presence of Denisovan DNA in the genomes of living people across Asia suggested these ancient humans were widespread. But the partial jaw from Baishiya Karst Cave was the first fossil evidence. Zhang and her colleagues identified the jaw as Denisovan based on a new method that relies on variation in a protein. Some researchers questioned the claim, however, because the method was new, and no one knew where in the cave the jaw had been found.

Those questions are likely to fade. The dig, led by Zhang and Fahu Chen of the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, took many sediment samples and found charcoal from fires, 1310 simple stone tools, and 579 pieces of bone from animals including rhinos and hyenas. Paleogeneticist Qiaomei Fu of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing managed to extract hominin mtDNA from the sediment itself. The mtDNA, perhaps shed in poop or urine, most closely matched that of Denisovans.

Meanwhile, geochronologists led by Bo Li and Zenobia Jacobs of the University of Wollongong dated material from those same sediment samples. They used optical dating to reveal when light last struck mineral grains in the samples, showing when each grain was buried. The four layers that yielded Denisovan mtDNA were laid down 100,000, 60,000, and as recently as 45,000 years ago, although the younger sediments were disturbed.

The dates for the older sediments seem highly reliable, says Higham, who dated Denisova Cave. And by showing DNA and dates can be gleaned from the same sediment samples, the work opens "a new era of molecular caving," says geochronologist Katerina Douka of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.

The charcoal in the cave shows its occupants built fires. They also used simple stone tools, and, from the cave's high opening, must have spied on animals grazing in the meadows below. Some may also have been on the lookout for modern humans, who were in the region by 40,000 years ago.

In a separate study published today in Science, Pääbo reports extracting modern human DNA, the oldest yet in Asia, from 34,000- and 40,000-year-old fossils from what is now Mongolia and from near Beijing, respectively. Those genomes included Denisovan DNA, the legacy of mating that happened roughly 50,000 years ago. But the Denisovan sequences differed from those found in living New Guineans and Australian Aboriginals. Homo sapiens must have met and mated with two populations of Denisovans—one in mainland Asia and one in Southeast Asia, says EVA paleogeneticist Diyendo Massilani—further evidence that they were once numerous and wide-ranging.

The Denisovans bequeathed a particular genetic gift to modern Tibetans: a "superathlete" variant of a gene, called EPAS1, that helps red blood cells use oxygen efficiently and is found in Denisovans from Denisova Cave. Zhang and her colleagues think the Tibetan Plateau Denisovans may have been adapted to life at high altitude, and that EPAS1 may have spread widely among them, before they handed it on to modern Tibetans.

But molecular dating suggests EPAS1 spread rapidly only in the past 5000 years. And natural selection would have favored that gene variant only in people who lived at high altitude year-round, says archaeologist Mark Aldenderfer, professor emeritus at the University of California, Merced. The Denisovans may have lived only seasonally in the cave. Zhang's team will need to find nuclear DNA to test its hunch.

Zhang expects more digs at the cave will clarify the issue with DNA and perhaps fossils. "The study of this cave is only beginning," she says.

Neil Bockoven tells us that two breakthrough studies employing several cutting edge technologies have documented the oldest modern human DNA in Asia, and the first Denisovan DNA outside of Siberia. 

It appears that modern humans showed up in Central Asia at roughly the time that Denisovans died off there. In one study, researchers tested sediments, not bones, in a Tibetan cave for DNA. The sediments were dated with optical methods, which can detect when light last struck the mineral grains. The mitochondrial DNA found in the sediments likely came from Denisovan poop or urine. 

The other study determined that modern humans were in the Beijing area by at least 40,000 years ago. The optical dates from the cave sediment study indicate that Denisovans were there 100,000, 60,000, and probably 45,000 years ago. 

Highly-respected geochronologist Tom Higham said that the finding ends a long quest for Denisovan DNA outside of Siberia, and it shows the species was widespread in the hemisphere before we showed up. 

Earlier work has documented that we mated with Denisovans, and the fact that some people today in the Philippines, New Guinea and Australia carry as much as 6% Denisovan genes is further proof that the species was wide-ranging. The two studies highlight the breathtaking discoveries that are happening due to applying new technologies. 

Friday, November 12, 2021

What We Have Learned, so far, about Ancient Cave Art

Neil Bockoven tells us that the oldest works of "cave art" presently documented are handprints in Tibet that may be 226,000 years old  - probably Denisovan or Neanderthal (Zhang et al. 2021). 

The oldest Homo sapien drawing is a cross-hatching on a piece of red ochre made more than 73,000 years ago in South Africa (Henshilwood et al. 2018).

The oldest known cave painting is a Neanderthal's 64,000-year-old, red hand stencil in Spain (Hoffmann et al. 2018). 

Nearly 350 caves that contain prehistoric art have been discovered in Europe, but a lot has been found elsewhere too. The most common subjects in cave paintings are large animals, such as horses, bison, aurochs, and deer, as well as tracings of human hands. 

The oldest representational painting - of a warty pig - is found in Indonesia and dates to at least 45,500 years (Brumm et al. 2021). All of these wonderful works of art help define the early edge of human abstract thinking. 

See Ancient Wonders of Archaeology, Art History & Architecture

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Halloween - 1607 Jesuit suspects Lutheran sect of Witchcraft

This 1607 woodcut by a Jesuit, Christoph Andreas Fischer, The Hutterite Anabaptist Pigeon Coop, accuses that Protestant sect of witchcraft with its symbols — bats, brooms and more.

Dr. Adam Darlage, who teaches at Oakton Community College, with campuses in Skokie & Des Plaines, Illinois, studies how Christians have been less than kind to one another. For example, Darlage analyzed the meaning of a 1607 woodcut depicting Hutterites as pigeons, witches, and bigamists. Bigamists? In those days, Hutterite leaders let members of their flock abandon spouses who wouldn’t convert, he says, and thereafter allowed remarriage. Hence the accusation.

Halloween - A brief history of Halloween's Celtic & religious origins

More than 2,000 years ago the Celtic people believed summer came to an end on October 31st, so in anticipation of the end of "the season of life" & the beginning of "the season of death," Celts would celebrate Samhain or Samain (pronounced "sah-win") or "Summer's End." In the 19C, one academic explained, "The Samhain feast...was, like the Greek Apaturia, partly devoted to business...other wise the feast, which occupied, not only Samain or the first of November, but also the three days before and the three days after it."The festival segment of Samhain focused on the harvest & death of crops & the approaching season of cold & darkness, to symbolize the the transition from life to death. The Celts thought the veil between this world & the next was thinnest during Samhain & that spirits & fairies could more easily move between the two realms. Some might pass from the living to the dead, and some dead ancestors might come to visit during this time. The Celtic celebration of Samhain was the New Year’s Day on the Celtic calendar.
In ancient times the festival was said to be celebrated with a great assembly at the royal court in Tara, the archaic hill fort and bastion of the Irish kings. The festival began after a ritual fire was set ablaze on the Hill of Tlachtga. This bonfire served as a beacon, signaling to people gathered atop hills all across Ireland to light their ritual bonfires. This ritual was called the Féile na Marbh in old Irish, meaning the 'festival of the dead' took place on the night of Samhain, or “Oíche Shamhna” and and was said to fall on the 31st of October. The word 'bonfire' itself is a direct translation of the Gaelic tine cnámh or Bone Fire, because villagers were said to have cast the bones of the slaughtered livestock upon the flames. October was the traditional time for slaughter - for preparing stores of meat and grain to last through the coming winter. With the bonfire ablaze, the villagers extinguished all other fires and then each family then solemnly lit its hearth from the local common flame, thus bonding the families of the village together with the symbolic bones of their ancestors. English travelers of the 19C are said to have witnessed this ritual.
In some homes, a door would be opened to the west & a beloved dead relative would be specifically invited to attend the celebration. Villagers might leave a candle or other light burning in a western window to guide the dead home.On Samhain Eve, the Celts lit their bonfires & laid out harvest gifts for the souls traveling through the corporeal plane on their way to the next realm. Families would leave food & wine on their doorstep to aid the souls passing over & to keep the pesky ghosts at bay. Many wore costumes when leaving the house hoping to be mistaken for ghosts themselves. The Celts believed dressing up both honored the good spirits & helped avoid the bad ones.
Ancient Celtic legends supported this concept of transition from life to death. In one, Nero, while begging from door-to-door on Samhain, discovered a cave leading directly into the fairy realm. In another, gods called Fomorians demanded tribute from Celtic mortals, who offered harvest fruits to these gods at Samhain. This story reinforced the Celtic tradition of setting out harvest gifts for souls crossing over & for the ghosts gathered near at Summer's End.Sometime in the 8C, Pope Gregory IV changed the date originally set for All Saints' Day to the same day as Samhain, essentially merging the traditions connected to those holidays & making the church more attractive to non-believers. The Catholic Church established November 1st as All Saints Day (also known as All Hallows) & November 2 as All Souls Day.
A traditional Irish Halloween carved turnip jack-o-lantern

Incorporating the existing Celtic custom of going door-to-door on Samhain, the church encouraged a practice called "souling." The practice of dressing up in costumes & begging door to door for treats on holidays goes back to the Middle Ages. Trick-or-treating resembles the late medieval practice of “souling,” when poor folk would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2). It originated in Ireland & Britain, although similar practices for the souls of the dead were found as far south as Italy.Shakespeare mentions the practice in his comedy The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1593), when Speed accuses his master of “puling [whimpering, whining], like a beggar at Hallowmas.”In 19C England, one writer reported, "The custom of "souling" carried on with great zeal in this neighbourhood." Another wrote of "children who are singing their "Souling Song" under my window." One noted, " give away to the souling-children."
James Elder Christie (British artist, 1847-1914) Halloween Frolics

The traditions of "guising," & "mumming" grew into an event where masked individuals would go door-to-door disguised as spirits dancing & singing in exchange for food & wine. A 19C Scottish song noted, "In a guizing excursion, he sung some verses." The custom of mumming was first written about in the 1400s in English. In 1546, it was noted, "The disguising and muming that is vsed in Christemas tyme." By 1801, one sports writer explained, "A sport common among the ancients...consisted in mummings and disguisements." (The Danish word mumme meant to parade in masks. The term guising was first used in written English in 1563.)In order to see as they paraded at night, Irish participants would carve faces into turnips & potatoes to light as lanterns, as they passed from house to house, & to set outside their doorways to light dark steps & to scare away evil spirits.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Making a grand living in 1647 England by identifying & torturing witches

Frontispiece from Matthew Hopkins' (c. 1620-1647) The Discovery of Witches (1647), showing witches identifying their familiar spirits

Folks in 17C England & her British American colonies often dealt with hardships by looking for a scapegoat to blame, much as we do today. Witchcraft was a convenient superstition to latch onto during this period. Witchcraft had been illegal since 1563, & hundreds of people, mostly women, were wrongly accused. 'Proof' of being a witch could be a third nipple, an unusual scar or birthmark, a boil, a growth, or even owning a pet (a 'witch's familiar', or potential embodiment of an evil spirit). Witch-finder Matthew Hopkins employed Mary Goody Phillips who specialized in finding "witch marks" on the bodies of accused females.Confessions were often made under torture or duress. After a trial, victims were often hanged.

Professionals who exposed witches could make a lot of money, as local magistrates paid the witch finder the equivalent of a month's wages. And the busiest tradesman of all was Matthew Hopkins, a shadowy figure who called himself 'Witchfinder General' & had scores of women executed in East Anglia during the turmoil of the English Civil War in 1645 & 1646.John Stearne (c. 1610–1670) was another associate of Matthew Hopkins. Stearne was known at various times as the witch–hunter and "witch pricker." A family man & land owner from Lawshall near Bury St Edmunds, Stearne was 10 years older than Hopkins. Within a year of the death of Matthew Hopkins, John Stearne retired to his farm & wrote A Confirmation and Discovery of Witchcraft.
During the year following the publication of Hopkins' book, trials & executions for witchcraft began in the New England colonies with the hanging of Alse Young of Windsor, Connecticut on May 26, 1647, followed by the conviction of Margaret Jones. As described in the journal of Governor John Winthrop, the evidence assembled against Margaret Jones was gathered by the use of Hopkins' techniques of "searching" & "watching". Jones' execution was the first sustained witch-hunt which lasted in New England from 1648 until 1663. About 80 people throughout New England were accused of practicing witchcraft during that period, of whom 15 women & 2 men were executed. Some of Hopkins' methods were once again employed during the Salem Witch Trials, which occurred primarily in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692–93.

Although torture was unlawful in England, Hopkins was said to have used a variety of torture techniques to extract confessions from his victims. His favorite was sleep deprivation. Although Hopkins claimed to never use the swimming test, some argued that witches floated, because they had renounced their water baptism when entering the Devil's service. James VI of Scotland (later James I of England) 1566-1625 claimed in his Daemonologie, that water was so pure an element that it repelled the guilty. Suspects were thrown into water, & those who floated were considered to be witches. Or the alleged witch might also be bound at the hands & feet & thrown into a body of water. If the body floated to the surface, that was proof, that the accused was indeed a witch (at which point they might execute her by some other means). If she sank to the bottom & inevitably drowned – she was innocent but also dead.

For a fascinating update on the truths, lies, and exaggerations containted in books written by these two witch finders in the mid 17C see The Discovery of Witches and Witchcraft: The Writings of the Witchfinders by Matthew Hopkins, John Stearne. Edited with an introduction and notes by S.F. Davies (Sept 2007) Published: Brighton: Pucknel Publishing. A critical, scholarly reprint of the writings of the Witch Finder General and his accomplice.S. F. Davies researches witchcraft writing at the University of Sussex. He also has edited Puritan preacher George Gifford's (1548-1600) Dialogue concerning witches and witchcrafts(2007).

Also see
"The Reception of Reginald Scot’s Discovery of Witchcraft: Witchcraft, Magic, and Radical Religion" by S.F. Davies
Journal of the History of Ideas, Volume 74, Number 3, July 2013, pp. 381-40 This article considers the reception of Reginald Scot’s (1538-1599) skeptical Discouerie of Witchcraft (1584). As well as the surprisingly mixed reception of the 1st edition, this article examines the publication of the 2nd edition. The latter appeared in 1651, long after Scot’s death; the possible reasons for its publication have never been examined. Not only interest in witchcraft but other kinds of magic and even religious radicalism may have been involved.
Woodcuts dealing with water, witches, and "scolds."

The always surprising Alice Morse Earle found a 1st-hand account of the Dunking Stool in her 1896  Curious Punishments of Bygone Days. Francois Maximilian Misson, a French traveler and writer, recorded the method used in England in the early 18th century: The way of punishing scolding women is pleasant enough. They fasten an armchair to the end of two beams twelve or fifteen feet long, and parallel to each other, so that these two pieces of wood with their two ends embrace the chair, which hangs between them by a sort of axle, by which means it plays freely, and always remains in the natural horizontal position in which a chair should be, that a person may sit conveniently in it, whether you raise it or let it down. They set up a post on the bank of a pond or river, and over this post they lay, almost in equilibrio, the two pieces of wood, at one end of which the chair hangs just over the water. They place the woman in this chair and so plunge her into the water as often as the sentence directs, in order to cool her immoderate heat.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

In Canada - Woman's Involvement in the Fur Trade

Women Fur Trading at Fort Nez Percé in 1841. Fort Nez Percés, later known as old Fort Walla Walla, was a fortified fur trading post on the Columbia River on the territory of modern-day Wallula, Washington. Despite being named after the Nez Perce people, the fort was in the traditional lands of the Walla Walla. Founded in 1818 by the North-West Company, after 1821 it was run by the Hudson's Bay Company until its closure in 1857.

In Canada - Woman's Involvement in the Fur Trade 

by Mason McDowell at University College of the North

The University College of the North is an institution devoted to community & northern development & reflects the Aboriginal reality & cultural diversity of northern Manitoba.

The fur trade was one of the biggest economic trends in Canadian history. Even though much of the trading happened between European & Aboriginal men, women played a very interesting & an important part in the fur trade. From creating & strengthening relationships between the European & Aboriginal men, to helping navigate, dressing furs, even cooking & setting up camps, women had a big part in the fur trade. When it came to the actual act of trading & being on trade routes, many people believe that it was just between native men & European men, but in actuality women sometimes also travelled on trade routes trapping, preparing, & traded their own furs. While men dominated the fur trade, women played a very important role in the fur trade, often being the suppliers for their trader husbands, & some even going as far to participate in the trading as well. 

 When the European traders first came to North America “colonization was not envisaged”  by them, so the traders brought no white women from Europe over to North America. This made it much harder for the European traders to practice their own culture & start families in North America so “instead, the traders were forced to come to terms with an alien, nomadic culture,”  a culture that the Europeans traders’ own livelihoods depended on. The Aboriginals culture & way of life had given them “distinct advantages with coping with the wilderness environment,”  & the fur traders knew that having the knowledge of the land would be crucial to their survival in the harsh conditions of North America. The traders also knew that the Aboriginals had distinct & valuable techniques in hunting, trapping, tracking, & navigating. So, European men started turning to Aboriginal women for companions on their long journeys. The Aboriginal Women educated the European men with their ways of living on the land & practicing their own culture while, helping traverse & navigate the harsh wilderness of North America.


When it came to Aboriginal women & European men, their encounters together were not usually “casual promiscuous encounters, but the development of marital unions which gave rise to distinct family units.”  Even though “there were differences in attitudes & practices between the Europeans & the Aboriginals; the fur trade society developed its own marriage rite, marriage a la facon du pays, which combined both Aboriginal & European marriage customs.”  When a European man married an Aboriginal woman in fur trade society, the European men would gain & strengthen trade relationships with Aboriginal men, & would “secure the trade of the tribe or band”  that the Aboriginal woman belonged too. This tradition soon caught & became accustomed to European traders, with many marrying Aboriginal women to create the social ties to improve their access trade opportunities & gain better knowledge of the aboriginal culture & way of life. Many intermarriages between Aboriginal women & European traders became more & more popular, with both sides of the marriages having a lot to gain from the courtship. With the increased intermarriages the fur trade society began to grow, creating new & strengthening the existing relationships among traders & Aboriginals almost everyday.

 The European traders had gained a lot by marrying into an Aboriginal family as the Aboriginal women were “trained in the skills necessary for survival”  in the harsh wilderness of North America. The Aboriginal women helped the European traders navigate & traverse the wilderness & taught them many survival skills, crafted snow shoes to make it easier to travel through the deep snow, & provided traditional Aboriginal clothing for the traders to keep from freezing in the sub-zero temperatures. Aboriginal women would also cook, preserve food, & prepare camp while their trader husbands were off either trading or trapping furs. One major food contribution that Aboriginal women made was “preservation & manufacturing of pemmican,”  which was a very important & nutritious staple food in a fur trader’s diet. European traders also enjoyed the presence of Aboriginal women in their everyday lives as they kept the company on the long journeys between trading posts; for the traders the aboriginal women also filled “the role of a wife & mother left void by the absence of white women.”  The men of the North West Company, a Montreal-based company at time of the fur trade in particular, “had always appreciated the economic advantages to be gained by forming alliances with Aboriginal women.”  European traders’ marrying into an Aboriginal family helped them “secure the trade of the Aboriginal women’s tribe or band.”  Besides helping the European traders strengthen & secure trade relationships, the Aboriginal women “did much to familiarize the European men with the Aboriginal way of life.”  The Aboriginal women also taught the European traders trapping techniques, fur preparation, & even going as far to teach the traders a bit of their language. By teaching the traders their language Aboriginal women “greatly contributed to the men’s effectiveness as a trader,”  & helped further close the cultural gap between Aboriginals & Europeans. Intermarriages in the fur trade were very beneficial for European traders as they learned many valuable skills & techniques used by Aboriginals for hundreds of years. At the same time those parties filled the void that the lack of white women left in their lives, & greatly increased the success of their livelihoods by creating & strengthening trade relationships between them & Aboriginals.

 Aboriginal women were also benefiting from the intermarriage during the fur trade, with the influx of European technology that they were enjoying the luxuries of goods from Europe & the courtships by the European men. Many Aboriginal women were anxious to keep trade flowing, so they could have more access & the ability to use more “European goods such as kettles, cloth, knives, needles, & axes to help alleviate their sometimes-onerous work roles.”  Their working roles often included cooking, preparing & dressing furs, & crafting clothing & snowshoes, & making other tools. During the early years of the fur trade “many Aboriginal tribes & bands actively encouraged the formation of marriage alliances their women & traders.”  In Aboriginal society “marriage was seen in an integrated social & economic context.”  So, the European traders & Aboriginals made an agreement that if the Aboriginals allowed European traders marry & begin families with their women the Aboriginals would have “free access to the trading posts & provisions.”  This would give the Aboriginals full trading capabilities at trading posts across British North America, & it would also give the Aboriginals more access to European technology. The European traders, in turn, would strengthen & gain better access to trade relationships with the Aboriginals, while simultaneously gaining knowledge of Aboriginal techniques & culture to further increases their profits. Even though Aboriginal men & European traders were more dominate when it came to being hunters & trappers, some Aboriginal women were trapping, preparing, & trading their own furs. Kees-Jan Waterman & Jan Noel outline that “fur transactions were the norm for people of both sexes”  rather than just being confined to men. When it came to the act of trapping itself “men were the hunters of beavers & larger game animals, & the women were responsible for trapping smaller fur-bearing animals, especially the martin whose pelts were highly prized.”  Aboriginal women & the Aboriginal population in general benefited greatly due to intermarriages in the fur trade, with gaining more access to trading posts & European technology, which greatly impacted their lives & made their traditional ways of hunting & fur preparing easier. 

Even though white women did not come to the predominantly fur trading areas of British North America until later when the fur trade society was already greatly established, & when they did arrive, they also had great contributions to the fur trade as well. The white women played a largely subsidiary role in fur trade society often being compared to a modern-day house wife. The majority roles of white women who were married to traders were “as suppliers of food & other supplies,”  which means they often cooked & set up camp for the traders if they travelled with them, so that their trader husbands could focus on the trapping & hunting rather than setting up his camp & cooking meals. If a white woman did not travel with her trader husband, she often stayed at home to take care of the children, whilst the trader was out making money to support the family.  Even though white women did not serve the major role & exert the same impact as Aboriginal women did in fur trade society, they still made contributions by helping the traders on their long journeys for the business.   

 In conclusion, women were very impactful & important in fur trade society & were one of the reasons that the fur trade was as successful of & economic trend as it was. If women had not been as involved so much, many European traders would not have had such strengthened social relationships with Aboriginals tribes & bands at that time. The traders also wouldn’t have had the knowledge of the land & Aboriginal culture if it wasn’t for the intermarriages with the Aboriginal women. This also proves that major companies in the fur trade such as The Hudson’s Bay Company & The North West Company may not have been as successful as they were, with The North West Company outlining the many “economic advantages to be gained by forming alliances with Aboriginal women.”  Even if women didn’t travel on trade routes with their trader husbands, they were able to stay home & care for their families & raise the next generation of traders. In the end women really were one of the major reasons that the fur trade was as profitable & successful as it was, & greatly benefited both Europeans & Aboriginals alike.    


Van Kirk, Sylvia. Many Tender Ties: Women in Fur-trade Society, 1670-1870. Norman, Oklahoma:         University of Oklahoma Press, 1980.

Van Kirk, Sylvia. “The Impact of White Women on Fur Trade Society.” Visions Pre-Confederation (2015): 338-351.

Van Kirk, Sylvia. “The Role of Native Women in the Fur Trade Society of Western Canada, 1670-1830."  Woman of the Western Front (1984): 9-13.

Waterman, Kees-Jan. Noel, Jan. “Not Confined to the Village Clearings: Indian Women in the Fur Trade in Colonial New York, 1695–1732.” New York History Vol 94 (2013): 40-58.

White, Bruce M. "The Woman Who Married a Beaver: Trade Patterns & Gender Roles in the Ojibwa Fur Trade." Ethnohistory Vol 46. (1999): 109-47.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Indigenous Women & the Fur Trade

This picture of Alexander & Natawista Culbertson, & their son Joe, was taken c. 1863. Natawista married the American Fur Company’s powerful manager at Fort Union, in 1840. Visitors to the fort, where the Culbertsons entertained in white-linen European elegance, described Natawista as a beautiful, adventuresome woman & a skilled rider. Natawista briefly accompanied Alexander, when he retired to Illinois, but returned to Canada to rejoin her Blood family. Montana Historical Society Photo Archives 

Brokers of the Frontier:  Indigenous Women & the Fur Trade

From Women’s History Matters (assisting the Montana Historical Society) December 2, 2014

For 2 centuries—from the mid-1600s to the 1860s—Indian & Métis women...brokered culture, language, trade goods, & power on the Canadian & American fur-trade frontier. They were partners, liaisons, & wives to the French, Scottish, Canadian, & American men who scoured the West for salable furs. Stereotyped by early historians as victims or heroines (and there were both), indigenous women also wielded significant, traceable power in this era of changing alliances, increasing intertribal conflict, & expanding European presence in the West.

The roles indigenous women played during the fur trade reflected the roles they historically held within their communities. Despite cultural distinctions among tribes, indigenous women generally shared the common responsibilities of procuring & trading food, hides, & clothing. Women also embodied political diplomacy as tribes forged internal & intertribal relationships around family alliances & cemented these social structures through (often polygamous) marriage. These traditional economic & political roles placed indigenous women at the center of trade, & made them desirable & necessary partners for fur traders.

A multicultural & economically diverse group working for international companies, the fur traders who came to Montana were all far from their families. Whether company managers, clerks, laborers, or trappers, the men sought companionship, intimacy, & entrée into local tribal communities, as well as assistance in making their economic endeavors a success. Marriage to indigenous women could provide all of these things.

In keeping with tribal customs, traders arranged liaisons with indigenous women by exchanging gifts with tribal families, who themselves recognized the potential benefits of establishing alliances. Depending on both partners’ preferences, relationships lasted a season, many months or years, or a lifetime.  Some indigenous wives returned to eastern settlements with their white husbands; some raised families together in the West.

Whatever the specifics of their individual relationships, the important socioeconomic positions indigenous women held in their own cultures manifested in their contributions to the fur trade. Indigenous wives gave fur traders invaluable ties to the land & tribes. Their knowledge of the region’s climate, wildlife, plants, languages, & topography shortened considerably the male outsiders’ learning curves. At the same time, the women brought inside information to their tribes about the reliability of traders & prices while relaying tribal news to their white partners.

Indigenous women also accomplished work fundamental to the survival of the fur traders & to their economic success. While incorporating European household goods into their daily lives (and thus making those goods more marketable), women in the fur trade continued to utilize indigenous methods to produce food & durable goods such as clothing, footwear, & blankets as well as baskets, parfleches, & other portable trade & traveling containers. Women also prepared hides, expertly cleaning & tanning them to command high prices.

Notwithstanding the power they derived from being experienced locals, many indigenous wives faced adversity & tragedy. They had to learn new languages, navigate European cultural norms, & often adapt to unfamiliar dwellings. Separation from their families & the reality of living amid an almost exclusively male population caused particular hardship; fur trade wives lost the support & companionship of other women with whom, in their native societies, they would have shared the duties of daily work & child rearing. Living at fur forts also placed them at increased risk of sexual exploitation. In addition, close proximity to Europeans exposed indigenous women to many infectious diseases. In 1837, when a steamboat brought smallpox up the Missouri, they were among the disease’s first victims—and its first carriers back to tribes...

The feelings & perceptions of women...who brokered the geographical & cultural frontiers of the North American continent’s fur trade, do not exist in written documents. Most of what we know of their lives comes from traders & territorial visitors, not the women themselves. Thus, we know from a visitor’s published account that Coth-co-co-na adorned her husband with her artistry, gifting him with a beautifully beaded tobacco sack. But we don’t know how she felt about her husband or her role as the indigenous wife of a Euro-American. Nevertheless, careful reading of existing documents can reveal glimpses of the complexities that she & other indigenous women faced as they melded their lives with men from a very foreign culture. 

The Métis are often called “children of the fur trade.”  


Boller, Henry A. Among the Indians: Eight Years in the Far West, 1858-1866.  Chicago: Lakeside Press, 1959 (1868).

Brown, Jennifer S. H.  Strangers in the Blood:  Fur Trade Company Families in Indian Country. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1980.

Graybill, Andrew. The Red & the White: A Family Saga of the American West. New York: W. W. Norton, 2013.

Lansing, Michael. “Plains Indian Women & Interracial Marriage in the Upper Missouri Trade, 1804-1868.” The Western Historical Quarterly 31, no. 4 (Winter, 2000), 413-33.

Meikle, Lyndel, ed. Very Close to Trouble: The Johnny Grant Memoir. Pullman: Washington State University Press, 1996.

Milner, Clyde II, & Carol O’Connor.  As Big as the West: The Pioneer Life of Granville Stuart. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Schemm, Mildred Walker. “The Major’s Lady: Natawista.” The Montana Magazine of History 2, no. 1 (January 1952), 4-15.

Van Kirk, Sylvia. Many Tender Ties: Women in Fur-Trade Society, 1670-1870. Winnipeg: Watson & Dwyer, 1980.

Waterman, Kees-Jan. Noel, Jan. “Not Confined to the Village Clearings: Indian Women in the Fur Trade in Colonial New York, 1695–1732.” New York History Vol 94 (2013): 40-58.

White, Bruce M. "The Woman Who Married a Beaver: Trade Patterns & Gender Roles in the Ojibwa Fur Trade." Ethnohistory Vol 46. (1999): 109-47.

Wischmann, Lesley.  Frontier Diplomats: Alexander Culbertson & Natoyist-Siksina among the Blackfeet. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Politics, Property, & Potential Profit launched the long Beaver Wars 1609-1701

The Beaver Wars, also called the Iroquois Wars or the French & Iroquois Wars, are a series of conflicts fought sporadically during the 17C in North America. Essentially they were battles for economic dominance throughout the Saint Lawrence River valley in Canada & the lower Great Lakes region pitting the native Iroquois against the northern Algonquians & the Algonquians' French allies. 

From medieval times, Europeans, interested in warmth & fashion, had obtained furs from Muscovy (Muscovy refers to the Grand Duchy of Moscow (1263–1547) & Scandinavia. Before the European colonization of the Americas, Russia was a major supplier of fur pelts to Western Europe & parts of Asia. Its trade developed in the Early Middle Ages ( 500–1000 AD/CE ), first through exchanges at posts around the Baltic & Black seas. The main trading market destination was the German city of Leipzig. Originally, Russia exported raw furs, consisting in most cases of the pelts of beavers, wolves, foxes, squirrels & hares. North American pelts arrived on the European market during the 16C, decades before the French, English, & Dutch established permanent settlements & trading posts on the North American continent. 

The fur trade became one of the important early economic engines in North America. Driven in large part by European fashion, beaver pelts had great value. Traders obtained the pelts from Indians using goods such as blankets, guns, beads, knives, whiskey, tobacco and other items as trade goods.

Native American tribes had traded with each other for centuries before European economies entered the picture. Basque fishermen fishing for cod off Newfoundland's Grand Banks bartered with local Indigenous peoples for beaver robes to help fend off the Atlantic chill. By virtue of their location & hunting skills, the tribes wielded considerable influence in European–Indian relations from the early 17C onwards.

The Iroquois also sought to expand their territory into the Ohio Country & to monopolize the fur trade with European markets. They originally were a confederacy of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, & Seneca tribes inhabiting the lands in what is now Upstate New York along the shores of Lake Ontario east to Lake Champlain & Lake George on the Hudson river, & the lower-estuary of the Saint Lawrence River. The Iroquois Confederation led by the Mohawks mobilized against the largely Algonquian-speaking tribes & Iroquoian-speaking Huron & related tribes of the Great Lakes region. The Iroquois were supplied with arms by their Dutch & English trading partners; the Algonquians & Hurons were backed by the French, their chief trading partner.

The Iroquois effectively destroyed several large tribal confederacies, including the Mahicans, Huron (Wyandot), Neutral, Erie, Susquehannock (Conestoga), & northern Algonquins. They became dominant in the region & enlarged their territory, realigning the American tribal geography. The Iroquois gained control of the New England frontier & Ohio River valley lands as hunting ground from about 1670 onward.

Both Algonquian & Iroquoian societies were greatly disrupted by these wars. The conflict subsided when the Iroquois lost their Dutch allies in the colony of New Netherland after the English took it over in 1664, along with Fort Amsterdam & the town of New Amsterdam on the island of Manhattan. The French then attempted to gain the Iroquois as an ally against the English, but the Iroquois refused to break their alliance, & frequently fought against the French in the 18C. The Anglo-Iroquois alliance would reach its zenith during the French & Indian War of 1754, which saw the French being largely expelled from North America.

French explorer Jacques Cartier in the 1540s made the 1st written records of the Indians in America, although French explorers & fishermen had traded in the region near the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River estuary a decade before then for valuable furs to warm the English & Europeans. Cartier wrote of encounters with the St. Lawrence Iroquoians, also known as the Stadaconan or Laurentian people who occupied several fortified villages, including Stadacona & Hochelaga. He recorded an on-going war between the Stadaconans & another tribe known as the Toudaman.

Wars & politics in Europe distracted French efforts at colonization in the St. Lawrence Valley until the beginning of the 17C, when they founded Quebec in 1608. When the French returned to the area, they found both sites abandoned by the Stadacona & Hochelaga & completely destroyed, & they found no inhabitants in this part of the upper river valley—although the Iroquois & the Huron used it as hunting ground. 

In 1609, Algonquin, Huron, and French forces under Samuel de Champlain attacked the Iroqouis in New York

Before 1603, Champlain had formed an alliance against the Iroquois, as he decided that the French would not trade firearms to them. The northern Indigenous peoples provided the French with valuable furs, & the Iroquois interfered with that trade. The first battle with the Iroquois in 1609 was fought at Champlain's initiative. 

Champlain wrote, "I had come with no other intention than to make war." He & his Huron & Algonkin allies fought a pitched battle against the Mohawks on the shores of Lake Champlain. Champlain single-handedly killed 2 chiefs with his arquebus despite the war chiefs "arrowproof body armor made of plaited sticks," after which the Mohawk withdrew in disarray.

In 1610, Champlain & his French companions helped the Algonquins & the Hurons defeat a large Iroquois raiding party. In 1615, he joined a Huron raiding party & took part in a siege on an Iroquois town, probably among the Onondaga south of Lake Ontario in New York. The attack ultimately failed, & Champlain was injured.

The Dutch established Fort Orange in Albany, New York in 1624. The fort removed the Iroquois' reliance on French traders & on their Indian allies for European goods. 

In 1610-1614, the Dutch had established a series of seasonal trading posts on the Hudson & Delaware rivers, including one on Castle Island at the eastern edge of Mohawk territory near Albany. This gave the Iroquois direct access to European markets via the Mohawks. The Dutch trading efforts & eventual colonies in New Jersey & Delaware soon also established trade with the coastal Delaware tribe (Lenape) & the more southerly Susquehannock tribe. 

17C Dutch Fur Traders

The Dutch founded Fort Nassau in 1614 & its 1624 replacement Fort Orange (both at Albany) which removed the Iroquois' need to rely on the French & their allied tribes or to travel through southern tribal territories to reach European traders. The Dutch supplied the Mohawks & other Iroquois with guns. In addition, the new post offered valuable tools that the Iroquois could receive in exchange for animal pelts. They began large-scale hunting for furs to satisfy demand among their peoples for new products.

Firearms from Dutch traders allowed the Iroquois to wage effective campaigns against the Algonquin and the Huron. 

At this time, conflict began to grow between the Iroquois Confederacy & the tribes supported by the French. The Iroquois inhabited the region of New York south of Lake Ontario & west of the Hudson River. Their lands were surrounded on all sides but the south by Algonquian-speaking tribes, all traditional enemies, including the Shawnee to the west in the Ohio Country, the Neutral Nation & Huron confederacies on the western shore of Lake Ontario & southern shore of Lake Huron to the west, & the Susquehannock to their south. These tribes were historically competitive with & sometimes enemies of the Iroquois, who had Five Nations in their confederacy.

In 1628, the Mohawks defeated the Mahicans, pushing them east of the Hudson River & establishing a monopoly of trade with the Dutch at Fort Orange, New Netherland. The Susquehannocks were also well armed by Dutch traders, & they effectively reduced the strength of the Delawares & managed to win a protracted war with Maryland colonists. By the 1630s, the Iroquois had become fully armed with European weaponry through their trade with the Dutch.

The Iroquois relied on the trade for firearms & other highly valued European goods for their livelihood & survival. They used their growing expertise with the arquebus to good effect in their continuing wars with the Algonquins & Hurons, & other traditional enemies. The French, meanwhile, outlawed the trading of firearms to their Indian allies, though they occasionally gave arquebuses as gifts to individuals who converted to Christianity. The Iroquois attacked their traditional enemies the Algonquins, Mahicans, Montagnais, & Hurons, & the alliance of these tribes with the French quickly brought the Iroquois into conflict directly with them.

The expansion of the fur trade with Europe brought a decline in the beaver population in the region, & the animal had largely disappeared from the Hudson Valley by 1640. American Heritage Magazine notes that the growing scarcity of the beaver in the lands controlled by the Iroquois in the middle 17C accelerated the wars. The center of the fur trade shifted north to the colder regions of southern Ontario, an area controlled by the Neutral & Huron tribes who were close trading partners with the French.

With the decline of the beaver population, the Iroquois began to conquer their smaller neighbors. They attacked the Wenro in 1638 & took all of their territory, & survivors fled to the Hurons for refuge. The Wenro had served as a buffer between the Iroquois & the Neutral tribe & their Erie allies. The Neutral & Erie tribes were considerably larger & more powerful than the Iroquois, so the Iroquois turned their attention to the north & the Dutch encouraged them in this strategy. At that time, the Dutch were the Iroquois' primary European trading partners, with their goods passing through Dutch trading posts down the Hudson River. As the Iroquois' sources of furs declined, however, so did the income of the trading posts.

New France's governor Charles de Montmagny rejected peace with the Mohawks in 1641 because it would imply abandonment of their Huron allies. In 1641, the Mohawks traveled to Trois-Rivières in New France to propose peace with the French & their allied tribes, & they asked the French to set up a trading post in Iroquoia. Governor Montmagny rejected this proposal because it would imply abandonment of their Huron allies.

In the early 1640s, the war began in earnest with Iroquois attacks on frontier Huron villages along the St. Lawrence River in order to disrupt the trade with the French. In 1645, the French called the tribes together to negotiate a treaty to end the conflict, & Iroquois leaders Deganaweida & Koiseaton traveled to New France to take part in the negotiations. The French agreed to most of the Iroquois demands, granting them trading rights in New France. The next summer, a fleet of 80 canoes traveled through Iroquois territory carrying a large harvest of furs to be sold in New France. When they arrived, however, the French refused to purchase the furs & told the Iroquois to sell them to the Hurons, who would act as a middleman. The Iroquois were outraged & resumed the war.

The French decided to become directly involved in the conflict. The Huron & the Iroquois had an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 members each. The Hurons & Susquehannocks formed an alliance to counter Iroquois aggression in 1647, & their warriors greatly outnumbered those of the Iroquois. The Hurons tried to break the Iroquois Confederacy by negotiating a separate peace with the Onondaga & Cayuga tribes, but the other tribes intercepted their messengers & put an end to the negotiations. During the summer of 1647, there were several small skirmishes between the tribes, but a more significant battle occurred in 1648 when the 2 Algonquin tribes passed a fur convoy through an Iroquois blockade. They succeeded & inflicted high casualties on the Iroquois. In the early 1650s, the Iroquois began attacking the French themselves, although some of the Iroquois tribes had peaceful relations with them, notably the Oneida & Onondaga tribes. They were under control of the Mohawks, however, who were the strongest tribe in the Confederation & had animosity towards the French presence. After a failed peace treaty negotiated by Chief Canaqueese, Iroquois moved north into New France along Lake Champlain & the Richelieu River, attacking & blockading Montreal. By 1650, they controlled the area from the Virginia Colony in the south up to the St. Lawrence. 

In the west, the Iroquois had driven the Algonquin-speaking Shawnee out of the Ohio Country & seized control of the Illinois Country as far west as the Mississippi River. In January 1666, the French invaded the Iroquois & took Chief Canaqueese prisoner. In September, they proceeded down the Richelieu but were unable to find an Iroquois army, so they burned their crops & homes. Many Iroquois died from starvation in the following winter. During the following years, the Iroquois strengthened their confederacy to work more closely & create an effective central leadership, & the 5 tribes ceased fighting among themselves by the 1660s. They also easily coordinated military & economic plans, & they increased their power as a result.

In 1648, the Dutch authorized selling guns directly to the Mohawks rather than through traders, & promptly sold 400 to the Iroquois. The Confederacy sent 1,000 newly armed warriors through the woods to Huron territory with the onset of winter, & they launched a devastating attack into the heart of Huron territory, destroying several key villages, killing many warriors, & taking thousands of people captive for later adoption into the tribe. 

Jean Brebeuf was one of several Jesuits killed during the Iroquois attack

Among those killed were Jesuit missionaries Jean Brebeuf, Charles Garnier, & Gabriel Lallemant, each of whom is considered a martyr of the Roman Catholic Church. The surviving Hurons fled their territory to seek assistance from the Anishinaabeg Confederacy in the northern Great Lakes region. The Ottawa tribe temporarily halted Iroquois expansion further northwest, but the Iroquois controlled a fur-rich region & had no more tribes blocking them from the French settlements in Canada.

Jean Brebeuf was one of several Jesuits killed during the Iroquois attack into the heart of Huron territory. Diseases had taken their toll on the Iroquois & neighbors in the years preceding the war, however, & their populations had drastically declined. To replace lost warriors, they worked to integrate many of their captured enemies by adoption into their own tribes. They invited Jesuits into their territory to teach those who had converted to Christianity. The Jesuits also reached out to the Iroquois, many of whom converted to Roman Catholicism or intermingled its teachings with their own traditional beliefs.

The Iroquois attacked the Neutrals in 1650, & they completely drove the tribe from traditional territory by the end of 1651, killing or assimilating thousands. The Neutrals had inhabited a territory ranging from the Niagara Peninsula westward to the Grand River valley.

In 1654, the Iroquois attacked the Erie tribe, but with less success. The war lasted for 2 years, & the Iroquois destroyed the Erie confederacy by 1656, whose members refused to flee to the west. The Erie territory was located on the southeastern shore of Lake Erie & was estimated to have 12,000 members in 1650. The Iroquois were greatly outnumbered by the tribes that they subdued, but they achieved their victories through the use of firearms purchased from the Dutch.

The Iroquois continued to control the countryside of New France, raiding to the edges of the walled settlements of Quebec & Montreal. In May 1660, an Iroquois force of 160 warriors attacked Montreal & captured 17 French colonists. The following year, 250 warriors attacked & took 10 captives. In 1661 & 1662, the Iroquois made several raids against the Abenakis who were allied with the French. 

The French Crown ordered a change to the governing of Canada. They put together a small military force made up of Frenchmen, Hurons, & Algonquins to counter the Iroquois raids, but the Iroquois attacked them when they ventured into the countryside. It is said that only 29 of the French survived & escaped; 5 were captured & tortured to death by the Iroquois. Despite their victory, the Iroquois also suffered a significant number of casualties, & their leaders began to consider negotiating for peace with the French.

The tide of war began to turn in the mid-1660s with the arrival of the Carignan-Salières Regiment, a small contingent of regular troops from France & the first group of uniformed professional soldiers in Canada. A change in administration led the New France government to authorize direct sale of arms & other military support to their Indian allies. In 1664, the Dutch allies of the Iroquois lost control of their colony of New Netherland to the English. In the immediate years after the Dutch defeat, European support waned for the Iroquois.

In 1666, Alexandre de Prouville de Tracy led a French force of 1,300 men to attack Mohawk villages in New York. In January 1666, the French invaded the Iroquois homeland in New York. The first invasion force of 400 to 500 men was led by Daniel de Rémy de Courcelle. His men were greatly outnumbered by the Iroquois & were forced to withdraw before any significant action could take place, but they took Chief Canaqueese prisoner.

The 2nd invasion force was led by Alexandre de Prouville, the "Marquis de Tracy" & viceroy of New France, from his base in Quebec City. The invasion force of about 1,300 men moved out in the fall of 1666. They found the Mohawk villages deserted, so they destroyed the villages & their crops. Prouville de Tracy seized all the Mohawk lands in the name of the king of France & forced the Mohawks to accept the Roman Catholic faith & to adopt the French language, as taught by Jesuit missionaries. The Iroquois sued for peace & France agreed.

Once peace was achieved with the French, the Iroquois returned to their westward conquest in their continued attempt to take control of all the land between the Algonquins & the French. Eastern tribes such as the Lakotas were pushed across the Mississippi onto the Great Plains in the early 18C, where they adopted the horse culture & nomadic lifestyle for which they later became known. Other refugees flooded the Great Lakes area, resulting in a conflict with existing tribes in the region. In the Ohio Country, the Shawnee & Miami tribes were dominant. The Iroquois quickly overran Shawnee holdings in central Ohio, forcing them to flee into Miami territory. The Miamis were a powerful tribe & brought together a confederacy of their neighboring allies, including the Pottawatomie & the Illini confederation who inhabited Michigan & Illinois. The majority of the fighting was between the Anishinaabeg Confederacy & the Iroquois Confederacy.

The Iroquois improved on their warfare as they continued to attack even farther from their home. War parties often traveled by canoes at night, & they would sink their canoes & fill them with rocks to hold them on the river bottom. They would then move through the woods to a target & burst from the wood to cause the greatest panic. After the attack, they returned to their boats & left before any significant resistance could be put together. The lack of firearms caused the Algonquin tribes the greatest disadvantage. Despite their larger numbers, they were not centralized enough to mount a united defense & were unable to withstand the Iroquois. Several tribes ultimately moved west beyond the Mississippi River, leaving much of the Ohio Valley, southern Michigan, & southern Ontario depopulated. Several Anishinaabe forces numbering in the thousands remained to the north of Lakes Huron & Superior, & they were later decisive in rolling back the Iroquois advance. From west of the Mississippi, displaced groups continued to arm war parties & attempt to retake their land.

A map of Iroquois expansion during the war. Peace was re-established with the French in 1666, and the Iroquois returned to their westward conquest of all the land between the French and Algonquin territory

Beginning in the 1670s, the French began to explore & settle the Ohio & Illinois Country from the Mississippi & Ohio rivers, & they established the post of Tassinong to trade with the western tribes. 

The Iroquois destroyed it to retain control of the fur trade with the Europeans. The Iroquois also drove the Mannahoac tribe out of the northern Virginia Piedmont region in 1670, & they claimed the land by right of conquest as a hunting ground. The English acknowledged this claim in 1674 & again in 1684, but they acquired the land from the Iroquois by a 1722 treaty.

During a raid into the Illinois Country in 1689, the Iroquois captured numerous prisoners & destroyed a sizable Miami settlement. The Miami asked for aid from others in the Anishinaabeg Confederacy, & a large force gathered to track down the Iroquois. Using their new firearms, the Confederacy laid an ambush near South Bend, Indiana, & they attacked & destroyed most of the Iroquois party, & a large part of the region was left depopulated. The Iroquois were unable to establish a permanent presence, as their tribe was unable to colonize the large area, & the Iroquois' brief control over the region was lost. Many of the former inhabitants of the territory began to return.

With the tribes destroyed to the north & west, the Iroquois turned their attention southward to the Susquehannocks. They attained the peak of their influence in 1660, & they were able to use that to their advantage in the following decades. The Susquehannocks had become allied with the colony of Maryland in 1661, as the colonists had grown fearful of the Iroquois & hoped that an alliance would help block the northern tribes' advance on the colonies. In 1663, the Iroquois sent 800 warriors into the Susquehannock territory. The Susquehannocks repulsed them, but the unprovoked attack prompted the colony of Maryland to declare war on the Iroquois.

By supplying Susquehannock forts with artillery, the Maryland colonists turned the tables on the Iroquois. The Susquehannocks took the upper hand & began to invade Iroquois territory, where they caused significant damage. This warfare continued intermittently for 11 years. In 1674, the Maryland colonists changed their Indian policy, negotiated peace with the Iroquois, & terminated their alliance with the Susquehannocks. In 1675, the militias of Virginia & Maryland captured & executed the Susquehannock chiefs, whose growing power they feared. The Iroquois drove the warriors from traditional territory & absorbed the survivors in 1677.

English settlers began to move into the former Dutch territory of upper New York State, & the colonists began to form close ties with the Iroquois as an alliance in the face of French colonial expansion. They began to supply the Iroquois with firearms as the Dutch had. At the same time, New France's governor Louis de Buade tried to revive the western fur trade. His efforts competed with those of the Iroquois to control the traffic & they started attacking the French again. The war lasted 10 years.

New France's Governor General Louis de Buade de Frontenac with Indian allies; his attempts to revive the fur-trade in the frontier led to renewed hostilities with the Iroquois. In 1681, René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle negotiated a treaty with the Miami & Illinois tribes. France lifted the ban on the sale of firearms to the Indians, & colonists quickly armed the Algonquin tribes, evening the odds between the Iroquois & their enemies.

With the renewal of hostilities, the militia of New France was strengthened after 1683 by a small force of regular French navy troops in the Compagnies Franches de la Marine, who constituted the longest serving unit of French regular troops in New France. 

In June 1687, Governor Denonville & Pierre de Troyes set out with a well organized force to Fort Frontenac, where they met with the 50 sachems of the Iroquois Confederacy from their Onondaga council. These 50 chiefs constituted the top leaders of the Iroquois, & Denonville captured them & shipped them to Marseilles, France to be galley slaves. He then travelled down the shore of Lake Ontario & built Fort Denonville at the site where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario. This site was previously used by La Salle for Fort Conti from 1678 to 1679, & was later used for Fort Niagara which still exists. The Iroquois retaliated by destroying farmsteads & slaughtering entire families. They burned Lachine to the ground on August 4, 1689. 

Frontenac replaced Denonville as governor for the next 9 years (1689–1698), & he recognized the danger created by the imprisonment of the sachems. He located the 13 surviving leaders & returned with them to New France in October 1698.

During King William's War (1688–1697), the French formed raiding parties with Indian allies to attack English settlements, (as the English had allied themselves with the Iroquois against the French) perpetrating the Schenectady massacre in the colony of New York, the Raid on Salmon Falls in New Hampshire, & the Battle of Fort Loyal in Portland, Maine. The French & their allies killed settlers in the raids & kidnapped some & took them back to Canada. Settlers in New England raised money to redeem the captives, but some were adopted into the tribes. The French government generally did not intervene when the Indians kept the captives. Throughout the 1690s, the French & their allies also continued to raid deep into Iroquois territory, destroying Mohawk villages in 1692 & raiding Seneca, Oneida, & Onondaga villages. 

The English & Iroquois banded together for operations aimed against the French, but these were largely ineffective. The most successful incursion resulted in the 1691 Battle of La Prairie. The French offensive was not halted by the 1697 Treaty of Ryswick that brought peace between France & England, ending English participation in that conflict.

A copy of the peace treaty that ended hostilities between New France & 39 First Nations. The Iroquois eventually began to see the emerging Thirteen Colonies as a greater threat than the French in 1698. The colony of Pennsylvania was founded in 1681, & the continued growth there began to encroach on the southern border of the Iroquois. 

The French policy began to change towards the Iroquois after nearly fifty years of warfare, & they decided that befriending them would be the easiest way to ensure their monopoly on the northern fur trade. 

The Thirteen Colonies heard of the treaty & immediately set about to prevent it from being agreed upon. These conflicts would result in the loss of Albany's fur trade with the Iroquois &, without their protection, the northern flank of the Thirteen Colonies would be open to French attack. Nevertheless, the French & Indians signed the treaty.

The French & 39 Indian chiefs signed the Great Peace of Montreal in 1701. The Iroquois agreed to stop marauding & to allow refugees from the Great Lakes to return east. The Shawnee eventually regained control of the Ohio Country & the lower Allegheny River. The Miami tribe returned to take control of Indiana & northwest Ohio. The Pottawatomie went to Michigan, & the Illinois tribe to Illinois.The peace lasted into the 1720s.

In 1768, several of the Thirteen Colonies purchased the "Iroquois claim" to the Ohio & Illinois Country & created the Indiana Land Company to hold the claim to all of the Northwest. It maintained a claim to the region using the Iroquois right of conquest until the company was dissolved in 1798 by the United States Supreme Court.

Many of the Iroquois people allied with the British during the American Revolutionary War, particularly warriors from the Mohawk, Cayuga, Onondaga & Seneca nations. These nations had longstanding trade relations with the British & hoped they might stop American encroachment on their lands. After the Americans emerged triumphant, the British parliament agreed to ceded control over much of its territory in North America to the newly-formed United States & worked to resettle American loyalists in Canada & provide some compensation for lands the Loyalists & Native Americans had lost to the United States. Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant led a large group of Iroquois out of New York to what became the reserve of the Six Nations of the Grand River in Ontario. Of course, the new lands granted to Six Nations reserves were all near Canadian military outposts & strategically placed along the border to prevent any American incursions. 

The coalition of Native American tribes, known as the Western Confederacy, was forced to cede extensive territory, including much of present-day Ohio, in the Treaty of Greenville in 1795. 

The wars & subsequent killings of beavers were devastating for the local beaver population. The natural ecosystems that came to rely on the beavers for dams, water & other vital needs were also devastated leading to ecological destruction, environmental change, & drought in certain areas. Following this beaver populations in North America would take centuries to recover in some areas, while others would never recover.

By 1816, the fur & hide trade in North America was dominated by 3 groups: (1) the Hudson’s Bay Company-founded in 1670 & was controlled by investors in London; (2) the North West Company-founded in 1776 by a group of traders in Montreal; & (3) a number of smaller American fur companies, often short-lived, which generally traded out of St. Louis. Native American women were becoming more active in the fur trade.