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.    

See:

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.”  

See:

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.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

European Governments Economically Expanding into the Americas & Native American Wars

 

19C Print of U.S. Cavalry pursuing American Indians (artist unknown)

The American Indian Wars (also called American Frontier Wars, & the First Nations Wars) were fought by European governments seeking economic expansion into the Americas & by their colonists, & later by the newly formed United States & Canadian governments plus their settlers, against various American Indian & First Nation tribes. 

America's native people prior to the European invasion were a complex mixture of histories, alliances & conflicts. Humans are human, & some native tribes acted towards one another with the same brutality as the Europeans did towards them, & visa versa. Grudges & the lure of power were similar. It is believed that the colonists intentionally spread contagious diseases among the natives, usually through gifts of infected blankets or clothing. Measles & smallpox probably killed more natives than bullets & bayonets. The Native's "stone age" war technologies eventually succumbed to the deceptions & weapons of the Europeans. 

These particular conflicts occurred in North America from the time of the earliest European colonial settlements from the 17C until the early 20C. The various wars resulted from a wide variety of factors. These wars usually resulted in the sovereignty of combatants being either extended or lost; a massive native indigenous population decline; deportation & forced assimilation of indigenous tribes; many treaties, truces, & armistices made & then broken by combatants; & the establishment of "Indian reservations" in the United States & Canada.

The European political & economic powers & their colonies also enlisted allied Indian tribes to help them conduct warfare against each other's colonial settlements. 

After the American Revolution, many conflicts were local to specific states or regions & frequently involved disputes over land use; some entailed repeated cycles of violent reprisal.

As settlers spread westward across North America after 1780, armed conflicts increased in size, duration, & intensity between the European settlers & various Native & First Nation tribes. The climax came in the War of 1812, when major Indian coalitions in the Midwest & the South fought against the United States & lost. Conflict with settlers became less common & was usually resolved by treaty, often involving sale or exchange of territory between the federal government & specific tribes. 

The Indian Removal Act of 1830 authorized the American government to enforce Native American removal from east of the Mississippi River to Indian Territory west on the American frontier, such as the land that later became Oklahoma. The federal policy of removal was eventually refined in the West, as American settlers kept expanding their territories, to relocate native tribes to restricted land areas called reservations.

See:

Barnes, Jeff. Forts of the Northern Plains: Guide to Historic Military Posts of the Plains Indian Wars. Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books, 2008. 

Glassley, Ray Hoard. Indian Wars of the Pacific Northwest, Binfords & Mort, Portland, Oregon 1972 

Heard, J. Norman. Handbook of the American Frontier (Compilation of Indian-white contacts & conflicts) Scarecrow Press, 1987–98 

Volume 1: "The Southeastern Woodlands," 

Volume 2: "The Northeastern Woodlands," 

Volume 3: "The Great Plains," 

Volume 4: "The Far West,"

Volume 5: "Chronology, Bibliography, Index." 

Kessel, William and Robert Wooster. Encyclopedia of Native American Wars and Warfare (2005)

McDermott, John D. A Guide to the Indian Wars of the West. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998. 

Merrell, James H (1989). "Some Thoughts on Colonial Historians & American Indians" William and Mary Quarterly. 46 

Merrell, James H (2012). "Second Thoughts on Colonial Historians & American Indians" William and Mary Quarterly. 69 

Michno, Gregory F. Deadliest Indian War in the West: The Snake Conflict, 1864–1868, Caxton Press, 2007

Miller, Lester L, Jr. Indian Wars: A Bibliography US Army, 1988 online (lists over 200 books & articles)

Stannard, David. American Holocaust: Columbus and the Conquest of the New World, Oxford, 1992

Tucker, Spencer, ed. The Encyclopedia of North American Indian Wars, 1607–1890: A Political, Social, and Military History (3 vol 2012)

Wooster, Robert. The Military and United States Indian Policy, 1865–1903, Published 1995

Saturday, August 28, 2021

The 1st Thanksgiving & the continuing Interaction between the European Colonists & Native Americans

 A 1628 woodcut by Matthaeus Merian published along with Theodore de Bry's earlier engravings in 1628 book on the New World. The engraving shows the March 22, 1622 massacre when Powhatan Indians attacked Jamestown and outlying Virginia settlements. Merian relied on de Bry's earlier depictions of the Indians, but the image is largely considered conjecture.


The Indian Massacre of 1622 was an attack on the settlements of the Virginia Colony by the tribes of the Powhatan Confederacy under their leader Opchanacanough (l. 1554-1646) & his brother Opitchapam (d. c. 1630) resulting in the deaths of 347 colonists. 

The attack was carefully planned & carried out with such speed & precision that only one settlement, Jamestown, received warning & was able to prepare a defense. Out of approximately 1,250 English colonists, 347 were killed on 22 March 1622, mostly before noon, & hundreds more would die in the following months from malnutrition, starvation, & disease due to the destruction of their crops as well as further periodic engagements with natives.

The attack was a complete surprise & total military victory for the Powhatan Confederacy. Peace had been established between the colonists & natives since the end of the First Powhatan War in 1614. Natives & colonists partnered in trade, visited each other’s settlements, & natives were often guests in colonist’s homes. Since 1610, however, the colonists had begun to spread out from their initial settlement at Jamestown, taking more & more lands from the Powhatan Confederacy, abusing the people, stealing food, & allowing livestock to destroy crops & desecrate sites sacred to native rituals. Opchanacanough’s attack had three objectives:
Demonstrate the military might of the Powhatan Confederacy
Demoralize the English colonists
Encourage them to pack up & return to their own country

The attack succeeded in the first 2 objectives but, instead of leaving, the colonists entrenched & fought back in the Second Powhatan War (1622-1626) which they won. Afterwards, trade with certain tribes was discouraged & more land was taken for tobacco plantations. Opchanacanough launched another offensive in 1644, setting off the Third Powhatan War (1644-1646) which ended when he was taken captive & killed.

Following this conflict, the Treaty of 1646 dissolved the Powhatan Confederacy & led to the reservation system for Native American tribes in the area. The 1622 massacre also influenced Anglo-Native relations elsewhere in the English colonies, contributing to English policies & military campaigns during the Pequot War (1636-1638) & King Philip’s War (1675-1678) in New England & the development of laws concerning Native Americans afterwards.

The Jamestown Colony of Virginia was established by the English in 1607 & fairly quickly came into conflict with the native tribes of the Powhatan Confederacy. These tribes had lived on the land which they knew as Tsenacommacah (“densely populated land”) for thousands of years, establishing cultural traditions linked to the area. The Spanish arrived in the West Indies in 1492 & then colonized South & Central America, extending their reach up through the modern-day State of Florida & laying further claim to the North American east coast up to present-day New York State. They had not colonized above Florida, however, & limited themselves to raids along the coast, kidnapping natives to sell into slavery.

The English, who were late in their colonization efforts in the so-called New World, established their Roanoke Colony in 1585 & again in 1587 in Virginia, but it did not survive past 1590. The natives, therefore, were already acquainted with Europeans by 1607 & the experiences had been far from pleasant. The Powhatan Confederacy, led by Chief Powhatan (also known as Wahunsenacah, l. c. 1547 - c. 1618), did not mind the English at first because they had chosen a swamp of unusable land for their settlement &, further, thought the English might serve as allies against the Spanish & other hostile tribes. Chief Powhatan, therefore, ordered his people to supply the ill-equipped & inept colonists with food & supplies.

The colonists came to expect this type of service rather than learning to fend for themselves. Captain John Smith (l. 1580-1631) established a good working relationship with Chief Powhatan in 1607 but, by 1609, this was strained by the colonists' continued abuse of the natives through theft of land & food. Smith himself, in spite of his earlier efforts to befriend the tribes, eventually participated in food theft himself & left the colony for England in October 1609 without informing Chief Powhatan of his departure.

After Smith was gone, the colonists took more food & occupied more land outside of Jamestown as they considered the natives to be subjects of the English king as they were themselves. These actions led Chief Powhatan to order them inside their settlement & to give his warriors leave to kill anyone found outside the fortifications. Powhatan’s decree contributed to what is known as the Starving Time in Jamestown’s history during which over 80% of the colonists died.

In May of 1610, a new governor, Sir Thomas Gates (l. c. 1585-1622) arrived &, shortly after him, the aristocrat Thomas West, Lord De La Warr (l. 1577-1618). West rejected Smith’s earlier approach in dealing with the natives & instituted a policy of no compromise which set off the First Powhatan War (1610-1614), a series of guerilla strikes & counterstrikes killing many on both sides.

The natives were better guerilla fighters & their weapons of the bow & arrow more effective than the colonists’ muskets which took more time to reload than it took a native archer to notch another arrow. The colonists, however, had a seemingly infinite supply of people who kept arriving to replace those who had been killed while the tribes of the confederacy lacked this luxury. The colonists also continually displaced the natives by attacking a village, killing the people, & fortifying it, thereby depriving native populations of land & resources they were using in the war & enlarging the buffer zone between English settlements & native villages.

While the war raged on, more & more colonists arrived with more muskets & cannons, & settlements were established further inland. One of the colonists who had arrived in May of 1610 with Gates was John Rolfe (l. 1585-1622), who came with some hybrid tobacco seeds which he experimented with & planted. His tobacco became the most lucrative cash crop of the colony, & by 1614, he was a wealthy man with a large plantation across the river from the Henricus Colony, north of Jamestown. West fell ill in 1613 & returned to England after turning his authority over to Sir Samuel Argall (l. c. 1580-1626), who continued his policies. That same year, Argall kidnapped Pocahontas (l. c. 1596-1617), daughter of Chief Powhatan, holding her for ransom at Henricus.

Chief Powhatan agreed to the terms of her release & sent Argall the tools, weapons, & prisoners requested, but Argall claimed he had not honored the deal & kept Pocahontas. She converted to Christianity, taking the name Rebecca, & married John Rolfe in April 1614. Chief Powhatan & the colonial authorities both approved of the union & so ended the First Powhatan War. The eight years that followed became known as the Peace of Pocahontas during which trade between the colonists & natives flourished & land transactions were, for the most part, approved by both sides.

Pocahontas, Rolfe, & their young son, Thomas Rolfe (l. 1615 - c. 1680) left for England on a promotional tour to generate further investment in the colony in 1616. Pocahontas died in 1617 as they were on their way back to Virginia, & Thomas was left in the care of Rolfe’s brother in England. Chief Powhatan kept the peace in honor of his grandson but stepped down as chief shortly after his daughter’s death. His brother, Opitchapam then became chief, but he was not as powerful or popular among the tribes as Chief Powhatan’s half-brother, Opchanacanough. Opchanacanough became Chief Powhatan, & Wahunsenacah died shortly afterwards, sometime in 1618.

When Pocahontas had gone to England, Wahunsenacah had sent along a number of her family & tribal members including her brother-in-law Tomocomo who was also one of his sages & counselors. Tomocomo was to observe the English in their own land & return with a report. According to colonial English accounts, Tomocomo criticized the English harshly before a council of the elders & chiefs but was shamed into silence by a colonial delegation which countered his claims that the English could not be trusted. These accounts are suspect, however, as they were written by colonists – who, in fact, could not be trusted – justifying later atrocities committed against the natives.

Opchanacanough seems to have accepted Tomocomo’s words as truth & planned accordingly. The Peace of Pocahontas still held in 1619 & the trade agreements had encouraged friendly relations between the immigrants & the indigenous tribes. In 1611, when Henricus had been established by Sir Thomas Dale (l. c. 1560-1619), the first college in North America was founded close by for the purpose of educating Native American youth in Christianity & European culture. Pocahontas’ conversion had encouraged the hope that more natives would follow her example & more effort was put into evangelizing the natives.

Opchanacanough took advantage of these efforts, encouraging his people to show more interest in conversion – & he led by example in doing so himself – which led the colonists to believe further in the peaceful intentions of the tribes. The Records of the Virginia Company (the group who had funded the 1607 Jamestown expedition & still controlled the colony) make clear that, in 1621, relations between colonists & natives were considered better than ever. The report, written after the massacre, describes the period leading up to it: [Word was received from Opchanacanough] that he held the peace concluded so firm as the sky should sooner fall than it dissolve. Yea, such was the treacherous dissimulation of that people who then had contrived our destruction, that even two days before the massacre, some of our men were guided through the woods by them in safety…and many the like passages, rather increasing our former confidence than in any wise ministering the least suspicion of the breach of the peace or of what instantly ensued; Yea, they borrowed our own boats to convey themselves across the river to consult of the devilish murder that ensued & of our utter extirpation, which God of his mercy prevented. 

John Rolfe had remarried by this time & was back at his plantation, making regular trips across the river to Henricus. The House of Burgesses, first established in 1619, had made it their first order of business to address a wrong committed against Native Americans by a wealthy landowner. In 1621, Opchanacanough’s war chief, Nemattanew (d. 1621) was killed by the colonists after he was accused of killing one of their own & taking his clothes. Opchanacanough took no action, claiming his man had been justly killed (though whether he meant this is debated), & letting the event go.

At about that same time, he & his brother Opitchapam took “war names” in preparation for the attack & called on the tribes to participate in a ceremony honoring the life of Wahunsenacah. This event stirred no suspicion among the colonists at the time but, later, they came to believe this was a pretense under which Chief Powhatan was able to bring all the tribal chiefs together to coordinate the assault. At this time, it was later surmised, the natives gathered intelligence on where certain colonists would be in various settlements, who would be working in the fields at what time, how long the full-scale attack would take to complete, etc.

The morning of 22 March 1622, Good Friday, began as any other with the colonists going to work on their farms & in their shops. Scholar Charles C. Mann describes the events which followed: "Early that morning, Indians slipped into European settlements, knocking on doors & asking to be let in. Most were familiar visitors. They came unarmed. Many accepted a meal or a drink. Then they seized whatever implement came to hand – kitchen knife, heavy stewpot, the colonists’ own guns – & killed everyone in the house. The assault was brutal, widespread, & well planned. So swift were the blows that many colonists died without knowing they were under attack. Entire families fell. Houses burned across what had been Tsenacomoco. At the last minute, several Indians told English friends about the attack, providing enough warning to let Jamestown gather its defenses. Nonetheless, the attackers killed at least 325 people." 

The number killed is hard to determine but is usually given as 347. The college, hospital, & colony of Henricus were completely destroyed, & all the inhabitants killed (including, presumably, John Rolfe). Settlements burned all across the region, & the surviving colonists were stunned into inaction. They had grown used to small conflicts breaking out which were quickly resolved; none of them could conceive of what they had just experienced.

Opchanacanough hoped that the response would take the form of the colonists' swift departure from his lands, but he had misjudged his opponent. At this point, Opchanacanough could have easily finished the survivors off. Those outside of Jamestown would have been easy enough to kill as they had no defenses, & Jamestown could have been set on fire with fleeing colonists then killed as they tried to escape; instead, he did nothing but wait for a response. It was his hope that this response would take the form of the colonists’ swift departure from his lands – which he believed was what a Native American tribe would do – but he had misjudged his opponent.

The colonists began to regroup & rebuild & traded again with the tribes that had attacked them. They actually had little choice, however, as their own crops had been burned. Mann comments: "The aftermath [of the massacre] claimed as many as seven hundred more lives. Because the attack disrupted spring planting, the [colonists] grew even less maize than usual. Meanwhile the [Virginia Company] tried to rebuild Jamestown by sending over a thousand new colonists. Incredibly, they came to Virginia with no food supplies." 

Reinforcements could not help against the guerilla tactics of the natives in the Second Powhatan War, however, & so the colonists resorted to trickery. They called for a peace conference at which they poisoned the wine &, once the chiefs had fallen, attacked their bodyguards & attendants, killing over 200 of them. The war continued until Opchanacanough sued for peace in 1626, but hostilities went on through 1629 & into the 1630s in some areas.

News of the massacre had reached England by June of 1622 & King James I of England (r. 1603-1625) was outraged. He dissolved the Virginia Company & took direct control of the colony through a Royal Charter, claiming he was better able to protect the colonists than the company had been. Whether James I actually meant this is unknown; it is just as likely he wanted direct control of the profitable tobacco exports from the colonies.

On 22 March 1624, the House of Burgesses convened & passed the decree that 22 March be solemnized as a holiday to commemorate the massacre. In making the date a solemn holiday – during which the events of the massacre would be recounted – the colonists ensured that new arrivals would experience it through first-hand accounts of those who had lived it & then through stories based on those accounts. The animosity between the colonists & the indigenous tribes worsened as the stories of the Massacre of 1622 were told & retold. These accounts were added to after Opchanacanough launched another attack in 1644, killing over 500 colonists, & starting the Third Powhatan War. This conflict ended in 1646 with the capture of the chief & his assassination by a prison guard who shot him in the back.

When the Pequot War broke out in New England in 1636 or King Philip’s War in 1675, the savagery of the colonists’ attacks was informed, in part, by the stories of the Indian Massacre at Virginia of 1622. The natives were considered dangerous & untrustworthy, capable of vast levels of deception, & eager to kill defenseless English men, women, & children. Actually, the natives had only learned from the English how to hone their arts of deception & trickery.

Mark, Joshua J.. "Indian Massacre of 1622." World History Encyclopedia. World History Encyclopedia, 02 Mar 2021. Web. 28 Nov 2021.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

17C Myth of Pomona & Vertumnus - Sunmmer Gardens, Orchards, & Love

Vertumnus & Pomona by Frans van Mieris the Younger (1689 - 1763)

Pomona was the beautiful goddess of fruitful abundance in ancient Roman religion & myth. Pomona was said to be a wood nymph. The name Pomona comes from the Latin word pomum, "fruit," specifically orchard fruit. She was said to be  a part of the Numia, the guardian spirits who watch over people, places, or homes. While Pomona watches over & protects fruit trees & cares for their cultivation, she is not actually associated with the harvest of fruit itself, but with tending the flourishing of the fruit trees. In artistic depictions she is generally shown with a platter of fruit or a cornucopia & perhaps her pruning knife
Vertumnus & Pomona in a Garden by Adriaen van de Velde  (1636–1672)

Pomona, the alluring wood nymph, actually cared nothing for the wild woods but cared only for her well-cultivated fruit filled gardens & orchards. And Pomona had a thing about men. She fenced her garden orchards, so the rude young men couldn't trample her plants & vines. She also kept her orchards enclosed, because she wanted to keep away the men who were attracted to her good looks. Even dancing satyrs(a cross between a man & a goat) were attracted to her beauty. Despite the fact that she preferred to be alone to care & nurture her trees, this beauty was continually besieged by suitors, in particular one persistent god named Vertumnus. Vertumnus had the ability to take different human guises & made numerous attempts to woo Pomona, but she turned him away each time.
 Vertumnus & Pomona by Hyacinthe Rigaud (1659-1743)

The god Vertumus caught on to Pomona's aversion to men in her orchards & in her life generally. In Roman mythology, Vertumnus, the young, handsome god of changing seasons & patron of fruits, determined to win over Pomona.  He could change his form at will according to Ovid's Metamorphoses (xiv).  He came to her in various male disguises, which included, a reaper, an apple picker, a fisher, a solider, & more. Even with the disguises, she still never paid him the slightest bit of attention. One day Vertumnus tried a disguise as an old women. And Pomona finally allowed him to enter her garden, where he pretended to be interested in her fruit. But he finally told her he was more exquisite than her crops. After saying that, he kissed her passionately, but it wasn't enough. Vertumnus kept trying to sway her by telling her a story of a young women who rejected a boy who loved her; in despair, the boy killed hung himself, & Venus punished the girl by turning her to stone. This narrative warning of the extreme dangers of rejecting a suitor (the embedded tale of Iphis & Anaxarete) still did not seduce her. It just didn't work, of course. He then realized that it was the feminine disguise didn't work & tore it off.  It wasn't until Vertumnus appeared before her in his full manliness (apparently quite a good looking male specimen), that Pomona finally gave in to his inviting male charms. Vertumnus is a god of gardens & orchards & so it appears they were a match made in heaven. To his surprise, she fell in love with his manly wiles, & they became the ultimate loving couple working & playing in gardens & orchards together from then on.

Pomona by Hendrick Bloemaert (1602-1672)

The tale of Vertumnus & Pomona has been said to be the only purely Latin tale in Ovid's Metamorphoses. The subject of Vertumnus & Pomona appealed to European sculptors & painters of the 16th through the 18th centuries, providing a disguised erotic subtext in a scenario that contrasted youthful female beauty with an aged old woman. But it wasn't the old woman that ultimately won the day. In narrating the tale in the Metamorphoses, Ovid observed that the kind of kisses given by Vertumnus were never given by an old woman.  In Ovid's myth, Pomona scorned the love of the woodland gods Silvanus & Picus, but finally married the brutally handsome Vertumnus. She & Vertumnus were celebrated in  an annual Roman festival on August 13. There is a grove that is dedicated to her called the Pomonal, located not far from Ostia, the ancient port of Rome. Unlike many other Roman goddesses & gods, Pomona does not have a Greek counterpart, though she is often associated with Demeter.
Vertumnus & Pomona by Frans Bartholomeus Douven (1688-1726
Vertumnus & Pomona Caspar Netscher (1639-1684)
Vertumnus & Pomona by Aert de Gelde (1665-1727)
Vertumnus & Pomona by Abraham Bloemaert (1566 - 1651)
Vertumnus & Pomona with her Pruning Knife 1630 by Paulus Moreelse (1571-1638)
Vertumnus & Pomona  Roman god of seasons, and the goddess of fruit and gardens. 1683 David Teniers the Elder.
Vertumnus & Pomona  Juan van der Hamen (1596-1631)
Vertumnus & Pomona by Ferdinand Baltasars Pain (1616 - 1680)
Vertumnus & Pomona by Circle of  Caspar Netscher (c. 1635-1684)
Vertumnus & Pomona by Circle Pieter de Grebber or Pieter Fransz de Grebber (c.1600–1652/3) a Dutch Golden Age painter.