|Pontiac Calls for War|
We celebrate the American Revolution as the seminal event in which we Americans won our independence from Britain. It’s ironic that throughout our history we’ve largely remained blind to the fact that Native Americans fought us for exactly the same reason: to preserve their liberty, rights, and way of life from an oppressive power. I’ve been deeply impressed by this fact while doing research for this series. In delving into how the war affected women as well as men, blacks as well as whites, I couldn’t avoid the question of what impact our Revolution had on the native peoples who inhabited this continent long before white people showed up. How did they view the colonists’ claim that England denied their lawful rights while at the same time denying Indians the freedom to live unmolested on their own lands, feed and protect their families, and maintain their long-held traditions?
|Sketch of Stockbridge Mahican warrior|
in Continental Army by Von Ewald
|Cornstalk by Sherman|
In 1776 the Cherokee independently attacked frontier settlements to drive trespassers off, only to have their communities devastated. Other native nations formally allied with the British and suffered the same result. Among the Shawnee, the great chief Cornstalk tried to cultivate peaceful relations with the Americans, only to be murdered along with several companions by militia soldiers in 1777. Even so, his sister, Nonhelema, continued to assist the Americans and work for peace. But as Kentucky militia crossed the Ohio River almost every year to raid Shawnee villages, about half of the nation migrated across the Mississippi to Spanish-held lands, while others moved farther and farther west to put space between them and the Americans, and increasing numbers joined the war of resistance. By the end of the Revolution most of the Ohio Indians were concentrated in the region’s northwestern area.
|General John Sullivan's Campaign against the Iroquois|
The United States won its Revolution, but in the west the Indians continued their war for independence for many years afterward. Once subdued, they were confined to reservations and were denied their culture and even their language. You’ll find accurate and heartrending accounts of what the native peoples suffered in their struggle against white expansion in Black Coats Among the Delaware by Earl P. Olmstead, based on the diaries and letters of the Moravian missionary David Zeisberger, who lived and ministered among his beloved Lenape until his death. It’ll change the way you view the history of our country.