Occupation

He brought the spirit water that makes one forget old age, weakness and sorrow.

Chief Red Cloud of the Oglala Sioux

Devastated by new European diseases and technology, the surviving natives are exposed to another first - alcohol. Intoxicated, they’re cheated out of payments, and illiterate, they’re cheated off their land with worthless treaties. But native knowledge of those lands makes them invaluable suppliers to the lucrative fur trade. In the 18th century, the English backed Iroquois (or Five Nations) are the primary providers in the North East. They hold this position after, in the 17th century, wiping out the previous tribe of the area, the French backed Hurons.

HOLDING THE LINE
European armies depend on the natives as guides. The British victory over the French leads to the 1763 ‘Proclamation Line’. Mirroring the Appalachian mountains, it divides the land owned by the natives from the British empire.

‘People Greedily Grasping for Land’ & ‘The Cut-Throats’
Northern Native American terms for Europeans.*

The British evict hundreds of American families who illegally settle on native land. (In 1676, Nathaniel Bacon lead a rebellion which overthrew a British Governor of Virginia simply because the Governor refused to make war on a native tribe in order to seize their lands). Denying access to a whole continent is unsustainable.

ON THE WRONG SIDE OF HISTORY

In 1776, during the American Revolution, the British General Burgoyne uses 400 natives as guides through dense forest in the hope of isolating the rebellious American forces. The Americans target the guides and within three months, all the native guides are either dead, or have deserted. After the war, the British allies, the Iroquois dissolve away. The Cherokee fate is slower, but no less certain.

BREACH

With the British gone, in just 20 years, 200,000 pour through the gap in the Appalachian Mountains and settle Kentucky. The three-quarters white chief, Alexander McGillivray, achieves a momentary respite by signing a treaty in 1790 with George Washington that protects Creeks lands for the next 25 years. But the next century will see the dispossession and devastation of all the remaining natives.

"It has always been one of the deep flaws of the American imagination that it can’t imagine a future for American Indian people, as Americans."
Robert Warrior, University of Illinois.*

* Hugh Brogan’s ‘The Penguin History of the USA’.

Did you know?

One buckskin or buck became so generally known as the basic unit of exchange in the traffic that it is now universal slang for a dollar. , In 1686 the Delaware Indians ceded to William Penn as much land to the north as a man could walk in three days. Penn took half that. 51 years later, his successor covered the rest of the ground covered by relay runners. This huge land grab under the so-called 'Walking’ purchase, led to the war of 1750s in Pennsylvania., Not all Indians were the nomads of popular culture. The Pueblo were sedentary agriculturalists who lived in clay and straw brick townships that got them their name, pueblo, Spanish for ‘town’.