The systematic and violent submission of the Indians lies like a bloody shadow over the history of America. To this day, historians find it difficult to place this darkest side of American history alongside slavery. Publications, research, and moral condemnations about Native American treatment abound. Nevertheless, when the keyword “American history” comes up, most people think of the settlements by white Europeans and less of the suffering of the actual natives.
In fact, the Indians lost just as much as the white settlers gained – everything after all. The Indian Wars saw a clear loser at the end of their 200-year history, who has not yet recovered from their defeat.
To this day, historians can not agree on how high the number of American Native (Native Americans) was before the continent was colonized by European settlers. One thing is certain: both in Mexico, which was mainly developed by Spain, as well as in Canada, where the English and French enjoyed each other, and of course in North America, today’s USA, the number of indigenous people decreased dramatically with the advance of the Europeans. The reasons: imported diseases to which the Indians were not immune; the introduction of handguns, which led to the fact that hostile tribes almost or completely exterminated one another, but above all: the struggle for Land, habitat and mineral resources, in which the white settlers were an overpowering opponent simply because of the constant influx of the Indians.
The first clashes between natives and settlers in North America occurred when they first met. It is often speculated that the first settlement village Raleigh, which was abandoned for unexplained reasons (Lost Colony), was exterminated by hostile Indian tribes.
It is documented that the first settlers in Virginia , after having received vital support from the natives, soon got into armed conflict with Indian tribes. One of the earliest written records of this is the report of the first Virginia Governor, CAPTAIN JOHN SMITH ,about his capture by the Indian chief POWHATAN. Historians today suspect that SMITH, who describes the life and customs of the Indians as wild and bloodthirsty, misunderstood many of the rituals. So also the alleged sacrifice ceremony, during which he was supposed to be killed according to his own interpretation and was saved at the last second by the encouragement of the chief’s daughter POCAHONTAS. Today it is assumed that SMITH should be accepted into the tribal union and did not understand the signs for it.
Since SMITH put his experiences on paper and the stories of “the savages” in America fascinated the English in their old homeland, SMITH’s characterizations of the Indians significantly shaped the European understanding of the Native Americans and reinforced the negative distrust with which the vast majority of newcomers had Met Indians.
Indian Wars before American independence
When the white settlers began to spread along the American east coast in the early 1620’s, the first bloody clashes between natives and newcomers occurred.
In 1622, several battles occurred in Virginia between tribes led by the aforementioned Indian chief POWHATAN and European newcomers. The Indians felt threatened in their habitat and tried to defend it. In 1644 the POWHATAN tribes organized another uprising against land-taking settlers.
In 1636/1637 the Pequot War broke out in New England for similar reasons that came to a sad end. 500 Indians were killed and the survivors enslaved. A first bloody climax with high losses on both sides was the King Philip’s War 1675/76, in New England. The clashes dragged on for three years. Indians of different tribes repeatedly attacked settlements in Massachusetts under the chief METACOMET, who the settlers knew under the name KING PHILIP. Over 1,000 settlers died. The white commanders eventually hired spies and helpers from tribes hostile to the KING-PHILIP people, including the Mohawks. They killed METACOMET, thereby taking the link between the alliance of fighting Indians and ending the “war”.
The cooperation between the French and Indians in the fight against English settlers was also problematic. France, which pursued a real competition with England in the development of America, made Indian tribes allies. Between 1754 and 1763 this started in the French and Indian Warsout. The French settlers generally had better relations with the Indians than the English, which may be due to the fact that they knew better to tolerate the natives and did not perceive and treat them as strange “savages”. Therefore, it was not difficult for the French to recruit Indian tribes as comrades-in-arms. When the clashes began, France had won most of the Indian tribes from the previously settled area as allies. Only the Iroquois Confederacy, consisting of the Mohawk, Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga and Oneida, preferred to remain neutral.