Native Americans of the Colonial Time

Native Americans of the Colonial Time

Way before Christopher Columbus had discovered the New World, there was a group of people who already lived there. This group of people is now known as Native Americans, or Indians, as Columbus came to call them. When he first set foot on the New World, Columbus thought he had reached India, but instead, he had actually reached what later would be called the Caribbean. The indigenous people whom he encountered there were amicable and peaceful to him and his people, unlike the ones the Pilgrims who came from England, found in what would be Plymouth Plantation.

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Although at first the Native Americans in Plymouth Plantation were seemingly hostile, they ended up being rather helpful to the British colonists. They helped facilitate the colonization of North America by acting as teachers to the colonists, being allies in war with them, and also working as slaves for them to a certain degree. The Native Americans at Plymouth Plantation, though at first hostile to the colonists, actually ended up being of great help, as they became teachers of all sorts to the British.

They helped the colonists in getting used to the environment, giving them new crops, such as squash, tomatoes, and corn, and teaching them new farming techniques (Native American Agriculture). As William Bradford wrote in Of Plymouth Plantation, one Native American, Squanto, was especially helpful: “He directed them how to set their carne, wher to take fish, and to procure other comodities, and was also their pilott to bring them to unknowne places for theirprofitt, and never left them till he dyed” (Davis).

In the first winter, half of the population that came to Plymouth had already died as a result of the brutal temperatures that they were not used to (Davis). However, Squanto, with his invaluable knowledge of the land was a great asset to the remaining colonists. The Native Americans employed the “Three Sisters” farming technique where squash, maize, and beans were planted together on the ground, which they also taught to the colonists.

This allowed the beans to climb up upon the maize, the squash to block sunlight from reaching the ground, at the same time eliminating weeds, and the beans to provide nitrogen to the soil that both other plants utilize. The Indians also put fish heads on top of the soil, providing fertilization. Additionally, in between each set of crops another would be planted, which was due to the Native American tradition of saving space and preparing it for the future generations to come (Native American Agriculture).

All of this they taught to the colonists, which allowed them to grow as much food as possible using the least amount of land available, benefitting the population. The Native Americans also helped the colonists by being war allies to them. King William’s War of 1689-97 was fought between France, England, their respective colonies, and their respective American Indian allies. This was also known as the Second Indian War, as this succeeded the previous King Philip’s War. Members of the Iroquois Confederacy fought for the British side of the war, against the French and their Indian allies, the Algonquians.

The Native Americans helped the British capture Port Royal, which proved to be an important win for Britain as they had failed in their previous military attacks upon Quebec and Montreal. Port Royal was the capital of French Acadia, which is about present-day Nova Scotia (Henretta). During Queen Anne’s War of 1702-13, the Native American tribes of Chickasaw, Yamasee, and the Muscogee also teamed up with the British colonists to fight against the Spanish, French, and their Indian allies. Lastly, the Indians also joined the British during King George’s War of 1744-48.

They assisted Britain in successfully besieging the French fortress of Louisburg in Nova Scotia. Contrary to popular belief, African slaves and white indentured servants were not the only types of labor in colonial America; Native Americans were used as slaves as well. There had already been cases of Native American slavery from the time of Columbus’ second expedition, in 1493. As Ishaan Tharoor wrote in Time magazine, Columbus “reportedly corralled some 1,500 Arawak men, women and children, and selected 500 of them to be taken to Spain” (5).

A similar situation happened in Canada, as Karen Swisher noted: “Slavery began for Native people of Labrador and Newfoundland when the Portuguese, led by Gasper Cortes-Real, captured two shiploads of individuals to sell into slavery” (179). Thus, it was probably not surprising that the colonists later also used the Native Americans as slaves. Indian slave trade was most notable in South Carolina, as it started soon after the settlers arrived and persisted all through the colonial period. The olonists used some of these slaves to work on their own plantations, but because of their fear of the slaves running away because of their familiarity over the land, they often exported these slaves to elsewhere. Profit from selling these Indian slaves could be used to fund the plantations and buy African slaves. It is also interesting to note that these colonists often made more money from selling slaves than from the plantation itself. The Indian slaves also worked as “police-forces” to maintain the plantations and received substantial rewards for returning runaway slaves (Goins).

As one writer wrote, “Although the scale of enslavement pales in comparison to the African slave trade, it is notable, for instance, that from 1670 to 1717, far more American Indians were exported from Charleston than Africans were brought in” (Goins). This proves the importance placed on Indian slavery during the colonial time, and Tony Seybert even wrote, “The usual exchange rate of captive Indians for enslaved Africans was two or three Indians to one African”. It was because of the Native Americans that the Pilgrims could live through the first winter.

It was because of the Native Americans that the British soldiers could defeat the French and capture Port Royal. It was also because of the Native Americans that the South Carolinians could rake in so much profit. Therefore, in conclusion, the Native Americans, through aiding the colonists in lifestyle techniques, helping them in war, and working as slaves for them, facilitated the colonization of America. (Word count: 1047) ? Works Cited Davis, William T. , ed. Bradford’s History of Plymouth Plantation, 1606-1646.

New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1908. Early Americas Digital Archive. Web. 19 Sept. 2011. Goins, William M. , ed. “The Forgotten Story of American Indian Slavery. ” Pan-Tribal Confederacy of Indigenous Tribal Nations. Pan-Tribal Confederacy, n. d. Web. 22 Aug. 2011. Griffing, Robert. “He Befriended Me Greatly. ” King William’s War. Passagen, n. d. Web. 19 Sept. 2011. Henretta, James. “French and Indian War. ” The Page of Shades – Native Americans. Angelfire, n. d. Web. 5 Sept. 2011.

Native American Agriculture. James Madison Museum, 2003. Web. 5 Sept. 2011. Seybert, Tony. “Slavery and Native Americans in British North America and the United States: 1600 to 1865. ” Slavery and Native Americans Lesson Plan: 1600-1865. Slavery in America, n. d. Web. 21 Aug. 2011. Swisher, Karen Gayton, and Ancita Benally. Native North American Firsts. Detroit: Gale, 1998. Print. Tharoor, Ishaan. “He Set Some Bad Precedents: Top 10 Things You Should Know About Columbus. ” Time 11 Oct. 2010: 5. Print.


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