Building Empires

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The Spanish had met overwhelming numbers of Native Americans who refused to let them to settle. The French had established a small colonial presence in Canada, and the English had exploited native depopulation and rivalries to found colonies in the early colonial period. By 1700, though, several large expansionist colonies and an increasingly tense rivalry between England and France would come to characterize nativewhite relations. And the rapid expansion of British North America in the eighteenth century by the 1750s, the population of the thirteen colonies had reached 1.5 million would alter native-white relations significantly.

Many Native American communities, such as the Tuscarora of North Carolina and the Delaware (Lenni Lenape) of Pennsylvania, were forced from their homelands entirely. Others, like Catawbas in South Carolina and numerous smaller groups in New England, resigned themselves to the domination of a nonnative majority and began to integrate themselves into colonial life.

During the eighteenth century, even powerful nations like the Creek and Cherokee in Georgia and South Carolina, respectively, were forced to evacuate and to cede or sell pieces of their homelands. Although they tried to maintain cultural autonomy as they lost political autonomy and military power and they, like other Native Americans, continued to play an important role in eastern North America, North America was, in fact, becoming increasingly English. The Seven Years’ War, or the French and Indian War as it was known in the colonies, all but completed the shift.

In the 1750s, France and its native allies (mainly from the Midwest and the Great Lakes region) began to attack British settlements and outposts in the Ohio River Valley. These hostilities led to the establishment of Fort Duquesne, present-day Pittsburgh. Britain and France basically decided to force each other into a final showdown for North America, though the fight spread around the globe as well. The British fared poorly at first, but their fortunes reversed under the able leadership of William Pitt (the new prime minister). Sensing the turning tide, the Iroquois gave up neutrality and formed an alliance with the British. After the Treaty of Paris in 1763, France gave up its North American empire, leaving Britain as the sole colonial power. Tribes that had been accustomed to playing the European powers off against one another no longer had that option, and the British knew that. Jeffery Amherst, the commander of British forces, also stopped distributing gifts to allied natives.

The 1760s saw two native revivals that cut across tribal lines. Followers of Pontiac and Neolin, or the “Delaware prophet,” rejected European culture, and the rebellion that bears Pontiac’s name removed the British from many of their western outposts. In 1763, the British reconciled with Native Americans and promised to protect them from encroaching settlers. The Proclamation of 1763 drew a line along the top of the Appalachian Mountains and declared everything west of the line Native American lands.

The 1763 proclamation did little to stop the Anglo-American movement westward, however; by 1768, Britain had ceded control of Native American affairs back to the colonies. To make matters worse, by the Treaty of Stanwix, the British and Iroquois ceded a wide swath of land belonging to the Shawnee, Delaware, and Cherokee.

In the American War for Independence, most native communities, though not all, sided with the British. In the wake of the stunning British defeat, the newly created United States government treated all Native Americans as defeated enemies and dealt with them harshly. Matthew Jennings See also: Furs; Military and Diplomatic Affairs (Chronology); Military and Diplomatic Affairs (Essay); Native AmericanEuropean Conflict; Native Americans; Trade; Document: John Eliot and His Work with Native Americans (1670). Bibliography Calloway, Colin G. New Worlds for All: Indians, Europeans, and the Remaking of Early America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997. Mancall, Peter H., and James M. Merrell, eds. American Encounters: Natives and Newcomers from European Contact to Indian Removal, 1500–1850. New York: Routledge, 2000. Nash, Gary B. Red, White and Black: The Peoples of Early North America. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2000. Richter, Daniel K. Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001. Witgen, Michael. An Infinity of Nations: How the Native New World Shaped Early North America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012. Native Americans Any meaningful account of colonial America must recognize the crucial role of Native Americans in the struggle for the continent. Until the last half of the eighteenth century, the eastern portion of North America was above all else native land.

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