Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Why Native Americans Should Have Adopted Stricter Immigration

Review of “The Indian Wars of Pennsylvania” by C. Hale Sipe

There is a rich history to the Native Americans who lived in Pennsylvania. It is unfortunate that much of it was not preserved and that what has been saved is seldom taught to new generations. This book, considered the most thoroughly researched and written book on the history of the 16th through 18th century warfare involving Native American tribes fought on Pennsylvania soil was originally published in 1931. Fortunately, the book continues being reprinted and studied today.

The 16th, 17th and 18th centuries were presented historic changes for all who lived in Pennsylvania, as European settlers and their descendants increased interactions with the established if more nomadic Native American residents. The French opened trading ties with the Delaware and Shawnee tribes while British settlers forced the Delaware first from the area of the Delaware River into the area of the Susquehanna River and later to the area of the Ohio River. Indian tribes driven from their lands by the British joined with French soldiers in attempt to regain lands for their tribes as well as land and trade for the French. Tribes that had been warring with tribes allied with the French then allied with British forces. Several continuing fights concluded with a final treaty in 1795.

The author notes that Native Americans could be strong fighters and that warfare between tribes likely existed for generations prior to what has been recorded in print history. Yet, the author also stresses that cruelty was not known to be a part of their nature and, while war can be brutal, that massacres were not a part of Native American culture. In fact, many captured settlers were incorporated into the tribes as tribal members. The massacres that happened, including the massacre of 96 Delawares who had converted to Christianity then killed by Scotch-Irish settlers from Washington County, Pa. should be recalled for their historic brutality.

Recorded history notes how the Mengwe tribe stirred up trouble between the Lenape and the Cherokee by murdering tribe members and planting evidence to make each think the other tribe was behind the murders. The Lenape Delaware tribe was allied with the Algonquin family of tribes. The Lenape were not fooled by this trickery and they attacked the Mengwe around 1570. This attack sparked 500 Mengwe tribes to form a unified confederation that included the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onodagas, Cayugas, and Senacas. This group was first called the Five Nations and later the Six Nations. Warfare was often a fight to the death, or until the tribes’ women with passionate speeches convinced the warriors to cease fighting.

The Iroquois eventually conquered the Lenape and then made them suffer what was then considered the worst insult a Native American nation could be forced to suffer. All Lenape were deemed to be “women” and were forced to act as women do in battle and serve essentially as mediators and umpires. This shame remained until 1755. The Iroquois also conquered the Eries around 1655 or 1656 and then the Shawnees in 1672. From 1603 to 1675, the Iroquoians fought and finally conquered their similar linguistic rivals, the Susquehanna.

Arnold Viele, a Dutch trader, left Albany, New York and was the first European to explore the area between the Susquehanna and Ohio rivers. Trade soon opened between tribe members and European settlers. Swedish settlers began the first trade with the Turkey clan of the Unalachtiga Delaware Lenape tribe. The Dutch and Swedish jealously fought over this trade as the Native Americans provided traders with many profitable furs. Several Europeans later profited on Native American trade by selling them excessive amounts of alcohol. This earned the traders much money, yet the resulting alcoholism created many social problems among a group of people unfamiliar with alcohol.

The Swedish traders were noted for their overall favorable treatment of Native Americans. During this same time period, the Puritans in New England actively hunted Native Americans, selling into slavery those who were captured, and sought to extinguish their race. William Penn, though, saw to it that Pennsylvanians initially were friendly towards the Native Americans. Yet, after William Penn’s era, subsequent British settlers including Penn’s sons conned them or drove them out of their land.

William Penn created a law that regulated the trade of rum with Native Americans. This law though was widely ignored by traders. The problems associated with alcohol were so pervasive that Shawnees moved to western Pennsylvania to drive their members away from further rum purchases. The Shawnee requested a limit on the amount and frequency that rum could be sold to tribes members. While these conditions may have been followed, the traders got around this attempt to restrict alcohol by instead selling large quantities of whiskey to the Shawnee.

Some Pennsylvanians were disturbed by the westward movement of the Shawnee, fearing that this would lessen their influence with the tribe and lead them into an alliance with the feared French traders and settlers. The Iroquois in 1732 attempted to persuade the Shawnee to be allied with the British. Yet the Shawnee declined accepting this alliance. The Shawnee allied with the French. This ultimately led to the bloodiest battles of the French and Indian War.

As an aside, it is worth mentioning that Native American history included its own time when a leader stepped down for love. Opessah, a Shawnee chief, left being chief and even being a Shawnee to join the Delawares. It is believed he did so to be with a Delaware woman who wished to remain a Delaware.

Several settlers were killed by Native Americans and vice versa. Some treaties had restricted Native American hunting. Skirmishes over the use of land created much friction. Several settlers left Pennsylvania fearful of the violence spilling onto their land. Three Native Americans were murdered by a settler who has brought to justice by a commission that included Mordecai Lincoln, the great great grandfather of Abraham Lincoln. The settler was tried and hung for the murders.

A settler Conrad Weiser met the Vice Gerent of the Six Nations while hunting and spent eight months befriending the Iroquois and learning their culture and language. Conrad Weiser would be useful in many negotiations with the Six Nations as he was trusted by both sides. The Treaty of 1732 was reached where the Six Nations agreed to leave the settlers alone.

.The Treaty of 1736 allowed the purchase of land in the Susquehanna area by the British. This upset the Shawnee who then cemented their alliance with the French. The Iroquois, who did not respect the Shawnee, were happy with the treaty, especially since it gave the Iroquois land where the Delaware lived. Needless to say, the Delaware were quite unhappy with this treaty.

The Mursee Delaware tribe was forced to move after being tricked by the Walking Purchase of 1737. They agreed to allow British settlers an amount of land which one could walk in one day from Wrightstown, Bucks County. They discovered it was actually the amount of land which a swift runner could run. They had expected to yield about 30 miles distance of land and wound up giving up about 65 miles distance. The Delaware did not accept this and attacked some settlers in the disputed area.

The increasing northward migration of Native Americans began conflicting with the increasing southward migration of European settlers. The Tuscarora sent representatives to meet with Pennsylvania’s Governor Charles Crookin and members of the Pennsylvania Provincial Council as they wished to leave North Carolina. They offered eight belts of wampum in return for being allowed to live peacefully in Pennsylvania. The Provincial Council essentially asked for references, requesting them to provide written statements from people in North Carolina attesting to their prior proper behavior. While the Tuscarora were unable to provide a copy of such statements, they did move to Pennsylvania and lived in Juanita County until 1755. While here, they were not peaceful as they attacked Catawbas, Cherokees, and Conestoga tribe members.

The French and the Indians formed a force of 1,000 and attacked Fort Dusquesne, which was under construction by less than 40 British soldiers with Ensign Edward Ward being the highest ranked soldier there. The fort was promptly surrendered to the French and Indians. Lt. Col. George Washington was sent to meet with Ward and plan British strategy. Washington was defeated and surrendered Fort Necessity and signed an agreement giving the French the Ohio Valley.

Subsequent French and Indian victories won attention, including the Battle of Monagahela. In this battle, 89 officers were among the 454 killed, making it a historic battle where the highest proportion of the dead were officers. The Delaware then joined the Shawnee in alliance with the French. It is worth noting that the Pennsylvania Assembly and Governor were unable to decide upon the issue of what defense Pennsylvania should create in this war. Finally, a massacre of settlers induced Pennsylvania to declare war against the Shawnees and Delawares. This declaration was adopted despite the urging of several Quaker Provincial Assembly members who argued that declaring war would only create an uprising from more Shawnees and Delawares. They also argued that not enough efforts had been made towards achieving reconciliation with these tribes.

Pennsylvania adopted the Scalp Act. Under this Act, the government paid for the scalps of Shawnees and Delawares. This resulted in those Shawnees and Delawares who previously were neutral to fight against the Pennsylvanians.

The Albany Treaty of 1754 gave the Iroquois rights in the Ohio Valley. The treaty also allowed Pennsylvania rights to Pennsylvania land previously claimed by the Iroquois. The Iroquois migrated westward.

The Western Delawares agreed to accept peace terms if the British took back in Fort Dusquesne. When the British did this in 1758, the Western Delaware followed through with their commitment to achieve peace. English settlers agreed to live only to the east of the Allegheny Mountains and would not attack Native American homes and hunting areas.

The British did not follow through on their terms. Native American homes and hunters were attacked as settlers then moved into the areas they promised they would not enter. In 1733, Pontiac led an uprising against the settlers. Several forts were seized and other besieged. The United States reached peace with the Delawares in 1778 and made a treaty with the Six Nations in 1784. The last Native American uprising in Pennsylvania was settled in 1795.

The Mohawk sold Wyoming land now in Pennsylvania to Connecticut. Connecticut and Pennsylvania would dispute this land for some time until it was finally resolved as being Pennsylvania land.

The author notes that atrocities were committed by settlers and by Native Americans. Conestogas who were unarmed were massacred by settlers. Hundreds of settlers were massacred by Native Americans .The purchasing of scalps was a historical horror. Yet it is a history that should be remembered. Hopefully someday there will be a time when groups of people no longer are attempting to kill others.

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Whig Party National Committee: May 2008