Consequences for Native Americans

Maeve Kane



  • Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) relationships and choices pre-war
  • 1779 Sullivan Campaign
  • Tsalagi (Cherokee) parallels
  • teaching takeaways
Haudenosaunee territories, 1770
L: "Mohawk Woman," Unknown, 18th century. Musée du Nouveau Monde de La Rochelle.
R: "Hague maiden," Paulus Constantijn la Fargue, 1775. Rijksmuseum Amsterdam.
L: George Washington, Charles Willson Peale, 1799. R: Thayendanegea Joseph Brant, George Romney, 1776.

Haudenosaunee choices

  • British alliance: maintain existing relationship that may not be working?
  • American alliance: do these people know what they're doing? will they respect the 1768 Stanwix Line?
  • neutrality: a conflict between a father and children?

1777 Battle of Oriskany: Haudenosaunee Civil War?

  • Fort Stanwix British/Oneida stronghold
  • first, last, and only Haud. v Haud. battle
  • 800 Americans + 150 Oneida vs 450 Loyalists + 100 Mohawk and Seneca
  • 450 American/Oneida casualties vs 150 Loyalist/Mohawk/Seneca casualties
  • rumors of Molly Brant and Esther Montour's cannibalism afterwards
  • how else to explain women's presence in battle?

Oneida at Valley Forge, 1777-1778

  • push away from British: rejection of British Superintendent William Johnson
  • pull toward Americans: Rev. Samuel Kirkland and promise of land recognition
  • brought military, food and clothing relief
  • Polly Cooper and other Oneida women's military involvement

escalating American anxieties

  • Molly Brant and Esther Montour, 1777: (false!) rumors of Mohawk women's savagery
  • Polly Cooper, 1778: Oneida women's service
  • Jane McRea, 1779: white women's vulnerability to "Indian savagery"

Peter Gansevoort, 1778: "[Canajoharie] is in the Heart of our Settlements, and abounding with every Necessary so that it is remarked that the Indians live much better than most of the Mohawk River farmers their Houses very well furnished with all necessary Household utensils."

- Peter Gansevoort to John Sullivan, 8 October 1778, Gansevoort Military Papers, New York Public Library, New York, NY. See also Barbara Graymont, The Iroquois in the American Revolution, 219.

The Sullivan campaign's "immediate objects are the total destruction and devastation of [Seneca] settlements . . . the country may not be merely overrun, but destroyed. . . . You will not by any means listen to overtures of Peace before the total ruin is effected . . . . Our future security will be in their inability to injure us—the distance to which they are driven, and in the terror with which the severity of the chastisement they receive will insure them"

- George Washington to John Sullivan, Middle Brook, 31 May, 1779. HM 1590, Huntington Library, Pasadena, California.

James Clinton, 1779: "Bad as the savages are, they never violate the chastity of any women, their prisoners. Although I have very little apprehension that any of the soldiers will so far forget their character as to attempt such a crime on the Indian women who may fall into their hands, yet it will be well to take measures to prevent such a stain upon our army."

- Quoted in William L. Stone, Life of Joseph Brant. (Alexander Blake, 1838), 1:404. See also Graymont, The Iroquois in the American Revolution, 196 and Mann, George Washington’s War, 32.

1784 Treaty of Fort Stanwix

  • GW: Six Nations should "discover some signs of repentance"
  • promised security of Oneida and Tuscarora lands
  • federal government never enforced for Oneida and Tuscarora
  • 2005 Oneida v. City of Sherrill SCOTUS
  • Office of the President: Hanadaga:yas (Town Destroyer)

"Tis our mind that you should hear a little from us also. For this reason that the Pres GW may also hear from us: that he may know the women have been at the Council fire to hear what was done: and for this reason also that we are the persons who supported the country . . . We do this that he may know the women are yet alive, for we suppose he does not know that women attend treaties."

- Seneca Billy. 23 November 1790, Timothy Pickering Papers. Family Correspondence. Reel 31:97. Massachusetts Historical Society.

Tsalagi War of 1776

  • white squatters on Tsalagi (Cherokee) land
  • American violence against British superintendent pushed Tsalagi away from Americans
  • inter-Native alliance led by Shawnee Cornstalk
  • Tsalagi welcome of Lenape refugees

The long revolution in Indian Country

  • Northwest Indian War 1783-1795
  • Tsalagi and Haudenosaunee mediation on behalf of US with other Indigenous nations
  • who really controlled the Ohio valley?
  • Pox Americana, Elizabeth Fenn

teaching takeaways

  • Indigenous nations and people are still here
  • "us" vs "them" language - some of your students are Indigenous
  • "diversity" was not a universal good or cure-all
  • goals and motivations differed across nations
  • read for specificity of authorship, perspective, and motivation
  • write with specificity for time, place, and "why"
  • avoid black and white characterization
Further resources

thank you!