Spanish Missionaries in Texas

A frontier is a transition zone between two regions, between two areas with different cultures. For the European invaders in North America, the frontier represented the transition between civilization—defined by European languages, governments, and religion—and barbarism—defined by the pagan and incomprehensible Native American cultures. For the English colonists in North America, the frontier was a broad line running north-south and for the English the frontier was always to the west. In New Spain, however, the frontier was to the north. For the colonial Spanish, one of the frontier zones was the area that is today known as Texas.

For the Spanish, the northern frontier of Texas was an area that had to be civilized through the conversion of Native peoples to Catholicism either by persuasion or by force of arms. From 1673 until 1728 Catholic missionaries worked in Texas, establishing missions and seeking converts.

In 1673, in response to what was viewed as a request for Christian missionaries by the Coahuiltecan, the Franciscans sent Fray San Buenaventura and a force of ten soldiers north from Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe in Coahuila north across the Rio Grande. When the expedition returned, Fray San Buenaventura recommended that the Spanish establish three missions among the Coahuiltecan and that each mission be protected by a presidio (fort) of not less than 70 soldiers.

In 1675, Spanish explorers, including a group of Franciscans, traveled northward from Eagle Pass to present-day Edwards County. They encountered three tribes and noted that smallpox had already decimated tribal numbers. Some of the tribes were hunting buffalo and making jerky.

In 1683, Jumano chief Juan Sabeata led a multi-tribal delegation to El Paso to speak with Spanish state and church officials. Sabeata was appointed to the position of gobernador by the Spanish. Juan Sabeata told the Spanish about the thirty-some tribes to the east, including the “Great Kingdom of the Texas” (the Caddo).

In response to the request by Jumano leader Juan Sabeata the Spanish sent out an expedition to explore the Nueces River country, to learn about the Jumano and other Indian nations in the territory, and to bring back specimens of the pearls which were reported to be there. The Franciscan missionaries Nicolás López and Juan Zavaleta were in charge of the religious aspects of the expedition. The expedition turned back after reaching the Colorado River of Texas and having been attacked several times by the Apache.

 In 1690, Fray Francisco Casañas de Jesus María founded a mission on the banks of the Neches River. The mission was named Santísimo Nombre de María and was intended to convert the Hasinai (Caddo).

Three years later, the Spanish missions and presidios in east Texas were abandoned because of lack of cooperation among the Caddo tribes in the area. One Hasinai medicine man convinced the people that baptism waters could be fatal. The Spanish priests found that the Caddo refused to believe in one god, but insisted that there were two: one who gave clothing, knives, hatchets, and other things to the Spanish; and one who gave corn, beans, acorns, nuts, and rain to the Indians.

At San Francisco de los Tejas the Spanish buried heavy objects, such as canons and bells, and then burned the mission. For several days, the Caddo followed the retreating Spanish at a distance to make sure they were really leaving. Four soldiers, however, deserted the Spanish to join the Caddo. Back at the mission, the soldiers showed the Indians where the heavier objects were buried.

 In 1715, the Spanish decided to re-occupy east Texas and established four missions among the Indians.

The following year, a Spanish missionary party of 75 people, including six Querétan missionaries, reached the site of the abandoned Mission of San Francisco de los Texas. Four leagues inland from this site they established the Mission of San Francisco de los Neches. This mission was intended to serve the Neches, Nabedache, Nacogdoches, and Nacono.

Eight or nine leagues northeast of the new mission, they established another mission for the Hainai which was called the Mission of Nuestra Señora de la Purisima Concepción.

A third mission, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, was established for the Nacogdoche and Nacao. A fourth mission, San José de los Nazones, was established for the Nasoni and Nadaco.

In 1718, the Franciscans moved their mission from Eagle Pass to San Antonio where it became known as San Antonio de Valero.

In 1722, the Spanish established a fort, La Bahía, and the mission of Espíritu Santo de Zuñiga in Karankawa territory.

Four years later, the Spanish moved the Franciscan mission of Espíritu Santo de Zuñiga to the lower San Antonio River in Aranama territory.

In 1728, the Spanish sent General Pedro de Rivera to inspect the Indian missions. He reported: “there was not a single Indian at San Miguel de los Adaes; at Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de Nocagdoches, although there were many Indians, industrious and well-disposed, they were all still heathens; at three missions, Nuestra Señora de la Concepción, San Francisco de los Neches, and San José de los Nazones, there were no Indians at all, with little hope of ever getting any.”  In other words, the Spanish missionary efforts to convert the Indians accomplished very little.

1714

Three centuries ago, in 1714, the United States had not yet emerged as a country and the English colonies were continuing their land-hungry push inland from the Atlantic seaboard. Indians were, of course, in the way and the colonists were insisting that they be confined to reservations so that the good farm and pasture lands could be given to the Europeans.

Listed below are some of the Indian events of 1714.

New England:

In Connecticut, a committee was appointed by the Connecticut General Assembly to investigate Pequot complaints against English colonists. The Assembly forbids the colonists to prevent the Pequot from hunting, fishing, or planting on disputed lands. The committee found that the Pequot had plenty of land to live on in the area known as Mashantucket.

In Connecticut, the General Court ordered the Pequot to relinquish their planting rights to Noank as there was felt to be sufficient land for Pequot needs at Mashantucket. The Pequot were allowed to continue to fish, fowl, and gather shellfish at Noank.

In Massachusetts, the Potawaumacut complained that their English neighbors were not allowing them to cut wood and gather plants in undivided common areas.

In Massachusetts, the Monomoy sold their land. Tribal members moved to Potawaumacut and to Sahquatucket.

New York:

In New York, the colonial governor asked the Iroquois to stop their warriors from attacking Indians such as the Catawba who were allied with the English. The Iroquois sachems maintained that they could not make peace until they had consulted with the warriors. The Iroquois raids against the Catawba continued.

In New York, a group of about 500 Tuscarora families, fleeing from North Carolina and Virginia, sought refuge among the Iroquois.

Southeast:

In Alabama, the Cherokee under the leadership of Uskwalena (Bull Head or Big Head), defeated the Creek at Pine Island.

In the Carolinas, European traders Alexander Longe and Eleazar Wiggen persuaded Cherokee warriors who were heavily in debt to them to raid a Yuchi village in order to obtain captives who could be sold as slaves.

In Virginia, a reservation for the Mannahoac, Saponi, Tutelo, and Occaneechi was established around Fort Christianna on the fall line of the Roanoke River. The 1714 treaty provided for a reservation six miles square with a palisaded fort with cannons and a school for Indian children. The treaty also promised a group of armed rangers for defense. The commander of the post was to administer Indian affairs under the authority of the Virginia Indian Company.

In Mississippi, the French traders established a warehouse at Natchez in order to acquire deerskins from upcountry villages.

Spanish Territory:

 In New Mexico, the Spanish governor ordered that all Apache captives be baptized before being sold as slaves.

The Great Plains:

In Nebraska, the Ponca obtained horses from the Comanche, trading them for bows and arrows.

In Nebraska, French traders found the Otoe living in a village on Salt Creek.

Great Lakes Area:

 In Minnesota, the Fox made peace with the Sioux in an effort to gain trading partners and to enlist their support against the Chippewa who were pushing south from Lake Superior.

In Illinois, smallpox struck the Kaskaskia. About one-fourth of the people died.

The Hokan Language Family

During the nineteenth century linguists—scholars who are engaged in the scientific study of language—began to adopt a biological model of language development in which they viewed languages evolving in much the way that organisms had. With this model, linguists were able to put together family trees which provide a simplified genealogy of a language’s development and relationships. This genealogy groups related languages together into language families. With regard to American Indians, the study of language families helps us understand the relationships among different tribes, their histories, and their migrations.

The California culture area of Native Americans includes seven major language groups and more than 100 languages. This means that this area is the most linguistically diverse culture area in North America. The oldest language family in California is Hokan which includes Chimariko, Palaihnihan, Yana, Esselen, Salinan, Karok, Pomo, Shasta, Seri, and Washo. Several of these languages are not well-known as they are endangered or extinct.

Some linguists feel that Hokan may have been the language first spoken by American Indians 20,000 years ago. According to one hypothesis, Hokan speakers may have originally inhabited the great intermountain basin north of the Grand Canyon. Eventually, the Uto-Aztecan speakers moved north into this area and displaced the Hokan speakers.

Outside of the California Culture Area, the Coahuiltecan-speaking people of the Western Gulf Culture Area in Texas and Mexico appear to be related linguistically to the Hokan.

Chimariko:

The Chimariko language was spoken by only a few hundred people in the Trinity River area. There are no known speakers at the present time.

Palaihnihan:

The Palaihnihan group includes two languages: Achumawi and Atsugewi. These two languages are the most closely related in the Hokan Family. There were an estimated 3,000 Palaihnihan-speakers in aboriginal times.

Achumawi is nearly extinct at the present time with only older adults speaking the language. All speakers are considered semi-speakers or passive speakers. Some linguists have reported that there were originally nine dialects of Achumawi.

Yana:

The Yana group has two languages: Yana and Yahi. The last known speaker of Yahi was Ishi. One of the characteristics of Yana is the distinction between the speech of men and women. Men’s speech was longer in that in women’s speech the final vowel of nouns more than two syllables in length is devoiced. When men were talking to men, men’s speech was used. At all other times, women’s speech was used. Women would use men’s speech only if they were giving a direct quote.

Esselen:

Very little is known about the Esselen language which was spoken by only a few hundred people in the area around the Carmel River and the Big Sur coastal area. Esselen was the first Native American language in California to go extinct after Spanish colonization. During the mission era, a few word lists were collected. There are currently attempts to revive this language.

Salinan:

 The Salinan language was spoken by about 2,000 people and had two or three major dialects, including Antoniano and Migueleño. There are presently no known speakers of this language. The last speakers died in the early 1960s. There is, however, interest at the present time in language revival.

Karok:

In aboriginal times there were an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 Karok speakers. Presently there are only 10 speakers. This language is the most distantly related of the Hokan languages.

Pomo:

The Pomoan group includes seven languages which are designated by area: Northeastern, Eastern, Southeastern, Northern, Central, Southern, and Southwestern. One of the interesting features about Central Pomo is the remarkable array of prefixes. Using the root yól which means “to mix” some examples of prefix use include:

ba- means “orally” and thus bayól means “to insert words suddenly while humming; that is, mix orally”

s- means “by sucking and thus syól means “to wash down cookies or doughnuts with coffee; that is, to mix by sucking”

da- means “by pushing with the palm” and thus dayól means “to fold in dry ingredients while baking”

m- means “with heat” and thus myól means “to throw various ingredients into a pot; that is, to mix by heating”

qa- means “by biting” and thus qayól means “to eat several things together, such as meat and potatoes; that is, to mix by biting”

By 2000, it was estimated that there were only 255 speakers of the Pomoan languages. Of these, 45 are between the ages of 5 and 17, including 15 with limited English proficiency.

Shasta:

The Shastan group consists of four languages: Shasta, New River Shasta, Okwanuchu, and Konomihu. There are currently no known speakers of this language.

Seri:

 The Seri people live along the Sonora, Mexico coast. The language is still spoken by all age groups. Some linguists feel that this is a language isolate rather than a part of the Hokan language family.

Washo:

Washo is the only language in the Great Basin culture area which is not a part of the Numic division of the Uto-Aztecan family. While the 2000 Census counted 252 Washo-speakers, there are some who feel that there are only about 10 fluent speakers.

Preparing the Cherokee for Removal

Since its founding, the United States, and particularly the states that compose it, has been uncomfortable with having Indians nations within its boundaries. Motivated by a combination of greed, racism, and religion, non-Indians debated two basic solutions to the Indian “problem”: removing Indian nations from the United States by relocating them west of the Mississippi River, and/or genocide. These solutions began with law in 1830 with the passage of the Indian Removal Act.

In 1835, American settlers invaded Cherokee territory and filed lawsuits against the Indians. The Indians, under state law, were not able to testify against the Americans so the Indians always lost. Some Americans stripped Indian men and women and flogged them. When General Ellis Wool attempted to protect the Cherokee, the state of Alabama accused him of disturbing the peace and interfering with the rights of Alabama citizens.

In 1835, the United States presented the Cherokee with a new treaty. The offer which the United States presented to the Cherokee was simple: if the tribe signed the treaty, the Cherokee would surrender their ancient homelands and move to the west. If the Cherokee did not sign, then the United States military would herd them at bayonet point from their homes and move them to the west.

Seeing no realistic alternative, some Cherokee leaders – primarily Major Ridge, John Ridge, Elias Boudinot, Andrew Ross, James Starr, Stand Watie, James Rogers, Thomas Watie, Archilla Smith, John A. Bell, Charles Foreman, George W. Adair, and others of the Treaty Party – signed the Treaty of New Echota.  None of those signing the treaty had been authorized by the Cherokee Nation to sign it. In signing the treaty, all realized that they had violated Cherokee law, a law with a death penalty.

Under the terms of this treaty, the Cherokee were to give up all of their lands east of the Mississippi and to move to what is now Oklahoma and Arkansas. Cherokee Principal Chief John Ross repudiated the treaty because it had been signed by a minority of the Cherokee leaders. The United States, however, contended that they had informed the Cherokee that all leaders who did not attend the treaty conference would be considered to have approved any document signed by the negotiators.

In 1836, Cherokee Principal Chief John Ross met with President Andrew Jackson in a courtesy visit. Jackson brought up the issue of removal, indicating he would be unable to protect the tribe as long as they lived among non-Indians.

That same year, Cherokee Principal Chief John Ross addressed the U.S. Senate, providing them with an outline of the abuse and injustice done to the Cherokee. He presented them with two protest resolutions – one signed by 3,250 North Carolina Cherokee and one representing more than 12,000 Cherokee – asking that the Treaty of New Echota not be ratified.  While the government claimed that the Cherokee General Council had approved the treaty and that 500 Cherokee were present when it was adopted, neither was true. It had been signed by a few dozen Cherokee, many of whom had already agreed to emigrate. The Senate, by a margin of one vote, ratified the treaty.

As soon as the new treaty was ratified by the Senate, President Andrew Jackson issued a proclamation that the United States no longer recognized the existence of any government among the Cherokee in the Southeast. Furthermore, the Cherokee were warned that any resistance to removal would be met by force through the army.

In 1836, General Ellis Wool forwarded Cherokee protests over removal to Washington, D.C. He explained:  “It is, however, vain to talk to a people almost universally opposed to the treaty and who maintain that they never made such a treaty.”  He also reported:  “Many have said they will die before they will leave the country.”

In response, President Jackson rebuked the General for forwarding the Cherokee protests, declaring them to be disrespectful of the President, the Senate, and the American people.

In 1836, Major W.M. Davis, appointed to enroll the Cherokee for removal, reported that the removal treaty  “is no treaty at all, because it is not sanctioned by the great body of the Cherokee and made without their participation or assent. I solemnly declare to you that upon its reference to the Cherokee people it would be instantly rejected by nine-tenths of them, and I believe by nineteen-twentieths of them.”

In 1936, Cherokee Principal Chief John Ross visited the Western Cherokee. He conferred with the chiefs and visited relatives. The Indian agents in the area had been ordered to arrest him and so Western Cherokee Chief John Jolly met with Ross in private to avoid any possible legal trouble.

In 1837, Cherokee Principal Chief John Ross was denied a meeting with President Martin Van Buren. He found that the new President was intent on retaining President Andrew Jackson’s policies regarding Cherokee removal.

The Cherokee National Council sent a delegation which included John Ross, Elijah Hicks, Situwakee, and Whitepath to Washington, D.C. in 1838 to present Congress with a petition signed by 15,665 people protesting their removal treaty. However, the governor of Georgia has informed the President that any delay in Cherokee removal would be a violation of the rights of the state. President Martin Van Buren refused to grant the Cherokee request for a delayed removal. With this the stage for a rapid removal of the Cherokee to the west was set. The event which would become known as the trail of tears would follow.

The Third Anglo-Powhatan War

The third Anglo-Powhatan war (1644 to 1646) started with a large, coordinated strike by Powhatan warriors against the Virginia colonists. Several outlying settlements were struck with the Powhatan killing and/or capturing between 400 and 500 English settlers. At this time, there were 8,000 to 10,000 English colonists in Virginia.

The Powhatan, an alliance of several groups, were led by the elderly Opechancanough who was about 100 years old at this time. Opechancanough had also led the early 1622 Powahatan war against the English.

The English had established Jamestown as a mercantile venture in 1607. Since that time, tobacco had become an important export crop, so the English demand for increasing amounts of good farm land had increased. Ignoring the fact that the Indian nations of Virginia were agricultural, the newly arrived colonists simply assumed that the Indian fields were somehow “vacant” and available to them.

From the Powhatan perspective, the coordinated attacks against settlements which had encroached in their territory were meant to send a message to the English. In his book Powhatan’s World and Colonial Virginia, anthropologist Frederick Gleach writes: “Like his earlier attack, the 1644 coup can be best understood as an attempt by Opechancanough to correct the colonists’ inappropriate behavior and to stay their ceaseless expansion.”

The English colonists responded to the attacks by declaring a general war against the Powhatan. All private trade with the Powhatan was to be terminated. The Virginia Assembly felt that the Indians had obtained guns, powder, and shot through private trade. However, it was soon apparent that the colonists needed the trade in order to survive: without Indian corn they would starve. In 1645, the Assembly allowed authorized agents to trade with the Indians in order to obtain the badly needed grain.

The colonists attacked the Pamunkey and Chickahominy, two tribes affiliated with the Powhatan alliance. The Weyanocks, fearing English attacks, moved south of the Blackwater Swamp and purchased land from the Tuscarora.

In 1646, the General Assembly authorized a force under Lieutentant Francis Poythers to find Openchancanough and press for peace. Poythers, a trader with general knowledge of Virginia Indians, had experience in dealing with Opechancanough regarding land claims. Poythers, however, was unable to find Opechancanough.

A force led by Governor Berkley and aided by Rappahannock and Accomac allies manage to capture Openchancanough between the falls of the Appomattox and James rivers. At this time, the elderly Indian leader was unable to walk unaided. The English treated Opechancanough as a side show, displaying him to curious English colonists. The Indian leader, however, maintained his dignity and upbraided the English commander for the English’s lack of respect. The English commander then ordered that Opechancanough be treated with the dignity befitting his station.

The English governor considered sending Openchancanough to England where His Majesty would be presented with a royal prisoner (the English considered Indians chiefs to be royalty, not understanding any of the concepts of Indian government). Before a decision regarding his fate could be made, one of the guards took matters into his own hands and shot the elderly leader in the back. The wound proved to be fatal.

Hundreds of Indians who had been captured by the English during the Third Anglo-Powhatan War were sold into slavery.

With the death of Opechancanough, Necotowance assumed leadership of the Powhatan alliance and negotiated a new treaty with the English. This treaty was the first time Necotowance’s name appeared in the English written records and there is no indication that the English had ever had any previous dealings with him.

The peace treaty between the English colonists and the Powhattan called for the removal of the Powhatan Confederacy to an area north of the York River. Necotowance signed the treaty as “king of the Indians.” The treaty established a pattern of removing Indian nations away from the invading Europeans as a strategy to reduce the conflict between the two groups.

The Second Anglo-Powhatan War

The years after the 1614 treaty between the English and the Chickahominy were relatively peaceful. During this time the English colonists in Jamestown expanded their tobacco raising enterprises, often appropriating Indian corn fields for this export crop.

In 1618, Wahunsonacock (also known as The Powhatan) died. There was a leadership struggle among the Powhatan and Opechancanoe emerged as the new leader of the confederacy.

Concerned about the increasing use of guns by the Powhatan, in 1618 the English decreed that Indians were not to be taught to shoot guns. The decree mandated death for both teacher and student. The following year, a death penalty was established for anyone selling guns to the Indians.

In 1621, the Reverend Jonas Stockam preached that the only way of bringing the gospel to the Indians was to kill the elders: “till their Priests and Ancients have their throats cut, there is no hope of bringing them to conversion.”

The flash point that started the Second Anglo-Powhatan War centered around Nemattanew (Jack of the Feathers), the charismatic war chief of the Pamunkey. Nemattanew would go to war covered with feathers and with swans’ wings attached to his shoulders. In some instances, he would bewitch enemy warriors, including the English soldiers.  He had been revitalizing native culture and warrior traditions, preparing them for combat against muskets. He was thought to be invulnerable to bullets.

The starting point of the Second Anglo-Powhatan War is generally traced to 1622 when Nemattanew persuaded an Englishman named Morgan to go to Pamunkey to trade. This was the last anyone saw of Morgan. A few days later, however, Nemattanew went to Morgan’s house and informed the two young male servants there that Morgan was dead. The young men noticed that Nemattanew was wearing Morgan’s hat and they tried to take him to the authorities. When he refused, they shot him. As he was dying, he asked the young men not to reveal how he died.

Opechancanough was upset when news of Nemattanew’s death reached him and he vowed revenge. However, it also seems that he had been planning his attack on the English colonists for over a year. The death of Nemattanew simply provided an additional excuse for the war.

Two weeks after Nemattanew’s death, the Indians entered into the English villages, just as they often had in the past, bringing them presents of food. The next morning, they joined the colonists for breakfast and even joined them in working the fields. The Indians had come unarmed so there was little concern among the colonists. Then the Indians picked up the colonists’ tools and guns and began an unprecedented slaughter, killing men, women, and children. By the day’s end, 350 English colonists—one-fourth of the colony’s total population—were dead. The official count was 347 dead, but after its dissolution, the Virginia Company indicated that about 400 were slain.

Jamestown was not attacked. According to some accounts, often told a couple of centuries after the war, Christian Indians had warned the Jamestown colonists of the coming attack. The official account of the attacks, written shortly afterwards, makes no mention of this warning. In the nineteenth century histories of the colony, an Indian boy named Chanco is credited with warning the colonists, and yet no contemporary accounts of the colony make mention of this name.

The attack took the English by surprise and many argued that this strategy had been so clever that it could not have been masterminded by Indians and credited the Spanish with engineering it. There was, however, no evidence that the Spanish were involved.

The English retaliated with a series of raids on the Indians. Instructions from London to the Virginia colonies called for a perpetual war to exterminate the Indians and the Governor of Virginia issued a directive to rob, hunt down, and kill the Indians of the area. Military commanders were ordered not to make peace on any terms. Writing in the Handbook of North American Indians, Wilcomb Washburn notes: “the attack provided a ready-made justification for waging perpetual war (as Christian legal theory allowed against infidels) against any and all Indians. Too often the rules of honor were abandoned in the process.”

The Powhatan did not plan on engaging in a protracted war. They made their attacks, suffered few losses, and then did not make further assaults on the colonists. Unlike European warfare, Indian warfare was not about extermination. From an Indian perspective, the colonists were unruly and not behaving according to the natural laws that governed Indian conduct. The attacks were intended to simply teach the colonists a lesson. The goal was to restrict them to a small territory, to put an end to Christian proselytizing, and to demonstrate Powhatan power. By attacking only the outlying colonies and not Jamestown itself, the Powhatan attempted to show the English that these settlements were inappropriate.

The English colonists, of course, misinterpreted the message. They continued to view themselves as being endowed by their religion to occupy the lands of others, to convert them, and to rule all non-Christian nations.

 

The First Anglo-Powhatan War

Indian people tend to be very patient. After three years of dealing with English arrogance and bullying, the Indian people of Virginia had had enough. The Powhatan felt that the advantages of trading with the English were not enough to warrant the difficulties which they caused. Thus 1609 marks the beginning of the first Anglo-Powhatan war.

The designation “Anglo” refers to the English colonists in Virginia. The Powhatan was a confederacy of Algonquian-speaking tribes. This confederacy was formed in the late 1500s, just prior to the English invasion, by a Pamunkey chief named Wahunsonacock. He brought under his control about 30 tribes—the data indicates that there were at least 27 Powhatan tribes and there may have been as many as 43—with 200 villages.

The war was a period of sporadic violence in which the two sides fought according to different rules of engagement. For the Indians, war was undertaken for a number of reasons: (1) to right a wrong or correct some improper action; (2) to restore justice; and (3) to teach proper behavior. Strategies of surprise and ambush were more common than set battles between two fixed groups.

Part of the conflict came from the failure of the English to understand that the basis for the Indian economic system was generalized reciprocity: that is, one would give a gift to another to show that a social relationship existed and to reinforce that relationship and, in return, the recipient of the gift would be expected to give another gift in return. When the colonists failed to make a return gift for a present of turkeys sent to them from the Powhatan, the relationship between the two groups was soured.

The Indians may have tried to explain to the English the importance and meaning of reciprocity, but the English failed to understand, possibly due to language problems, but more likely due to English ethnocentrism which viewed the English way of doing things as the only “natural” way. One incident which may have been an attempt to teach the English about Indian ways may be seen when Pocahontas warned the English of an impending attack. Her biographer, Paula Gunn Allen writes in Pocahontas: Medicine Woman, Spy, Entrepreneur, Diplomat:  “That her intervention might have been deliberately designed and implemented by the Great Council seems to have occurred neither to John Smith nor to subsequent historians.”

In 1609, Captain John Martin invaded Nansemond territory. The English attempted to purchase the island which contained the Nansemond ossuary, and when the Indians refused to sell, the English soldiers simply ransacked the burial platforms. After 17 of the soldiers were killed, the English abandoned the area.

In 1610, chief Powhatan told the English settlers to leave his country or to confine themselves to their settlement at Jamestown. Everyone—both the English colonists and the Indians—knew that if the Powhatan wished to exterminate the colony they could have done so.

When the Powhatan stopped trading with the colony at Jamestown, Virginia and the colonists faced starvation because they could not obtain the corn and other food they needed from the Indians. The colonists resorted to eating their own dead to survive.

The war changed when new soldiers and settlers arrived at the colony from England. The new arrivals were under the command of Lord de la Warr who soon proved antagonistic toward the Indians. With these reinforcements, the colonists began to wage a more aggressive war against their Indian neighbors. They attacked the Pasbahegh, Nansemond, Warraskoyack, Kecoughtan, and Chickahominee. For the next four years, the English would use the skills they had acquired in their war against the Irish to engage in a brutal, atrocity-ridden series of battles. The English, under the banner of Jesus Christ, waged a religious war against the Indians who they saw as the dangerous servants of the Devil.

The English colonists destroyed a Paspahegh town, killing the female leader (described as the town’s “queen”) and killing a number of women and children. The women and children were killed after they had been captured. Many of the children were tossed overboard and then shot in the water. The colonists also burned the town of the Queen of Appamatuck.

In 1611, more English colonists under Sir Thomas Dale arrived and managed to establish a palisaded fort on an island in the James River. The warrior Nemattanew (also known as Jack of the Feather) often attacked the new fort. Nemattanew went into battle wearing feathered war regalia. He was believed to be invulnerable to musket-fire.

After four years of war, the English colonists in Virginia concluded a formal, written treaty with the Chickahominy in which the Indians agreed to send an annual tribute payment of corn to Jamestown.

The treaty between the English and the Chickahominy appears to have been masterminded by Opechancanough. According to historian Carl Bridenbaugh, in his book Jamestown, 1544-1699:  “Here was a master stroke of forest diplomacy by which Opechancanough deluded the English into believing that the Chickahominies were their allies at the same time that he was secretly drawing the once recalcitrant tribe closer to membership in the Powhatan empire.”

Joseph Brant in Canada

During the Revolutionary War, many Indians allied themselves with their old trading partners, the British. For the six tribes of the Iroquois Confederacy, the divided loyalties led to the ritual covering of their council fire so that each nation was free to choose sides. At the 1777 Battle of Oriskany, for example, the pro-British Iroquois under the leadership of Joseph Brant (Mohawk) and Chainbreaker (Seneca) fought against the pro-patriot Iroquois under the leadership of Nonyery Tewahangaraghkan (Oneida). Following the war, the Indian allies of the British expressed anger and disbelief as the British handed over their Indian lands to the Americans. The Americans seemed determined to extract retribution from all Indians regardless of whether they had fought for or against the Americans. As a result many Indians, including many former British allies, fled north to Canada.

In 1783, Joseph Brant accepted new lands along the Grand River, just north of Lake Erie, for the Iroquois League of Six Nations who had remained loyal to the British during the American Revolution. The land was viewed as compensation for their loss of land in New York. Brant was also commissioned as Captain of the Northern Confederate Indians.

In New York, Joseph Brant met with the chiefs of the Iroquois League of Six Nations and invited them to join with him in his reserve in Ontario. He felt that the British government would serve the Iroquois better than the new American government. The chiefs entrusted the decision to the clan matrons. The clan mothers decided that the Six Nations should divide, with half in Canada and half in the United States.

The following year, a group of 1,843 Iroquois Loyalists under the leadership of Joseph Brant settled in Ontario. The group included members from all six of the Iroquois League (though most were Mohawk and Cayuga) as well as some Delaware, Nanticoke, Tutelo, Creek, and Cherokee. The migrants settled in small tribal villages along the Grand River.

The Mississauga sold their land claims to Joseph Brant so that the Mohawk could have clear title to their new territory. Mississauga leader Pokquan announced:  “We are Indians, and consider ourselves and the Six Nations to be one and the same people, and agreeable to a former, and mutual agreement, we are bound to help each other.”

In their new Ontario home, Joseph Brant and others built the Mohawk Chapel (Anglican) in the Mohawk village. The church housed the Queen Anne Silver Communion Plate and Bible which had been given to the Mohawk in 1710 when the chapel at Fort Hunter, New York was built.

In 1785, Mohawk leader Joseph Brant talked with the Mohawk under the leadership of Captain John Deserontyon about joining him at the Grand River. Deserontyon, however, prefered to remain in his own village.

While Joseph Brant was generally recognized by the British as the leader of the Iroquois and other tribes in the Grand River area, there were some Indians who were not happy with his leadership. In 1788, Captain Aaron and Captain Isaac attempted to assassinate Mohawk leader Joseph Brant. When the attempt failed, they fled to the Mohawk village of John Deserontyon who welcomed them to his community.  

 In 1792, two Mohawk men—Hendrick and Kellayhun—murdered a French Canadian trader. The British military commander demanded that the chiefs surrender the two men so that they could stand trial under British law. Instead of surrendering the men, the chiefs asked that they be allowed to cover the grave with gifts for the relatives of the deceased. This was a traditional Native practice in resolving the crime of murder. According to Joseph Brant: “We have forms and Ancient Customs which we look upon as Necessary to be gone through as the Proceedings in any Court of Justice.”

From the Indian view, to accept British legal jurisdiction would be to deny their own sovereignty. The British, on the other hand, viewed the Indians as British subjects and therefore subject to British law. The case was suspended rather than dropped.

In 1793, John Graves Simcoe, the lieutenant governor of Upper Canada, drafted the Simcoe Patent which stipulated that all land transactions of the Iroquois Six Nations would have to be approved by the Crown. Simcoe insisted that Indians had always mishandled their land. Mohawk leader Joseph Brant and the other Iroquois chiefs, however, rejected this concept. According to Brant:  “It seems natural to Whites to look on lands in the possession of Indians with an aching heart, and never to rest ‘till they have planned them out of them.”

The Iroquois had sold or leased several large blocks of land to non-Indians because Brant felt that the non-Indians would provide useful models for the Iroquois.

 In 1795, Isaac Brant, the eldest son of Joseph Brant, killed a deserter from the American army. Isaac Brant was known to have a temper, particularly when he was drunk. Furious because a saddle had not been completed on time, he buried a tomahawk in the deserter’s brain. Brant was convicted of murder by a jury, but the Iroquois chiefs insisted that the victim’s grave be covered instead. While the British military commander wanted to send in troops to retrieve Isaac Brant, the governor, wishing to avoid bloodshed, delayed. The situation was solved when Isaac Brant attacked his father in a drunken rage and Joseph Brant killed his son in self-defense.

In 1795, Joseph Brant was authorized by the Six Nations to sell large blocks of land directly to speculators who were lusting after the fertile land. The land was sold for 18 times what the government had offered for it.

In 1798, in order to disrupt the alliance between the Mississauga and the Six Nations Iroquois, the government established a separate agency for the Mississauga at York. The Mississauga protested the change and indicated that they wanted to continue their affiliation with the Iroquois.

In order to show that Indians had military importance to Ontario, in 1798 Joseph Brant convened a muster of 400 Indian warriors and a settler militia company.

Joseph Brant died on his estate near Brantford, Ontario in 1807. He was 67 years old.