The Yamasee War and the Indian Slave Trade

The Yamasee were a Muskogean-speaking Indian nation living in what would become southern Georgia and northern Florida when first encountered by the Spanish in the sixteenth century. In 1687, the Yamasees, unhappy with the Spanish occupation and rule of their territories, moved north in South Carolina, was then under British rule. In South Carolina, the Yamasees became allies and trading partners with the British colonists.

For the British in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, one of the important commodities was Indian slaves who could either be sold in the Caribbean slave markets or used on the colonists own plantations. Donald Grinde, in an article in The Indian Historian, reports:

“They developed an Indian slave trade based on predatory raids. This practice became a lucrative business for Charleston merchants.”

As with the African slave trade, the English used indigenous allies to obtain slaves. They would arm the coastal tribes and then encourage them to raid the tribes in the interior to obtain slaves. Donald Grinde writes:

“Within a few years after the settlement of Charleston, Indian slaves were being brought from the interior to Charleston just as Africans were being funneled through the trading forts of the West African coast.”

Carl Waldman, in his book The Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes, describes the process of obtaining Yamasee slaves:

“First, they gave the Indians all the rum they wanted plus trade goods. Then they demanded immediate payment from the Indians. The Indians could not pay off their huge debts and asked for more time. To settle the debts, the slavers seized Yamasee wives and children for the slave market.”

The Indian slaves were then sold in the West Indies slave markets or they were taken to New York and the New England colonies.

By 1708, the English colonists in the Carolinas owned 1,400 Indian slaves and by 1715 this had increased to 1,850. Since 1680, British slavers had taken between 24,000 and 51,000 war captives, most of whom had been shipped as slaves to New England or to the Caribbean.

The Yamasees were allies in the British slave trade and carried out slave raids against Indian nations in the Spanish territories of Florida. In 1708, the Spanish governor at Saint Augustine reported that there were only 300 natives left in the area. He estimated that 10,000 to 12,000 Florida Indians had been enslaved by the Carolinians and their Indian allies. By 1710, it was estimated that 10,000 to 20,000 Indian slaves had been shipped from the Southeast to New England and the Caribbean.

The Yamasees soon found that the British were neither good allies nor good trading partners. Not only did the traders consistently cheat their Yamasee trading partners, they were not above beating them and even enslaving their women and children. Christina Snyder, in her book Slavery in Indian Country: The Changing Face of Captivity in Early America, writes:

“From the Yamasee perspective, their Carolina allies had become greedy, irresponsible, and violent, thereby destroying the chains of obligation that once bound them as allies.”

The Carolinians were aware that the Yamasee had some complaints about the way they were being treated. On April 14, 1715, South Carolina’s Indian agent Thomas Naine, along with former Indian agent John Wright and others, met with the Yamasee chiefs at the village of Pocataligo. They spent the evening drinking rum, feasting, and discussing their trade issues. The following morning, which happened to be Good Friday, the Yamasees bound Naine to a post in the center of the village square. They pierced his body with lighted splinters and slowly burned him to death. This was the start of the Yamasee war.

It was not just the Yamasee who went to war against the British colonists: in a coordinated action, the Creeks under the leadership of Brim of Coweta and the Choctaws killed some of the traders in their towns and attacked several plantations.  Christina Snyder reports:

“Similarly discontented neighboring nations, including the Lower Creeks, Savannahs, and the captive Apalachees of Savannah Town, applauded the Yamasees’ declaration of war and followed suit.”

Most of the Indian traders—an estimated 90%–are killed in the first few months of the war.

About 400 English colonists were killed in the war, which was about 7% of the colonial population. In response, Governor Charles Craven quickly put together an army from the South Carolina militia, enslaved African Americans, volunteers from Virginia and North Carolina, and some friendly Indian nations. A force of 70 Tuscacoras aided South Carolina in their war against the Yamasee. The campaign against the Indians has generally been described as “brutal.”  In his book Catawba Valley Mississippian: Ceramics, Chronology, and Catawba Indians, archaeologist David Moore reports:

“… South Carolina forces were particularly ruthless with those Indians located closest to Charles Town: the Congarees, Santees, Sewees, Peedees, and Waxhaws suffered devastating losses.”

Over the next two years, the British and their allies continued to attack the Yamasee, driving them out of the region. Many of the survivors fled south to Florida and north to join the Catawba Confederacy. Those who fled to Florida once again became allied with the Spanish. Jerry Keenan, in his book Encyclopedia of American Indian Wars, 1492-1890, reports:

“So thorough was Craven’s pursuit that the Yamasee almost ceased to exist as a tribal entity thereafter. What had been Yamasee territory now became part of James Oglethorpe’s new colony of Georgia.”

The Yamasee War officially ended in 1718 with a peace accord between the British colonists and the Indian nations. As a result of this war, many colonists began to question the wisdom of capturing and using Indian slaves. Christina Snyder writes:

“After the Yamasee War, they increasingly turned to African labor, despite the fact that Africans cost more and were taxed at higher rates than Indian slaves.”

Donald Grinde, in an article in The Indian Historian, summarizes the Yamasee War this way:

“The Yamasee War demonstrated the fullest extent of white economic exploitation of aboriginal people in colonial America. With little criticism from church or government, the South Carolinians had persuaded larger tribes to enslave lesser coastal tribes for the sake of English trade goods.”

With regard to the lessons from the Yamasee War, Grinde writes:

“Slave-catching almost inevitably led to Indian uprisings, and the more populous inland tribes were formidable adversaries. Due to this fact, it seemed easier to turn to Black slavery.”

The last distinctively Yamasee village, located near St. Augustine, was destroyed by the British in 1827. The Yamasee who settled with other Indian nations—Apalachee, Creek, Seminole—lost their tribal identity.

The Federal Government and Indians in 1966

In 1966, the American federal government was beginning to wind down its policies intended to end federal involvement with Indian tribes, due to resistance from the tribes. Briefly described below are some events involving federal government policies and American Indians.

Commissioner of Indian Affairs

        In the federal bureaucracy, Indian Affairs are administered by the Department of the Interior. In 1966 the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, a political appointee, was the person directly in charge of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Following the dismissal of Philleo Nash from this position, Robert LaFollette Bennett, a member of Wisconsin’s Oneida tribe, became Commissioner of Indian Affairs. He was the second Native American to hold this position. His basic philosophy regarding Indian affairs was that the tribes should set their own priorities. The job of the Bureau of Indian Affairs was to help the tribes accomplish the goals which they had set. He felt that the Commissioner of Indian Affairs should be an advocate for the Indians rather than a promoter of government policies to Indians.

Unrecognized Indians

In the United States, there are many Indian tribes which are not recognized by the United States. A presidential task force reported that there were over 90,000 Indians in the eastern United States, 41 terminated bands in California, and over 200,000 urban Indians who struggled without the benefit of any Indian assistance programs. According to historian Mark Miller in his book Forgotten Tribes: Unrecognized Indians and the Federal Acknowledgment Process:

“The task force noted that these Indian peoples often went unnoticed and unidentified as Indians and were worse off than other Native Americans, both economically and psychologically.”

Indian Land

Congress responded to public concern regarding the loss of Indian land by ordering a federal investigation into land and trespass issues since the turn of the century on some 40 reservations.

Historic Preservation

Congress passed the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) which provides legal and administrative ways of identifying, evaluating, and protecting historic cultural resources. It established the foundation for historic preservation in the United States. In an article in the Plains Anthropologist, Kimball Banks, Signe Snortland, and Jon Czaplicki write:

“It explicitly recognizes that the federal government has a legal and fiduciary responsibility to ensure the preservation of the nation’s historic and archaeological heritage.”

Construction on federal lands now requires an assessment of cultural resources which might be affected. Action is required to preserve or record these cultural resources if they are deemed to be significant.

Termination

Following World War II and continuing through the 1960s, the federal government followed a policy known as Termination which sought to end the reservation system and any recognition of tribal sovereignty. In his chapter on Indian policy in The History of the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, Montana, 1800-2000, David Miller writes:

“Reservations were considered the product of separate and unequal treatment, with little understanding of what treaties or negotiated executive agreements meant to Indian people.”

Historian Katrine Barber, in her book Death of Celilo Falls, summarizes termination this way:

“Termination required that the federal government relinquish its responsibility to Indian nations and shift those to state and county governments. Terminationists hoped to dismantle the reservation system and get the federal government ‘out of the Indian business.’”

Senator Henry Jackson of Washington wanted to revive termination long enough to terminate the Colville reservation in his state. Indian Commissioner Philleo Nash blocked this move. Jackson let the Secretary of the Interior know that either Nash was to be removed from office or the Department of the Interior would face a hostile Senate Interior Committee (chaired by Jackson). Nash was removed.

In Nebraska, 834 acres of the Northern Ponca Reservation were removed from federal trust status and the 442 tribal members were no longer legally considered Indians (that is, they could not participate in any federal Indian programs).

In California, the El Dorado Rancheria was terminated to make way for Highway 50. As a result, the El Dorado Rancheria Miwok Tribe became an unrecognized tribe.

In California, the Coast Miwok were terminated.

Sacred Site

Legislation was introduced in Congress which would have returned Blue Lake in New Mexico to Taos Pueblo. The area is sacred to the Pueblo. The bill did not pass.

Land Claims

Following World War II, the United States wanted to get out of the Indian business: that is, to severe all relationships with Indian tribes. In the spirit of assimilation and with the intent of reducing government’s role in Indian affairs, Congress passed the Indian Claims Commission Act in 1946 as a vehicle to extinguish all pending Indian claims and thus end the federal government’s obligation to provide support for the tribes. In other words, it would act as a kind of severance package which would help Indians to abandon their collective traditions and enter into American society as individuals.

Under the act, a tribunal would be created which would have a specialized knowledge of Indian claims and would therefore be able to work efficiently in adjudicating these claims.  Initially, Congress had envisioned the commission completing its work in a period of five years. However, two decades later cases were still being heard. In 1966, one of these cases involved the Western Shoshone. In the nineteenth century, the federal government had expanded the provisions of the 1863 Ruby Valley Treaty to include all of the Shoshone in Oregon, Nevada, and Idaho even though most the tribes had not signed the treaty nor had they ever received any payment for the ceded land.

In 1966, most of the Western Shoshone did not want a cash settlement for the lands which had been taken from them, but simply wanted the lands returned to them. Against the wishes of the tribe, an attorney for the tribe and U.S. attorneys arbitrarily agreed that the extinguishment of Western Shoshone title to land in Nevada occurred on July 1, 1872 and therefore the value of this land was the value of the land in 1872.

Ancient America: Vikings and Indians

More than a thousand years ago, the Norse—commonly called Vikings—had expanded their settlements west from Scandinavia into Britain, Ireland, Iceland, Greenland, and North America. Both Ireland and Britain were, of course, occupied by farming peoples and the establishment of Norse settlements required the force of arms. Iceland was uninhabited (though some sources indicate that there may have been a handful of hermit Irish monks) and Greenland was sparsely populated by nomadic hunter-gatherers. In North America, the Norse encountered natives whom they called Skraelings who were not always friendly.

The Norse sagas describe a number of conflicts with Skraelings. The Norse word saga means both “what is said” and “story, tale, or history.” While the sagas have been written down, they were originally oral histories and their accuracy in describing historic events are hotly debated by scholars.

There was a time when many historians doubted that the Norse had explored North America, but archaeology has verified the existence of one permanent Norse settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland and there is some evidence of other settlements and camps.

While the Norse are often stereotyped as fierce warriors who raided monasteries and towns, this was not how they saw themselves. The designation Viking refers to only one Norse activity: raiding. The Norse were also traders, farmers, shipbuilders, explorers, merchants, manufacturers, and statesmen. In his article in Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga, William Fitzhugh writes:

“Despite their reputation as shipbuilders, sailors, and warriors, the Norse identified themselves as farmers rather than as fishermen, hunters, trappers, or traders, even though individual Vikings might spend considerable periods of the year engaged in these tasks.”

Cattle were an important food source which provided the Norse with dairy products including cheese, butter, and skyr. The cattle, which were relatively small—standing less than 48” at the shoulder—could be transported in their longships.

Archaeology

L’Anse aux Meadows, an archaeological site located in Newfoundland, was settled about 1000 CE and was occupied for only about a decade. At L’Anse aux Meadows, archaeologists have uncovered eight buildings which are grouped into three complexes. The structures indicate that this was not a temporary campsite, but a settlement which was occupied year-round. It is estimated that the settlement had a population of 70-90 people. While the sagas indicate that the Norse carried cattle with them, there are no indications that the Norse at L’Anse aux Meadows had cattle: there do not appear to have been any outbuildings, corrals, or animal pens. If the Norse had cattle with them, they must have been left in the open.

The Norse at L’Anse aux Meadows did some iron smelting at the site, probably to produce boat nails to be used in repairing their longships.

One of the intriguing clues from L’Anse aux Meadows is the presence of butternuts, a butternut burl that was cut with iron tools, and grapes at the site. Butternut trees, also called white walnut, have never grown in Newfoundland and the butternuts must have come from someplace farther south. The closest area for butternuts is the Saint Lawrence River Valley, just east of present-day Quebec City. Archaeologist Birgitta Wallace, in an article in Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga, reports:

“The significance of the nuts is that they indicate that the people who lived at L’Anse aux Meadows made excursions to regions farther south. Butternuts grow in the same areas as wild grapes, so whoever picked the nuts must have come across grapevines as well. This was the first archaeological proof that the saga stories of the Norse encountering wild grapes are not myth but based on reality.”

Birgitta Wallace summarizes the archaeological data from L’Anse aux Meadows this way:

“Putting all the evidence together, we find that L’Anse aux Meadows was not a colonizing venture but a base at which a large group of people, perhaps three ship crews, stayed for a short time.”

The Sagas

At L’Anse aux Meadows there is little evidence of contract between the Norse and Native Americans. Turning from archaeology to the sagas, however, we see that the Norse did have some contact.

The Icelandic sagas are based on oral traditions. They are stories of events which took place in the period between 930 and 1030, an era known as söguöld (Age of the Sagas) in Icelandic history. The stories describe voyages, migrations, and feuds. The sagas focus on history, particularly genealogical and family history. Sometime after 1190, these stories were written down in Old Norse.

According to the sages, the Norse under Karlsefni, Snorri, and Bjarni, sailed south to the land they called Hop at the mouth of a river. Here they found wild wheat as well as grapes. They had been here a couple of weeks, allowing their cattle to graze freely, when nine canoes made of hides came into view. The Norse made peaceful contact with the Skraelings, who are described in the sagas as:

“They were short men, ill-looking, with their hair in disorderly fashion on their heads; they were large-eyed, and had broad cheeks.”

According to the sagas, the Norse constructed dwellings and remained at Hop through the winter. They let their cattle graze freely without keepers. In the spring, a large number of canoes appeared and a market was held in which the Norse traded cloth for furs. While the Skraelings wanted to trade for iron swords and lances, Karlsefni and Snorri did not allow it. At one point in the market, a bull belonging to Karlesefni ran out of the woods and bellowed loudly. The Skraelings viewed this as a threat and hurriedly left.

Three weeks later, a large group of Skraelings appeared and there was a battle with the Norse. In the initial attack, the Skraelings drove the Norse back, but Freydis, who was pregnant, picked up a sword from a dead Norse warrior, banged in on her naked breast, and counter-attacked, driving the Skraelings off. Following the battle, the Norse decided that this was not a good place to settle, so they moved on.

Karlsefni journeyed south with forty men for about two months. They reported seeing nothing but wilderness and returned home.

Summary

       What we know at the present time is that the Norse were in North America more than a thousand years ago. Their contacts with the Native Americans appear to have involved some limited trade and probably some violence. The sagas and the archaeological evidence at L’Anse aux Meadows show that they journeyed south of Newfoundland. What we don’t know is how far south they traveled—some writers feel that they sailed as far south as Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Archaeological data confirming their southern journeys is difficult to find as it would be in the form of temporary campsites with no permanent structures.

While the sagas provide us with some possible clues about what might be locations of Norse sites in North America, there is also some puzzling information. The archaeological data from L’Anse aux Meadows and the saga’s description of Hop, sound as though there should be a Norse site along the Saint Lawrence River. However, the saga indicates that the Skraelings used hide-covered canoes, which may indicate Inuit craft from farther north. At the time of later European contact in the Saint Lawrence area, Native Americans were using dugout canoes and bark-covered canoes, but not hide-covered canoes. This may indicate: (1) that Native watercraft in that part of North America changed during the six centuries between initial Norse contact and later European contact; or (2) the Norse saga was mistaken about the covering used on the canoes.

 

Some Indian Conflicts in 1866

The American Indian histories of 1866 carry numerous accounts of wars, battles, massacres, and other conflicts. Some of these are briefly described below.

Conflicts with Non-Indians

Following the Civil War, non-Indian settlement in the West increased and with this came more conflicts with the Indians who lived in the area. It was not uncommon for the American intruders to advocate genocide as the “solution” to what they saw as the “Indian problem.” For example, in California, the Chico Courant reported:

“It is a mercy to the red devils to exterminate them, and a saving of many white lives. Treaties are played out—there is only one kind of treaty that is effective—cold lead.”

In California, when the Luiseño left their village of Pejamo for their summer rounds, local Anglos entered the village, set fire to the houses, and then simply took possession of the fields and water supply. While both the Indians and their federal Indian agent complained, the Anglos retained control of the land.

In Nevada, Mormon settlers in Muddy Valley discovered a group of Indians drying the meat from a stolen cow. They took the Indians prisoner and then severely whipped them. The Mormons then met with the Indians and told them that the stealing of cattle must end.

In Nevada, the 2nd California Cavalry, a group of volunteers, attacked a Paiute band near Rock Creek. They killed 115 Indians and captured 19.

In Kansas, American settlers formed militia groups to defend their illegal claims to Osage land. James Thomas, in an article in Chronicles of Oklahoma, reports:

“Village stores were looted, and Indian houses were dismantled for building materials. Nothing the Indians owned was sacred; settlers even plundered Indian graves in the hope of finding the treasure that the Osages often buried with their dead.”   

In Arizona, American prospectors murdered Walapai leader Wauba Yuma. The Pai bands responded in a traditional way to exact vengeance on the Americans. The result came to be called the Walapai War. Stephen Hirst, in his book I Am The Grand Canyon: The Story of the Havasupai People, reports:

“The war went on for three years, mostly in the form of skirmishes but with a few actions that we would now call massacres.”

In northern Arizona, two Mormon settlers were tracking stolen sheep in fresh snow when they encountered Navajo raiders. Both Mormons were killed. In response to the killings, the Mormons formed a militia which discovered stolen goods in a Paiute camp. The militia attacked the camp, killing two Paiute. Five other Paiute were captured, interrogated, and then executed.

The Paiute responded to the attack by later killing two Mormon men and a woman as a form of retaliation. As the Mormons in the area began planning their retaliation, Brigham Young invoked the church’s traditional policy of peace with the Indians and ordered Mormon withdrawal from the Paiute lands at Long Valley and Kanab.

In Arizona, a small party of Tolkepaya Yavapai encountered an American wagon train near Skull Valley. The Yavapai informed the teamsters that this was their land and that the water, grass, and corn belonged to them. The Yavapai would allow the Americans to leave unharmed if they surrendered their mules and the contents of their wagons.

A group of 13 soldiers—members of the Arizona Volunteers—arrived with orders from Fort Whipple to “punish” the Yavapai. Then more Yavapai and Tonto Apache arrived, including some who had papers showing that they have permission to be in the area.

On the third day of the standoff, about 80 Yavapai and Tonto Apache laid down their bows, and displaying their papers from the government, approached the wagon train peacefully. The soldiers opened fire, killing more than 40.

The Arizona Volunteers waged a war against the Yavapai and killed at least 83. The Volunteers were waging a war to exterminate Yavapai families.

In Montana, a Blackfoot war party attacked a government farm on the Sun River and burned the buildings. They also raided against a nearby cattle ranch. The raids were motivated by Blackfoot anger against Americans trespassing and settling on their lands.

Intertribal Conflicts

Following the Civil War, as American settlers began to flood into the West, more Indian tribes were pushed into smaller hunting grounds and intertribal warfare increased. Briefly described below are some of the intertribal conflicts of 1866.

In Montana, a Pend d’Oreille buffalo hunting party was attacked by the Blackfoot. Twenty men and one woman were killed.

In Montana, the alliance between the Gros Ventre and the Blackfoot broke down. This solidified the Gros Ventre relationships with the Assiniboine and with the River Crow.

In Montana, a war party of Crow and Gros Ventre attacked the Piegan Blackfoot camp of Chief Many Horses. Many Horses was killed, and the Blackfoot, angered over the death of a popular chief, attacked the Crow and Gros Ventre with ferocity. The Blackfoot warriors chased their retreating attackers for many miles. Anthropologist John Ewers, in his book The Blackfeet: Raiders on the Northwestern Plains, reports:

“In this most disastrous defeat with the memory of both the Gros Ventre and Crow tribesmen, more than three hundred of them were killed.”

The Blackfoot lost only 20 warriors.

In Montana, a party of Spokan were hunting buffalo. During the hunt, they captured several horses from the Blackfoot. In retaliation, the Blackfoot killed a Spokan chief and captured 160 Spokan horses. The horse-poor Spokan captured some non-Indian horses on their way home. In Missoula, Spokan Garry was arrested, but the Indian agent arranged for his release.

In Wyoming, the Shoshone and Bannock fought a battle against the Crow at Crowheart Butte. After five days, it was apparent that neither side would be able to win. Thus it was agreed that Shoshone chief Washakie and Crow chief Big Robber should fight a duel to settle the matter. Washakie won the duel, but he was so impressed by Big Robber’s bravery that he did not scalp him, but instead cut out his heart. One of the Crow women who was captured at the battle later became one of Washakie’s wives.

In Wyoming, a party of Shoshone returning from a successful buffalo hunt were attacked by the Sioux. Under the leadership of Washakie, the Shoshone counterattacked and drove the Sioux back. Angry because his son Nan-nag-gai did not take part in the battle, Washakie rebuked the young man. Nan-nag-gai then attacked the Sioux alone and was killed. Historian Grace Raymond Hebard , in her biography Washakie: Chief of the Shoshones, writes:

“Washakie realized that he was himself responsible for his bereavement. The story runs that overnight his hair turned white.”

In New Mexico, a Comanche war party captured a number of horses from the Navajo at the Bosque Redondo, and from the army and some Americans at Fort Sumner. The army sent out a force in pursuit. The Comanche halted and raised a white flag, but they were fired upon by the army.

Massachusetts Prior to 1620

It is not uncommon to encounter the assumption that the history of Massachusetts began with arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620. However, Indians had lived in the area for thousands of years prior to the arrival of the Pilgrims. Furthermore, the Indians of Massachusetts had had contact with Europeans prior to 1620.

Possible Contacts

While the seventeenth century marks the beginning of the European invasion in Massachusetts, there are some possible interactions between Europeans and Indians prior to this. Many historians consider these earlier contacts to be unverified and dismiss these accounts. However, it should be noted that there was a time when some historians were skeptical about Viking settlements in North America, but current archaeological findings show that Viking contact was fairly frequent. There are archaeologically verified settlements in Newfoundland and archaeologist Birgitta Wallace, in her report in Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga writes:

“From L’Anse aux Meadows, expeditions were launched to explore areas farther away. We have proof that they went south to warmer, more hospitable areas where butternuts grew on large trees and grapes grew wild, for the archaeological evidence is unequivocal.”

In 1002, a Viking group under the leadership of Thorvald, the brother of Leif Eriksson, named present-day Cape Cod Kiarlanes (Keel-Cape) because it looks like the keel of a ship. The group then arrived at a heavily wooded promontory. Here they found three Indian canoes camouflaged with brush. There was a conflict in which eight Indians were killed and Thorvald was wounded. His wound proved to be fatal and he was buried at a place which the Vikings call Krossanes (Cape of the Cross). Writer Leo Bonfanti, in his book Biographies and Legends of the New England Indians, reports:

“Since there are so many promontories, both large and small, along the New England coast, ‘Krossanes’ could be any one of them, for its exact location has never been determined.”

Early Contacts

In 1602, the English explorer Bartholomew Gosnold landed at Cape Cod and traded with the Wampanoag. He reported that the Indians were in good health: they were free of epidemic diseases and they had good nutrition. When he returned to England he promoted the establishment of British colonies in the area.

The following year the English under the leadership of Martin Pring, built a palisaded trading camp at Cape Cod in Wampanoag territory. While the English entertained the Wampanoag with small gifts and guitar music, they also stole a large birchbark canoe. As a result, the relations between the English and the Indians deteriorated. The English fired their muskets and loosed mastiffs at Wampanoag warriors before abandoning the trading camp.

Pring reported that the Indians had gardens which were larger than an acre in size. He also described the large strawberries. His crew loaded sassafras to be sold in Europe as a high-priced medical panacea.

The theft of the canoe suggested to the Indians that the English were perhaps not honorable people and that their greed for material possessions was perhaps greater than the hospitality which they offered.

In 1605, French explorers led by Samuel de Champlain explored the Massachusetts coast. the explorers meet Indians in large dugout canoes, some of which carry 40 men.

Just north of the present-day city of Plymouth, the explorers were met by the Massachusett under the leadership of Honabetha. On the shore, Champlain admired the abundant crops of corn, beans, squash, tobacco, and Jerusalem artichokes which were being raised by the Indians. The Massachusett, on the other hand, were eager to obtain the French metal cooking pots and one sailor was killed for his pot.

In 1606, French explorers attempted to impress the Wampanoag in the village of Monomoy with their guns and swords. The French also erected a large cross as a symbol of their religious superiority. The Wampanoag response was to kill four of the landing party, tear down the cross, and jeer at the retreating French.

In 1611, English sea captains captured six Indians, including the Capawake sachem Epinow, at Martha’s Vineyard. Epinow was taken to England where he learned English language and culture. The English described him as “cunning” and “artful.”

In 1614, the English returned with Capawake sachem Epinow who was supposed to act as their guide and interpreter. Epinow, however, escaped from the ship by jumping into the water and swimming toward some Indian canoes. The Indians in the canoes fired a volley of arrows at the ship to aid his escape.

English Captain Thomas Hunt captured 26 Wampanoag, including a young man known as Squanto. The Indians were taken to Spain and sold as slaves. However, Squanto escaped and found his way to England where he learned to speak English.

Five years later, Squanto returned from England with Captain Thomas Dermer. He searched for his Wampanoag relatives and found that they had died in an epidemic.

Disease

Perhaps the greatest impact of the arrival of Europeans in Massachusetts came from the diseases which they brought with them. The diseases brought to this continent by the Europeans included bubonic plague, chicken pox, pneumonic plague, cholera, diphtheria, influenza, measles, scarlet fever, smallpox, typhus, tuberculosis, and whooping cough. The native population lacked immunity to viruses and germs that had evolved in Europe. Consequently, Indians succumbed in large numbers.

In 1614, a series of three epidemics began to sweep through the Indian villages in Massachusetts. At least ten of the 40 Wampanoag villages had to be abandoned because there were no survivors. Wampanoag population decreased from 12,000 to 5,000. The Massachusett were nearly exterminated. Between 1616 and 1619, it is estimated that at least three fourths of the Indian population in Massachusetts died from European epidemic diseases. Some authorities estimate the death toll at 90%.

It is not known what the actual disease was that caused this epidemic. Various writers have suggested bubonic plague, smallpox, and hepatitis A. There is strong evidence supporting all of these theories.

The Pilgrims would later look upon these epidemics as evidence of God’s grace and His intention for them to occupy this country.

The Pilgrims

When the Pilgrims arrived in 1620, they encountered few living people but saw evidence of many Indian graves. In some instances, the Pilgrims opened the graves and stole the grave goods which they contained. In one instance, the Pilgrims steal two bearskins from the fresh grave of the mother of Massachusett leader Chickataubut.

In finding a place that looked like a grave covered with wooden boards, the Pilgrims dug and found several layers of household goods and personal possessions. They also found two bundles. In the smaller bundle they found the bones of a young child wrapped in beads and accompanied by a small bow. In the larger bundle they found the bones of a man. The man’s skull still had fine yellow hair and with the bone were a knife, a needle, and some metal items. Historian William Cronon, in his book Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England, reports:

“A blond European sailor, shipwrecked or abandoned on the Massachusetts coast, had lived as an Indian, had perhaps fathered an Indian child, and had been buried in an Indian grave.”

In another instance, the Pilgrims stumbled into a Nauset graveyard where they found baskets of corn which had been left as gifts for the deceased. As the Pilgrims were gathering this bounty for themselves, they were interrupted by a group of angry Nauset warriors. The Pilgrims retreated back to the Mayflower empty-handed.

Joe Medicine Crow, RIP

Joseph Medicine Crow, a Crow tribal historian and elder, has crossed over at the age of 102. The Crow, who currently have a small reservation in Montana, were at one time at least three separate, distinct, and autonomous groups: the River Crow who ranged north of the Yellowstone River, the Mountain Crow who live south of the Yellowstone and farther west, and the Kicked-in-the-Bellies (also known as Home-Away-from-the-Center) who lived in the same area as the Mountain Crow.

The Crow

The Crow were once a part of the Hidatsa living near the Missouri River. Archaeologists suggest that the Crow moved out onto the Great Plains in two migrations. The Mountain Crow moved out first, about 1550. Then a century later, the River Crow followed them.

Crow historian and elder Joseph Medicine Crow, in We, The People: Of Earth and Elders—Volume II, describes the Crow migrations this way:

“Way back in the 1500s, what might be called our ancestral tribe, lived east of the Mississippi in a land of forests and lakes, possibly present day Wisconsin. They began migrating westward around 1580 until they crossed the Mississippi to follow the buffalo. As far as the Crows are concerned, they separated from this main band in about 1600-1625.”

According to one oral tradition, there was a buffalo hunt at which the wives of two of the chiefs argued over the upper stomach of one of the cows. There was a scuffle and one of the women was killed. This escalated into a skirmish between the two bands led by the chiefs, and several more people were killed. As a result, one band left the Missouri and migrated to the Rocky Mountains. The band that followed along the rivers and streams came to be known as the River Crow (They Travel Along the Riverbanks) and the other band became known as the Mountain Crow. The Mountain Crow later divided and the Kicked-in-the-Bellies appeared.

Another oral tradition tells that at one time there was a wandering tribe under the leadership of two brothers: No Intestines and Red Scout. At what is now called Devil’s Lake, they did a vision quest together. During the vision, No Intestines was told to search for the seeds of the sacred tobacco and Red Scout was told to settle on the banks of the Missouri River and grow corn. No Intestines led his people to many parts of the Great Plains in search of the sacred tobacco seeds.

The oral tradition tells of the Great Salt Lake, the geothermal features of Yellowstone National Park, of the Arkansas River in Oklahoma, and of the plains of Alberta, Canada. Finally, at Cloud Peak, the highest crest in the Bighorn Range, No Intestines received another vision and thus the Crow made their home in Montana and Wyoming with the Bighorn Mountains as their heartland.

The oral traditions also tell of another group of Crow—Bilápiiuutche, Beaver Dries Its Fur—which became lost during the journey. Several explanations are offered for the fate of this group. Some feel that it split in Canada and remained there. Others say it turned east and ended up at Lake Michigan. Still others feel that Beaver Dries Its Fur became a part of the Kiowa who were closely associated with the Crow.

Joe Medicine Crow

      Joseph Medicine Crow was born on October 27, 1913 on the Crow Reservation near Lodge Grass, Montana. His father was Leo Medicine Crow and his mother was Amy Yellowtail.

He attended Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, graduating in 1938. He then went to the University of Southern California where he earned a master’s degree in anthropology in 1939. His master’s thesis was on the effect of European culture on Native Americans. He then completed his coursework for his Ph.D. and started writing his doctoral dissertation in 1940. However, international events interfered with his ability to complete his doctorate.

Like many Crow tribal members, Joe Medicine Crow served in the army in World War II. Among the Crow, the concept of “chief” really means “good, valiant”. To achieve this title a person had to perform four deeds: (1) to lead a successful raid, (2) to capture a horse tethered in an enemy camp, (3) to be the first to count coup, and (4) to take a weapon from a live enemy. Serving in Europe during World War II, Joe Medicine Crow performed these deeds and earned the status of war chief. To meet the second requirement, he stole 50 horses from a German SS camp.

As the Crow Nation tribal historian, Joe Medicine Crow collected oral histories. As an oral historian, he was the last living person to have heard direct oral accounts from the Crow warriors who were at the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn where Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer was defeated by the Sioux and Cheyenne. His step-grandfather, White Man Runs Him, was one of Custer’s scouts.

In 2003, the University of Southern California awarded Joe Medicine Crow an honorary doctorate. In 2009, he was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Obama for his service during World War II and his works on Native American history.