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The Fate of Native Americans
Digital History ID 105

Author:   Richard Peters


No longer able to play the French off against the British, Native Americans found it increasingly difficult to slow the advance of white settlers into the western parts of New York, Pennsylvania, North and South Carolina, and Virginia. To stop encroachments on their lands in the Southeast, the Cherokees attacked frontier settlements in the Carolinas and Virginia in 1760. Defeated the next year by British regulars and colonial militia, the Cherokees had to allow the English to build forts on their territory.

Indians in western New York and Ohio also faced encroachment onto their lands. With the French threat removed, the British reduced the price paid for furs, allowed settlers to take Indian land without payments, and built forts in violation of treaties with local tribes. In the Spring of 1763, an Ottawa chief named Pontiac led an alliance of Delaware, Seneca, Shawnee, and other western Indians in rebellion. Pontiac's alliance attacked forts in Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin that Britain had taken over from the French, destroying all but three. Pontiac's forces then moved eastward, attacking settlements in western Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, killing more than 2000 colonists. Without assistance from the French, however, Pontiac's rebellion petered out by the year's end.

The following letter provides context for Pontiac's uprising. Teedyuscung, a leader of the Delawares who is mentioned in the letter, originally sided with the French during the French and Indian War. Once the British agreed to honor Teedyuscung's land claims, however, he threw his support to England. The British also wanted to gain the support of the Iroquois, the most powerful people in western New York. At the Albany Congress in 1754, British commissioners (including Richard Peters (1704-1776), author of this letter) met with the leaders of the Iroquois League under the pretense of addressing Iroquois grievances. But instead they arranged agreements beneficial to themselves, outraging the Iroquois as well as many colonists who wanted the lands for themselves.


...There is a general Disposition in all the Tribes of Western Indians to come to Philadelphia next Summer, which will produce a numerous meeting.... You [will hear] of the very bad behavior of Teedyuseung [a leader of the Delawares] at Pittsburgh, and in the other Places where he had any thing to do, and that he is in very low repute among his Ohio Brethren of the Delaware Indians.... However abundance will be said of them at the ensuing Treaty, & many things which may affect the Rights and former Proceedings of the Six Nations [a federation of tribes consisting of the Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, and Tuscarora]; and therefore it may be absolutely necessary that there should be a very respectful Body of Deputies properly instructed...present at this meeting....

The Connecticut People are making their grand push both in England for a new Grant from the King, and in this Province for a forcible entry and detainer of the Indian Land, on no other Pretence than that their Charter extends to the South Seas, and so like mad men they will cross New York and New Jersey, and come and kindle an Indian war in the Bowels of this poor Province....

The Governor has wrote you at large on this wicked revival of the Connecticut Claims, and I wish either you or General Amherst could fall on some means to have it laid aside, for it will breed a civil war among our Back Inhabitants, who are sucking in, all over the frontiers, the Connecticut Poison and Spirit & will actually in my Opinion, go into open Rebellion in the opening of the Spring.

I could heartily wish that the Delaware Complaints were heard and adjusted; for as I am determined to quit all publick business I should be glad, before this be done, to vindicate myself as well as the Proprietary, against all Aspersions and Accusations....

I most heartily congratulate you on the surrender of Canada and on the most favourable Situation of all our Affairs....

Source: Gilder Lehrman Institute

Additional information: Richard Peters to Sir William Johnson, Superintendent of Indian Affairs

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