Digital History

17th Century

Struggles for Power in Colonial America Previous Next
Digital History ID 3584



Two parallel struggles for power took place in eastern North America during the late seventeenth and early and mid-eighteenth centuries. One was an imperial struggle between France and England. Four times between 1689 and 1763, France, England, and their Indian allies engaged in struggles for dominance. The other was a power struggle among Indian groups, pitting the Iroquois and various Algonquian-speaking peoples against one another.

These two struggles were closely interconnected. Both France and England were dependent upon Indian peoples for furs and military support. The English outnumbered the French by about 20 to 1 during this period, and therefore the survival of French Canada depended on the support of Algonquian-speaking nations. For Native Americans, alliances with England and France were a source of wealth, providing presents, supplies, ammunition, and captives whom the Indians either adopted or sold. Such alliances also kept white settlers from encroaching on Indian lands.

During times of peace, however, Indians found it much more difficult to play England and France off against each other. It was during the period of peace in Europe that followed the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 that England and France destroyed the Natchez, the Fox, and the Yamasee nations.

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