Encounters between American Indians and European colonists in New York ranged from cultural exchange, trade, and alliance to conflict and outright war. While facing the reality of dominance by European powers and the loss of economic independence, many Indians nevertheless retained their core traditional values. They employed creative and at times unpredictable means to resist their colonial neighbors.
British colonial authorities mildly discouraged Indian slavery and on several occasions tried unsuccessfully to prohibit it. Early court cases and laws listing duties to be placed on Indian slaves imported into New York indicate that colonial authorities allowed enslavement of Indians to persist. Even freeborn American Indians had reason to fear being forced into slavery and petitioned the colonial council for protection.
From the late seventeenth through the mid-eighteenth centuries, the French and English pressured the Iroquois to choose sides during frequent periods of imperial warfare. Iroquois leaders, distrustful of both powers, opted to maintain neutrality, often playing one side against the other. Still, individual Indian nations at times formed temporary alliances with one power or another.
The Oneida and Tuscarora Indians, influenced in part by the missionary work of Presbyterian minister William Strickland, chose to fight alongside the patriot forces in the Revolutionary War. The Oneidas aided the rebels at the battles of Oriskany, Saratoga, and Barren Hill, in addition to sharing their corn with George Washington’s starving troops at Valley Forge.
How does human migration impact culture and society?
Check for Understanding
Describe the relationship between the American Indians and colonial New York and explain how that relationship changed over time.