Indians of the American Revolution

Table of Contents

Cherokee Indians

Cherokee Agriculture

Names of Cherokee Villages

Communicating with Signs and Smoke

Oconaluftee Indian Village

Kanuchi, A Delicacy Made from Hickory Nuts

Cherokee Paths and Trails

Indians and the American Revolution


Cherokee Indians

In the late 1700's and all through the 1800's many Cherokees adopted the European tradition of using surnames and passing the name on to their children. Many chose European surnames such as Adair, Vann, Starr, Price, Grant, Hicks, Guess, Ward, Smith, Taylor, Ross, or Boudinot.

Some Cherokees translated the meaning of their Cherokee names into the English equivalent word, such as Bean, Walker, Bear Paw, Tadpole, Wolf, Locust, Flea, Cricket, Rider, Pumpkinpile, Acorn, Housebug, Pigeon, or Smoke. In most Cherokee cases the names made reference to a single animal, insect, plant, or part of the environment, as opposed to the compound names common to many other Indian tribes like He Who Thinks, Holy Bear, Little Beaver, White Buffalo Calf Woman, or Thunder Over the Mountains. Compound names did appear among the Cherokees but not as frequently, like Goingsnake, Bellowingsnake, Dreadfulwater, Going Up Stream, Big Drum, Arrowkeeper, Broken In Two, Swimmer, Buck Scraper, Old Blanket, White Man Killer, or Tobacco Mouth.

There are well known Cherokee names which are, in fact, "Cherokee" names. In some cases these names are English translations of Cherokee names or are in some other way truly Cherokee. Some examples are Bushyhead, Cornsilk, Corntassel, Kingfisher, and Mankiller. Bushyhead is a family name which dates prior to the American Revolution with a Scottish ancestor who had wild red hair and married into the Cherokees. Mankiller was the name given to the person in charge of protecting the village. If you find one of these names in your ancestry you can feel pretty confident that you have Cherokee ancestry. Proving it to the government, however, is a different story.


ADSILA: Cherokee name meaning blossom."

AIYANA: eternal blossom

ALAMEDA: grove of cottonwood

ALAQUA: sweet gum tree

AMADAHY: Cherokee name meaning forest water."

AMITOLA: rainbow

ANPAYTOO: Sioux name meaning "radiant."

APONI: butterfly

AQUENE: peace

AWENASA: Cherokee name meaning my home."

AWENDELA: morning


AWINITA: Cherokee name meaning fawn."

AYITA: Cherokee name meaning first to dance."

BENA: pheasant

BLY: tall

CHAPA: Sioux name meaning "beaver."

CHENOA: dove

CHILAILI: snowbird

CHIMALIS: bluebird

CHITSA: fair

CHUMANI: Sioux name meaning "dewdrops."

COCHETA: stranger

DENA: valley

EHAWEE: Sioux name meaning "laughing maiden."

ENOLA: solitary

ETENIA: rich

EYOTA: great

FALA: Choctaw name meaning crow."

FLO: arrow

GAHO: mother

GALILAHI: Cherokee name meaning attractive."

HANTAYWEE: Sioux name meaning "faithful."

ISTAS: snow

ITUHA: sturdy oak

ITUHA: white stone

MACAWI: Sioux name meaning "generous."

MAGASKAWEE: Sioux name meaning "graceful."

MAGENA: moon

MAHAL: woman

MAI: coyote

MAKA: Sioux name meaning "earth."

MAKAWEE: Sioux name meaning "mothering."

MAUSI: plucks flowers

MEDA: prophetess

NAHIMANA: Sioux name meaning "mystic."

SALALI: Cherokee name meaning squirrel."

TAYANITA: Cherokee name meaning young beaver."


ADAHY: Cherokee name meaning "lives in the woods."

DUSTU: Cherokee name. Meaning unknown

DYAMI: eagle

ELAN: friendly

NAPAYSHNI: Sioux name meaning "strong, courageous."

TOOANTUH: Cherokee name meaning "spring frog."

WAHCHINKSAPA: Sioux name meaning "wise."

WAHCHINTONKA: Sioux name meaning "has much practice."

WAHKAN: Sioux name meaning "sacred."

WAKIZA: desperate warrior

WAMBLEE: Sioux name meaning "eagle."

WAMBLEESKA: Sioux name meaning "white eagle."

WAMBLI-WASTE: Dakota name meaning "good eagle."

WANAGEESKA: Sioux name meaning "white spirit."

WANAHTON: Sioux name meaning "charger."

WANIKIYA: Sioux name meaning "savior."

WAPI: lucky

WEAYAYA: Sioux name meaning "setting sun."

WEMATIN: Algonquin name meaning "brother."

WEMILAT: of wealthy parents

Cherokee Agriculture

The First Agriculturalist in Tennessee

by Lindsey King, Ph.D., Western Kentucky University

Plant knowledge has played a very important role in Cherokee healing traditions. Historically, natural plant and herbal remedies were commonly practiced among Cherokee families and medicine men; many of these are still in use. Wild plants and vines that contributed food, medicine, and vegetable dyes to the Cherokee include bloodroot, hepatica, wild strawberries, mayapple, angelica, wild potato, pokeweed, sumac berries, huckleberries, blackberries, and raspberries, many of which grew in the cleared old fields near villages.

Cherokee and other Native Americans have cultivated soil and encouraged the growth of certain plants as early as the late Archaic Period (3,000 - 900 BCE). Until British colonial settlement, however, there is no conclusive documentation in the historical record of Cherokee agricultural practices in the late seventeenth century other than mention in a journal kept by an early Spanish explorer, that corn (maize), beans, and squash were under cultivation by the Cherokee when contact was made by Hernando DeSoto in 1540. Later, from the records of the British, it can be verified that the Cherokee subsistence pattern was one of intensive maize, bean, and squash horticulture that was supplemented by hunting and gathering.

The Cherokee actively modified their environment by clearing woodlands for villages and cultivated fields. Their main agricultural practice could be called "slash and burn" or swidden agriculture in which land is cleared by the felling of larger trees and the intentional burning of lower shrubs and grasses. New fields would be cultivated with simple technology such as a digging stick. These fields would be used until the soils became depleted and then would be allowed to lie fallow, and new fields would be cleared. The Cherokee would take advantage of the natural vegetation that would appear as first growth in these fallowing fields such as persimmon, red cedar, red mulberry, and sassafras. Women gathered the wild fruits of the persimmon and mulberry, making a type of bread from the flour from dried persimmons. The mulberry, in addition to having edible fruit, has a very pliant bark. From this bark Cherokee women wove floor mats and wall coverings as well as an apron-like garment. The growth of nut and fruit-bearing trees near their settlements was encouraged by the Cherokee women. Hickory nuts were gathered and the nutmeats were removed to be mixed with water into a nourishing beverage of hickory milk (ganu gwala sti). Walnuts also played a major role in the diet of the Cherokee. Their meats were eaten whole, pounded to extract their oil, or made into a "milk" beverage. The bark and roots of the walnut tree had medicinal properties and were used to treat toothaches and act as an antiseptic. The roots and hulls of the nuts are also used in the making of a rich dark brown or black dye for staining basket making materials. Nuts and acorns from the abundant chestnut trees and oaks were gathered to be stored as staples for winter, to eat whole, or to be made into bread.

Gardens and their produce belonged to women and they tended household gardens near their homes, but the entire community, women and men, also participated in communal gardening in the cleared fields further from the settlements.

In the household gardens were grown a smaller variety of corn, native American species of beans, and squash. In the community gardens were planted other varieties of corn, beans, and other staples. To plant corn, women would dig small holes about two inches apart, place in each hole seven kernels of corn, and then cover the hole with a small hill of dirt. The rows of corn were about three feet apart with other plants such as pumpkins, beans, and sunflowers growing in between. Cherokee women planted wisely, pairing nitrogen-depleting corn with nitrogen-fixing plants such as beans. In addition, by planting climbing plants like beans with corn, the beans could be supported by the tall stalks of corn.

By the late 1700s Cherokee women had incorporated several introduced foods that were most compatible with their traditional crops of corn, beans, pumpkins, sunflowers and squash into their gardens. Watermelon, an African plant, had been adopted by the Spanish and was brought to the Southeast in the 1500s. These melons became an important supplement to the Cherokee diet. In a similar fashion, peach trees were also introduced to the region by the Spanish. Peaches (khwa na) were pounded and mixed with flour to make bread, cooked and dried for winter storage, or used to flavor soups and beverages.

By the 1820s, due to the influence of white culture, many Cherokee had abandoned their traditional towns and were living as nuclear families in log cabins similar to those of their white neighbors. Men tended their own farms while their wives tended to domestic chores. Even though the land was still owned communally, the Cherokee practiced, not unlike their white counterparts, a type of subsistence agriculture supplemented by small-scale woods ranching of hogs and cattle, by hunting and gathering, fishing. These farms usually ranged in size from two to ten acres and were arranged in kin-based groups along the stream and river valleys. Through the gradual encroachment of the European culture of the white farmers, many Cherokee intermarried and assimilated into the dominant culture of the whites. By the time of removal there was a small economic middle class of Cherokee in southwestern North Carolina who participated in commercial agriculture and other economic ventures.

Plant knowledge has played a very important role in Cherokee healing traditions. Historically, natural plant and herbal remedies were commonly practiced among Cherokee families and medicine men; many of these are still in use.

Names of Cherokee Villages

The name, Jocassee, comes from the legend of a Cherokee maiden. An Oconee tribe, the "Brown Vipers" led by Chief Attakulla, inhabited the west side of the Whitewater river, while a rival tribe, "The Green Birds", lived on the east. Legend says that a young Green Bird warrior,

Lake Jocassee from the Bad Creek entrance to the Lake.Nagoochee, was not afraid to enter Brown Viper hunting grounds. On one occasion, he fell and broke his leg and was convinced he was going to die. Then he heard Jocassee, Attakulla's daughter, who brought him back to her father's lodge and nursed him back to health. Jocassee eventually fell in love with him, but in a later battle, Cheochee, Jocassee's brother, killed and brought Nagoochee's head back on his belt. Legend has it that Jocassee went into the water and did not sink but walked across the water to meet the ghost of Nagoochee. The name Jocassee means "Place of the Lost One[1]."

The Jocassee Gorges area was once home to the part of the Cherokee Nation; it now lies 300 feet (91 m) beneath the surface of the lake, near the Toxaway River. Nearby Keowee Town was a major hub in the Cherokee Path that connected Cherokee towns and villages throughout the area. Early 18th century traders delivered as many as 200,000 deerskins annually to Charleston, South Carolina and local Indians became well supplied with European firearms, ammunition, tools and clothing as a result. However, mounting discord between Europeans and Cherokees led to war in 1759. In 1785, General Andrew Pickens hosted a large gathering of Indian chiefs leading to a treaty that gave all of the Jocassee gorges area, with the exception of northern Oconee County, to the United States; the Oconee mountains were not ceded until 1815. European settlers, mostly of Scottish and Irish descent, came from Virginia and Pennsylvania as well as from Charleston. Land grants in the Jocassee area go back to 1791.

Ninety Six was established in the early 1700s. It derived its name from the mistaken belief that it was 96 miles to the nearest Cherokee settlement of Keowee. The National Park Service operates the Ninety Six National Historic Site at the site of the original settlement.

Ninety Six figured prominently in the Anglo-Cherokee War and also in the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution. The first land battle of the Revolution south of New England was fought here in 1775, and in 1780, the British fortified the strategically important frontier town. From May 22 to June 18, 1781 Major General Nathanael Greene, with 1,000 patriot troops, staged the longest (yet unsuccessful) siege of the Revolutionary War against the 550 American Loyalists who were defending Ninety Six.

Communicating with Signs and Smoke

Stone Signs

These signs done into stone-talk would be as in the top line of the cut.

These are much used in the Rockies where the trail goes over stony places or along stretches of slide-rock.

Grass and Twig Signs

In grass or sedge the top of the tuft is made to show the direction to be followed; if it is a point of great importance three tufts are tied, their tops straight if the trail goes straight on; otherwise the tops are turned in the direction toward which le course turns.

The Ojibways and other woodland tribes use twigs for a great many of these signs. (See second row.) The hanging broken twig like the simple blaze means "This is the trail." The twig clean broken off and laid on the ground across the line of march means, "Here break from your straight course and go in the line of the butt end," and when an especial warning is meant, the butt is pointed toward the one following the trail and raised somewhat, in a forked twig. If the butt of the twig were raised and pointing to the left, it would mean "Look out, camp, or ourselves, or the enemy, or the game we have killed is out that way." With some, the elevation of the butt is made to show the distance of the object; if low the object is near, if raised very high the object is a long way off.

These are the principal signs of the trail used by Woodcrafters, Indians, and hunters in most parts of America. These are the standards--the ones sure to be seen by those who camp in the wilderness.

Smoke Signals

There is in addition a useful kind of sign that has been mentioned already in these papers--that is, the Smoke Signal. These were used chiefly by the Plains Indians, but the Ojibways seem to have employed them at times.

A clear hot fire was made, then covered with green stuff or rotten wood so that it sent up a solid column of black smoke. By spreading and lifting a blanket over this smudge the column could be cut up into pieces long or short, and by a preconcerted code these could be made to convey tidings.

But the simplest of all smoke codes and the one of chief use to the Western traveler is this:

One steady smoke--"Here is camp."

Two steady smokes--" I am lost, come and help me."

I find two other smoke signals, namely:

Three smokes in a row--" Good news."

Four smokes in a row--"All are summoned to council."

These latter I find not of general use, nor are they so likely to be of service as the first two given.

[See Also: Smoke Signals]

Signal by Shots

The old buffalo hunters had an established signal that is yet used by the mountain guides. It is as follows:

Two shots in rapid succession, an interval of five seconds by the watch, then one shot; this means, "where are you?" The answer given at once and exactly the same means "Here I am; what do you want?" The reply to this may be one shot, which means, "All right; I only wanted to know where you were." But if the reply repeats the first it means, "I am in serious trouble; come as fast as you can."

Kanuchi, A Delicacy Made from Hickory Nuts

Kanuchi is considered to be a real delicacy. The nuts are gathered in the fall and allowed to dry for a few weeks before the kanuchi making begins. It is a simple process, but that does not necessarily mean that is easy. The hickory nuts are cracked and the largest pieces of shell removed either by shaking the pieces through a loosely woven basket, or picking them out by hand.

Traditionally, a log was hollowed out on one end into a bowl like shape. The shelled hickory nuts are placed in the hollowed log and pounded with a long heavy stick with the end rounded to have the same contour, more or less, as the cavity in the log. The nuts are pounded until they are of a consistency that can be formed into a ball that will hold its shape. Kanuchi balls are usually about three inches in diameter and must be stored in a cold place. Today kanuchi is usually preserved by freezing.

To prepare kanuchi for the table, place a kanuchi ball in a saucepan with about a quart of water and bring it to a boil to dissolve the ball. Allow the kanuchi to simmer about ten minutes and then poor it through a fine sieve. (A colander lined with cheese cloth works very well for this.) All the remaining shells are left in the sieve. If you have the time and patience you can pick the larger bits of nut meat from the shells in the sieve and add them to the liquid kanuchi. The kanuchi should be about as thick as light cream. Most traditional cooks will add about two cups of homemade hominy to a quart of kanuchi. Some cooks prefer hominy grits, which are prepared according to package directions and added to the kanuchi. Others add cooked rice. Such things as consistency and how much hominy or hominy grits to add are, of course a matter of taste, as is the addition of salt or sugar.

Oconaluftee Indian Village

Oconaluftee Indian Village demonstrates traditional culture for visitors

The Oconaluftee Indian Village opened in 1956 and, for over 50 years, has educated millions of visitors about Cherokee history.  The site is a re-created Cherokee village set in the 1750s.  Located in a wooded area on the Cherokee Indian Reservation, this attraction allows visitors to see how the Cherokee people lived, dressed, and worked over 250 years ago.  All employees are members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and wear the style of clothing the Cherokees wore in the mid-1700s.  Tour guides walk visitors through the mock village that includes Cherokee artisans making various crafts.

The first stop on the Oconaluftee Indian Village tour is the beadwork section.  Here visitors see Cherokee women working on the “solid work” method of beading, a method used by the Cherokee to make belts, headbands, and necklaces.  This style of beadwork is made by sewing each individual bead to another, creating a solid piece of work that is durable and easily repaired.  At each stop on the tour, a guide provides a brief synopsis of Cherokee craftwork.

In the pottery section, Cherokee women make handmade pottery using native clay.  A tour guide explains the traditional way the Cherokee people made their pottery from start to finish, including waterproofing by putting corncobs in the pots while they were placed around an open fire to make the pottery hard and ready to use.  The entire process of making a piece of traditional Cherokee pottery takes about two weeks.

Rivercane basket by Ramona Lossie

Both finger weaving and basket weaving demonstrations are part of the tour.  In the finger weaving section, ladies weave handmade wool yarn belts using a variety of Cherokee designs.  A guide describes the process of weaving the yarn and how this method was used to make sashes, shawls, and blankets in the 1700s. 

Cherokee baskets are well known around the world and, at the Village, Cherokee women demonstrate their skills at basket weaving.  At this stop the guide explains the traditional plant dyes used to color basket materials, the types of basket weaves the Cherokee made, and the difference in the materials and handles used when making baskets.  The guide also emphasizes the amount of work that goes into weaving a basket; it can take up to one month to make a Cherokee basket from start to finish.

After learning about the arts and crafts of Cherokee women, the next stop on the tour educates visitors on some crafts made by Cherokee men.  At the blowgun and arrowhead section of the village, the guide explains the role of these crafts.  After the guide explains that Cherokee men in the past used the blowgun to hunt small game, an interpreter gives a live demonstration.  The guide also explains the types of arrowheads or projectile points Cherokee men made to use when hunting and in warfare.  At the animal traps section, the guide explains how the Cherokee people built the bear trap, the fish trap, and the figure-four trap (used to capture small animals and birds.) 

After learning about Cherokee animal traps, visitors stop at a series of recreated Cherokee homes.  This section features a 1700s Cherokee home, an 1800s Cherokee home, and a Cherokee winter home also known as a sweathouse.  Cherokee people spent most of their time outside the home and the homes were used only for cooking and sleeping quarters.  At the sweathouse a guide explains that the structure was used as a hospital by the village medicine man.

Cherokee people built homes from logs harvested from abundant Appalachian forests

After visitors learn about Cherokee homes in the 1700 and 1800s, they also see the style of home the Cherokees had before contact with outsiders.  It is a common misconception that Cherokee people lived in teepees.  Here this stereotype is corrected and the truth is taught about the original homes of the Cherokee tribe.  The type of home the Cherokees lived in is called wattle and daub.  Wattle for the walls made from woven rivercane mats and daub for the mud used to seal the mats and insulate the home.

Canoes were community owned property

The next stop on the tour demonstrates the making of a dugout canoe.  Here the guide explains how canoes were made before the introduction of metal by using the burning method.  Since the Cherokees did not have metal tools to get trees for canoe making they would burn them down using red clay to control the burn.  This method was also used to burn out the center of the tree for the canoe.  The canoes were community owned and only used for transportation and fishing.

The final craft-making stop on the tour is the woodcarving section.  At this stop Cherokee men are working on a variety of woodcarvings including masks, Indian ball sticks, war clubs, etc.  The guide explains the difference between the use of hard and soft woods, as well as tools, for example gardening hoes, that were made before metal was introduced to the Cherokee.  Hard woods were used to make bows, war clubs, and hoes, while soft woods were used to make masks and bowls.

After the woodcarving section, a tour guide explains the community storage building.  Each village had a storage building that was used by every member of the village.  If a person or family had an abundance of anything they would bring it to the storage building, and if anyone needed anything they could come to the storage building and get it.  The storage building was also used by the village in case of emergencies, such as warfare or drought.

The next stop on the tour is the ceremonial ground, also called the square ground because of the square mound of sand in the center.  Here a guide explains Cherokee ceremonies including dances and instruments, the seven-clan system of the Cherokee, and the Cherokee language.  The final stop on the tour through Oconaluftee Indian Village is the seven-sided council house.  This part of the tour includes a lecture on Cherokee government, the role of Cherokee women, the infamous Trail of Tears, and how the Cherokee people live presently.

After the tour ends visitors are encouraged to walk back through the village to ask questions and revisit craft making areas.  A botanical garden walk features various native plants with explanations on how and why they were used.  The Oconaluftee Indian Village has a gift shop where crafts made by village employees are sold.  This gift shop only includes artwork and crafts made by Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians members.

Many Cherokee artists featured on the Craft Revival website worked at the Oconaluftee Indian Village.  Skills were shared among demonstrating artists.  Indeed, some learned how to make their craft from other artists while working at the village.  A recreated Cherokee village, the Oconaluftee Indian Village is more than just a tourist attraction and public history center, it is a way to preserve a community’s arts and crafts.

Cherokee Paths and Trails

This famous Indian trail was followed by pack horse traders from Charleston before 1700. Two routes were followed. One led by way of the Cooper, Santee, and Congaree river systems past present day Columbia. The other route turned toward present day Augusta on the Savannah River, and headed north to meet the first route near Ninety Six. The alternate routes converged on the Indian town of Keowee (Oconee county).

The path goes by Forts Dorchester (Dorchester county), Pallachucolas (Jasper and Hampton counties), Moore (Aiken county), Ninety Six (Greenwood county), Rutledge (Oconee county), Prince George (Pickens county), and the Congarees (Lexington county). On the eastern branch of the path, “a natural route to follow,” French, German, and Scotch-Irish settlers all have left historic evidence along the way.

Staging at Fort Prince George, South Carolinians in 1756 hauled materials along the path over the mountains into Tennessee where they built Fort Loudoun, which has been reconstructed on its original site near Maryville on the Tellico River. Perhaps the largest archeological dig in the United States took place at Fort Prince George in 1967 revealing more information about life along the Cherokee Path.

Two British expeditions against the Cherokee followed this route in 1760 and 1761. Revolutionary heroes - Sumter, Marion, and Pickens - learned guerrilla fighting along the Cherokee Path. William Bartram, the naturalist, described it in his famous journal.

George Washington Trail

George Washington’s goodwill tour of 1791 passed through South Carolina along two routes, central and coastal. Washington entered the state crossing the northern border of South Carolina near Little River where the first State Welcome Center is located, he followed the King’s Highway to near the ocean at Myrtle Beach from which point he traveled along the grand strand south to Surfside beach. Here he returned to the King’s Highway and followed it through present day Brookgreen Gardens to Georgetown, Charleston, Ashepoo, Pocotaligo, Purrysburg on the Savannah River and into Georgia at Savannah.

Washington followed a central route on his return journey which goes from Augusta through Columbia, Camden, Lancaster, and Charlotte. This central route has attractions such as: evidence of early railroad building and manufacturing near Augusta, the State House complex and the Robert Mills influence, the Camden battlefields, and Andrew Jackson State Park near Lancaster.

More than 300 years of exciting history have taken place along these routes; this is the region where South Carolina had its origin. Spanish and French attempts at settlement go all the way back to 1526. The first permanent English settlement in Charleston dates back to 1670. Pirates, Indians, four Colonial Wars, the American Revolution, the Civil War, South Carolina Rice, Indigo, and Sea Island Cotton have all left their marks.

Tyger River Canoe

(Union County)

Description: From a put-in south of Union, the Middle Tyger River cleaves Sumter National Forest for 24 miles of moderate, swift-moving flatwater. According to local lore, this river earned its name either because of a French fur trader named Tygert or the “tygers” -- possibly Carolina panthers -- early explorers saw along its banks. But the water occasionally lives up to the label, too, especially during spring rains! Like its sister, the Enoree River, the Tyger is generally shallow and narrow. Although there is some whitewater in the upper sections, the overwhelming majority is brisk flatwater. A pine-hardwood mix forest beyond sloping banks and some marshy bogs characterize the surrounding landscape. White-tailed deer, turkey, and great blue herons are common fauna here. Canoes and flat-bottom boats are the most suitable craft for the Tyger. Float time for this stretch is approximately 15 hours.

Length: Approximately 24 miles one way. But can be done in sections.

Indians and the American Revolution

By Wilcomb E. Washburn

In their dealings with the Indian nations, the English authorities utilized the treaty form of negotiation in which solemn covenants were entered into as between equals. During the period 1763 to 1775, a series of boundaries between the colonists and the Indians of the interior were created from Lake Ontario to Florida, confirming in the minds of Indians (and of many colonists) the belief that the Indian country was closed to speculation and settlement by the increasingly aggressive colonists.

Lord Dunmore's War of 1774 marked the beginning of the breakdown of the arrangements by which the seaboard colonies and the Indian nations of the interior were to be kept apart. Lord Dunmore, royal governor of Virginia, sought to seize the abandoned Fort Pitt, captured from the French during the Great War for Empire, in support of Virginia's charter claims. Dunmore's move into the trans-Allegheny areas of western Pennsylvania (Virginia's charter claims were to the west and northwest) led to war with the Delawares and Shawnees. The conflict triggered a response from the Iroquois to the north who stood in the relation of elder brothers to the Shawnees and Delawares. Superintendent of Indian Affairs Johnson worked diligently to keep the Iroquois out of war. He pointed out that the Six Nations (who comprised the Iroquois Confederacy) had renewed and confirmed the "Covenant Chain subsusting between us" at the Treaty of Fort Stanwix, October 26, 1768. But the Iroquois demanded to know why whites were not honoring the former treaties and boundary lines and were moving beyond the mountains into the Ohio River valley. While arguing in council to forestall Iroquois involvement in Dunmore's War, Johnson on July 11, 1774, died and was succeeded by his nephew and son-in-law, Guy Johnson. Guy Johnson was relieved when, in a series of conferences culminating in a great meeting at Onondaga in October 1774, the Iroquois decided to ratify the pledge to remain at peace with the English and to persuade the Shawnees to settle their differences with the Virginians. Joseph Brant (left, in a portrait by Gilbert Stuart), a Mohawk graduate of Eleazar Wheelock's Indian School at Lebanon, Connecticut (later moved to Hanover, New Hampshire, where it became known as Dartmouth College), was particularly persuasive in these conferences.2

The English government, meanwhile, continued its policy of restraining colonial expansion into the territory reserved to the Indians. By the Quebec Act, the seaboard colonies were seemingly shut off from expansion into the lands they claimed by charter, those lands being incorporated into the new British province of Quebec. The fact that this restriction was in the form of an Act of Parliament, and not an administrative decree, made it all the more damaging to the pretensions of the colonies. By the act, the province of Quebec was extended as far south as the Ohio River. Control was placed in the hands of a royal governor with a standing army under his command to support him and with no representative assembly to bother him. While the Quebec Act is usually interpreted in terms of its religious significance (its provisions for religious toleration of Catholicism outraged good Protestants), in fact, as Francis Jennings has pointed out, the act was more significant in putting a brake on the land speculation of the seaboard colonists and fixing sovereignty and control of the areas of potential expansion in England and in Parliament rather than in America and in colonial legislatures.3

Whether one seeks to explain the subsequent break as a direct consequence of the British government's attempt to stymie colonial land speculation and expansion, or merely indirectly related to it, there is no doubt that British restrictions on colonial freedom of action in this as in other fields helped to convince the colonists that violent reaction might be the preferable alternative. Violence was not long in coming. When the citizens of Boston threw overboard English tea (while, interestingly, dressed as Indians), the English government responded by closing the Port of Boston. In explaining the growing crisis to the Iroquois at a conference in January 1775, Guy Johnson asserted that:

This dispute was solely occasioned by some people, who notwithstanding a law of the King and his wise Men, would not let some Tea land, but destroyed it, on which he was angry, and sent some Troops with the General [Thomas Gage], whom you have long known, to see the Laws executed and bring the people to their sences, and as he is proceeding with great wisdom, to shew them their great mistake, I expect it will soon be over.4

Neither the loyalists nor the patriots sought to enlist Indian support at this time. Indeed, both sides urged the Indians to remain neutral on the grounds that the disputes were a family quarrel in which the Indians were not concerned. Yet, informally, the line was not so clearly drawn. George Washington, in the winter of 1774 -1775, recruited some gunmen from among the minor Eastern tribes, the Stockbridge, Passamaquoddy, St. John's and Penobscot Indians. By the fall of 1775, General Gage, the British commander, would use Washington's actions to justify his orders to Guy Johnson and John Stuart (who had succeeded Atkin as superintendent of Indian affairs for the southern department) to bring the Indians into the war when opportunity offered.5

In July 1775, the Continental Congress proposed a plan similar to the superintendencies created by the Crown for managing Indian affairs except that three geographical departments instead of two were created. Commissioners were appointed for each department. The Congress also drafted a talk which could be delivered by the commissioners to any tribes in their district. The talk asserted that:

This is a family quarrel between us and Old England. You Indians are not concerned in it. We don't wish you to take up the hatchet against the king's troops. We desire you to remain at home, and not join either side, but keep the hatchet buried deep.6

Not until the summer of 1776 did either the Americans or British formally and officially attempt to involve the Iroquois, the most powerful northern nation, on their side. Informal approaches, however, were made with increasing frequency. In July 1775, Ethan Allen, of Vermont, sent a message to the Iroquois urging them to shun the King's side. Allen asserted:

I know how to shute and ambush just like the Indian and want your Warriors to come and see me and help me fight Regulars You know they Stand all along close Together Rank and file and my men fight so as Indians Do I want your Warriors to Join with me and my Warriors like Brothers and Ambush the Regulars, if you will I will Give you Money Blankets Tomehawks Knives and Paint and the Like as much as you say because they first killed our men when it was Peace time.7

Meanwhile, the British were similarly exciting the Six Nations. The Indians were invited "to feast on a Bostonian and drink his Blood." With good anthropological understanding the British provided a roast ox and a pipe of wine as the symbolic substitute for the rebels. 8

The Iroquois at first resisted the blandishments of both sides. As a Seneca warrior put it, in reply to the warnings against the Americans made by Colonel John Butler, who acted for Colonel Johnson in the latter's absence:

We have now lived in Peace with them a long time and we resolve to continue to do so as long as we can - when they hurt us it is time enough to strike them. It is true they have encroach'd on our Lands, but of this we shall speak to them. If you are so strong Brother, and they but as a weak Boy, why ask our assistance. It is true I am tall and strong but I will reserve my strength to strike those who injure me. If you have so great plenty of Warriors, Powder, Lead and Goods, and they are so few and little of either, be strong and make good use of them. You say their Powder is rotten - We have found it good. You say they are all mad, foolish, wicked, and deceitful - I say you are so and they are wise for you want us to destroy ourselves in your War and they advise us to live in Peace. Their advice we intend to follow.9

Although the Indians refused to be swayed by either side at this time, uncertainty as to how they might be affected by the struggle caused bitter divisions to be formed among them.

Meanwhile, in July 1776, Colonel Guy Johnson and Joseph Brant, the Mohawk, had returned to New York from a visit to England. While in London, Brant had been warmly received and highly honored. George Romney had painted his portrait. Brant had become more than ever convinced that the Indian future lay with the British Crown and not with the American colonists. After distinguishing himself at the Battle of Long Island, Brant slipped through the patriot lines in order to return to Iroquoia and bring his countrymen into the fight against the Americans. In conjunction with Colonel Butler, the British commander at Fort Niagara, Brant succeeded in getting four of the six Iroquois nations to take up the hatchet against the Americans. Only the Oneida and the Tuscarora refused. The decision for war was made at a great congress at Irondequoit in July 1777, at which the Indians were finally overwhelmed by massive gifts of rum, provisions and useful goods.10

The bloody seal to the fateful decision made by the Iroquois to break their traditional unity (as well as their neutrality) was the Battle of Oriskany, August 6, 1777, which occurred when American General Nicholas Herkimer was on his way to relieve beleagured Fort Stanwix. Herkimer failed, but the Seneca allies of the British in particular, suffered heavy losses. Seventeen of the thirty-three Indians killed were Seneca as were sixteen of the twenty-nine wounded. In Indian terms, where success in battle was measured by the smallness of one's own losses, the battle was a disaster. Even more galling than the men lost was the fact that the Great Peace established by the Iroquois Confederacy was now dissolved. Brother was fighting brother. Oneidas and Tuscaroras had fought with Herkimer against their fellow Iroquois on the King's side.11

Shortly after the battle of Oriskany, the patriot cause seemed vulnerable to destruction at the hands of General John Burgoyne who had moved south from Canada in June 1777 in order to cut off the middle and southern colonies from those in New England. On the way, Indian auxiliaries in his command murdered a young lady, Miss Jane McCrea, in a celebrated incident which fed the fuel of patriot propaganda that (as Jefferson put it in the Declaration of Independence) the King had "endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontier the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions." When General Philip Schuyler received word during a conference with the Oneidas and Tuscaroras at Albany, in September, that the American army had engaged Burgoyne's at Freeman's Farm he immediately asked for their assistance and received it. The warriors, fresh from their participation in Herkimer's campaign, joined General Horatio Gates' army and rendered invaluable assistance.12

The British thrust was turned back and warfare in New York State in 1778 and 1779 consisted of guerrilla raids by British supported Iroquois on interior New York settlements such as that at Cherry Valley. The raids led to a massive counter offensive planned by George Washington and commanded by General John Sullivan which entered the Iroquois homeland and applied a scorched earth policy to the villages and cornfields which the Indians had prudently abandoned. Years later, in 1790, when the Seneca leader, Cornplanter, was negotiating with Washington, he recounted that "When your army entered the country of the Six Nations we called you Town Destroyer; and to this day when that name is heard our women look behind them and turn pale, and our children cling close to the necks of their mothers."13

In the inland areas of the South, even more powerful Indian nations existed than in the North The Southeastern nations could muster 14,000 warriors: 3,000 each among the Cherokees, Choctaws, and Creeks, plus 5,000 hardy Chickasaws.. The southern Indians had been subjected to the same encroachments by the colonists that the northern Indians had experienced. By the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals on the Watauga River in March 1775, the Transylvania Company had obtained a title of sorts to much of present day Kentucky and middle Tennessee. But the Cherokee chief Dragging Canoe had stalked out of the negotiations, warning that any attempt to settle the area would turn the land dark and bloody.14

The British sub-agents Alexander Cameron and Henry Stuart attempted to warn the American settlers who were encroaching on Indian lands at Watauga and Nolichucky.. Their warnings enabled the settlers to prepare themselves against attack and to characterize the British cautions - suitably distorted - as evidence of British instigation of Indian attack. For the most part, the Americans refused to heed the warnings to leave. 15

The patriots, who had appointed commissioners to deal with the Indians as prescribed by the Continental Congress, sought to persuade the natives that the King's agents were now superseded by themselves. In April 1776 a conference was held with representatives of the Cherokees, but most of the tribe absented themselves. The colonial representatives urged the Cherokees (and, in a later conference, the Creeks) to remain neutral and not be swayed by British arms or arguments. The American case was not persuasive and, in May 1776, a delegation from the north composed of Shawnees, Delawares, and Mohawks, arrived among the Cherokees and convinced them to take up the tomahawk against the encroaching Americans. Devastation soon followed on the frontier.16 The response of the southern colonies was similar to that in the North. Devastating strikes were made by American armies against the Cherokees. Like the Iroquois, the Cherokees chose to let their country be ravaged rather than attempt to engage the American columns in pitched battles. Instead, they retired further west and watched the colonial soldiers destroy their crops and houses. Like the Iroquois, though to a lesser degree, the Cherokees were riven by factional strife on how best to confront the deteriorating situation.17

Thomas Jefferson's reaction to the Cherokee attacks on the frontier expressed his sense of the seriousness of the situation:

I hope that the Cherokees will now be driven beyond the Mississippi and that this in future will be declared to the Indians the invariable consequence of their beginning a war. Our contest with Britain is too serious and too great to permit any possibility of avocation from the Indians.18

The fate of the Cherokees dampened the inclination of the Creeks to seek vengeance against the encroaching settlers at the possible cost of similar retaliation. Nevertheless, an opportunity to strike a coordinated blow occurred when late in 1778 a British fleet arrived in Georgia. Savannah fell to it, and a force was sent inland to Augusta. By virtue of poor communication (one might almost say a total lack of effective communication), John Stuart, the Indian superintendent in Pensacola, was uninformed of the move and was unable to bring Creek allies and local loyalists to the assistance of the British troops.19

Although huge amounts of goods were annually provided Britain's Indian agents for use in keeping her Indian alliances firm (£75,000 sterling in 1778 for the southern Indians alone), few results were evident to an increasingly skeptical Parliament. In March 1779, in considering a money bill, heated comments about the apparently fruitless expenditures of such sums were made.20 Yet Indian goods continued to be vital in maintaining Indian support. As one observer put it, "Reason and Rhetoric will fall to the Ground unless supported by Strouds and Duffells. Liberality is alone with Indians true Eloquence without which Demosthenes and Cicero or the more modern orators Burke and Barre might harangue in vain."21

Meanwhile, the new Spanish ally of the revolting colonies outgeneraled the British in the Gulf Coast region. Bernardo de Galvez, moving from New Orleans east along the coast to Mobile, was able to seize that port on February 10, 1780, after General John Campbell, the British commander in West Florida, had dismissed his Choctaw auxiliaries without adequate thanks or recompense. Campbell had earlier frittered away this support by calling them in unnecessarily in response to false alarms.22

When Pensacola, further east, was next threatened in March 1780 by the Spanish, 2000 Creeks under Alexander McGillivray and William McIntosh rallied to the support of the British. The Spanish settled down to wait for the Indians to depart, but victory eluded them when, after six weeks, a British fleet arrived. Galvez was forced to retire.23

In March 1781, a Spanish fleet again appeared off Pensacola with a 4000 man army which overmatched 1500 British soldiers, 400 Choctaws, and 100 Creeks. After fierce fighting, in which the Indian allies of the British distinguished themselves, the garrison capitulated May 8, 1781. The fall of Pensacola was soon followed by the fall of Augusta and Savannah. British collapse in the South was imminent and the King's Indian allies were forced to choose their future course.24 The Cherokees and Chickasaws sought to negotiate peace with the Americans. The Creeks continued to stand with the British; the Choctaws wavered.25 When the British finally evacuated St. Augustine in 1783, they were astonished to find that numbers of their Indian allies sought to join them. As one Indian talk put it, "If the English mean to abandon the Land, we will accompany them - We cannot take a Virginian or Spaniard by the hand -We cannot look them in the face." The commandant of the garrison expressed his amazement at the Indian attitude:

The minds of these people appear as much agitated as those of the unhappy Loyalists on the eve of a third evacuation; and however chimerical it may appear to us, they have seriously proposed to abandon their country and accompany us, having made all the world their enemies by their attachment to us.26

In the Preliminary Articles of Peace of 1782, no mention was made of the Indians. Despite their important role and visible presence, they had receded into the shadows of European diplomacy. Recognition of their existence and status was easier to ignore or deny in Europe than in America. Brant, the Mohawk, was outraged that the King seemed to be selling out the Indians to the American Congress. Daniel Claus, the British agent for the Six Nations in Canada, was astounded that the English negotiator in Paris, Richard Oswald, had ignored, or been ignorant of, the boundaries of the Indian country established by the Fort Stanwix treaty line of 1768. "It might have been easily reserved and inserted that those lands the Crown relinquished to all the Indn. Nations as their Right and property were out of its power to treat for, which would have saved the Honor of Government with respect to that Treaty," he wrote. Other Englishmen were outraged. "Our treaties with them were solemn," Lord Walsingham noted, "and ought to have been binding on our honour." Lord Shelburne, on the other hand, vigorously defended the Preliminary Articles, asserting that "in the present treaty with America, the Indian nations were not abandoned to their enemies; they were remitted to the care of neighbours."27

The Spanish representative at the Paris negotiations, the Conde de Aranda, had similarly asserted that the territory west of the Appalachians to the Mississippi, which England grandly delivered to the American colonies, belonged to "free and independent nations of Indians, and you have no right to it." But the American negotiators rejected the Indian claim and asserted the full authority of the colonies to possess the lands west to the Mississippi.28

In their succeeding negotiations with the Indians, the Americans attempted to convince the Indians that by choosing the losing side in the struggle they had lost all their rights. They asserted that the Indians were a conquered people. James Duane in 1784 advised the governor of New York not to treat with the Iroquois as equals, saying that "I would never suffer the word 'nation' or 'six nations' or 'confederates,' or 'council fire at Onondago' or any other form which would revive or seem to confirm their former ideas of independence they should rather be taught that the public opinion of their importance has long since ceased."29

Neither the Iroquois, nor the Indians of the Old Northwest, nor those of the South, tamely accepted colonial assertions of sovereignty by right of conquest. Although most of the powerful nations which had hitherto held back the tide of English expansion had chosen the wrong side in the Revolution, they still possessed land and power only partially diminished by the war. The British government, embarrassed by the reproaches of their erstwhile allies, continued to hold the forts of the Old Northwest and to provide trade goods and sympathy to their Indian allies though refusing military aid for a renewed attack against the Americans. Attempts by American forces to impose their will on the Indians confirmed the fact that the Indians had not been conquered by the Americans during the Revolution, for these attempts were repeatedly frustrated. In 1790, General James Harmar's expedition into the Maumee Valley resulted in an embarassing failure. In 1791, General Arthur St. Clair's army was similarly defeated by the Indians near Fort Wayne, Indiana. In the South, McGillivray of the Creeks played off Spanish and American authorities, finally negotiating a treaty with the United States in New York in 1790. In 1794, General Anthony Wayne finally did manage to defeat the Northwest Indians at Fallen Timbers. But the resistance and strength of the natives had refuted the notion that conquest could be asserted rather than won.30

With the formation of the Constitution and the establishment of a new government, Secretary of War Henry Knox, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, and President George Washington formulated a policy of honor and good will toward the native Americans. As expressed in the Northwest Ordinance, the policy asserted that:

The utmost good faith shall always be observed towards the Indians; their land and property shall never be taken from them without their consent; and in their property, rights, and liberty, they shall never be invaded or disturbed, unless in just and lawful wars authorized by Congress; but laws founded in justice and humanity shall from time to time be made, for preventing wrongs being done to them, and for preserving peace and friendship with them.31

Yet the passions engendered by the American Revolution, despite the good will expressed in the formal policy enunciated by the government, was to lead to bitter and violent confrontations on the frontier. The bloody ground of Kentucky was to be repeated in region after region as the undisciplined and unregulated expansion of the American people got underway. In the end the Indian was the loser. That he would have been a loser even if the King had repressed the rebellion is probable; but his decline would not have been so swift or so bitter.