Being silly and cute might be attractive to some people in Japan but for Americans it is not a good thing. Most Americans have a great deal of respect for Japan and if you go there and look foolish it will not only make you look bad but also Japan. Secondly, it might help you understand some of the people, places and things you will see. America is a very big place but it has a very short history so it is not too difficult to learn the basic history of the country and its peoples.
So, if you think about it, Asians and Native Americans are actually from the same family of people.
Does that mean that Japanese people are related to Native Americans? Well, yes and no. Modern Japanese people are a mixture of Ainu, ancient Korean, Chinese and other Asian peoples. The Ainu (Jomon people) were the first people to inhabit Japan and they were later overwhelmed by the Yayoi period invasions from Korea and China.
However, the Ainu share some of the same genetic markers found in Native Americans. Thus, some of you may have very distant cousins living among the Native Americans!
Anyways, back to our story! The Native Americans spread across North America and into South America in ancient times in a number of different human migrations. They developed very advanced cultures. Some you may have heard of, for example, the Aztec, Maya and Inca are famous for their pyramid building, their knowledge of mathematics, calendrics, astronomy, and agriculture as well as their impressive pyramid-filled cities and vibrant, decorative art.
In North America, the Native Americans lived in much smaller groups than did their Central and South American cousins, mainly a tribal organization. They lived in small villages numbering at most several thousand people.
Their first contact with Europeans must have come as quite a shock to them. Imagine how you would feel if alien spacecrafts from another planet were to suddenly appear in the sky above you. Perhaps they don’t land at first. Instead, they hover overhead and make attempts to communicate with us. Eventually, however, they land and only the bravest (or the slowest) make contact with them. Not much communication takes place but maybe you might trade your iPod for something they have. Inadvertently, the aliens may give you something else which might not be so nice. They might accidentally give you a disease or a virus for which we have no immunity. You return to your family and give it to them and they in turn give it to everybody else. Probably the resulting epidemic would kill nearly everyone.
Well, this is what happened in real life when Native Americans first came into contact with Europeans just over 500 years ago. Most of you will hopefully know the story of Columbus and his three ships, the Nina, Pinta and the Santa Marie.
Sailing west from Spain across the Atlantic Columbus managed to find his way to Hispaniola in the Caribbean. He called these people “Indians” because he believed he was in or very near India.
One of the first things Columbus did as he waded ashore on that beautiful, Caribbean beach was to plant the Spanish flag and claim these “new lands” for Spain. The Native Americans obviously had no idea who these people were but it would have been obvious to them that Columbus and his men were from a technologically advanced culture. The Europeans carried firearms and had metal swords and body armor. They also had cannon which must have been awe-inspiring to the Native Americans. The fact that they also arrived on massive ships which had never been seen before must have been a bit overwhelming for the Native Americans just as it would be for us if an alien spacecraft landed among us.
Anyways, the Native Americans had little time to admire these news things as they began to die in large numbers from European epidemic diseases such as smallpox, typhus, measles, influenza, bubonic plague, cholera, just to name a few. The Spanish did not do this intentionally. It was simply a consequence of Native American contact with an alien race.
Part 2: Gold, God and Glory
As you may remember from the previous lecture, the Spanish and other Europeans were very anxious to find a cheap and easy way to get to the rich spice markets of India and what is now Indonesia. The land route across Europe and the Middle East was expensive and was generally controlled by Arab traders who made immense profits from the spice trade. The Islamic Empire was also not on friendly terms with the Christian nations and both sides had been involved in numerous wars, invasions and crusades for the past 500 years.
Many of the Spanish explorers and conquistadors came from the poorer half of the Spanish aristocracy and would do anything to acquire wealth and status. If that meant killing a bunch of heathen Indians then so be it. If they could survive they had the chance to become the richest men in Europe.
Here you can see what happens when a stone-age people met Spanish conquistadors armed with metal weapons.
While the Spanish and the Portuguese were busy plundering Central and South America for gold and slaves, other European powers were busy exploring the coastline of North America. The English, however, were rather late to enter the exploration game. Because the Spanish and Portuguese had pretty much divided much of Central and South America between them and the Spanish had laid claim to large parts of North America, the English found themselves confined to the east coast of North America. They spent much of their time searching for a northwest passage to China following many bays and estuaries in hopes that they would eventually lead to a shortcut around North America into the Pacific. They were not successful.
Instead, the English decided to lay claim to the east coast of North America before someone else did. The Dutch and the French were also exploring the area so it became a race to see who would control the region. Of course establishing a colony in the midst of hostile Indians, thousands of miles from home would be no easy business. The first English colony was at a place known as Roanoke in what is now North Carolina. Just over a hundred men, women and children were landed in 1587 on this inhospitable coast on a small island surrounded by Indian tribes.
Well, Protestants in England were a mixed group. Some were more tolerant than others. The Puritans were the most conservative and the least tolerant of Catholic religious practices. They wished to “purify” the church of all of its Catholic influences. This extreme view was not really welcome in England where religious tolerance was the established policy of King James !. In fact, the Puritans were making so much trouble in England that the King was looking for some way to get rid of these religious troublemakers. Colonies in the New World were the perfect solution!
There, thousands of miles away they could practice their religion as they liked and nobody back in England would be bothered. In fact, King James used the colonies to get rid of as many troublemakers as he could!
Catholics were sent to Maryland, Quakers were sent to Pennsylvania, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Baptist, and even Lutherans were all encouraged to go to the New World and settle.
Even convicts and people in prison because they were poor were sent off to the colonies especially to Georgia which was closest to the Spanish colony of Florida, the enemy of England. Basically, the New World colonies became a convenient place to get rid of troublemakers of all sorts. If they were all killed or died from disease or starvation, well, no big loss! If they survived, then England could hopefully somehow make a profit from them. It was a win-win situation for England!
Part 3: From Colonies to Independence: 1650 - 1781
Well, the early colonists in America didn’t all die. In fact, most survived and the 13 new English colonies in America began to thrive. Small settlements grew into towns and towns soon grew into cities.
As the settlements grew into towns and cities pressure for more land became very serious. Of course it was not their land to begin with. It was, in fact, all Indian land. The Indians had no idea that so many Europeans would settle on their land and some tribes had in fact sold large amounts of land for a few worthless pieces of costume jewelry. For example, Manahattan, one of the most expensive pieces of land in the world today, was “sold” by the Lenape Indians to some Dutch settlers for about ￥3000.
Of course, many Indians resented the aggressive behaviour of the European colonists. Disputes soon broke out which led to anger and animosity and eventually full-scale war between some colonists and local tribes. Although the Indians were able to kill many colonists initially, they did not practice total war which involved killing women and children and the destruction of food crops and settlements.
An unfortunate example of this cultural difference was the Pequot War between the Pequot Indians and the Massachusetts Bay colonists in 1637.
Pequot who were not burned alive were shot down by the Puritans as they tried to escape. As many as 700 Pequot men, women, and children were killed in just one hour. The slaughter was so violent that even the Puritan’s Indian allies were shocked and pleaded for the Puritans to show mercy. However, none was given.
This rather nasty war pretty much set the stage for what was to occur in the future between colonists and Indians. Small confrontations quickly escalate into total war, with the Indians usually on the losing side. European colonists would often use religion to justify their barbarity towards the Indians. Indians were not Christians and therefore, to some extent, not human. Thus they could be uprooted from their land or exterminated at will.
This idea became one of the central themes of American culture and has been used against any and all enemies at will. It certainly played a part in America’s recent willingness to go to war in Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other countries around the world. Religion can be a convenient tool used by unscrupulous politicians to achieve some state policy.
If you are clever you will remember this the next time you hear some politicians claiming that this person, this religion, this culture, or this country are a threat to your country. Most likely it is all just a great big bag of lies.
Well, the colonies continued to expand and became quite profitable for England. Trade was booming in many New World products like tobacco, potatoes, corn, tomatoes, fish, timber, fur, and countless other products.
In fact, the colonies earned a lot of money for England and were protected from their rivals the French and the Spanish as well by unfriendly Indians by the English army.
Well, one thing led to another and in 1770 when a group of drunken American thugs were shot while throwing snowballs at some British soldiers the media turned them into heroes of independence.
In 1776, the colonies in America decided to separate from England, their mother country. England sent a large army to suppress the rebellion and during the next 5 years of very bloody and senseless warfare many people died.
France and Spain, who were the sworn enemies of England, decided to help the American colonists achieve their independence. By 1781, the situation was militarily and politically hopeless for England. A peace treaty was signed granting America its independence. America, a country of trouble-makers, rabble-rousers, slave-owners, religious zealots, witch burners, and other assorted malcontents was born.
Part 4: Life on the Frontier
The American Revolution began simply as a misunderstanding between Britain and its American colonies but it soon escalated into something much much more deadly. This was especially true on the western frontier of the American colonies.
Remember that the original thirteen colonies bordered the Atlantic coast on the east and to the west were unknown lands, mostly mountainous and full of hostile Indians. Very few Americans lived along the frontier and those that did lived in constant fear of Indian attack. Look at the map above. You can see the colonies' eastern, northern, and southern borders are clearly defined. The western boundaries of the colonies were not. American colonists looking for land were eager to take advantage of this opportunity to grab whatever land they could before someone else did. Greed and poverty pushed settlers westward.
However, this land wasn't vacant. There were people living there. This was Indian land and had been their land for as long as they could remember. The local Indians were not happy with the American colonist taking over land that had traditionally been theirs. However, they were divided over which side to support. Some Indian tribes supported the British who were eager to supply them with weapons and ammunition. Other tribes wished to remain neutral to avoid losing any more land. A few Indian tribes even supported the colonists.
The British and French also claimed large portions of the American continent and were clearly hostile to each other as well as to the American colonists living on the frontier. The fur trade with the Indians brought each side tremendous profits and bothe the French and the British wanted to control this lucrative trade.
Each side involved the local Indian tribes in the war. The British had Indian allies as did the French and the Americans and each side encouraged the Indians to attack their enemy by giving them weapons and plenty of ammunition in return for fur or captured prisoners. The result was catastrophic for all sides.
The war in the eastern half of the colonies away from the frontier was fought between regular military forces and followed certain rules. Women and children were not to be harmed and wounded or captured soldiers were not to be killed. Private property was generally respected. The homes of regular people were not burned or looted by opposing forces. The war only occasionally affected the lives of regular people.
However, on the frontier the war was fought without rules. All sides fought each other by not just attacking military forces but also the families and homes of soldiers of each side.
“When a war party has captured one or more prisoners that cannot be taken away, it is the usual custom to kill them by breaking their heads with the blows of a tomahawk. When he has struck two or three blows, the savage quickly seizes his knife, and makes an incision around the hair from the upper part of the forehead to the back of the neck. Then he puts his foot on the shoulder of the victim, whom he has turned over face down, and pulls the hair off with both hands, from back to front . . . This hasty operation is no sooner finished than the savage fastens the scalp to his belt and goes on his way. This method is only used when the prisoner cannot follow his captor; or when the Indian is pursued.”
Travels in New France by J. C. B (1760)
So, as you can see the war on the western frontier was a bloody, vicious struggle in which no one was safe. Women and children as well as men were scalped and murdered. However, this violence was not one sided. The American settlers took revenge on Indian tribes whom they suspected of being involved in these attacks. Settlers raided Indian villages and usually killed anyone and everyone regardless of age or sex. However, it was often difficult for the settlers to distinguish an enemy tribe from a friendly tribe and thus, many friendly or neutral Indians were also killed.
To be fair, the British were responsible for much of this violence because they offered the Indians money for white scalps and armed and encouraged the Indians to attack settler’s homes and families rather than organized military forces. You see, the British wanted to create a panic on the western frontier so that American soldiers fighting in the eastern half of the colonies would desert the American army and return home to defend their families. This would weaken the already under strength American colonial army and force them to send men and resources to defend the western frontier. It was a dirty way of fighting a war and would be considered a war crime even by today’s lax standards.
So, what was it like to be a settler living on the western frontier during the American Revolution? Well, there are quite a few first-hand accounts of life during this terrible period. Today, we will hear the story of one familｙ’s adventure on the frontier in western Pennsylvania in 1777. This particular story is quite famous and has been made into a book and may be made into a movie in the near future. It is about a mother and father and their six children. The father was named “Adam” and the mother was known as “Eve”. Their six children were George, Mary, Jacob, Johannas, Henry and Michael,--the eldest being about fifteen years of age and the youngest about two.
This family was typical of many families living on the frontier at this time in American history. They were first-generation Americans. Adam’s father and mother had come from Germany to America in the 1740s. When Adam was old enough he had married Eve and had started a family. However, good land in the eastern part of the colony was expensive. It was difficult for a young farmer to find any land which he could afford to buy. So, Adam and Eve decided to seek a new life together on the western frontier where land was cheap and, in some cases, even free for the taking.
In 1775, they gathered everything they owned, put it in a wagon pulled by horses and headed west. For the first few days they passed many large farms and a few small towns. But the further west they went the fewer people they met. Eventually the road came to an end and all that was left was a narrow trail that led towards the mountains. The forest on either side of the trail was dark and forbidding. Wild animals like panthers, bears, and deer lived there along with a few scattered tribes of Indians. At the end of the trail was a small fort known as Fort Bedford.
Adam and his family enquired about cheap land at the fort and were told to follow a creek nine miles to the north and there they could find plenty of empty land. All they had to do was clear the land and build a house. They were told that there were Indians in the area so they should be careful and carry a weapon at all times. There were a few other settlers along the creek and they would help the new family get established.
Over the next two years the family of Adam and Eve built a cabin and began to clear the land.
Occasionally the family heard rumors of war with England. In those days news travelled slowly and people living in isolated farms on the western frontier were unlikely to have knowledge of things happening in the densely populated, eastern half of the colony. The first real sign of war was when many of the younger men along the frontier were asked to join the colonial army. They were experienced woodsmen who were used to handling guns and many had experience fighting with the Indians.
But for Adam and his family these were distant events that had little impact on their daily lives on the frontier. However, this was soon to change. The war was to come to the frontier and in an entirely unexpected way. One morning Adam and two men from a nearby farm were having breakfast in front of the big fireplace in Adam’s cabin. The men were going to help Adam and George build a fence and they were there early to start work before the heat of the day made the work too hard. Henry, age 5 was playing quietly in the kitchen while his mother prepared breakfast for the rest of the children who were still sleeping in the loft over their heads. Suddenly, the door to the cabin burst open and in rushed a number of screaming Indians covered in war paint and brandishing heavy steel-bladed hatchets and long knives.
Adam reached for his gun but was struck down by one of the Indians before he could defend his home. George leapt from his bed near the fireplace and made a dash to escape through a window but was shot at by one of the Indians.
Eve managed to climb into the loft with Henry and Michael, the youngest, who was just two years old. Below her the Indians were fighting over a brightly covered blanket that covered one of the beds. Eve tried to climb through the hole in the roof but was spotted by the Indians who pulled her and the two children down from the loft onto the scalped and bleeding bodies of her husband and their two neighbors. The Indians grabbed Eve by her hair and threatened to scalp her and the two children but Eve pleaded for their lives.
Over the next few weeks the Indians forced Eve and her children to flee with them through the woods. Eve had no idea where they were going and what would happen to them. All she thought of was to keep what was left of her family together. Eventually, when she felt could not walk another step they reached an Indian village and were allowed a few days rest. In the village they met a few other white settlers who had been captured by the Indians in other raids. From them she learned that they were all going to be taken far away to Fort Detroit where the British army would buy them from the Indians and keep them as prisoners.
A few days later the Indians collected their prisoners and tied them all together in a long line. They began the next stage of their journey to Ft. Detroit which was to take many weeks. The route the Indians took led them across the mountains and into land that few white people had ever seen. There were no settlers in this part of America at that time. Eve had little time or strength to appreciate the scenery. She, along with the other prisoners, was forced to keep the Indians fast pace day after day until they reached the British fort at Detroit. Exhausted and bruised, her dress torn and tattered Eve and the other prisoners were lined up for the British to inspect while the Indians attempted to get as much money, whisky, and guns for their captives as they could.
Even in her exhausted condition Eve pleaded with a British officer to keep her and her children together. Henry, after many months with the Indians was now more Indian than white. He was happy to stay with the Indians who tried to pull him away from Eve as she pleaded with the British soldiers to help her. One British officer felt sorry for her and offered them a chance to escape inside the fort by distracting the Indians with a bottle of whisky. While the Indians fought over the whisky, the soldiers led her and her children into the fort and then shut the gate leaving the confused and angry Indians outside. The Indians didn’t give up, however. They spent the next few days outside the fort calling for Henry to join them. Eve never let Henry out of her sight even for a minute. If she had, he would have slipped out of the fort, joined the Indians and never been seen again.
Eve spent the next eight years working as a slave for the British in Fort Detroit. She washed their clothes, chopped wood and worked in the gardens. Henry was sent to the fields to work as well. Michael was too small and spent most of these years in the fort with the other captive children running errands for the soldiers and helping where they could. Although it was a hard life, Eve had kept her two children with her and they were safe from the Indians. From other captive settlers she learned that her other four children were still alive near Bedford. They had been taken care of by other settlers after the death of Adam.
Eventually, the war ended and the captive settlers were told they could go home. This was great news to Eve and her family but home was over 500 kilometers away through Indian territory. Undaunted, Eve bought a small chest and a mule and together with Henry and Michael began the long journey home. After many weeks of walking Eve finally reached her old home near Bedford only to find it had been abandoned. Her surviving children were nowhere in sight. She walked to a neighbor’s house who told her that her eldest son, George, was working in a nearby field. Excited and apprehensive, Eve walked to the field and saw a fully-grown man working in the field. As she approached him she called out to him but he seemed not to recognize her. George, as well as everyone else in the neighborhood, thought Eve, Henry and Michael were dead. George was so shocked when he realized that the old woman standing in the field was his long, lost mother that he fainted. He thought he had seen a ghost!
Eventually, Eve reunited the surviving members of her family. The entire community around Bedford came to the celebration. Many came for news of their own missing relatives while others just came to hear Eve’s story of survival. Her story became famous and thereafter she was always known as “Indian Eve”. She died surrounded by her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in 1815.