Native American Conflicts and Wars

Colonial Days


English colonists settled Jamestown in 1607. The friendly chief Powhatan ruled the confederated tribes in the area. A few years after he died in 1618 Opechancanough became chief. The new leader hated the English and planned secretly to destroy their settlements. At this time, Jamestown and the other English colonies in Virginia had fewer than 4,000 settlers. In March 1622, Opechancanough led a furious assault along a 140 mile (225 kilometer) front and killed 347 colonists. The survivors retreated to Jamestown, and laid plans to massacre the Native Americans. The settlers invited the tribes to plant corn. In the fall, the whites attached. They destroyed the fields of corn, killed many of the Native Americans, and left the rest to starve. Twelve years of warfare followed. They made peace with the whites in 1634, but Opechancanough attached again in 1634 and killed over 300 English people but were finally defeated after a fierce two day battle.

The Pequot War (1637)

New England colonists feared the Pequot tribe of the Connecticut River Valley more than any other tribe on the area. In 1636, Massachusetts settlers accused a Pequot of murdering a colonist. In revenge, the settlers burned a Pequot village on what is now Block Island, Rhode Island. Then Sassacus, the head of Pequot chief, gathered his warriors together. Another chief, Uncas, helped the settlers with his band of Pequot (later called Mohegan). The colonists and the Native American allies attached a Pequot village near West Mystic, Connecticut, at sunrise on June 5, 1637.They burned alive between 600 and 700 Pequot. Cotton Mather, the Puritan scholar, wrote that the colonists thought this "a sweet sacrifice, and & gave the praise thereof to God." Later that month, the colonists captured most of the remaining Pequot and sold them into slavery in Bermuda

King Philip's War (1675-1676)

Massasoit, the chief of the Wampanoag, had been a great friend of the Plymouth colonists. But they treated his two sons Alexander (Wamsutta) and Philip (Metacomet), unfairly. After Philip became chief in 1662, he began plotting against the colonists because he felt that his people could survive only by driving the whites out. In June 1675, he led an attack on Swansea, Massachusetts. During the next year, both sides raided villages and massacred hundreds of victims. The colonists captured Philip's wife and son and sold them into slavery. New England troops finally trapped Philip with the help of a large force of a neighboring tribe called the Narragansett in a swamp near South Kingstown, Rhode Island. They defeated Wampanoag, ending the war in southern New England. Philip escaped but was hunted down and killed in 1676. Fighting in northern New England continued until 1678. In subsequent attacks more than 1,000 colonists were killed and completely destroyed 12 towns.

The Pueblo Revolt (1680-1692)

Spaniards began moving into what is now Arizona and New Mexico as early as 1540. They conquered more than 100 villages. Spanish soldiers and priests set up a forced-labor system almost like slavery and prevented the desert people from worshiping their ancient gods. Finally they struck back. Led by Pope, from San Juan pueblo, they attacked several Spanish settlements in August 1680, 400 Spaniards were killed and they besieged 1,000 more in Santa Fe. After several days without water, the Spaniards escaped to El Paso del Norte (now El Paso, Texas) and Pope became the master of New Mexico.

The desert people then were able to rule for 12 years and destroyed almost every trace of the Roman Catholic Church. But Spanish soldiers under Diego de Vargas easily reconquered the territory in 1962, after Pope's death.

The French and Indian Wars (1689-1763)

This was actually one long struggle between France and Britain (Hundreds Years War). Both countries tried to win help from the Native Americans by bribing them with liquor and guns. Most Algonquian-speaking tribes had always been friendly to the French. So the Iroquois, who were traditional enemies of the Algonquian tribes, sided with the British.

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