Chapter Three: Living in the New World

Chapter Three

 Living in the New World



Native peoples quickly learned that colonization brought significant change, so far-reaching that it could create a New World for native peoples.  But Indians did not wait passively for Europeans to arrive and for their history to begin.  Europeans, who in the seventeenth century still clung to the edge of a continent dominated by native peoples, with its own histories, cultures, and capitals, confronted native peoples who had their own agendas, and as a result the newcomers’ plans for carving out American empires never worked out in quite the way that they had envisioned.

To Learn More

A vast literature exists on the Iroquois League and the nature of the warfare that lacerated Iroquoia in the seventeenth century.  The debate can be followed through time in the works of George T. Hunt, The Wars of the Iroquois: A Study in Intertribal Trade Relations, reprint, (Madison: University Press of Wisconsin, 1940); Daniel K. Richter, The Ordeal of the Longhouse: The Peoples of the Iroquois League in the Era Of European Colonization, (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1992) and his path-breaking article, “War and Culture: The Iroquois Experience,” William and Mary Quarterly, 40 (1983), 528-559; Jose Antonio Brandao, “Iroquois Expansion in the Seventeenth Century: A Review of Causes,” European Review of Native American Studies, 15 (no.2, 2000), 7-18 and Your Fyre Shall Burn No More: Iroquois Policy Toward New France and Its Native Allies to 1701, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997).  The most recent addition to this vast literature is Jon Parmenter, The Edge of the Woods: Iroquoia, 1534-1701, (Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2012).  Also worth noting is Stephen Saunders Webb’s 1676: The End of American Independence, (New York: Knopf, 1984).  For Dutch-Iroquois relations, see Allen Trelease, Indian Affairs in Colonial New York: The Seventeenth Century, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1960), which is still useful despite its age, and Matthew Dennis, Cultivating a Landscape of Peace: Iroquois-European Encounters

In Seventeenth Century America, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993). Also useful is Susanah Shaw Romney, New Netherland Connections: Intimate Networks and Atlantic Ties in Seventeenth-Century America, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014). For the war against the Hurons see Roger M. Carpenter, The Renewed, the Destroyed, and the Remade: The Three Thought Worlds of the Iroquois and the Huron, 1609-1650, (East Lansing, MI, 2004) and the classic by Bruce Trigger, The Children of Aaetaentsic: A History of the Huron People to 1660, (Montreal, 1976).

For the history of the Mohegans in the second half of the seventeenth-century, in addition to those works listed for Chapter Two, see Virginia De John Anderson’s excellent essay, “King Philip’s Herds: The Problem of Livestock in Early New England.” William and Mary Quarterly, 51 (1994), 601-624; James D. Drake, King Philip’s War: Civil War in New England, 1675-1676, (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999) and David J. Silverman and Julie Fisher, Ninigret: Sachem of the Niantics and Narragansetts, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2014).

For Jesuit missions to the Haudenosaunee and elsewhere in the seventeenth century Northeast, there is a large and impressive literature.  In addition to those works by Richter, Dennis, and Parmenter listed above, see James P. Ronda, “The Sillery Experiment: A Jesuit-Indian Village in New France, 1637-1663,” American Indian Culture and Research Journal, 3 (1979), 1-18; Daniel K. Richter, “Iroquois vs. Iroquois: Jesuit Missions and Christianity in Village Politics, 1642-1686,” Ethnohistory, 22 (1985), 1-16; and Allan Greer, Mohawk Saint: Catherine Tekakwitha and the Jesuits, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006).  David Preston included a wonderful account of the founding of Kanawake in The Texture of Contact: European and Indian Settler Communities on the Frontiers of Iroquoia, 1667-1763, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009)

For Puritan efforts to establish “Praying Towns” among New England Algonquians, see Elise M. Brenner, “To Pray or Be Prey, That is the Question: Strategies for Cultural Autonomy of Massachusetts Praying Town Indians,” Ethnohistory, 27 (1980), 135-152; Ann Marie Plane,  Colonial Intimacies: Indian Marriage in Early New England, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000); James P. Ronda, “Generations of  Faith: The Christian Indians of Martha’s Vineyard,” William and Mary Quarterly, 38 (1981), 369-394; Neal Salisbury, “`I Loved the Place of My Dwelling’: Puritan Missionaries and Native Americans in Seventeenth Century Southern New England,” in Inequality in Early America, ed. Carla Gardina Pestana and Sharon V. Salinger, (Hanover, NH, 1999), David Silverman, Faith and Boundaries: Colonists, Christianity and Community Among the Wampanoag  Indians of Martha’s Vineyard, 1600-1871, (New York: Cambridge, 2005) and “Indians, Missionaries and Religious Translation: Creating Wampanoag Christianity In Seventeenth-Century Martha’s Vineyard, William and Mary Quarterly, 62 (April 2005), 141-174; and Harold W. Van Lonkhuyzen, “A Reappraisal of the Praying Indians: Acculturation, Conversion and Identity in Natick, Massachusetts, 1646-1730,” New England Quarterly, 63 (1990).  The works listed for the Mohegans, above, contain as well a great deal of discussion of Algonquian relationships with Puritan missionaries.

For King Philip’s War, see Michael Leroy Oberg, Uncas: First of the Mohegans, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003); and Daniel Mandell’s excellent overview, King Philip’s War: Colonial Expansion, Native Resistance, and the End of Indian Sovereignty, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010); Lisa Brooks, Our Beloved Kin: A New History of King Philip’s War, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018); Ann M. Little, Abraham in Arms, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006), Jill Lepore, The Name of War: King Philip’s War and the Origins of American Identity (New York: Knopf, 1998) and Francis Jennings, The Ambiguous Iroquois Empire: The Covenant Chain Confederation Of Indian Tribes with the English Colonies, (New York: Norton, 1984) in addition to the works listed above. On Daniel Garacontié and the founding of the Anglo-Iroquois alliance, see Webb, 1676 and Oberg, Dominion and Civility, Chapters Four and Five.

In addition to the works on the Powhatans listed in Chapter 2, see James Rice, Tales from a Revolution: Bacon’s Rebellion and the Transformation of Early America, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012) and “Bacon’s Rebellion in Indian Country,” Journal of American History, 101 (2014), 726-750.  Wilcomb Washburn’s The Governor and the Rebel: A History of Bacon’s Rebellion, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1957) is an important history of the period, as is Edmund Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia, (New York: Norton, 1975).  Oberg, Dominion and Civility, Webb, 1676, and Jennings, Ambiguous Iroquois Empire all attempt to integrate the story of Bacon’s Rebellion into the broader history of the Atlantic World. For enslavement of Indigenous peoples in colonial Virginia, see the excellent article by Rebecca Anne Goetz, “The Nanziatticos and the Violence of the Archive: Land and Native Enslavement in Colonial Virgnia,” Journal of Southern History, 85 (2019), 33-60.

The formation of the Covenant Chain alliance looms large in the historiography of the Haudenosaunee. For varying interpretations, see Webb, 1676, Oberg, Dominion and Civility, Parmenter, Edge of the Woods, Jennings, Ambiguous Iroquois Empire, and Daniel K. Richter,  The Ordeal of the Longhouse: The Peoples of the Iroquois League in the Era Of European Colonization, (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1992). A recent work worth your time is Evan Haefeli, “Becoming a nation of Statesmen: The Mohicans’ Incorporation into the Iroquois League, 1671-1675,” New England Quarterly, 93 (September 2020), 414-461.

For the Dakota Sioux, see Gary Clayton Anderson’s excellent Kinsmen of Another Kind: Dakota-White Relations in the Upper Mississippi Valley, 1650-1862, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984).  For the Potawatomis, see James A. Clifton, The Prairie People: Continuity and Change in Potawatomi Indian Culture, 1665-1965, (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1998); and R. David Edmunds, The Potawatomis: Keepers of the Fire, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1978).  Generally useful and important on this period are Cornelius Jaenen, Friend and Foe: Aspects of French-Amerindian Cultural Contact in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976); Brett Rushforth, Bonds of Alliance: Indigenous and Atlantic Slaveries in New France, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012); Richard White, The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991) and Michael Witgen, An Infinity of Nations: How the Native New World Shaped Early North America, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012) and Michael McDonnell, Masters of Empire: Great Lakes Indians and the Making of America, (New York: Hill and Wang, 2016).

The last quarter of the seventeenth century saw disruption across North America.  The Pueblo Revolt is an important part of that story. To learn more about this event, see Ramon Gutierrez, When Jesus Came the Corn Mothers Went Away, (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1991); Elizabeth A. H. John, Storms Brewed in Other Men’s Worlds: The Confrontation of Indians, Spanish, and French in the Southwest, 1540-1795 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1975); John L. Kessell, Kiva, Cross and Crown: The Pecos Indians and New Mexico, 1540-1840, 2nd ed., (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1987); and Andrew L. Knaut, The Pueblo Revolt: Conquest and Resistance in Seventeenth-Century New Mexico, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995).  Generally useful for this period are James Brooks, Mesa of Sorrows: A History of the Awat’ovi Massacre, (New York: Norton, 2016) and Captives and Cousins: Slavery, Kinship and Community in the Southwest  Borderlands, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002).  John Kessell’s “A Long Time Coming: The Seventeenth-Century Pueblo-Spanish War,” New Mexico Historical Review 86 (April 2011), 141-156, is an excellent, brief overview.

On the rise of equestrianism, and what it meant for the peoples of the Plains, see Colin Calloway, One Vast Winter Count: The Native American West Before Lewis and Clark, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003); Dan Flores, “Bison Ecology and Bison Diplomacy: The Southern Plains from 1800 To 1850,” Journal of American History, 78 (September 1991), 465-485; and Pekka Hämäläinen, The Comanche Empire., (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009) and  “The Rise and Fall of Plains Indian Horse Cultures,” JAH, 81 (December 2003); Thomas Kavanaugh, The Comanches: A History, 1706-1875, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999); Mildred Mayhall, The Kiowas, 2nd ed., (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971);

For early relations between the Caddos and their would-be colonial overlords, see Juliana Barr, Peace Came in the Form of a Woman: Indians and Spaniards in the Texas Borderlands, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007); Kathleen Du Val, The Native Ground: Indians and Colonists in the Heart of the Continent, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006); George Sabo, III, “Encounters and Images: European Contact and the Caddo Indians,” Historical Reflections, 21 (no.2, 1995), 217-242 and F. Todd Smith, The Caddo Indians: Tribes at the Convergence of Empire, 1542-1854, (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1995).

On the treaties of 1701 that secured, for a time, neutrality for the Haudenosaunee, see the works by Richter, Parmenter, and Brandao listed above, all of which cover closely Iroquois diplomacy, as well as Jose Antonio Brandao and William A. Starna, “The Treaties of 1701: A Triumph of Iroquois Diplomacy,” Ethnohistory 43 (1996), 209-244 and William N. Fenton, The Ordeal of the Longhouse: A Political History of the Iroquois Confederacy, (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998).

On the seventeenth-century history of the Cherokees and Southeastern native nations generally, see Kathryn E. Holland Braund, Deerskins and Duffels: The Creek Indian Trade with Anglo-America, 1685-1815, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1993); Tyler Boulware, Deconstructing the Cherokee Nation: Town, Region and Nation Among Eighteenth-Century Cherokees (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2011); James Taylor Carson, Searching for the Bright Path: The Mississippi Choctaws from Prehistory to Removal, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999; Verner W. Crane, The Southern Frontier, 1670-1732, (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1929; Robbie Etheridge, Creek Country: The Creek Indians and Their World, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003); Patricia Galloway, Choctaw Genesis, 1500-1700, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995); Tom Hatley, The Dividing Paths: Cherokees and South Carolinians Through the Era Of Revolution, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995); Charles Hudson, The Southeastern Indians, (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1976); Joshua Piker, Okfuskee: A Creek Indian Town in Colonial America, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004); Gregory D. Smithers, The Cherokee Diaspora: An Indigenous History of Migration, Resettlement, and Identity (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015

On the Indian slave trade, see the essays in Robbie Etheridge and Sheri M. Shuck-Hall, Mapping the Mississippian Shatter Zone: The Colonial Indian Slave Trade and Regional Instability in the American South, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009); Alan Gallay, The Indian Slave Trade: The Rise of the English Empire in the American South, 1670-1717, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002); Paul Kelton, Epidemics and Enslavement: Biological Catastrophe in the Native Southeast, 1492-1715, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2007);

William L. Ramsey, The Yamasee War.  (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2008); and Christine Snyder, Slavery in Indian Country: The Changing Face of Captivity in Early America, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2010)


The Jesuit Relations, an incredibly significant collection of primary source material written by French priests in the American Northeast has been made available online.  Instructors and students will find a wealth of material here to write about and to discuss in class.  Also useful is Allan Greer’s edited version, The Jesuit Relations: Natives and Missionaries in Seventeenth Century North America (Boston: Bedford, 2000) is also highly useful.  The film Black Robe (1991) is based upon a reading of the Jesuit Relations.

The Eastern Door is a weekly newspaper published in Kahnawake that gives insights into the community and its concerns. Tracey Deer has made two documentaries about life at Kahnawake, “Mohawk girls” (2005) and “Club Native” (2008).

The writings of that Puritan apostle to the Indians, John Eliot, are available online.  The Day-Breaking, if not the Sun-Rising, of the Gospel is available here while Tears of Repentence is available here.  A fantastic collection of maps designed to accompany Lisa Brooks’ The Common Pot: The Recovery of Native Space in the Northeast, (St. Paul: University of Minnesota Press, 2008) is available.  They will be useful to students and instructors for this chapter, and the two that follow as well.  Students interested in reading about Indian converts to Christianity who lived on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, would do well to consult with the Indian Converts Collection placed online by Reed College.  The American Antiquarian Society has placed some of its valuable collection online as well in the form of a wonderful exhibition entitled “From English to Algonquian: Early New England Translations.”  The collection sheds light on the efforts of New England ministers to make available to native peoples Christian teachings in their own languages.  Hubbard’s history of King Philip’s War is available online, and the proceedings of Connecticut Colony’s council of war are included in the online version of the Connecticut Colonial Records.  The proceedings provide an excellent window into how Connecticut, and its Indian allies, managed the fury of King Philip’s War.  You can follow the links here to read more.

Many of the most important documents related to Bacon’s Rebellion and its Indian history have been published in Michael Leroy Oberg, ed., Samuel Wiseman’s Book of Record: The Official Account of Bacon’s Rebellion in Virginia, (Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2005).  The online Encyclopedia of Virginia has the 1677 Treaty of Middle Plantation available, which is enormously useful for the light it sheds on how native peoples lived in Virginia, the challenges they faced, and how imperial officials saw them fitting into their goals for North America.  Also here are articles on Sir William Berkeley, Cockacoeske, and Nathaniel Bacon. For the efforts of Sir Edmund Andros to bring the colonies to heel in the wake of the uprisings of the 1670s, see the Livingston Indian Records, and Volume 3 of the Documents Relative to the Colonial History of New York State.

The best source for the Potawatomis during these years remains The Jesuit Relations, linked to above. For the Pueblo Revolt, Pedro Naranjo’s account is available on the History Matters website; Otermin’s here.  A valuable essay written by esteemed historian Edward Countryman is available on the Gilder Lehrman Institute website.

La Salle’s journeys can be read about here.  On Damiam Massanet, follow the links on this Humanities Texas website.

For the Iroquois in the last quarter of the seventeenth century, see the Ganondagan State Historic Site website. A fun map of the region is available here.  The charter of the colony of Carolina is available on the Avalon Project website while Salley’s Narratives of Early Carolina is on Google Books. Thomas Nairne’s journals are in print and widely available.  On John Lawson’s death during the Tuscarora War, click here.

Assignments and Study Questions

  1.  The concept of guswenta, and its connection to the Two-Row Wampum belt mentioned in this chapter, offers an opportunity to show students just how politicized the past can become.  Students can explore the controversy, which resurfaced in upstate New York in 2013.  Several decades ago, A. G Van Loon claimed to have discovered a 1613 treaty between the Dutch and the Mohawks.  Scholars were unconvinced, calling the Van Loon document a fraud. (See Charles T. Gehring, William A. Starna and Willian N. Fenton, “The Tawagonshi Treaty of 1613: The Final Chapter,” New York History (October 1987), 373-393).  Despite Gehring, Starna and Fenton’s work, Iroquois belief in the Two-Row and its importance remains strong, as a Google News Search will reveal.  The Journal of Early American History devoted an entire issue to the controversy in 2013.  Students might benefit from reading about the Two Row, the controversy it has generated, and answer the important question of why this has become so polarizing an issue.
  2. Epidemic disease had an enormous effect on native communities throughout the Americas.  What were those effects?  How did disease change Native American communities?
  3. To what extent did Christianity become a Native American religion in the seventeenth century in North America?
  4. The Treaty of Middle Plantation, negotiated between the King’s Commissioners sent to Virginia in the wake of Bacon’s Rebellion and the remnants of Wahunsonacock’s chiefdom provides a wonderful opportunity to teach students important lessons about the nature of the Anglo-Indian exchange. Based upon a close reading of this treaty, what did imperial officials hope to achieve in terms of their relations with tributary native peoples like the Powahtans? What obstacles kept them from obtaining those objectives?  What does the Treaty tell us about the lived experience of Powhatan peoples who lived on the edge of English settlements on the Virginia frontier?
  5. King Philip’s War in New England and Bacon’s Rebellion in Virginia: The two great crises of seventeenth century Anglo-America.  What did these two important conflicts have in common? What forces compelled some native peoples to take up arms against English settlers?  What role did the Five Nations of the Iroquois play in the resolution of these crises?  Can the 1680 Pueblo Revolt in the northern reaches of New Spain be considered an analogous conflict? In what ways did it fit the pattern in the English colonies and where did it differ?
  6. Historians generally are suspicious of historical explanations that view a certain historical event as inevitable.  Still, it is worth noting that in early America, conflict emerged regularly within a decade or so of initial English settlement?   European promoters of colonization spoke of the peaceful settlement of Anglo-America, but it seldom worked out that way. Was was finding common ground so difficult?

A Discussion Forum for Teaching and Writing Native American History