American History: Exploration and Settlement
: Conflict and Cooperation
Conflicts and cooperation between the Native Americans, Europeans, and Africans influenced life in America.
At first, Native Americans helped the colonists in Virginia and Plymouth to survive the first years and taught them to plant crops that would grow in the New World such as tobacco and corn. As more settlers came to the New World for land, the Native Americans resisted the new settlers. Many wars were fought between the colonists and the Native Americans.
With Robert La Salle’s claim, the French had moved into the Ohio River Valley and claimed this land for France. The English colonists and their mother country together went to war with their traditional enemy - the French and their colonists - to protect their claims. Many Native American tribes fought on the side of the French against the English/colonists. In America, this war is called The French and Indian War, naming the two opponents of the English. In Europe this final conflict was called the Seven Years War because of the length of time it was fought.
Why did the Native Americans fight alongside the French? The French had established good working relationships with the natives because of their fur trading. Few French settlers came to the New World and the ones who came did not take much land for families or settlement. In other words, the French did not threaten the Native Americans’ way of life as the American colonists did. Most of the Native American groups allied with the French were hoping that a French victory would limit the expansion of the English colonies to the Appalachian Mountains.
However, some Native Americans fought with the English because of their rivalries with other tribes. The Iroquois Confederation, the Catawba and the Cherokee, all helped the British side to win the French and Indian War. This forced the French to lose control of their North American land claims. Many Native Americans lost their longstanding trading partners/military allies and found their ways of life greatly disrupted.
Plantation owners considered slaves to be their property and were often sold without warning. Slaves wanted to acquire their freedom from plantation owners. Some enslaved Africans rebelled against the poor living conditions and abusive treatment of certain slave owners.
However, slave revolts like South Carolina’s Stono Rebellion were largely unsuccessful. Some were discovered before the revolt could be carried out; others were quickly and brutally put down. The result was harsher regulation and control of the slave population and the introduction of slave codes. Slave codes were use to regulate and monitor the behavior of slaves in the colonies. The codes included rules such as limiting slaves’ education, purchases, and ability to sell goods. Slaves were also not allowed to travel without their master’s permission. Such revolts also made the slave owners and the white population more fearful of the enslaved African population because the enslaved population already outnumbered the free population. In order to maintain an oppressive system, some Southerners used violence and intimidation. Although slaves continued to resist their captivity through work slowdowns, feigned illnesses, breaking tools, and running away, few were successful in escaping the bonds of slavery.
Some slaves did escape the bonds of slavery by heading north. Still some in the north were able to work to purchase their freedom and the freedom of other slaves. These free Africans were able to find work as artisans or apprentices in the New England colonies.
There was some cooperation between slaves and Native Americans. For instance, runaway slaves in South Carolina fled to Florida where they joined Native American tribes like the Seminole (which means runaway). However, there were other Native American tribes that adopted the practice of slavery.