The American Revolution was a war waged by the 13 American Colonies to overthrow British rule and become an independent nation. Historians agree that it began with the “shot heard round the world” in the battle of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775 and officially ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1783. The end result was a new nation and a new form of government that inspired the creation of democracies around the world.
When studying history it is important to see events and time periods from many different viewpoints, especially those that have historically been marginalized. There are many unsung heroes of the Revolutionary war including the many Native Americans who fought alongside the British and on the Patriot side. Here are some of their contributions.
TRYING TO REMAIN NEUTRAL
Early on, Oneida leaders sent a message to the New York governor: "We are unwilling to join either side of such a contest, for we love you both, Old England and New. Should the Great King of England apply us for aid, we should deny him - and should the colonies apply, we shall refuse. We Indians cannot find or recollect from the traditions of our ancestors any like case."
Mohawk leaders Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea) and his sister Molly Brant (Degonwadonti) used their great influence to convince the Iroquois Confederacy to support the British and provided valuable aid.
British North America
Treaty of Paris1783The United States of America retains the land from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River.
The Indigenous peoples of North America had long faced conflict, death, and removal from their lands at the hands of the American colonists. When the Revolution broke out many wanted to stay neutral, even though it was difficult. The British and Americans each vied for their aid while also at times decimating Native American villages taking food and supplies causing widespread hunger and hardship.
Many feared that the Colonists would settle westward, further encroaching on their lands. Because of this, most First Nations allied with the British. The Cherokees, Creeks, and others in the south, along with the Iroquois Confederacy in the north, provided aid to the British who were unfamiliar with the landscape.
The Oneida and Tuscarora broke with the Iroquois Confederacy, ending the centuries old Great Peace of the Haudenosaunee, and supported the Americans along with the Stockbridge, helping scout and conduct raids. Chief Guyashuta of the Ohio Senecas, Chief Cornstalk of the Shawnees, and Chief White Eyes of the Delawares tried to maintain peace, but switched allegiances after American soldiers killed Cornstalk and White Eyes and slaughtered a village of peaceful Moravian Delawares without cause.
In 1783, the British surrendered the 13 colonies as well as the land west of the Mississippi River. Some Native Americans that aided the British fled to Canada while others remained and continued to fight to regain relations with the Americans and retain their land. Stockbridges and Oneidas who had supported the Americans lost lands, as well as Senecas and Shawnees who had fought against them. The new United States continued to expand, taking Native American lands by treaty and by force.