Cover image for In a barren land : the American Indian quest for cultural survival, 1607 to the present
In a barren land : the American Indian quest for cultural survival, 1607 to the present
Marks, Paula Mitchell, 1951-
Publication Information:
New York : Perennial, 2002.

Physical Description:
xxiv, 451 pages: illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
General Note:
Map of locations of federally recognized tribes in 1990.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E98.L3 M375 1998C Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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A prize-winning historian of America's westward expansion, Paula Mitchell Marks, presents the first comprehensive account of how the United States government and white settlers collaborated to seize the land on which the Native Americans had lived for centuries. Her tragic and appalling story covers all regions of the country, beginning in 1607 and ending in the present. It offers a startling narrative of what happened to this country's original settlers and dramatically illustrates how their attempts to adapt to an alien culture were thwarted by betrayals and power plays that still affect their descendants. The book not only recreates such famous events as the Trail of Tears and the Battle of Little Big Horn, but even more tellingly rediscovers forgotten policies and little-known heroes and villains.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Marks follows Precious Dust (1994), her prizewinning history of nineteenth-century America's gold-lust, with the chronicle of how its original inhabitants lost the West. She shows that although there may not have been a conscious, formal program to expunge Indians from what became the U.S., European invaders and their descendants were so determined to turn the land to their own uses that what occurred was virtually the same thing. The Indians survived, though, to challenge the historic concept of U.S. nationhood as a melting pot of diverse ethnic identities by remaining, as they were also forced to be, separate from the rest of the country's people. (They also challenge some of the cultural conceptions thrust on them, such as the term Native American; their resistance to that designation is why Marks uses Indian, which she says they prefer.) Refraining from heavy interpretation, Marks just lays out what happened when and by what means. So doing, she relates things that the vast preponderance of Americans will never have heard of. (Reviewed April 15, 1998)0688141439Ray Olson

Publisher's Weekly Review

Marks has proven herself a skilled historian, having won the Western Writers of America Award for Precious Dust. However, her latest will probably be viewed as a valiant, but flawed, effort. She has taken on a topic‘American Indians' forced divestiture of their ancestral lands by European immigrants‘that is perhaps impossible to properly embrace in a single volume. Marks not only spans a good portion of a continent, but also follows, in chronological order, the full 500 years of Native American-European relations, from their first encounters with each other to Indian land claims of the 1990s. In the first half especially, Marks's attempts to cover every instance of Indian removal undermines her book's cohesion (just when the reader is getting acquainted with John Ross and the Cherokees, up pop the Chickasaws). As time‘and pages‘go by, the government's Indian policy becomes more unified, and so does Marks's narrative. If the sheer amplitude of the persecutions is daunting, there is still something to be gained by the recitation of it; we can look back and proclaim our ancestors despicable, now that Americans have stolen all the land humanly possible from its first inhabitants. It also becomes clear that less has changed over the past millennium than we might like to think, and that John C. Calhoun's early-19th-century dictum on the treatment of Native American still holds: "Our views of their interest, and not their own, ought to govern them." 8-page b&w photo insert. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Marks, whose recent book about the gold rush, Precious Dust (LJ 2/15/94), won the Western Writers of America nonfiction award, examines the white conquest of Native Americas' lands from 1607 to the present‘a constant and enveloping dispossession that, she notes, still causes problems today. Covering a specific time period in each chapter, she also addresses the complex bureaucratic political situation Native Americans now face as they attempt to manage their own resources. More important, she illustrates how the many Native American tribes and their leaders attempted to adapt to an alien culture. Ably blending various sources and photographs with contemporary historical scholarship, she reveals some long-forgotten policies regarding Natives' rights to land and self-governance while bringing to life important facts about little-known historical figures. Recommended for public and academic libraries.‘Vicki L. Toy Smith, Univ. of Nevada, Reno (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One "An Uneasiness on Our Minds" (1607-1764) We told you a little while ago that we had an uneasiness on our minds, and we shall now tell you what it is: it is concerning our lands. --Mohawk speaker, Albany Congress, 1754 They were strange and rather pitiful, the voyagers who sailed into the bay and up the river and began scratching out an odd sort of village on a swampy peninsula. They showed little ability at gathering or growing things to eat, at fishing or hunting. They did not adapt well to the climate and grew sick. They fought among themselves and failed to make proper seasonal provisions. Surely they would tire of such an existence and go back to their own lands. At one point, the whole group did sail away. But soon they returned.     The natives of the bay area at first found this incursion only mildly disturbing. They had repeatedly come in contact with crews of ships from across the ocean. The natives no doubt knew of the short-lived village of voyagers on an island to the south some three decades earlier, and they easily recalled that in the same period one of their own number, a young man who had been kidnapped by a ship's crew, had returned in a vessel accompanied by eight men in long robes.     These men had constructed a lone wooden "mission" on a river feeding into the bay. A group of natives, perhaps angered by the missionaries' attitude toward their own religion, perhaps eager to avenge the kidnapping of natives by ship crews, had killed the eight after only a few months' coexistence.     Now the natives killed a few of the newcomers forging into their hunting grounds. Others they helped, sharing food supplies and showing them how to plant corn and tobacco, squash and beans, how to dam part of a stream to trap fish, how to hunt deer and otter, opossum and turkey.     Meanwhile, more people from across the ocean came--not just men, but women and children. Their fields and dwellings spread outward from the initial village, which they called Jamestown, all along the river, which they called the James, completely unconcerned with what the natives called it. The wild game fled into the oak and pine forests. The newcomers' livestock trampled the fields on which the natives, now often ill with strange and terrible maladies, grew their crops. The newcomers talked and acted as if the whole region belonged to them, even alleged that some distant authority told them they could have it.     And sooner or later each native awoke to the chilling realization that the strangers were "a people come from under the world, to take their world from them." We understand the struggle for New World empire in varied and complex ways as we near the twentieth century's end, but the story of American Indian land loss and survival rightly begins where the old American history books began: in 1607 with Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in what would become the United States. At the time the English ships sailed into Chesapeake Bay, and for many generations thereafter, Great Britain was only one of various European powers contending for portions of the North American continent, claiming lands on behalf of their rulers and their God. But the use to which the British wished to put the new lands distinguished their efforts from those of the other two major rivals, France and Spain.     The French had less interest in settling immigrants in North America than in swelling the coffers at home. They established Quebec the year after Jamestown's founding, using it as a base from which to glide down the St. Lawrence River and develop a generally friendly and mutually beneficial fur trade with the natives of the Great Lakes, the Ohio River Valley, and beyond--the prairies and plains west of the Mississippi River. The French also would plant themselves at the mouth of the Mississippi on the Gulf Coast, founding New Orleans and following the river into the interior from the south, setting up such trading posts as St. Louis.     Indians and Frenchmen did not always live harmoniously, and the French were not above callously manipulating Indian against Indian. But the close and open interaction of native and Frenchman made them to some observers "almost one people."     The Spanish had penetrated from the Caribbean into the Southeast almost a century before the arrival of Jamestown's colonists, even attempting a settlement--San Miguel de Gualdape--on the Atlantic coast in 1526 in present-day Georgia. (St. Augustine, their oldest permanent settlement, would begin taking shape in Florida some forty years later.)     Like the French, the Spanish were primarily interested in exploiting the land to increase their riches in Europe, but they did so through often brutal subjugation of the natives. Typical was the edict carried by Francisco Vasquez Coronado on his 1540 North American expedition: natives were to submit to the Spanish crown and become Christians or face slavery, exile, or death. Submission often brought a form of slavery anyway, as the Spanish frontier forces of soldiers and friars conscripted Indian labor and restricted Indian lives from Florida to the Far West.     Yet as the Spaniards cut a path of violence and coercion, many natives remained free and in possession of their homelands. In part, this was because Spain could never manage to draw enough colonists to dominate a region. In part, it was because Spain actually would prove "more zealous than any other European power" in acknowledging the legal rights of natives. Frontier Spaniards also, like the French, tended to be accepting of racial intermixing, not given to rigid segregation of "red" and "white." Most important, like the French, the Spanish "had a place [for native groups] in the overall imperial scheme of empire," even attempting unsuccessfully to make them the colonists in frontier mission chains.     The British, when they came as traders, valued the natives as the French did: as suppliers of furs and as markets for European goods. British colonizers and settlers were different. Arriving on the eastern coastline of what is now the United States, the "Anglos" and other northern Europeans wished, like the Spanish, to subjugate the natives. Unlike the Spanish, after an initial period in which the Indians might prove helpful to a settlement's survival, the newcomers deemed them not necessary, mere "cumberers of the ground." While the Spanish--and later the Mexicans--sought to "integrate" Indians, Anglos "sought to segregate them."     In the colonial period--as in subsequent eras--colonists with these aims pressed in upon the Indians, who were already experiencing a variety of stresses caused by contact with European traders and European viruses. The immigrants further upset the rhythms of Indian life. They reluctantly recognized some form of Indian land rights at some point in the dispossession process, then sought to extinguish those rights, the "elimination of Indians from settled areas" quickly becoming "a distinguishing characteristic of the Anglo frontier."     Natives, no strangers to shifting environmental and social conditions and alliances, found themselves struggling with massive, fundamental changes. The settlers and officials with whom they came in contact were often the most grasping, insensitive, and ruthless members of the encroaching culture. Natives were forced to compete with the newcomers and with each other for land and resources, and they remained or became divided--often deeply and irrevocably--over how to meet the threat of land and cultural loss.     But they developed strategies to hold on to their homelands for as long as they could, then devised ways simply to survive as groups and as individuals in an increasingly bounded and alien environment. In doing so, they shaped a remarkable record of resistance, adaptation, and renewal, one that cannot and should not be ignored as the American nation hurtles into the twenty-first century with its relationship to Indian America--and the concept of Indian identity itself--being more complex and problematic than ever. At the coming of the Jamestown colonists, Chesapeake Bay area natives, like most other natives living within the contours of the future United States, tended to identify with a particular village or band rather than to give allegiance to a fixed, centralized political and social authority. In other words, they did not think of themselves as members of a single "tribe," despite commonalities in culture and language.     Nonetheless, a man named Wahunsonacock had emerged as military leader of approximately thirty Tidewater groups in some two hundred villages. To the colonists, who picked up the name "Powhatan"--the group to which Wahunsonacock belonged--he became Powhatan and the natives of the area became the Powhatan tribe, or--more accurately--the Powhatan Confederacy.     This confederacy could easily have devastated the fledgling settlement. Yet with the newcomers Wahunsonacock observed an oft-troubled peace, lulled perhaps by the colony's small and rocky start, its slow growth in the early years, and his daughter Pocahontas's 1614 marriage to Jamestown tobacco planter John Rolfe.     Besides, it was apparent that the colonists needed the natives more than the natives needed the colonists, as one young Indian reminded Jamestown leader John Smith. The people of the settlement, he pointed out, could not survive without partaking of the Indian harvest and would "have the worst by our absence" should the cultivators "abandon the Countrie."     The settlers at Jamestown could also be seen as a potentially valuable addition to the trading and cultural mix in the region and as potentially valuable allies in native warfare. In this sense, they could with the Powhatans create a "middle ground" of the type historian Richard White has found operating between the French and the native groups of the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes before 1763, a place in which different cultures through accommodation to each other created mutually satisfying alliances.     At the least, even if the newcomers did not prove to be useful traders or allies, the natives at first could easily avoid them--there was world enough.     Yet warning signs abounded. Both the Powhatans and the immigrants early took captives as negotiating tools; Pocahontas had first been brought to Jamestown a prisoner. Colonial leaders in particular were quick to use coercion and subjugation. In 1608, stymied in his efforts to trade for corn with the Pamunkeys of the Powhatan Confederacy, Jamestown's John Smith pulled a pistol and held it to the chest of Powhatan's brother Opechancanough in front of the gathered Indians, forcing a promise of foodstuffs. The colonists, under orders from England to make Powhatan a "subject king" to James I, guided the reluctant leader through a farcical ceremony--"a fowle trouble there was to make him kneele to receave his crown," as it required "so many persuasions, examples, and instructions as tired them all."     Language differences were usually quickly, if imperfectly, addressed by Indian and white traders and other middlemen experienced in a multilingual world. In a common early frontier development, Indian women who entered into relationships with white men provided a significant language bridge. Still, miscommunication was common, and it was used to the whites' advantage in the making of uneven "agreements." As a Penobscot Indian would note, "I know not what I am made to say in another language, but I know well what I say in my own."     Cultural differences proved daunting. Both natives and newcomers possessed a sense of ethnic superiority, but the latter had greater unity and superior technology, especially when it came to weapons of war--gunpowder, firearms, steel swords. They also shared with other Europeans a conviction that Indian societies were simply primitive (and base) approximations of European communities rather than distinctive non-European cultures with their own complex structures. Despite the colonists' own often bitter struggle to survive through the first decade--and the pronouncements of concern for Indian souls--the newcomers could and did act with ruthless and concerted force against anything they perceived as an Indian transgression. They killed and dismembered captives and marched into villages, burning houses and--as the British had done in Ireland--destroying crops.     The natives could be aggressive and brutal, too. What our popular history overlooked until fairly recently is that they usually acted this way in a desperate response to white encroachment--in the words of the Seneca Cornplanter "rather than submit to ... unjust demands which seemed to have no bounds."     By the time Powhatan died in 1618, the British settlers were pushing deeper inland toward the mountain range that would become known as the Appalachians, occupying Indian lands on the upper James and Chickahominy rivers. In 1622, the Tidewater Indians exploded by mounting a war against the invaders. Led by Opechancanough--identified in some accounts as the kidnap victim who had accompanied the ill-fated Jesuit missionaries decades earlier--they killed almost a third of the twelve hundred Virginia colonists before the settlers mounted a successful counterattack.     The victors, "abandoning whatever notions they had about converting the aborigines," followed with a decade-long period of harassment, including repeated burning of native corn crops, until the Powhatans were pushed inland, beyond the fall line. One colonist exulted that "by right of Warre" the English could now "enjoy [the natives'] cultivated places," adding, "Now their cleared grounds ... shall be inhabited by us."     The way for such victories was paved by the viruses that Europeans--and the small but growing number of Africans--brought with them, having built up immunities after prior epidemics in their homelands. Precontact Indians did not inhabit a disease-free Eden, but neither is there evidence that they suffered the "contagious 'crowd' diseases endemic to Europe."     From Columbus's voyage onward, travelers introduced to the Americas a Pandora's box of diseases: smallpox, measles, cholera, diphtheria, plague, typhoid fever, and certain influenzas. The newcomers also may have brought the first New World instances of such scourges as malaria.     By the time the Jamestown settlers arrived, Indian numbers had already fallen through intermittent contact with virus-carrying Europeans, and deadly maladies were spreading far beyond the point of contact, ravaging even interior Indian groups that had not yet seen a stranger from across the sea. The arrival of colonists of course intensified the spread of sickness, in part because the children among them were "prone to carry viruses to which most surviving European adults had developed immunity." And the colonists' cows, horses, and pigs all carried diseases to which previously unexposed humans were susceptible. The people at Jamestown the year after it was established reported a devastating epidemic among the Chesapeake Bay Indians. By 1700, the population of the Powhatan Confederacy would shrink to one twelfth of its estimated 1607 size, primarily due to disease.     Natives sought spiritual and practical ways to halt the nightmarish losses, but neither prayer and ritual nor other traditional remedies seemed to have an effect. In fact, standard Indian treatments--purging, sweating, and fasting--only exacerbated diseases such as smallpox, for sufferers needed to be kept "dry and well-nourished."     The catastrophic declines lead to speculation whether the natives' homelands could have been taken from them without the help of microbes, despite the Europeans' superior weaponry. While Indians tended to group in small units at the village and band level, scholars keep revising upward the number of Indians in the New World before Columbus. For many decades, the accepted total for all of the New World in 1492 was one million; five million is now a conservative estimate for those in the conterminous United States only--east coast to west, Canadian to Mexican borders. Some researchers argue for triple this number or more.     Clearly, the large number of Indian deaths from epidemics prior to white settlement--and the resulting weakening in the fabric of Indian life--greatly enhanced the colonists' chances of gaining land and power. Nowhere is this more obvious than in New England, where the second successful British colonization effort began with the arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620.     William Bradford would write of the Pilgrims' first glimpse of the northeastern shoreline, "What could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wild beasts and wild men--and what multitudes there might be of them they knew not." Bradford's words contain unintended irony. New England groups with whom the Pilgrims--and, in 1628, the Puritans--might have come into immediate conflict already had overwhelmingly succumbed to smallpox and other infectious diseases transmitted by European traders and sailors, primarily the French.     For example, the Pawtuxets, who lived in this "vast disaster zone" in which the Pilgrims would settle, were devastated by disease between 1615 and 1619. Tribal member Tisquantum, or Squanto, who would prove an invaluable friend to the Cape Cod settlement, returned home after his kidnapping by a British sea captain, slavery in Spain, and a sojourn in London to find his approximately two thousand tribesmen, women, and children had vanished. Some survivors may have fled to other native groups, but most had simply died.     A further irony in Bradford's statement is his reference to "wilderness," for much of the coast bore evidence of human clearing and cultivation. The Narragansetts of Massachusetts had, according to early European observers, cleared the forest "for a distance of eight to ten miles from the coast--no small feat." Southern New England groups maintained hunting parks by periodically burning off brush and, like the Chesapeake Bay Indians, they combined hunting and fishing with farming, giving the lie to the colonial insistence that natives did not cultivate the land.     Those northeastern groups that survived the epidemics remained to be reckoned with, but that was easy enough at first. Some initially welcomed the newcomers as allies against stronger Indian groups, allowing the English to establish towns "without acknowledging the existence of native sovereignty or title." Some of the natives on whose lands the English were already establishing their fields and farms were paid off with trade items and wampum, the shell beads they valued as a medium of exchange, when they claimed title. The disease-weakened Wampanoags entered into a "mutual assistance pact" with the Puritans, letting them occupy unused land.     Such agreements clearly meant different things to native and immigrant. Early colonial governments treated native land claims the way a lawyer would a nuisance suit, in the spirit of a 1629 Massachusetts Bay Company directive to pay when "any of the salvages [sic] pretend right of inheritance to all or any part of the lands graunted in our pattent." The English chose to interpret the resulting agreements as "deed[s] of cession legitimizing their seizure of unspecified acreage."     The Wampanoags and other natives certainly did not do so. Operating from their own quite different understanding of land ownership, natives granted "usufruct rights" only, limited permission to "use an area for planting or hunting or gathering," as they themselves did.     Yet microbes continued to undercut native resistance to immigrant settlement and to English definitions of land ownership. Puritan minister Increase Mather would note that three years after the arrival of the first Puritans at Massachusetts Bay, the Indians "began to be quarrelsome" over land matters, but "God ended the Controversy by sending the Smallpox" among them. (Mather's comment echoes that of a Spaniard in the conquest of Mexico a century earlier: "When the Christians were exhausted from war, God saw fit to send the Indians smallpox.") Two years later, another smallpox outbreak among New England natives led to an estimated mortality rate of 95 percent in some areas.     If Mather viewed epidemics as God's protecting the interests of his "elect," the natives found their own understanding of the world shattered, their familiar cultural, spiritual, and economic moorings stripped away. Among other serious consequences, they could not follow their old subsistence patterns--planting, hunting, gathering--at crucial times in the seasonal cycle. Those who survived epidemics were still weak, hungry, and susceptible to other maladies; women not only faced fewer marriage prospects but were less likely to conceive, or to bear healthy children. Spiritual, medical, and political leaders died--"All those ... who had sense are dead," complained Mohawks negotiating with Kahawake Iroquois--or simply seemed bereft of power. People forgot rituals and traditions or simply gave them up.     Adding to the sense of disorientation, of a world strangely and disturbingly altered, the most afflicted tribes continued to be pressed by their native neighbors who had escaped the worst ravages, the coastal Pokanokets, for example, being forced to give way to the Narragansetts at a site favored by both on Narragansett Bay.     Even more disturbing were the escalating attempts at control by the immigrants establishing colonies all up and down the eastern seaboard. In 1635, the British governor of Maryland told Indians of the region that they must submit to English law any of their number who killed a colonist. A native leader tried to explain how the Indians settled such a matter, pointing out that "since that you are heare strangers, and come into our Countrey, you should rather conform yourselves to the Customes of our Countrey, than impose yours upon us..."     In fact, as Indians already had governance structures, however loose or unfathomable by European standards, much Indian warfare against whites can be seen as attempts by the natives to "enforce their [own] legal norms on a disorderly frontier" filled with lawless newcomers.     Yet further disquiet stemmed from the ways in which warfare intensified with the coming of the Europeans. Eastern Indians were no strangers to violent conflict; they repeatedly mounted what they considered "justified reprisals" against other individuals or communities. Further, groups such as the Pequots forced less aggressive bands from choice lands. But wholesale killing of noncombatants and "the total war that involved systematic destruction of food and property" were generally outside the experience of the coastal Indians before the development of frictions with the European immigrants.     New England's Pequot War of 1636-1637--the culmination of tensions between Pequots inhabiting the fertile, game-filled Connecticut Valley and encroaching colonists looking to claim more land--included the massacre of as many as seven hundred Pequots, mostly women, children, and old men, at "Mystic Fort," their palisade on the Mystic River. A British participant in the attack recalled that even when he and his companions set fire to the fort, some of the men refused to come out, flames consuming the "very bowstrings" they were attempting to use in defense. Others--men, women, and children--fled the fire to be "entertained with the point of the sword."     The Pequots had tried to enlist the neighboring Narragansetts in a military alliance. William Bradford reported the Pequot perception and argument: that "the English were strangers and began to overspread [Indian] country, and would deprive them thereof in time, if they were suffered to grow and increase." But alliances would prove hard to establish or sustain; political consensus within an Indian community was a hard enough feat, and logistical problems in establishing and maintaining Indian unity would abound at the same time that whites practiced divide-and-conquer techniques. In this case, the Narragansetts and the Mohegans held old grudges against the Pequots and, under pressure, chose a more immediately advantageous alliance with the British.     The Narragansetts balked at the slaughter at Mystic Fort and at what followed: most of the remaining Pequots were gradually rounded up and killed or sold into slavery, shipped as far away as the West Indies. As a people, they were officially erased from existence. No one in New England was even allowed to call himself or herself a Pequot, not that many would be brave or foolish enough to do so in the wake of Mystic Fort. Meanwhile, the Pequot lands of southern New England were thrown open to white settlement, and the smaller tribes who had "relied upon the Pequot for protection" became subjugated to the colonial powers, relinquishing "some of their choicest land."     In Virginia, Opechancanough mounted a final unsuccessful series of raids to repel British colonization there. Thirty-seven years after the strange settlers had sailed into the Tidewater region, the elderly Powhatan leader was captured, carried into Jamestown on a litter, and shot to death by a guard. The fate of both the Pequots and the Powhatan Confederacy under Opechancanough sent a chilling message to other Indians whose lands extended to the eastern coast. But through the mid-seventeenth century, most managed to coexist with the British settlers while retaining some autonomy, their relationship to the newcomers at worst "interdependent" rather than "dependent," although the degree of a tribe's autonomy usually corresponded to its distance from the nearest immigrant settlements.     Early in each colony's development, the colonial government outlawed individual land deals with natives. Tribes retained power through British recognition, however grudging, of their land rights and sovereign nation status and through their desirability as allies. British settlers and officials could be only so blind to the fact that a land was already inhabited, even cultivated. Besides, as the contest for empire among the various European nations intensified, one European power would find itself forced by another equally covetous European power to deal officially with the natives on land issues.     The British, French, and Spanish continued to compete for native trade and political allegiances. So did the Dutch, who had purchased Manhattan Island, site of their New Amsterdam, from the Manhattan Indians for a pittance in trade goods in 1626. So, too, did the various British colonial governments; both the struggling Virginia colony and the struggling Carolina colony sought alliances with the same native tribes in hopes of bettering their own position in relation to the other and in relation to the Spaniards to the south.     Thus, natives held on to a place within the changing order. They retained large tracts of land, allowed settlers use rights on certain portions, dealt as middlemen in the fur trade with the natives to the west, provided their labor services to the colonies, and served as a market for European goods.     Like European viruses, however, European trade--for such diverse items as guns and sugar, iron cooking pots and metal knives--greatly altered and ultimately devastated native worlds. In responding to the European demand for furs, Indians moved their villages to be close to European trading operations. Within the villages, old communal patterns of sharing and social leveling began to give way to new economic and political distinctions--or, conversely, old status roles crumbled, as when wampum, a sign of status, "became an item of mass consumption" through trade with the Europeans.     As a result of trading opportunities, natives also widened their hunting patterns and came into direct competition with each other. The balance was upset between those having access to European goods and those who did not. In the mid-1600s, members of the Iroquois Confederacy--Cayugas, Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Senecas--pummeled and pushed their Algonquian neighbors westward, while the Crees displaced the Sioux in northern Minnesota, in each case in large part because their contact with European commercial interests gave the aggressors superior weaponry and clout.     Trade also undermined native life through the availability of alcohol. It was all too easy for many of the people, disoriented by disease and wrenching change, to drink to excess, adding significantly to their own miseries and those of their communities. "I am going to lose my head," declared a Cayuga in the 1660s, "I am going to drink of the water that takes away one's wits."     Whether or not natives used European weaponry to best their neighbors or became addicted to strong drink, they did become dependent on the flow of European goods. As early as the 1660s, southern New England Indians, accustomed to trading for such items as cloth, guns, and kettles, had lost much of their old self-sufficiency. The Creeks in the South, who by the turn of the century had aligned with Carolina colonists against the Spanish in Florida, were judged to "have forgotten the chief part of their ancient mechanical skill, because Anglos "suppl[ied] them so cheap with every sort of goods." The result, as one colonist explained, was that they would not "be well able now, at least for some years, to live independently of us."     As long as the natives had something to trade for European goods, they were not completely ensnared. But when the immigrants no longer needed their aid or assistance, and when game and fur-bearing animals became scarce, native bargaining power evaporated. What else did the indigenous people have that immigrants wanted?     The answer, of course, was land. The natives knew that its ownership was crucial to autonomous survival, so much so that "to maintain their land base, Indians made major cultural adaptations, short of national suicide, to the presence of European powers." Yet as early as 1633, land had replaced furs as the principal commodity for exchange in the Massachusetts Bay area. By the mid-seventeenth century, some tribes were caught so firmly in the line of British settlement that they were rapidly losing their home territory and with it their freedoms--political, economic, social.     Colonial governments judged, conveniently for their purposes, that Indians could lay claim only to acreage that showed "improvements" by European standards. This meant fencing, plowed fields, evidence of domestic livestock raising--all of which ran counter to Indian husbandry practices. Absent from the definition were not only the clamshell-dug fields of the Indian groups who depended partially on agriculture, but the "clam banks, fishing ponds, berry-picking areas, [and] hunting lands" from which they and nonagricultural groups drew sustenance.     Throughout the decades and centuries of Anglo expansion, there were those among the newcomers who rejected and challenged such self-serving perspectives. One of the first in this minority chorus, New England firebrand Roger Williams, decried the settlers' failure to recognize and respect Indian land claims based on seasonal usage, and he asserted that even kings had no right "to take and give away the Lands and Countries of other men."     The West India Company had instructed the Dutch to obtain voluntary land cessions, not ones gained "by craft, or fraud, lest we call down the wrath of God upon our unrighteous beginnings." And many early New England cessions were voluntary. But "voluntary" obscures the fact that natives--quickly outnumbered by the immigrants in some locations--had few options, given the lack of a military or political alliance and continuing power struggles among tribes. Indians simply were unused to forming a political identity with other natives across cultural and kinship lines.     The first reservation in the United States--twelve hundred acres carved in late 1638 out of the Quinnipiacs' Connecticut homelands for their residence--resulted from the vastly outnumbered tribe's decision to trade the domination of more powerful tribes "for the comforts afforded by the proximity of English settlers."     The basic intent of a "reservation" has always been to segregate natives within defined geographical boundaries, but the motives behind this action have varied. Clearly, representatives of the advancing Anglo frontier were anxious simply to get Indians out of the way. They also, at various times, saw the reservation--often called "plantation" or "colony" in these early years--as a place of relative safety for beleaguered natives. Here Indians could either, according to two divergent lines of thought, live out their days as a "vanishing" race or, separated from the more degrading aspects of white culture, become "civilized" and attain a foothold in American life.     Indians found the whites' map and survey lines incompatible with their own understanding of the land's contours, uses, and meanings; they almost uniformly resisted moving to or staying on reservations unless they perceived no other options. But American history of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries is a story of natives running out of options; some tribes would feel that the advantages outweighed the drawbacks, especially if they could stay on part of their original homelands.     So it was with the Quinnipiacs. Reservation status allowed them to continue to live in familiar territory and to obtain such items as warm clothing and cooking utensils from the British. They retained some freedoms, but were clearly restricted and dominated: by the presence of a Puritan agent, by laws requiring them to get authorization from the colonial government before letting any outsiders reside among them, by a disturbing policy that allowed the English "exclusive and unlimited access to [reservation] meadow and timber."     About six years after the Connecticut reservation's inception, the leaders of tribes within Massachusetts's boundaries were induced to give up jurisdiction over their lands, and thus possession itself, as far as New England authorities were concerned, and committed themselves and their subjects to live under the colony's "just lawes and orders." Such "just lawes and orders" passed in the years immediately following included fines for not wearing hair cut "comely, as the English do," and the death penalty for denying "the true God."     Beginning in 1646, a Puritan named John Eliot even established "praying towns" for Christianized Indians. These were precursors of the highly controlled Indian reservations of the mid- to late-nineteenth-century West, although not as poverty-stricken, isolated, and isolating. At the price of their freedom and cultures--at the price, in other words, of their very identity--Indians gained a somewhat protected and secure place within the new order, where they would be "civilized" with missions and schools.     New England Indian leaders protested the creation of praying towns, but colonial administrators--and their successors--saw nothing wrong with this coercive combination of church and state. Like the Spanish friars establishing their missions on the Florida and New Mexico frontiers, on the New England religious reservation, the missionary controlled (as much as he could) various aspects of native life. Under his direction, the residents of a praying town laid out English-style villages and engaged in English-style farming as their chief occupation, abandoning the old mixed-subsistence patterns that Anglos considered at best a "transitional stage" in civilization's development rather than "stable systems in their own right."     The Indians in the planned towns also adopted an English-style form of government in which they might or might not be allowed to select their own representatives. Either way, the representatives had little real power. Everywhere they turned, natives met with strange laws forbidding the practice of native religion--which colonial officials derogatorily termed "powwowing"--and outlawing other traditional customs, such as women "living apart so many dayes" during their menstrual periods. The laws set forth by missionaries and colonial governments stipulated that natives had to behave in certain ways, dress in certain ways, live in certain ways that were foreign to them and not required of members of the new dominant culture. In other words, white authorities tried to exert a measure of social control not found in even the most straitlaced Puritan towns.     "Praying Indians" maintained some autonomy by resisting certain of the strictures placed upon them--for example, by remaining in their traditional wigwams, portable, cool in summer, warm in winter, rather than taking up residence in the frame dwellings favored by agents and missionaries. They also, both by choice and by necessity, worked within the new culture in old ways that allowed them some freedom--making and vending baskets, harvesting and selling game for food.     Many simply fled the English-style towns. As one official mourned, "They can live with less labour, and more pleasure and plenty, as Indians, than they can with us." His comment echoed the query of a Micmac Indian to a Frenchman: "Which of these two is the wisest and happiest--he who labors without ceasing and only obtains, and that with great trouble, enough to live on, or he who rests in comfort and finds all that he needs in the pleasure of hunting and fishing?"     An estimated eleven hundred "praying Indians" remained in Massachusetts in 1674. If it is easy to dismiss these people as weak accommodationists, some of the conversions were genuine and long-lasting. If others were less so, as historian David Weber has pointed out regarding European conversion efforts in general, natives "cooperated only when they believed they had something to gain from the new religion and the material benefits that accompanied it, or too much to lose from resisting it."     Meanwhile, eastern tribes independently maintaining land claims struggled with English definitions of property rights as they experienced increasing pressure to sell them or simply to give them up. Their options: removal to a small "reserved" portion, like the Quinnipiacs, or migration westward, beyond the lands immediately desired by the British but occupied by other Indians.     The pressures took various forms. Not only did colonial governments attempt to deny Indian title to lands or to offer a pittance for them, but individual European immigrants got around or ignored restrictions on land deals with Indians.     Many used the English courts to their advantage. An Indian who killed a settler's livestock ravaging the Indian's cornfield found himself in court, as did many a native charged with some odd infraction of English law. Faced with a substantial fine, the Indian would be "rescued" by an Englishman who paid the amount in exchange for a short-term land mortgage on which the Englishman could foreclose. In more direct land grabs, traders and immigrants would use liquor to win land concessions from inebriated natives who might or might not actually represent peoples holding rights to a territory. Or they would simply force Indians from desired property with "threat of violence."     With such tactics and tensions, a major war had the inevitability of a summer storm. It came in New England in summer 1675, a blood-smeared tempest. The Wampanoags, the Narragansetts, the Nipmucs, and members of other tribes from across the region ravaged frontier settlements under the leadership of Metacom, a Wampanoag known to the colonists as King Philip. "King Philip's War" raged through most of the next year, Metacom declaring, "[We] have let them have a hundred times more land, than now ... [I] have for my own people."     Despite this evidence of a strong Indian alliance under Metacom, other Indians entered the fray on the side of the settlers (now more numerous than the natives), and the powerful Iroquois to the west did not allow the "hostiles" to fall back to their territory to rest and recoup. Metacom was betrayed by a fellow Indian and cut to pieces, as were any hopes of an independent or even "interdependent" Indian presence in southern New England. * * * By the end of the seventeenth century, the Indian groups who had greeted the settlers of Jamestown and southern New England had declined and dispersed, pushed to the periphery of their lands and of colonial culture by English farm and artisan families who were escaping dwindling landholdings and uncertain livelihoods in their own homelands. In Virginia the government allowed squatters to locate legally on riverbanks across from Indian towns, even though a treaty of 1677 had assured the natives control over a three-mile radius from these towns.     Indian treaties were from their earliest use the means by which the English--and later, the Anglo-Americans--legitimized their encroachment on lands occupied by the natives. As the often uncomprehending and already outnumbered natives were compelled to give up their shrinking holdings, those who remained worked for prominent settlers or "flit[ted] about the edges of colonial settlement, camping here and there for a few months before moving on" and thus making use of what resources they could find without calling too much attention to themselves.     In New England, Massachusetts Indians could be bound over for three months of indentured servitude if they were discovered outside the county in which they officially resided. Many New England natives fled beyond the reach of the English, farther into the New England hills and valleys, many to the French mission villages of Canada.     The natives' deep and intricate relationship with their homelands had been hopelessly compromised, their old survival patterns rendered futile, thanks to a host of changes created by the arrival of the Europeans. As early as the 1640s, the once bountiful deer were becoming scarce in southern New England, leading the Narragansett Miantonomo to call upon other natives to kill the European settlers but not their cows, which "should be used for food 'till our deer be increased again."     The natives participated in commercial overhunting for hides while it helped them maintain a balance of economic power, but they ultimately paid a high price. As the wild-animal population dwindled, native hunters had to fix carefully the boundaries of each group's hunting grounds; as the animals disappeared, the Indians lost both trading power and an essential aspect of their diet and culture.     Environmental havoc did not stop there. "Since these Englishmen have seized our country," Miantonomo charged, "they have cut down the grass with scythes, and the trees with axes. Their cows and horses eat up the grass, and their hogs spoil our bed of clams; and finally we shall all starve to death."     Everywhere, the English altered the landscape, "taming" a "wilderness" that the natives considered no wilderness at all. Unlike the Europeans involved in the fur trade, these English were interested in "exploiting resources such as fish and sassafras that did not require native cooperation." They cut down the trees for the timber market in England. They also cut them for their own uses. Indians did, too, of course, but a New England household "probably consumed as much as thirty or forty cords of firewood," or "more than an acre of forest," in a year, and the households were multiplying.     The settlers simply burned the forests as well--not in the measured Indian way, but in an attempt to clear as much land as possible as quickly as possible. This naturally led to environmental changes. For example, wild animals fled now inhospitable habitats. Water did not seep as easily into the soil, so there were new runoff patterns, increased flooding, and erratic shifts--"stream levels came to vary so greatly that some dried up altogether for extended periods of the year."     The settlers' free-ranging livestock, too, altered the natural balance. Natives were used to a single tame four-legged animal: the dog. Now hogs and cattle not only destroyed Indian crops, but "competed with the native wild-animal population for food resources," overgrazing, contributing to the spread of weeds, and compacting the soil in a pattern similar to one occurring in Spanish America. "Your hogs & Cattle injure Us You Come too near Us to live & Drive Us from place to place," a Maryland Indian called Mattagund charged in 1666. "We can fly no farther let us know where to live & how to be secured for the future from the Hogs & Cattle."     The settlers' plows ripped into the earth, destroying native plants in favor of cultivated ones. Farmers quickly wore out the soil by planting a single crop--instead of the Indians' nutrient-rich mixing of corn and beans--and by "letting their livestock eat cornstalks and other unharvested material which could have been plowed back into the soil" to enrich it.     In addition, the newcomers altered the waterways and the fish population by constructing dams and millponds and clearing rivers and creeks of debris. They blazed their own trails and established "new seasonal routines," such as livestock roundups for branding.     Unlike the natives, the Europeans oriented their seasonal routines around one permanent location, "English fixity" supplanting at least some degree of "Indian mobility." The changes in the land, and the increasing English political, social, and economic dominance, as early as the 1630s led Indians to adopt this fixity as well. In southern New England, natives "took to occupying coastal sites year-round in order to stockpile shellfish so that they could make wampum on an extended scale." They also found it increasingly prudent to stay together in larger numbers in "permanently fortified sites."     All of this meant that Indian lives and lifeways were being constricted, whatever eastern lands they occupied. Yet even as the natives on the front line of English settlement dealt with this bitter truth, other eastern tribes were developing their own paths of resistance and accommodation. Copyright (c) 1998 Paula Mitchell Marks. All rights reserved.