500 Nations (1995) s01e03 Episode Script

Clash of Cultures

Hello.
I'm Kevin Costner.
Welcome back to 500 Nations.
Even before the colonies were established in the East the European entrepreneurs of the New World started pushing west testing the boundaries of this rich new land.
What they discovered was the wealth of the Indian nations and the staggering abundance of their natural resources.
The beautiful furs, the endless supply of deerskins.
Indian people, in turn, saw that the goods the Europeans offered made life a lot easier.
Metal axes, knives, copper kettles and guns.
And for a time, this simple arrangement worked.
But very quickly, North America became an irresistible prize to the Europeans.
They sent armies to fight for the control of the continent's resources the way modern armies fight over oil.
In this hour, we take you to the heartland, to a continent in turmoil.
Welcome to Part Five of 500 Nations: "A Cauldron of War.
" "When the white man came here as stranger he saw that the furs worn by our nations were valuable and he showed to our ancestors many goods which he brought with him.
And these were very tempting.
The white man said: 'Will you not sell the skins of your animals for the goods I bring? ' Our ancestors replied: 'We will buy your goods, and you will buy our furs.
' The whites proposed nothing more.
Our ancestors acceded to nothing else.
" Peau de Chat, ojibway.
In the 1600s, French and English fur traders made deep inroads into the North American continent where interior Indian nations hunted beaver, mink, fox and other fur-bearing animals.
For northern Indian nations, trading with Europeans was merely an expansion of a seasonal round that had been repeated for centuries.
Winter was the traditional time for villages to disperse into smaller groups to hunt and trap from winter camps.
Spring was the season when they came back together and resumed village life.
Hunters returned home with their winter's take of pelts and welcomed trade.
At first, European traders conformed to this cycle and the beautiful and exotic furs placed Indian traders in a strong bargaining position.
"I heard my host, a Montagnais leader, say one day, jokingly: 'The beaver does everything perfectly well.
It makes kettles, hatchets, swords, knives, bread.
In short, it makes everything.
' He was making sport of us Europeans who have such a fondness for the skin of this animal.
" Nicholas d'onee, fur trader.
Fur trade was becoming central to the European economy.
From beaver came felt, and when the felt hat came into fashion in Europe the North Atlantic trade took on global proportions.
It seemed like the European way of trading was to go out and try to outdo one another.
Who was gonna have the most? And so our people were not like that with the other nations before the Europeans.
But they soon caught on to be able to become wealthy that way.
Increasing demand and higher prices forced the fur trade to change and, along with it, the very structure of Indian nations.
Many Indian people found it more lucrative to trade than to pursue old economic activities.
If you take a primitive tribe anywhere and present them with something that will make them have an easier life they will take it.
You know? The easy, easy way.
And by using the easy way, you're losing also your culture because keeping your culture is not always easy.
Young men broke away from their traditional community roles to pursue commercial hunting in order to obtain goods that could only be gained through trade.
Agricultural nations planted less.
Fields lay fallow as pelts were used to purchase food from European traders.
Ancient cultural and religious values came under attack as the relationships between Indian people the land and animals, changed through commercial hunting.
Even European traders noted the transition.
Before, they killed animals only in proportion as they had need of them.
They never made an accumulation of skins of moose, otter, beaver or others but only so far as they needed them for personal use.
Within decades, the animal populations of entire regions were completely exterminated.
In the past, there was none to barter with us that would have tempted us to waste our animals as we did after the white people came on this island.
Nations who once traded in peace were forced into competition even hostility, as hunters encroached upon the lands of others.
"The times are exceedingly altered.
The times have turned everything upside down chiefly by the help of the white people.
In times past, our forefathers lived in peace, love and great harmony and had everything in great plenty.
But, alas, it is not so now.
All our fishing, hunting and fowling is entirely gone.
" Harry Quaduaquid, Mohegan.
Adherence to traditional values was further eroded by the greatest of all scourges that flowed from trade: Alcohol.
A British trader observed: They do not call it drinking unless they become drunk.
Immediately after taking everything with which they can injure themselves from the houses the women carry it into the woods where they go to hide with all their children.
After that, the men have a fine time beating, injuring and killing one another.
With each generation, alcohol cut deeper into the social fabric of Indian nations.
In 1803 alone, 21,000 gallons of rum flowed into the interior.
"We are meant to deliberate upon what? Upon no less a subject than whether we shall or shall not be a people.
The tyrant is no native to our soil, but is the pernicious liquid which our pretended white friends artfully introduced and so plentifully pours among us.
" Creek speaker.
Trade also brought a deadly killer that went unrecognized until the 20th century.
Indian nations had long traditions in painting and paint making and few pigments were as highly prized as red ocher.
When European traders introduced brilliant red vermilion paint it became widely used for facial and body decoration.
But the paint was made from lead and mercury hidden poisons that may have struck down thousands.
Such was the agreement made by my ancestors with the white man.
They hunted for the white man and before many years, the game grew scarce.
And the benefits we derived from this agreement are these: Instead of using a stone to cut my wood, I used a sharp ax.
Instead of being clothed in my own warm, ancient clothing I used that which comes from across the big water.
Instead of having plenty of food, I am always hungry.
And instead of being sober, the Indians are drunk.
Along the south Atlantic coast, one small Indian nation would take their economic destiny into their own hands.
In 1670, the English founded Charleston on land belonging to the Sewee, or "Islanders.
" Charleston emerged as the economic heart of the Southern colonies built on a thriving trade in deer hides with the Sewee and neighboring nations.
In the late 1600s, with the founding of Charleston the economy revolved around Indian trade.
The men who lived along Goose Creek became the big traders who would go into the interior, trading with the Indians.
Trading all manner of manufactured goods and beads but primarily to get deerskins which were being used for all kinds of purposes.
The financial success of the Charleston traders did not extend to their Indian suppliers, who typically received only five percent of what buyers in England paid for their hides.
The Sewee were determined to be treated fairly.
An English observer reported: "Seeing that the ships always came in at one place made them very confident that that way was the exact road to England.
And seeing so many ships come thence, they believed it could not be far.
" John Lawson, surveyor general.
The Sewee believed that by rowing to the distant point on the horizon where ships first appeared they would be able to find their way to England.
Once there, they could establish direct trade eliminating the expensive middlemen.
Preparations were secretly begun.
"It was agreed upon immediately to make an addition of their fleet by building more canoes, and those to be of the best sort and biggest size as fit for their intended discovery.
Some Indians were employed about making the canoes others to hunting.
Everyone to the post he was most fit for all endeavors tending towards an able fleet and cargo for Europe.
" John Lawson, surveyor general.
After months of preparation the canoes were loaded with hides, pelts and the most valuable possessions of the Sewee nation.
All able-bodied men and women boarded the vessels and launched into the surf leaving behind only the children, the sick and the very old.
The Sewee nation had become a flotilla.
But as they entered open ocean, their fragile endeavor turned disastrous.
A gale blew up.
High seas engulfed the Sewee canoes.
Those strong enough to survive were not the fortunate ones.
They were rescued by a passing English slave ship only to be delivered to the auction block in the West Indies.
In an instant, the Sewee nation ceased to exist.
Its people had become a commodity.
They were not alone.
Indian slaves, along with deer hides and rum formed the basis of the Southern colonial economy.
In Charleston, South Carolina the slave trade really started with the selling of Indians and everything that we see later with the African-Americans who were sold there was going on in the 1600s and 1700s with the Indians.
They would be brought into market, they'd be put up on a block they would be auctioned off.
Many Indian slaves were kept for the home economy in the South or shipped to New England.
Most were sent to Barbados, the Bahamas, Jamaica and other Caribbean outposts to work the sugar plantations.
Life in servitude was brutal and short and, as Indian slaves succumbed to violence disease and harsh working conditions African slaves were imported to take their place.
Africans and Indians were basically being treated as animals.
Even though the Catholic Church had recognized the humanity of the Indians most of the conquerors who came over did not recognize them as human beings and they treated them the same way they would wild horses or cows by branding them, by chaining them, by making them march in long lines chained to one another, and then by selling them in an auction.
You could see an Indian being sold on an auction block the same way you could see cows, horses, or a mule being sold.
As late as 1730, one-quarter of the slaves in some Southern colonies were still Indian people.
"They took a part of my tribe and sold them to the Spaniards in Bermuda.
But I would speak, and I could wish it might be like the voice of thunder that it might be heard afar off, even to the ends of the earth.
He that will advocate slavery is worse than a beast and he that will not set his face against its corrupt principles is a coward and not worthy of being numbered among men.
" William Apess, Pequot.
"You British and the French are like the two edges of a pair of shears and we are the cloth which is cut to pieces between them.
" Odawa.
By the mid- 1700s, the Indian nations of the Eastern interior were surrounded by European powers.
Spain controlled Florida.
The English were pressing in from their colonies in the East.
And the French were aggressively moving across the Great Lakes and along the Mississippi River.
Spurred by the increasingly lucrative fur trade, along with valuable farmlands North America was seen by the Europeans as a commercial prize.
To win it, the French and English established military outposts throughout the interior to support their trading ventures and solidify their claims to the land.
This idea of encroachment and land ownership was so foreign to us that we couldn't understand it.
As individuals, we couldn't understand it.
It was carving up our mother's breast.
It was parceling out the land and the air above it to individual ownership.
In 1754, France and England clashed for control over the continent in what would become known as the French and Indian War.
From Europe, the American conflict was seen as a distant chess match for territory, power and trade with Indian nations mere fighting pawns.
But in America, the interior Indian nations saw their homelands turned into violent battlegrounds.
"Why do not you and the French fight in the old country and on the sea? Why do you come to fight in our land?" Shingas, Lenape.
Most Indian nations joined the war on the side of the French.
We had a very close affinity to the French people.
The reason is because they had no designs on our territory.
They were not out to colonize.
If they wanted to live with us they married into the tribe, and they lived with us, and they were welcome.
On the other hand, at the other end of the scale the English are notorious for being colonists.
They don't want the sun to set on the British Empire so they want colonies everywhere, and this new world was no different.
That's why they came.
In 1760, after six years of war the French shocked their Indian allies in the Ohio Valley and western Great Lakes by abruptly withdrawing from the region.
While the French continued to fight for other parts of the continent here, the English army moved into their abandoned forts unopposed.
Englishmen although you have conquered the French you have not yet conquered us.
We are not your slaves.
These lakes, these woods and mountains were left to us by our ancestors.
They are our inheritance and we will part with them to none.
One Odawa man, who had fought alongside the French, then watched them retreat refused to abandon the struggle.
His name was Pontiac.
On the night he was born, there was snow and rain and winds.
There was lightning and thunder, and there were shooting stars.
And all of the phenomena that was taking place that night the elders said that there was a great person being born.
While many leaders saw the English as a threat to their nations Pontiac saw the English as a threat to all Indian people.
Nations had to put aside the past and unite in common purpose.
Pontiac's vision would change the thinking of Indian leaders for generations.
So, what he did was to organize his own thoughts and then organize his own people and then other tribes.
Got them together, with what undoubtedly had to be great oratory and great diplomatic moves and skills to get people, some of whom were his bitter enemies, our tribe's enemies.
We fought the Hurons for hundreds of years.
We fought the Shawnees.
We fought many of these tribes.
He went around and got them to become part of what's known as Pontiac's Confederacy.
"It is important for us, my brothers that we exterminate from our land this nation which only seeks to kill us.
When I go to the English chief to tell him that some of our comrades are dead instead of weeping, he makes fun of me and of you.
When I ask him for something for our sick, he refuses and tells me that he has no need of us.
There is no more time to lose.
And when the English shall be defeated we shall cut off the passage, so they cannot come back to our country.
" Pontiac, odawa.
Fighting men from the Anishinabe, Miami, Seneca, Lenape Shawnee and other nations, responded to his call.
In May of 1763, Pontiac's Rebellion erupted with the siege of Fort Detroit.
Over the next two months, nine of the 11 English forts in the region fell.
Only Detroit and Fort Pitt remained in British hands both under siege by Pontiac's alliance.
When he started taking the British forts, and he took them one by one cut off the security of the colonists, then they were on their own.
Then his vision was that once we get the last one, once we get Detroit we'll start and we'll just kind of herd them ahead of us like ducks or geese right back to the Atlantic ocean.
Pontiac stood on the verge of total victory.
With France still in control of Louisiana and the Mississippi local French residents assured him that French forces would soon return to the region to help him drive out the English once and for all.
But unknown to Pontiac, France had already signed a treaty of surrender in Paris ending all hostilities between the two colonial powers in North America.
Rumors of the accord reached Pontiac in June at the height of his triumph.
But he refused to believe that the French would not respond to his victories.
The British army, freed from campaigns against the French launched massive expeditions against the Indian forces.
But Pontiac's alliance held their ground.
Increasingly desperate to prevail British commander Jeffrey Amherst put a bounty on Pontiac's head then proposed a sinister tactic: Germ warfare.
Could it not be contrived to send the smallpox among those disaffected tribes of Indians? We must, on this occasion, use every stratagem in our power to reduce them.
You will do well to try to inoculate the Indians by means of blankets to try to extirpate this execrable race.
Shawnee, Lenape, and Odawa were crippled by smallpox-infested blankets from Fort Pitt.
Pretty soon, burst out a terrible sickness among us.
Lodge after lodge was totally vacated.
Nothing but the dead bodies lying here and there in their lodges.
Entire families being swept off with the ravages of this terrible disease.
In October, confirmation of the French surrender reached Pontiac and his allies.
The news was a decisive blow to the momentum of the rebellion.
Now they knew that help would never come.
Pontiac called off the siege of Detroit and retired with his people to their winter camps.
The next spring, he tried to rally forces for another push against the English but his efforts were ineffective.
Many Indian nations were encouraged by English promises that settlements would never be allowed on their land.
They were also anxious to normalize relations and to resume European trade.
With the passage of another year, Pontiac was a leader without a following.
His moment had passed.
The British forts were there to stay.
In 1769, only six years after the incredible success of his campaign against the British, Pontiac died murdered in the ancient Indian center of Cahokia.
But his life had not been in vain.
His vision of united Indian nations would echo through the region and across the coming decades.
The idea didn't die.
The idea that Pontiac had implanted with these other leaders and these other tribes prevailed.
Pontiac's life was a message to the future.
But before the nations of the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley would rise again the continent would be embroiled in another costly war this time, between the American colonists and their king.
"The Iroquois laugh when you talk of obedience to kings.
For they cannot reconcile the idea of submission with the dignity of man.
Each individual is a sovereign in his own mind and as he conceives he derives his freedom from the Creator alone he cannot be induced to acknowledge any other power.
" John Long, fur trader.
The Europeans, their point of view on our people is that we didn't really exist as a people, as a structured people until they came.
You know, but, really, when you research back into our history you're gonna find that we were already structured and with governments intact, and our way of life was already intact.
The oldest democracy in North America was created by five Indian nations in what is today New York state: The Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk, Seneca and Cayuga.
Together they became known as the Iroquois.
They called themselves the Haudenosaunee.
The Haudenosaunee confederacy was born in a violent era centuries before the French and Indian War.
At that time, a vicious cycle of war and revenge was running out of control among the five nations.
In the midst of the chaos, a visionary man from the Huron nation appeared.
Rather than a war club and arrows, he carried teachings.
He would be known as "the Peacemaker.
" The Peacemaker proposed a set of laws by which people and nations could live in peace and unity.
A system of self-rule, guided by moral principles known as the "Great Law.
" In all your acts, self-interest shall be cast away.
Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations.
The unborn of the future nation.
When the Great Peacemaker designed the confederacy and its laws he brought together five warring nations into one heart, one body, one mind and he symbolized it by using five arrows when he bound it together to make it a strong union.
He said, "When you pull one arrow out, it's easily broken.
" He broke one in half in front of them, just to show them.
So he told them, he said, "If you all stick together, in union then you will never be broken.
" The first wampum belt was created to symbolize the Great Law.
The image embodied the dream that became a reality.
Five nations, independent, but joined together as one.
The Great Law was both a set of moral teachings and a concrete plan for a democratic union built around the social structures of the nations.
Each nation had long been organized into clans which served as extended families.
Clans lived together in longhouses which were owned by the women of the clans.
Up to 200 feet in length, longhouses sheltered as many as a dozen families with private areas and shared fires.
They were a place of security, a warm refuge against harsh winters.
Clan membership passed from mother to child.
When a child came of age, they would marry into another clan.
In this way, the entire nation was woven into one greater family.
From this clan structure the Haudenosaunee built a representative democracy.
The women of each clan would appoint one man as clan chief.
In this way, leadership would rise through trust, rather than conquest.
The clan chiefs of each of the five nations gathered at the Haudenosaunee capital of Onondaga to form the Grand Council.
Governing from the heart of their territory the Grand Council envisioned all five nations as sheltered by a giant longhouse stretching 250 miles.
The longhouse's central aisle was the Haudenosaunee trail the principal line of communication between the members of the league.
The eastern door of the domain was guarded by the Mohawk.
The Seneca watched the door to the west.
And the Onondaga were the center the keepers of the fire.
The democratic confederacy envisioned by the Peacemaker preserved peace for centuries.
When the Europeans arrived in the territory of the Haudenosaunee in the early 1600s the process or protocol that the Peacemaker had given to us was in place.
So we were able to deal with those Europeans on a political basis.
In 1754, Benjamin Franklin attended a conference with the Haudenosaunee in Albany, New York.
He came away inspired by the successful model of independent states united under one rule of law.
Soon after, he would propose a similar union of colonies.
Twenty-two years later, these United States would declare their independence from England.
In that year, 1776 events swirled toward the American Revolution.
Ten thousand strong and strategically located between the colonies and the British in Canada the Haudenosaunee were seen as a key to victory.
British and American diplomats met repeatedly with representatives of the Grand Council trying to pull the Indian nations to their side.
But the Grand Council guided by the principles of peace laid down by the Great Law declared their neutrality.
Although they would not ally with either power in a diplomatic gesture, a delegation from the Grand Council traveled to Philadelphia.
There, the Haudenosaunee, the oldest democracy in North America officially recognized the fledgling American government.
The delegation had been lodged in Independence Hall above the chamber of the Continental Congress where representatives were drafting the Declaration of Independence.
During that same critical summer of 1776 a young Mohawk named Joseph Brant returned from England.
A protégé of the British agent for Indian Affairs, Sir William Johnson Brant's family had long-standing ties to the British.
Traveling among the Haudenosaunee nations Brant passionately argued for an alliance with the British as their only hope to prevent being overrun by the Americans.
He started to go amongst the nations of the Mohawks, the oneidas, the onondagas, Cayugas and Senecas trying to entice the young men to go on the side of the British.
In an act that threatened the very existence of the confederacy Joseph Brant, in open defiance of the Grand Council called a meeting in the summer of 1777 to argue the British case.
Blacksnake, a young Haudenosaunee man from the Seneca nation listened closely.
Brant came forward and said that if we did nothing for the British there would be no peace for us our throats would be cut by the redcoat man or by America that we should go and join the Father.
This is the way for us.
Blacksnake's uncle, a respected Seneca leader named Cornplanter rose to challenge Brant.
Cornplanter was a veteran of the French and Indian Wars and had participated in the critical Council decisions of his time.
He wanted no part of a war that was not his to fight.
"You must all mark and listen to what I have to say.
War is war.
Death is death.
A fight is a hard business.
Here, America says not to lift our hands against either party.
I move, therefore, to wait a little while to hear more consultation between the two parties.
Let the British say everything he is going to say to us.
We then can see clear where we are going and not be deceived.
" Cornplanter, Seneca.
In shocked disbelief Blacksnake and the others watched as Brant rose to his feet.
He ordered Cornplanter to stop speaking then called him a coward.
The men had a great deal of controversy among themselves with some for Brant and some for Cornplanter.
They began to say that we must fight for somebody because they could not bear to be called cowards.
The following day, the gathering, predominately Mohawk and Seneca broke with the Grand Council and agreed to fight with the British.
Cornplanter resigned himself to the majority will and rallied his men.
Every brave man show himself now.
Hereafter, we will find, are many dangerous times.
I, therefore, say to you you must stand like good soldiers against your own white brother.
Because just as soon as he finds out that you are against him he will show no mercy on us.
But as factions broke from the Grand Council not all joined the British.
The Oneida, heavily influenced by American missionaries were moving toward an outright alliance with the Americans.
The horror of civil war loomed over the confederacy.
In the midst of the American Revolution a Haudenosaunee civil war began.
On August 6th, 1777 Oneida fighting men and their American allies clashed at Oriskany Creek with British troops and their Seneca and Mohawk allies.
At day's end, hundreds lay dead on the battlefield.
As the war raged across the eastern continent Mohawk and Seneca forces allied with the British wreaked havoc on frontier settlements draining American economic and military resources away from the war effort.
In retaliation, George Washington sent an army against the Haudenosaunee capital at Onondaga one nation still clinging tenaciously to neutrality.
After Washington's army ransacked the capital the Onondaga also plunged angrily into the war on the side of the British.
You call George Washington the father of your country.
We call George Washington Hanadegaies, which means "town destroyer.
" In August 1779 Washington sent General John Sullivan into Haudenosaunee country with 5000 men.
Entering territory few white men had ever even seen Sullivan carved a chilling swath of destruction forcing those in his path to flee their homes.
Sullivan's soldiers could not help but marvel at the prosperity of the deserted towns they were destroying.
We reached the town, which consisted of 128 houses mostly very large and elegant.
The Indians live much better than most of the Mohawk River farmers their houses very well furnished with all necessary household utensils great plenty of grain several horses, cows and wagons.
It appears to be a very old settlement.
There are a great number of apple and peach trees here which we cut down and destroyed.
A group of Haudenosaunee mercenaries who guided Sullivan's army into the territory were captured by the Seneca.
One man recognized his own brother among the captives.
Brother, you have merited death.
When those rebels drove us from the fields of our fathers to seek out new homes it was you who would dare to step forth as their pilot and conduct them to the doors of our homes to butcher our children and put us to death.
No crime can be greater.
But though you have merited death and shall die on this spot my hands shall not be stained in the blood of a brother.
Who will strike? A Seneca chief killed the prisoner instantly.
But even the powerful Seneca could not stand against Sullivan's massive army.
Old and young grabbed what few possessions they could carry and fled.
"The part of our corn they burnt and threw the remainder into the river.
They burnt our houses killed what few cattle and horses they could find destroyed our fruit trees and left nothing but the bare soil.
What were our feelings when we found that there was not a mouthful of any kind of sustenance left not even enough to keep a child one day from perishing with hunger?" Dehgewanus, Seneca.
In retaliation for the American destruction of Onondaga Mohawk, Seneca and Cayuga villages Joseph Brant attacked the Oneida and neighboring Tuscarora allies of the Americans.
In the end, all of the five nations were ravaged.
Out of scores of Haudenosaunee towns only two survived unscathed.
And it was already fall with no way to replace the lost crops.
The tragedy heightened with the coming of winter.
It was the coldest in memory.
Snow fell 5 feet deep.
Many homeless Haudenosaunee died of hunger, cold and disease.
Less than four years later, in 1783 the British government surrendered at the Treaty of Paris.
With no concern for the sovereignty of Indian nations, even their allies the British ceded control of the continent as far west as the Mississippi to the new American nation.
In postwar treaties the United States government seized vast Haudenosaunee lands even those belonging to their allies, the Oneida whose women had brought life-saving corn and blankets to George Washington's starving troops at Valley Forge.
But the five nations of the Haudenosaunee would heal the wounds of civil war and remain defiant.
In 1790, they forced concessions from the United States at the Treaty of Canandaigua which allowed them to keep their core homelands.
The Haudenosaunee would survive and rebuild drawn together by the Great Law and their Grand Council a union that endures to this day.
If the Haudenosaunee was destroyed at the Revolutionary War then why am I sitting here? We were not destroyed.
Our Council fire still remained.
Our Council's fires has remained all of these years.
And the history and the culture of the Haudenosaunee its political and spiritual structure is still intact.
And we sit here, traveling around the world on our own passports as sovereign people.
We were not destroyed by the Revolutionary War.
No sooner had the United States come into being than its people, hungry for new land and opportunity poured west, across the Appalachian Mountains, to open up the new frontier.
But imagine the movement as the Indian people must have seen it.
This was their home where their ancestors were buried where they were raising their children.
They had already experienced the disruptions of trade: Alcohol, missionaries, disease and war.
Now their lands were at stake.
Indian people fought to preserve their freedom and in their aggressive defense, stories of frontier violence came to define them as hostiles and savages.
Armed with this distorted image, the same cycle that had dispossessed the Indian nations of the East was underway again.
We begin Part Six in the ohio River valley.
Where, in the atmosphere of frontier chaos one of the great leaders of North America would emerge with a message of hope.
His name was Tecumseh and he would try to change the course of history.
"When we passed through the country between Pittsburgh and our nations lately Shawnee and Lenape hunting grounds where we could once see nothing but deer and buffalo we found the country thickly inhabited and the people under arms.
We were compelled to make a detour of 300 miles.
We saw large numbers of white men in forts and fortifications around salt springs and buffalo grounds.
" Cornstalk, Shawnee.
In the aftermath of the American Revolution the lands of the powerful Haudenosaunee nations were shrunk to little more than reservation islands.
The front lines of the invasion moved west to the nations of the Ohio Valley: The Lenape, Shawnee, Miami and others.
Settlers flooded west many of them Revolutionary War veterans paid with land grants by the government left bankrupt from the war.
Supported by the new United States they came prepared to fight for the land.
"The people of our frontier carry on private expeditions against the Indians and kill them whenever they meet them.
And I do not believe there is a jury in all Kentucky who would punish a man for it.
" John Hamtramck, major, United States Army.
Over the next 20 years through a series of battles and dubious treaties the new United States laid claim to Indian lands on the frontier.
Vast tracts were ceded to white settlement including the future sites of Detroit Toledo, Peoria and Chicago.
"My heart is a stone heavy with sadness for my people cold with the knowledge that no treaty will keep whites out of our lands hard with the determination to resist as long as I live and breathe.
" Blue Jacket, Shawnee.
In this atmosphere of despair and frontier violence missionaries undermined the cultural and religious values of Indian communities.
Our life is who we are, our identity our language, our ceremonies our way of how we used to dress and how we related to each other.
Those are the makeup part of the makeup of our people.
And so when Christianity came about it started to change.
They were trying to make us become what we were not.
"You have got our country but are not satisfied.
You want to force your religion upon us.
The Creator has made us all.
But he has made a great difference between us.
He has given us a different complexion and different customs.
Since he has made so great a difference between us in other things why may we not conclude that he has given us a different religion according to our understanding? We do not wish to destroy your religion or take it from you.
We only want to enjoy our own.
" Red Jacket, Seneca.
But the pressure on Indian people was unrelenting.
Their land, livelihood, culture and very beliefs under attack.
Frustrated warriors traded scarce resources for alcohol.
And now reality's in your face.
You're slapped in the face with reality.
What's the best way to escape that kind of reality? During those times, our people began to take up the rum to numb their feelings.
Because that feeling, that hurt, was so strong.
"The men revel in strong drink and are very quarrelsome.
The families become frightened and move away for safety.
Now the drunken men run yelling through the village and have weapons to injure those whom they meet.
Now there are no doors in the houses for they have all been kicked off.
Now, we men full of strong drink alone track there.
" Handsome Lake, Seneca.
One young Shawnee man, Lalawethika like many demoralized young men of his generation had succumbed to alcoholism.
He was completely dependent on his older brother, Tecumseh.
Tecumseh and Lalawethika had grown up in the world of frontier violence.
Their father was killed fighting the British.
Their older brother died at the hands of Tennessee settlers.
The village of their birth had been laid waste by Kentuckians.
Now, in 1803 determined to maintain his traditions Tecumseh led Lalawethika and the people of their village west, into Indiana in an effort to put distance between themselves and white settlers.
But in Indiana, Lalawethika's drinking worsened.
He sank into a deep depression.
But his life was about to turn around.
One day, while in his home Lalawethika fell to the floor.
For a time, Tecumseh and others in the village believed he was dead.
But he was not dead.
Lalawethika had had a revelation a divine message that responded to the unbearable conditions of his people.
Suddenly and clearly, he saw a path for renewal.
Abandon the ways of the white man and return to the old teachings.
From that moment forward Lalawethika would be known as Tenskwatawa the Shawnee Prophet.
Tenskwatawa never drank again.
And he urged his followers to shun alcohol and all other ideas and things that came from white men.
"Have you not heard at evenings and sometimes in the dead of night those mournful sounds that steal through the deep valleys and along the mountainsides? These are the wailings of those spirits whose bones have been turned up by the plow of the white man and left to the mercy of the rain and wind.
" Tenskwatawa, Shawnee.
Tenskwatawa promised that if the people returned to their own ways the whites would be pushed back, and prosperity would return.
Tecumseh embraced his brother's vision of cultural renewal and together, they spread the message to every Ohio Valley nation.
Hundreds traveled to Indiana to hear them speak in person.
Shawnee, Odawa Wyandot, Kickapoo and other families converged on a new settlement established by the Prophet and Tecumseh near the intersection of the Wabash and Tippecanoe rivers: Prophetstown.
Tenskwatawa preached to visitors in the council house every night followed by dancing and singing.
White frontiersmen claimed to be able to hear the drums all night long.
But it would be Tecumseh who would challenge the course of history by transforming his brother's message into a political and military movement.
Using Prophetstown as his base Tecumseh would emerge the most powerful Indian leader of his time.
"Brothers, we are friends.
We must assist each other to bear our burdens.
The blood of many of our fathers and brothers has run like water on the ground to satisfy the avarice of the white men.
We, ourselves, are threatened with a great evil.
Nothing will pacify them but the destruction of all the red men.
" Tecumseh, Shawnee.
In 1808, while the Shawnee Prophet, Tenskwatawa preached cultural renaissance at Prophetstown his brother, Tecumseh, traveled throughout the territory spreading the Prophet's message along with a political and military vision of his own.
"The whites have driven us from the sea to the lakes.
We can go no farther.
The way, the only way, to stop this evil is for us to unite in claiming a common and equal right in the land as it was at first and should be now.
For it was never divided but belongs to all.
Unless every tribe unanimously combines to give a check to the ambition and avarice of the whites they will soon conquer us, apart and disunited and we will be driven away from our native country and scattered as autumnal leaves before the wind.
" Tecumseh, Shawnee.
Tecumseh electrified his audiences.
At one gathering, a nervous white observer reported seeing young men shaking with emotion a thousand tomahawks brandished in the air.
William Henry Harrison, governor of the Indiana territory recognized Tecumseh's personal power and charisma and saw the Shawnee leader as a singular threat.
"The implicit obedience and respect which the followers of Tecumseh pay to him is really astonishing.
And more than any other circumstance bespeaks him one of those uncommon geniuses which spring up occasionally to produce revolutions and overturn the established order of things.
If it were not for the vicinity of the United States he would perhaps be the founder of an empire that would rival in glory that of Mexico or Peru.
" Governor William Henry Harrison.
Prophetstown's population swelled.
But despite Tecumseh's growing influence he could not control the actions of all Indian leaders.
In 1809, at one of many treaty conferences Governor Harrison convinced leaders of the Miami Lenape and Potawatomi to sell 3 million acres of land in Indiana and Illinois.
Tecumseh was outraged considering those who signed the treaty guilty of treason.
No tribe has the right to sell a country even to each other, much less to strangers.
Sell a country.
Why not sell the air, the great sea, as well as the earth? Did not the great spirit make them all for the use of his children? Tecumseh went to Harrison, and, in a volatile meeting confronted the governor face to face.
Brother, I look at the land and pity the women and children.
I am authorized to say that they want to save that piece of land.
We do not wish you to take it.
It is small enough for our purposes.
I want the present boundary line to continue.
Should you cross it I assure you it will be productive of bad consequences.
But the settlements continued to expand even onto the newly ceded lands.
Tecumseh was convinced that only force would stop the American advance.
To build a military resistance he continued to travel tirelessly among the nations of the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley while Harrison kept a nervous eye on his movements.
No difficulties deter him.
For four years, he has been in constant motion.
You see him today on the Wabash, and in a short time you hear of him on the shores of Lake Erie or Michigan or the banks of the Mississippi, and wherever he goes he makes an impression favorable to his purpose.
In 1811, Tecumseh traveled south in an effort to bring the powerful Choctaw, Chickasaw and Creek into the alliance.
There, in village after village he argued that Indian nations stood at the brink of disaster.
Where today are the powerful tribes of our people? They have vanished before the avarice and oppression of the white man as snow before the summer sun.
Will we let ourselves be destroyed in our turn without making an effort worthy of our race? Shall we, without a struggle give up our homes, our lands the graves of our dead and everything that is dear and sacred to us? I know you will say with me, "Never.
Never!" But Tecumseh's passion and presence alone could not overcome a growing cultural rift.
Many Southern Indian leaders were encouraging their nations to emulate mainstream white society.
Others saw military conflict with the U.
S.
As suicide.
Although Tecumseh found passionate supporters everywhere his hope that Southern nations would join in a unified resistance was not to be.
In January of 1812 Tecumseh returned to Indiana to find Prophetstown destroyed its people dispersed.
Governor Harrison had waited until Tecumseh the military leader of the movement, had departed for the South before moving on Prophetstown.
But Tenskwatawa, with a much smaller force attacked the Americans before they reached the town allowing the residents to evacuate.
The following day, Harrison entered the deserted town on the Tippecanoe River and burned it to the ground.
Although his army suffered twice the casualties of the Indian force Harrison claimed a victory that would eventually propel him to the presidency.
Despite the loss of Prophetstown Tecumseh and the Prophet began immediately to rebuild their movement.
Then the War of 1812 broke out between the British and United States.
Suddenly, there was a new opportunity to push back the Americans through an alliance with the British.
The two brothers moved north to Canada with 1000 men.
There, they were joined by allies from throughout the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes.
After years of tireless effort Tecumseh's unified resistance was now a reality.
The British and Indian force laid siege to the fort at Detroit quickly forcing its surrender.
American forts fell at Mackinac and Dearborn.
In January of 1813, Tecumseh and his allies forced the surrender of the Americans at Frenchtown.
Tecumseh hoped to push the campaign into the Ohio Valley but the following May, British and Indian forces suffered their first defeat.
Then, during the summer the war began to turn against them and Tecumseh could see the British will failing.
He confronted the British commander, General Proctor.
You always told us that you would never draw your foot off British ground.
But now we see you are drawing back.
We are very much astonished to see you tying up everything and preparing to run away without letting us know what your intentions are.
Without informing their Indian allies the British made plans to abandon Detroit as a large American force approached.
At the head of the American Army rode the man who destroyed Prophetstown Governor William Henry Harrison.
Tecumseh demanded that General Proctor make a stand.
"Listen we wish to remain here and fight our enemy.
You have got the arms and ammunition.
If you have an idea of going away, give them to us and you may go and welcome.
As for us, our lives are in the hands of the Creator.
We are determined to defend our lands and if it be his will, we wish to leave our bones upon them.
" Tecumseh, Shawnee.
Faced with Harrison's 3000-man army Tecumseh was forced to fall back with the British 80 miles.
They halted their retreat along the Thames River.
There, Tecumseh would make his stand.
On October 5th, 1813 the Shawnee leader rallied his men as he inspected the lines from horseback.
He urged General Proctor to do the same.
Tell your men to be firm, and all will be well! Tecumseh dismounted and joined his troops at their position in a swampy thicket.
The night before, he had had a premonition about the battle.
And in it, he had foreseen his death.
Tecumseh removed the scarlet British military jacket he always wore and dressed in traditional Shawnee clothes.
He handed his sword to a trusted friend and instructed him to give it to his son when he grew up and to tell him what his father stood for.
In midafternoon, Harrison's cavalry charged.
The British lines immediately collapsed and ran with the British general on horseback passing his own troops as they fled.
Tecumseh did not run.
And neither did his men.
From a nearby hillside the Shawnee Prophet watched as the Americans charged his brother's position.
Tecumseh received a gunshot wound to the chest and fell.
Thirty minutes later, the battle was over.
For the Ohio Valley nations the eventual British defeat in the War of 1812 would simply underscore the tragic loss of Tecumseh.
In the years before the war, he had traveled the Indian roads stretching in every direction from Prophetstown.
In every village, his warning had been the same: "The Americans will not stop until they have taken all our land.
" Tecumseh had seen the future.
"While strong it has been our obvious policy to weaken them.
Now that they are weak and harmless and most of their lands fallen into our hands they must be taught to improve their condition.
" William Clark, superintendent of Indian Affairs.
For decades, federal agents and Christian missionaries had pressured Indian nations to abandon their traditions and assimilate into white society.
The policy, promoted by Thomas Jefferson and others after him advocated intermarriage, religious conversion and financial incentives to turn Indian people into Americanized farmers.
In the South, U.
S.
Policy was succeeding.
Traditionals had been eliminated as a serious military threat and American culture was spreading.
The large Southern nations the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole came to be known as the "Five Civilized Tribes.
" To the Americans, the most civilized of these were the Cherokee.
We call ourselves Aniyunwiya which is translated into "the Principal People.
" When the Creator made the world he created these beautiful mountains here in the Smokies.
And he needed someone to live here someone who would take care of what he'd made and what he gave to us so he chose the Cherokee people.
The ancient Cherokee nation flourished in and around the great Smoky Mountains building their capital of Echota in the foothills southwest of present-day Knoxville, Tennessee.
Echota was a peace town, where no one could be harmed.
But with each passing generation there were fewer and fewer who clung to the traditional Cherokee-life way.
Many Cherokee became successful modeling themselves after their American neighbors living in two-story houses on plantations, raising European crops owning slaves and educating their children in American schools.
In 1817, a new national council formed with wealthy landowner John Ross as its principal elected chief.
The centuries-old clan-based government was replaced with a republican state modeled after the American system.
Echota, the venerated Cherokee peace town was replaced as seat of government by New Echota in Georgia.
In 1821, a man named Sequoya completed an alphabet that committed the Cherokee language to writing.
Soon they had their own newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix.
But despite Cherokee efforts to coexist and United States government policies to bring Indian nations into the American way it was a relationship marred by racism and greed.
In the middle of a booming slave economy built around cotton demand for land was growing and the Southern Indian nations still controlled vast areas.
In 1828, Andrew Jackson, like William Henry Harrison used his reputation as an Indian fighter to propel himself to the presidency.
Greed, usually is a thing that makes people do things they wouldn't do otherwise.
Gold was discovered down in Georgia.
Hundreds of miners illegally swarmed across the Cherokee border to lay claim to the vein.
The Cherokee turned to the United States for protection.
But President Jackson, himself a land speculator removed federal troops from the area, telling Georgia officials: "Build a fire under the Cherokee.
When it gets hot enough, they'll move.
" The greed of the white man grew and the first thing that came into his mind was: "We must obtain this land at any cost.
" And that idea of the removal started there.
For the Indian people who believed their salvation lay in emulating American society the most bitter betrayal came on May 28th, 1830.
Under Jackson's advocacy the Indian Removal Act was passed.
Nations east of the Mississippi were to give up their homelands forever and move to a special Indian territory in Oklahoma.
"The Americans said, 'The land shall be yours forever.
' Now they say: 'The land you live on is not yours.
Go beyond the Mississippi.
There is game.
There you may remain while the grass grows and the water runs.
' Brothers will not our Great Father come there also?" Speckled Snake, Creek.
At New Echota Cherokee leaders felt deeply betrayed.
Principal Chief John Ross and wealthy Cherokee landholder Major Ridge both had fought alongside President Jackson in a war against traditional factions of the Creek nation.
Meeting in violation of Georgia state law the Cherokee Council vehemently opposed removal and reminded the nation of their law that carried the death penalty for anyone who sold Cherokee lands without authorization.
"Even if report was favorable as to the fertility of the soil in Indian territory if the running streams were as transparent as crystal and the silver fish abounded we should still adhere to the purpose of spending the remnant of our lives on the soil that gave us birth.
" Cherokee Council.
Indian protests fell on deaf ears.
The Choctaw were the first made to bend.
"Painful in the extreme is the mandate of our expulsion.
I ask you in the name of justice for a repose for myself and my injured people.
Let us alone.
We will not harm you.
We want rest.
We hope, in the name of justice that another outrage may never be committed against us and that we may, for the future not be driven about as beasts who benefit from a change of pasture.
We go forth, sorrowful, knowing that wrong has been done.
" George Harkin, Choctaw.
Between 1831 and 1832 13,000 Choctaw made the long and difficult trek to the West.
Two thousand were to die along the way.
"My voice is weak.
You can scarcely hear me.
It is not the shout of a warrior but the wail of an infant.
I have lost it in mourning over the misfortunes of my people.
Their tears came in the raindrops and their voices in the wailing winds.
Our land was taken away.
" Colonel Webb, Choctaw.
The Creek were next.
In the spring of 1836 the American Army forced them to surrender all their land.
One-third of the Creek died on the journey west.
The way I feel is there is a wound in our hearts.
And that was a wound in our ancestors' heart.
And that wound will never be healed.
And I feel like that whatever they do for us will never pay up.
"Last night I saw the sun set for the last time and its light shine upon the treetops and the land and the water that I am never to look upon again.
" Menewa, Creek.
Every year, from 1830 to 1838 Cherokee Principal Chief John Ross visited Washington attempting to forestall removal.
"We have been made to drink of the bitter cup of humiliation.
Treated like dogs our lives, our liberties, the sport of the white man.
Our country and the graves of our fathers torn from us in cruel succession until we find ourselves fugitives, vagrants and strangers in our own country.
" John Ross, Cherokee.
Ross wrote hundreds of letters.
He met several times with President Jackson, with whom he had served in war.
He petitioned Congress and brought two lawsuits before the U.
S.
Supreme Court.
"We are not ignorant of our condition.
We are not insensible to our sufferings.
We feel them.
We groan under their pressure and anticipation crowds our breasts with sorrow yet to come.
" John Ross, Cherokee.
Ross did win one victory when the Supreme Court ruled that the Cherokee were a sovereign nation and not subject to Georgia's jurisdiction.
But President Jackson disregarded the ruling and belittled the power of the Supreme Court by challenging the chief justice to enforce the law himself.
Georgia held lotteries for Cherokee lands.
State troops forced people from their houses.
Cherokee government buildings at New Echota were sold off along with the residence of Principal Chief John Ross.
Cherokee leader Major Ridge also lost his plantation.
He now became convinced of the futility and peril of resistance.
I know the Indians have an older title than the United States.
We obtained the land from the living God above.
They got their title from the British.
Yet they are strong and we are weak.
Major Ridge, as I understand it he advocated for a good period of time that no more Cherokee lands would be sold or ceded under penalty of death.
And then later, he wound up doing the same darn thing.
As a matter of fact, worse.
Ridge traveled to Washington without the authorization of the Cherokee Council.
There, he met with federal officials.
Ridge privately negotiated a treaty ceding Cherokee lands for $5 million new land in the Oklahoma-Indian territory, and removal assistance.
We had been a country for 500 years before they were and we were on an equal status.
And every time we had a treaty from then on we got a little less status, and they got a little more land.
Ridge returned home to convince the national council to accept the treaty terms.
I would willingly die to preserve the graves of our fathers but any forcible effort to keep them will cost us our lands our lives and the lives of our children.
There is but one path of safety one road to future existence as a nation.
That path is open before you.
Make a treaty of cession.
Give up these lands and go over beyond the great Father of Waters.
The national council rejected the treaty.
But Ridge, with no legal authority to represent the Cherokee nation met secretly with U.
S.
Officials.
Defying the council's death sentence for the selling of Cherokee lands Ridge, his son, and others signed the removal treaty.
On May 17th, 1836 the U.
S.
Senate ratified the treaty by a single vote.
The Cherokee nation was given two years to move west.
In that time, Ridge and 2000 Cherokee emigrated to Oklahoma while the vast majority of the nation ignored the illegal treaty and remained on their lands.
In late spring of 1838 as the deadline for removal passed General Winfield Scott arrived in Georgia with 7000 soldiers.
His orders were to remove the Cherokee by any means necessary.
"Think of this, my Cherokee brethren: I am an old warrior and have been present at many a scene of slaughter.
But spare me, I beseech you the horror of witnessing the destruction of the Cherokees.
Do not even wait for the close approach of the troops.
" General Winfield Scott.
Thousands of Cherokee were rounded up at bayonet-point unable to carry with them anything but the most necessary belongings then held in stockades to await removal.
My great-great-grandmother, when they came to take them away they drove them out of the house didn't even let the kids get their shoes or anything.
They were setting down at dinner and they got outside and they were kind of roughing her around and my great-great-grandfather kind of fought back.
They throwed him in chains and took him off one way took her and the children off another way.
Conditions inside stockades were terrible and many died.
"We have been made prisoners by your men but we do not fight against you.
We have never done you any harm.
We are Indians.
We have hearts that feel.
We do not want to die.
We are in trouble, sir.
Our hearts are very heavy.
Very heavy.
We cannot make talk.
" Cherokee Council.
Sixteen thousand Cherokee were removed from their homeland.
Principal Chief John Ross left with his family on the last convoy.
His wife, along with one-quarter of the nation would die on the forced exodus that would be known as the "Trail of Tears.
" The non-lndian people who came here did not view the Cherokee people as human beings which made it easy to dishonor and desecrate these people.
People sometimes say I look like I never smile.
Most of the time, I keep thinking of the old nation and wonder how the big mountain now looks in springtime and how the boys and young men used to swim in the big river.
And then there comes before me the picture of the march.
Maybe someday we will understand why the Cherokees had to suffer.
While the body of the nation was forced west several hundred Cherokee evaded Scott's men and retreated to the deep recesses of the Smoky Mountains.
The Army, ineffective at locating the free Cherokee was recalled from the mountains.
As the troops were withdrawing one cavalry detachment stumbled upon a small camp of 12 free Cherokee.
Among them was an older man Tsali, his wife, brother and sons.
When the Cherokee refused to submit to the soldiers Tsali's wife was jabbed with a bayonet, and a struggle ensued.
Two soldiers were killed.
Tsali and his family fled deeper into the Smoky Mountains.
But U.
S.
Soldiers had died and now General Scott would have to make the Cherokee pay at any cost.
With winter approaching, Scott delivered an ultimatum to Tsali: "Surrender, or 7000 soldiers would be unleashed on the free Cherokee until the last of their nation was captured or killed.
" Tsali made a fateful decision.
He offered to surrender, if Scott would let the rest of the Cherokee resistance remain in their Smoky Mountain homeland.
Scott agreed, and Tsali surrendered along with his family.
Tsali approaches and offers the gun holding both ends with each hand.
General Scott takes the gun and they are to be martyred.
They were taken to a place at the mouth of the Tuckaseigee River.
There, Tsali, his brother, and his two oldest sons would be executed by firing squad.
Tied to a tree, awaiting death Tsali had a last request of a friend.
U'tsala there is one favor I wish to ask at your hands.
You know I have a little boy who was lost among the mountains.
I want you to find that boy if he is not dead and tell him the last words of his father were that he must never go beyond the Mississippi but die in the land of his birth.
It is sweet to die in one's native land and be buried by the margins of one's native stream.
On November 25th, 1838 Tsali died for the freedom of the Eastern Cherokee people.
And when he died he was a victor.
He accomplished the thing which was uppermost in his mind that his people might go free.
Seven months later, in the new Oklahoma-Indian territory Major Ridge, his son and nephew who had all signed the removal treaty were assassinated for selling the Cherokee homelands.
Our next program moves west to the Great Plains and the famous horse culture that has come to define the first nations of this continent throughout the world.
Join us when 500 Nations returns with "Struggle for the West.
" (03.
2012)