500 Nations (1995) s01e05 Episode Script

Cauldron of War

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.
" The Northern Trade "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.
The Southern Trade: The Sewee 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.
French and Indian War: Pontiac "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 Haudenosaunee: America's Frist Democraty "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.
Revolution 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.
After the revolution settlers poured west.
Shawnee man following in the footsteps of Pontiac and destined to become one of the great Indian leaders of all time would united Indian nations of the Ohio Valley.
His name was Tecumseh.
Please join us for part six Feel free to translate this to your language and place your name here as translator.