Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Divide and Conquer

Above: Chief Tecumseh and his brother, the Shawnee Prophet.

William Henry Harrison,
Governor of the Territory of IndiaCheck Spellingna

The policy of the United States was to make treaties on a "nation to nation" basis. The British liked to do it the same way. That explains why they liked to refer to the Indian chiefs as "kings." For example, when Etowaukaum and three Iroquois chiefs went to London to meet with Queen Anne, they became known as "The Four Indian Kings." Another "king" was "King Ben" Kokhkewenaunaunt who is believed to have moved to Stockbridge, Massachusetts in the 1740's (as a result, the town of Stockbridge became the main council fire, or capital city of the Mohicans). And of course, around that same period of time, the British had given Konkapot the title of Captain and Umpachenee the title of Lieutenant.

The difference between white governments and Indian governments was that the Indian chiefs had no coercive power over their people. So white leaders gave the chiefs prestigious political or military titles, hoping that the chiefs would be willing to speak for all of their people. The white leaders didn't want to have to get every Indian's permission before making something official, they wanted to negotiate with one leader, so they gave him a fancy title.

Maybe that is also why even the smallest of tribes became known as nations. Would a community of 200 or 300 white people ever be considered a nation? Probably not, but the Stockbridges were no bigger than that in the 1800's.

Anyway, the United States deliberately chose to fight many Indian nations of various sizes - that was their "divide and conquer" strategy. Tecumseh - and other leaders before him - tried to give Indians a better chance by getting as many tribes as possible to form a confederation. But white Indian fighters like William Henry Harrison succeeded in getting the small "nations" to sign treaties, exchanging their good land for annuities or poorer land in the west.

Want to know more?
Read about the Treaty of St. Mary's.
Read about the Treaty of Greenville.
Read about the Battle of Tippecanoe.
Read "Indian Removals in Indiana."
The United States employed a Native diplomat who was opposed to Tecumseh's confederacy.

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