France, Spain and Great Britain as we learned last week had colonial territories which bordered on the Mississippi Valley – all three countries claimed the land. The French with its traders, priests and others penetrated the wilderness and established towns and trading posts. Names such as Joliet, La Salle and the D’Ibervilles were but a few of the daring adventurers. Towns had been established at New Orleans, Vincennes IN, Kaskaskia and Cahokia (in now IL), Sandusky and Toledo OH, Fort Wayne and Lafayette IN, Green Bay and Milwaukee WI, Peoria IL . Trade was established between the French and the native Indians. Going farther north, there was extensive trade within New York and Pennsylvania; then west to the Great Lakes
The British colonies contained a rather large population also primarily along the Atlantic seaboard. Altogether, their colonies were not much larger than the Commonwealth of Kentucky. These settlements, unlike the French, were rural, scattered and separated by many miles from each other. Most of the land they held had no roads, were densely wooded and an unbroken wilderness.
But what about the Missisippi Valley area? Both the French and British had claims to land here – but there were also others here, the Native Americans – the Indians. What rights did they have? Very little. The Law of Nations deemed that all “uncivilized aborigines” became subjects of that Christian nation which first discovered and claimed the country; their property became the property of that nation. Later this Law of Nations was modified, allowing the Indians to live on the land and to have an “Indian title” to the land. Citizens of the British crown were forbidden to buy the Indian lands unless there was a treaty with the Indians allowing same. These “Indian titles” became very important, especially when it came to the land now called Kentucky. With France battling the British over ownership of the Mississippi Valley, Britain claimed the land based on an asserted Indian title; totally fictitious! A controversy arose after the Revolutionary War involving primarily West Virginia and Kentucky lands.
Up to about 1700, not many men and women were brave enough to establish homesteads even so far west as the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains because of the Indian troubles. Going south to the Carolinas and north to New York there were two very strong Indian tribes and they passed frequently through the Virginia Valley as they warred each other. These tribes were the Five Nation Iroquois of West-Central NY and the Cherokees of the Carolina mountains. In 1713 the Tuscaroras (from the Carolinas) were driven out by the Cherokee and whites and fled to NY, being taken into the Iroquois Confederacy – then called the “Six Nations.” Since the Cherokees and Iroquois lived closer to the white man, they were early supplied with firearms which allowed them to overtake other tribes. The Cherokee took over a great amount of land south of the Ohio River and claimed to own the whole wilderness between the Ohio and the Tennessee; the Iroquois claimed lands to the north.
Skipping through the pages of history, in 1754 the French and Indian War erupted. Treaties were signed and ignored over the years including the Treaty of Utrecht which declared that the Iroquois or Five Nations were to be considered British subjects.
© Copyright 15 Jan 2009, Sandra K. Gorin