Indians in the United States and Canada: A Comparative History

By Roger L. Nichols | Go to book overview

5 Striving for Independence, 1750-1790s

On 21 June 1752 Charles Langlade, a mixed-race Ottawa, led a French-sponsored attack by Ottawa and Potawatomi warriors on the Miami village of Pickawillany, in west central Ohio. Many of the local men had left for their summer hunt when the raiders surprised the village. The French Indians captured the women and children and disarmed some of the Pickawillany men; fewer than twenty of the latter fled to the nearby British trading post. From there, aided by a handful of British traders, they tried to defend themselves, but the more than ten-to-one odds persuaded them to parley. Langlade promised to return his prisoners and leave if the Pickawillany chief La Demoiselle, sometimes called Old Briton, would surrender and turn the British over to him. As soon as the defenders left the stockade Langlade's men killed Old Briton, cut out his heart, and ate it. Next they dismembered his body, boiled it, and ate it in front of the remaining villagers. 1

This incident illustrates how central interethnic dealings had become for both the Europeans and many Indian groups. As the population of transplanted Europeans in North America grew, that of the native peoples continued to decline. Recurrent epidemics, intertribal and Indian-white warfare, physical removals, the ever-growing reliance on manufactured goods, and the impact of alcohol all brought havoc to tribal societies. Because their long-term methods for dealing with the Europeans all proved ineffective, some of the tribal people strove to distance themselves from the invaders. In doing so they sought to regain their native independence, strengthen their village cultures, and regain

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