Brothers among Nations: The Pursuit of Intercultural Alliances in Early America, 1580-1660

By Cynthia J. Van Zandt | Go to book overview

6
Alliances of Necessity
Fictive Kinship and Manhattan's Diaspora
African Community

To a large degree William Claiborne and the Susquehannocks used their alliance for similar ends. Claiborne used his with the Susquehannocks to improve trade and to expand his power base within the political circles of Virginia and London. The Susquehannocks used theirs with Claiborne and Virginia to increase trade and gain advantage over their Iroquois and Algonquian enemies. Many of the intercultural partnerships that formed in North America during the early seventeenth century related to comparable goals. Just as European individuals like Isaac Allerton and William Claiborne and Indian nations like the Susquehannocks developed these associations, others also used alliance-building strategies to strengthen their position, even in some of the most restrictive circumstances.

Enslaved Africans lived under constraints that were different from those that existed elsewhere in North America, but at least in New Netherland, they carefully mapped the social world of the Dutch colony and found a way to use alliances to their advantage.1 In New Netherland, Africans formed links with one another as a way to influence the degree of Dutch control over their community. Although the circumstances of slavery made these connections rather different from some that shaped seventeenth-century North America, they were also a response to the dangers and flexibility that the uncertain early colonial period created.

The collaborations and conflicts of diaspora Africans sometimes had nothing to do with Europeans but nonetheless fed fears in European communities. In the fluid context of early colonial North America, even enslaved Africans

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