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The arrival of the white man quickly made tremendous

impact on the people's that were living here. That of


course is an understatement of what eventually happened
to those people. But in the early days of contact between
the white man and the Indians, the white's man's
influences were being felt resulting in the beginning of the
end for the red man.
One of the interesting effects of the contact was what
became known as the Beaver Wars.
The British first came to the eastern coast, particularly the
New England area, as we know it today. There they
encountered the Iroquois Indians who had settled around
Lake Ontario and along the Mohawk River (in New York
state.) In the early 1600's, five tribes formed a
confederacy. The five tribes were the Onedias, the
Mohawks, the Senescas, the Cayugas and the Onondagas.
They called themselves Haudenosaunee or people of the
long house. The actual name Iroquois is a variation of a
French term for snake that the Hurons gave to this group
of Indians. A sixth tribe, the Tuscaroras, joined this
confederation in about 1722. Although there were other
tribes of Indians who shared a similar language and who even were related to the members
of the confederacy, only the six tribes were members.
Fur hats were in huge demand in Europe. America had plenty of fur bearing animals. It was
the Dutch who first started trading with the Iroquois for furs but the English later dominated
the trading.
This lead to several significant things. First, the Iroquois favored the English over the
French. This is contrary to almost all the other Indian tribes east of the Mississippi. By the
time the French and Indian War came, the many of the Indian tribes had already chosen
sides and enemies. When the Revolutionary War came, the Iroquois fought against the
colonists. Secondly, in pursuit of Beaver pelts, the favored fur for use with hats, the
Iroquois moved into the Ohio Valley and the Great Lakes Region. This area was rich with
beavers but it was also occupied by other Indian tribes.
One of the tribes, the Eries, happened to be related to the Iroquois tribes. But that didn't
make an difference when it came to fighting over beaver land. The Eries were wiped out by
the Iroquois tribes. This conflict came to be known as the Beaver War since it was fought
over control of land for hunting deer and beaver. Yes, Lake Erie was named for this group of
Indians.
The Iroquois pushed into the entire area around the Great Lakes. This economic conflict
among the Indians of this region resulted in a large displacement of all the other tribal
confederations. The Hurons, Neutrals and Susquehannocks were defeated and all but
destroyed. Surviving Indians fled westward essentially emptying all the tribes out of the
Ohio Valley and what is now the Lower Peninsula of Michigan.
The Lakota Indians, for example, were pushed westward into the Great Plains.
The Iroquois had given themselves a tremendous advantage in their
conflict with the other tribes. One of the primary reasons they wanted
to trade with the Dutch and then the English was to acquire guns. The
rifles available at this time were called arquebus. Needless to say,
this gave the Iroquois a huge advantage over the Hurons and other
tribes who were armed with bows and arrows.
The Iroquois also sought to disrupt the trade of Hurons, Mohawks,
Wyandot and other tribes with the French. Many battles were fought
with the French along side their Indian allies against the Iroquois. The
French wanted to protect their fur trade. Many French missionaries
were killed along side the Indians in the villages. The battles were not
necessarily regular and frequent. Many battles were silent raids on
villages where all inhabitants were either killed or taken prisoner.
Those that survived were taken back to the Iroquois camps and
integrated into the Iroquois tribes.
In 1665 the French brought in more troops to do a counter attack
against the invading Iroquois. Starting in January of 1666, the
French Carignan-Salieres regiment lead by Alexandre de
Prouville counter attacked against the Iroquois home land. Unable to
find any major groups of warriors, they resorted to burning villages,
homes and crops. Many Iroquois very likely starved the next winter.
The Iroquois sued for peace with the French. That peace lasted about 16 years. Many of
those hardened French troops stayed in Canada rather than go back to Europe. These
troops were all veteran soldiers who had fought the Turks. So when the governor formed a
militia he had armed and experienced men to call on.
The conflict resumed between the Iroquois and the French in 1683. Governor Louis de
Buade decided to enrich himself by trying to expand his fur trade in the Iroquois controlled
areas. This bloody war lasted ten more years. One thing that altered the balance was the
remaining Carignan-Salieres soldiers. They had not only acclimated to living in Canada,
they also learned the Indian way of guerrilla fighting from their Algonquin allies. This group
could be called Canada's first standing army.
By 1698, The Iroquois came to see themselves more and more as a tool of the English
especially when it came to the perpetual conflict with the French. In 1701, 39 Iroquois
chiefs signed the Great Peace of Montreal with the French and the English. The Iroquois
agreed to stop fighting and allow the Indian refugees who had fled west to return.
Eventually the Shawnee would gain control of the Ohio Valley and the Lower Allegheny River
area.