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The American History Series

Abbott, Carl Urban America in the Modern Age: 1920 to the Present, 2d ed.

Aldridge, Daniel W. Becoming American: The African American Quest for Civil Right, 1861–1976

Barkan, Elliott Robert And Still They Come: Immigrants and American Society, 1920s to the 1990s

Bartlett, Irving H. The American Mind in The Mid-Nineteenth Century, 2d ed.

Beisner, Robert L. From the Old Diplomacy to the New, 1865–1900, 2d ed.

Blaszczyk, Regina Lee American Consumer Society, 1865–2005: From Hearth to HDTV

Borden, Morton Parties and Politics in the Early Republic, 1789–1815

Carpenter, Roger M. “Times Are Altered with Us”: American Indians from First Contact to the New Republic

Carter, Paul A. The Twenties in America, 2d ed.

Cherny, Robert W. American Politics in The Gilded Age, 1868–1900

Conkin, Paul K. The New Deal, 3d ed.

Doenecke, Justus D., and John E. Wilz From Isolation to War, 1931–1941, 3d ed.

Dubofsky, Melvyn Industrialism and the American Worker, 1865–1920, 3d ed.

Ferling, John Struggle for a Continent: The Wars of Early America

Ginzberg, Lori D. Women in Antebellum Reform

Griffin, C. S. The Ferment of Reform, 1830–1860

Hess, Gary R. The United States at War, 1941–45, 3d ed.

Iverson, Peter, and Wade Davies “We Are Still Here”: American Indians since 1890, 2d ed.

James, D. Clayton, and Anne Sharp Wells America and the Great War, 1914–1920

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Neu, Charles E. America’s Lost War: Vietnam, 1945–1975

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O’Neill, William L. The New Left: A History

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“Times Are Altered with Us”

American Indians from First Contact to the New Republic


Roger M. Carpenter

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List of Illustrations

Figure 1.1 A highly romanticized depiction of Cristóbal Colón’s landing on Hispaniola
Figure 2.1 A benign image of Spanish colonization
Figure 3.1 Native hunters and European fishermen
Figure 4.1 A Virginia Indian
Figure 4.2 A Susquehannock Village
Figure 4.3 Natives and English traders
Figure 5.1 Colonists clash with Indians during Metacom’s Rebellion
Figure 6.1 A native hunter prepares to club a beaver
Figure 6.2 Huron Warrior with a musket and wearing wooden armor
Figure 8.1 Canadian natives with French soldiers
Figure 9.1 The Indians giving a talk to Colonel Bouquet in a conference at a council fire near his camp on the banks of the Muskingum River in North America, in October 1764
Figure 10.1 Native Americans, a rather benign (and Europeanized) bison, and other “exotic” animals

List of Maps

Map 1.1 Major geographic regions of North America
Map 2.1 Invasions of North America
Map 2.2 Pueblo Revolt
Map 3.1 Native people and the French
Map 5.1 Metacom’s Rebellion
Map 6.1 The Iroquois Wars, 1641–1701
Map 9.1 Pontiac’s Rebellion
Map 10.1 Diffusion of horses across the West
Map 10.2 Migrations to the Great Plains
Map 10.3 Russian invasion of Alaska
Map 11.1 Native Americans and the American Revolution
Map 12.1 Wars in the Ohio Country, 1791–1794


In addition to standing on its own, whether as one of several core readings or as supplementary (and hopefully engaging) reading for a larger survey of United States or Native American history, this book also will complement two other works about Native American history originally published by Harlan Davidson in this American History Series, now published by Wiley Blackwell. Philip Weeks’ “Farewell, My Nation”: The American Indian and the United States in the Nineteenth Century (third edition forthcoming) provides an overview of Native Americans during the tumultuous nineteenth century, while the second edition of Peter Iverson’s and Wade Davies’s “We Are Still Here”: American Indians since 1890 discusses the American Indian experience in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, and, as the title emphasizes, notes that American Indians did not simply disappear with the closing of the frontier.

Times Are Altered with Us” takes its title from remarks made by an Onondaga leader in the early phases of the American Revolution; yet the ideas expressed in his comment can be applied to the native experience in the first three decades of contact with Europeans. “Times Are Altered with Us” begins with the settlement of the Americas by the ancestors of Native Americans, and ends just about where “Farewell, My Nation” picks up. The notion that native people settled the Americas can be somewhat controversial, in that many Native Americans assert that they have always occupied this continent; archaeologists and anthropologists, however, argue otherwise. Nevertheless, this work attempts to tell the story of the interactions between the original inhabitants of North America and European explorers, missionaries, and colonizers from Cristóbal Colón’s landfall on a Caribbean island in 1492 to the first years of the American Republic. In covering such a vast expanse of time, and the myriad experiences and interactions between Native Americans and Europeans, an author is forced by necessity to pick and choose what he or she believes to be the most important and consequential events.

It is difficult for anyone living today to appreciate the magnitude of change that contact between the two “old worlds” of Europe and the Americas ushered in. Two civilizations, wholly unaware of each other, began a process that would change the course of history. I am aware that the phrase “change the course of history” has become cliché: nearly every author of a work of history, or producer of a documentary that purports to portray the past, tends to use the term or a variation thereof. That said, in this case the phrase is an understatement. The difficulty in appreciating the magnitude of how contact between Europe and the Americas changed the world lies in that its results are now part of the cultural milieu in which we find ourselves immersed; the consequences of contact affect each of us in our daily lives, right down to the food we eat. It is difficult to imagine, for example, present-day American culture without maize (corn). It is consumed by the cattle that are transformed into our fast-food hamburgers and it is present in our automobiles’ gas tanks as an additive (ethanol). The potato, a plant native to South America, has also become the everyday. Taken to Europe, it fed the continent’s peasant populations over the last three centuries, and was re-exported to North America. Of course, it is also consumed as fries to complement our quarter-pounders, and perhaps more commonly, as chips.

In a very real and tragic sense, however, the largely unwitting importation of diseases from Europe and Africa did more than any other factor to change things for the peoples of the Americas. European missionaries and explorers would see the effects of these pathogens among native people first-hand, and they would describe mortality rates that range from 50 to 90 percent. It remains difficult, however, to assign an exact number as to how many native people died as result of diseases introduced by Europeans: this is because no one knows what the population of the Americas was at contact. While there is still disagreement among scholars, an estimate of 15 million people living north of the Rio Grande appears to be gaining acceptance. While it never will be possible for us to know with certainty how many people lived in the Americas in 1492, the late historian Francis Jennings did place the debate in its proper context. The numbers aside, Jennings noted, it was obvious that not long after the initial encounters North America had become a widowed land. The Pilgrims who landed in New England in 1620 certainly saw the effects of a disease epidemic: unharvested maize rotting in the fields, deteriorating wigwams, and, most tellingly, human remains lying above ground. Slightly more than a half-century later, the French explorer La Salle described the present-day American Southeast as a largely depopulated wilderness, yet more than a century before him, chroniclers of the De Soto expedition saw a very different landscape, taking note of its large villages and vast cornfields. In short, in the 130 years between the expeditions of De Soto and La Salle, the Indian population had declined and the landscape had been altered, not only because of De Soto’s depredations, but because of the diseases his expedition had left in its wake.

Perhaps the greatest frustration for any scholar in writing Native American history is the elusiveness of the Native voice. Europeans wrote the vast majority of the historical sources for the first 300 years of contact and thereby seized control of the narrative. It is true that sources often contain remarks attributed to Native Americans, but we have to keep in mind that even then the Native voice is somewhat muted – since it must pass through cultural and linguistic filters. Indeed, some historians now assert that, at times, European translators present at treaty negotiations did not always keep a faithful record of what native people said. Historical accounts by missionaries are often tainted, not only by the difficulties in translation, but by the need of the authors to demonstrate to prospective readers that they were making headway in converting the “barbarians” of the Americas to whatever brand of Christianity they espoused.

In composing this book, I have attempted to use the terms “tribe,” “nation,” and “band” almost interchangeably, to try to avoid redundancy. I have also attempted to use the names of Indian nations that are most often familiar to readers. The tendency in academia – one with which I agree – is to attempt to use the names that native people called and in some cases still call themselves.

I have divided this book into a dozen chapters. Chapter 1 provides a capsule view of the Americas prior to contact between Indian peoples and Europeans. Among these key developments are the migration of the ancestors of Native Americans from Asia (which in itself is somewhat controversial), the development of maize agriculture, and the ongoing (and I believe irresolvable) disputes concerning pre-contact native populations.

Chapters 2, 3, and 4 deal with native contacts with the major European powers. Chapter 2 focuses primarily on Spanish exploration in North America, covering the wanderings of Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and subsequent expeditions led by Hernándo de Soto and Francisco Vasquez de Coronado. It also discusses the permanent Spanish settlements of New Mexico and the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Chapter 3 examines contact between native people and the French, from Jacques Cartier’s voyages in the 1530s, Samuel de Champlain’s governance of New France, and the establishment of Louisiana at the very end of the seventeenth century. It also examines the missionary activities of the Jesuits. Drawing on their experience in Canada, the French (and the Jesuit order for that matter) took a different approach than did the Spanish toward native people in Louisiana. Chapters 4 and 5 both discuss relations between Native American peoples and English colonists. Chapter 4 treats relations between the English and native people in the Southeast, while Chapter 5 examines interactions between the two groups in New England.

Chapter 6 focuses mainly on the so-called Iroquois Wars, but it also discusses Dutch interactions with Native Americans. The Dutch receive relatively lighter coverage for several reasons – besides overall limitations of space. Chief among these is that the Dutch presence in the Americas, while important, was temporally limited; the colony of New Netherland barely existed for four decades. Second, while the Dutch constantly engaged in commercial interactions with Native Americans, their knowledge about them was extremely narrow. Indeed, Dutch traders at Fort Orange simply referred to all non-Mohawk Iroquoian speakers as Senecas, conflating the westernmost of the Iroquois Five Nations with all the others. But the most important portion of the chapter deals with the Iroquois and their wars against other native peoples that lasted until the end of the seventeenth century, and their positioning themselves as a force between the French and English for much of the eighteenth century.

Chapters 7, 8, and 9 discuss relations and conflict between native people and Europeans from the late seventeenth century to the years immediately preceding the American Revolution. Chapter 7 examines relations between native people and the Quaker colony of Pennsylvania, and the creation of what historian Richard White termed a “Middle Ground” in which American Indians and Europeans learned (sometimes reluctantly) to get along with one another through a series of creative understandings and misunderstandings. This chapter also discusses the eviction of the Lenni-Lenape people from their homes in eastern Pennsylvania and the movement of native populations – followed invariably by Europeans – into the Ohio country, and the transformation of that region into a scene of continual conflict. Chapter 8 dovetails with Chapter 7 in that it discusses native participation in the Imperial Wars between the 1690s and the 1760s. Chapter 9 provides a coda in that it discusses Pontiac’s Rebellion as an outcome of the Imperial Wars. While there is some debate as to how much leadership Pontiac actually exerted over native people west of the Appalachians in 1763, the outcome of this brief conflict was important, and it represents one of the few times in which native people achieved a victory of sorts, even if it may not have been apparent at the time.

Chapter 10 deviates from the rest of the book in that it examines native contacts with Europeans in the Far West, ranging from Russians in the Bering Strait to the Spanish in southern California. It also deals with the creation of the horse and bison culture that had its beginnings in the seventeenth century and lasted until the last decades of the nineteenth. This chapter also discusses how a host of push and pull factors, such as the availability and adoption of the horse and the presence of millions of bison, fueled the migration of native peoples to the Great Plains, where the new arrivals created a new culture, and in doing so pushed other native groups off the plains and, in some cases, out of existence. Woodland peoples such as the Lakota and the Cheyenne moved from the eastern woodlands, while the Comanche split from their Shoshone brethren, moved south, and became the dominant force on the southern plains.

The final two chapters deal with Native American interactions with the New Republic. Chapter 11 lays out the choices with which native peoples were confronted during the American Revolution. The vast majority of them probably would have been content to remain neutral in what they viewed as an internal conflict among the English. But circumstances such as dependency on European goods, and the fear (not unfounded as it turned out) that the Americans would take their lands if they won the war, led Indians to enter the conflict.

The last chapter looks at the formation of a nascent Indian policy by the US government, the initial phase of which simply called for native people to surrender their lands to the United States (which somehow assumed it had won Indian lands by right of conquest). A more realistic policy succeeded the first one and took two approaches. The first was an attempt to incorporate native people into the American nation, by making them more like Americans, meaning white Americans. The other called for war against any native peoples who would not follow this policy.

It is my hope that instructors of Native American History, at both the high school and college level, will see this book not only as a useful supplement, but in some cases even as one of several core texts. Much of what follows also is certainly applicable to courses in early and Colonial America, and it also could be used to give students a sense of the other side of the American frontier – the one that, as I point out in the first chapter, faced east. Instructors teaching the US survey course should also find it useful, since most big survey textbooks continue to give short shrift to the Native American experience, especially before the nineteenth century.

I do wish to explain here some of my choices of images placed in this work. As a student, I was fascinated by illustrations, but as I became increasingly interested in history, I found it somewhat dismaying to open a new book about Native American history or early America only to see the “same old” illustrations, images that had been repeatedly used in other works. Therefore, for this book I decided to seek out a number of images that seldom appear in other academic works, which led me to use what one might term neglected illustrations, such as cartouches, from seventeenth- and eighteenth-century maps. These images also serve another purpose: they give the reader insight as to how Europeans at the time viewed, and imagined, the Americas and its peoples. They also tell us much about how Europeans interpreted information they received from others about the Americas. For example, lacking a way to adequately describe a bison, European explorers used their cultural frame of reference, and called them “cows,” perhaps adding that they had a shaggy appearance. Not surprisingly, European artists who read these reports, but never ventured to North America themselves, depicted bison as shaggy cattle. In any event, I think readers will appreciate illustrations that are somewhat unlike the ones they may have seen in other books about Native Americans during the first centuries of contact.

There are many people to thank for the completion of this book. I would like to express my gratitude to the anonymous readers who reviewed the manuscript and their suggestions that greatly improved the final product. I also wish to thank my colleagues in the history department at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Terry Jones, Ralph Brown, Chris Blackburn, Monica Bontty, Jeff Anderson, and the late H.P. Jones have always made the department a collegial and pleasant place to work. Sean Chenoweth of the geography department helped me procure maps. At Wiley, Georgina Coleby and Lindsay Bourgeois provided cheerful and able assistance. Finally, I must also thank my friend and fellow University of California, San Diego graduate Andrew Davidson for giving me the opportunity to publish this work. I must also thank him for his unerring editor’s eye. Andrew did not merely edit; he posed good hard questions about the content, and asked me to explain aspects of Native American culture and historical events in more detail. He also, like any good editor, did his best to make me stick to a timetable. The contributions of Andrew, my colleagues, and those anonymous readers who reviewed the manuscript, have made this a much improved work.

Roger Carpenter
Monroe, Louisiana