While the Founding Fathers were signing the Declaration of Independence purportedly in Philadelphia, Natives were fighting for their own independence and survival. Here are 5 things that were going on while the newly formed colonies declared their independence from Great Britain.
1. The Cherokee took a stand against white settlers in North Carolina led by Dragging Canoe and Abraham of Chilowee on July 20, 1776. But the settlers had been warned. In retaliation for the attack a militia was sent that destroyed most of the nation, its crops and burned 50 of its towns.
Dragging Canoe pencil drawing on parchment paper.
2. The Chickamauga Wars started in 1776. They were a continuation of the Cherokee struggle against white encroachment. It ended in 1795 with the signing of the Treaty of Greenville, which ceded the territory that would become Ohio and part of what would become Indiana to the United States.
3. Because the British were using Indian troops, the Continental Congress, on May 25, 1776 thought “it was highly expedient to engage the Indians in the service of the United Colonies,” and tried recruiting 2,000 Indian soldiers. They got little response.
4. Though some Natives were fighting alongside the colonies against Britain in the Revolutionary War, the history of which began in 1776 when the Oneida Indian Nation urged Americans to reoccupy an abandoned British fort in upstate New York. Taking over Fort Stanwix blocked off one of the major invasion routes into New York from Canada. (Oneida Indian Nation owns Oneida Nation Enterprises, parent company of Indian Country Today Media Network.)
Fort Stanwix in Rome, New York
5. European diseases like smallpox and measles that Native populations lacked immunity to fight were spreading rampantly across Turtle Island. It’s estimated that by 1780, 80 percent of the Arikara died of European brought diseases.
The Wampanoags suffered great mortalities from smallpox.
The story was originally published on July 4, 2013.