Compare and contrast the Shawnee Rebellion in the United States and the Caste War in Mexico. How did they reflect tensions between Native Americans and European Americans?

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mrkirschner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In order to adequately answer this question, we should discuss the background of both wars. Tecumseh's War was part of a larger conflict that historians call the Sixty Year's War (1754-1814) and can be considered the last battle of this larger struggle. It featured an Indian confederation led by Tecumseh against the United States Army and Benjamin Harrison. The war was fought over the Indiana Territory and the end saw the territorial dominance of the United States over the Great Lakes region.

The Caste War was fought in the Yucatan territory of Mexico. It initially was fought between the Maya and the Yucatecos, the Spanish-born upper class. The conflict appeared to be over as Mexico joined the side of the Yucatecos in 1848. This end did not materialize, however, as Britain recognized Maya claims in 1855. The British and their colony in Honduras had an economic stake in supporting the Maya and supplied them with ammunition and other supplies. The British changed sides at the beginning of the Twentieth Century as their relationship with Mexico improved. This tipped the balance of power in favor of Mexico as the Maya were not able to receive material support from Honduras.

There were many similarities that existed between the native conflicts in the United States and Mexico. They both reflected desperate attempts to stop the incursion of European powers on their lands. Both conflicts saw the British initially support the indigenous populations, only to change course at a later time. The frustration of the Indians is obvious in that they were continually losing their lands at the whim of the United States or the Spaniards in Mexico. As Native Americans did their best to resist the loss of their lands, they were, more often than not, outgunned and outmanned. Both conflicts were economically driven, as the American government looked to expand west to acquire more resources and land for a growing population. In Mexico, the Maya were losing lands to wealthy planters that were becoming wealthy through sugar and agave cultivation.

A significant difference between the two conflicts is the nature of the role of the Indians. In the Caste War, the Maya were part of a feudal-type economic system that exploited their labor and abused them as workers. They were essentially part of the economic structure of Yucatan and rebelled against the planters. In the United States, the Native Americans were their own sovereign political entity. They formed an alliance of sovereign nations to stop the incursion of the United States on their territories. Both conflicts ended in failure for the indigenous populations and led to further European dominance in the Americas.

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