Discuss the role of the Indians in the wars for empire from the 1690s through the 1760s. Were they simply pawns of the European combatants, or did they have their own strategies and goals from the war? What factors caused Indian tribes and confederations to choose one European power over another as an ally?

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The main war for empire in North America from the 1690s through the 1760s was what became known as the French and Indian War. A series of conflicts in North America between France and Great Britain led up to it. During part of this time, the two countries formally declared war, and fighting raged worldwide in what was called the Seven Years' War. The role of Native Americans in this conflict was not arbitrary, and they were not mere pawns of the Europeans. Each tribe had its own agenda and reasons for allying with one power or the other.

The two main reasons for involvement for Native Americans were trade and land. The Indians most deeply involved in the fur trade tended to fight alongside the French. These included the Algonquin, Mohawk, Ojibwa, Shawnee, Ottawa, Wyandot, Lenape, and the tribes belonging to the Wabanaki Confederacy; they were already business partners with the French. Additionally, these Indians thought that alliance with the French meant protection of their lands. Unlike the British, the French did not fill the land with settlers but were content to establish forts and trading posts in wilderness areas for the sake of the lucrative fur trade.

Tribes that allied with the British included the Iroquois, Chickasaws, Cherokee, and Catawba. Some of these tribes not only fought the French, but also the Spanish in western Florida. These tribes wanted to prove their loyalty to the British so that the British would honor treaties that would protect their tribal territories. Some Iroquois even fought for the British during the American Revolutionary War. Eventually, though, most of the treaties were broken, and the Native American lost their land regardless of loyalties.

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The Native peoples of North America found themselves in a tough place throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. With the great powers of Europe frequently at war to determine the imperial fate of the continent, Indigenous groups were regularly forced to choose sides. This started in 1688 with what was known as King William's War. There would be five subsequent wars between the English and French for dominion of the continent, ending with the French and Indian War in the 1760s. Throughout these conflicts, Native Americans often served as guides and made up raiding parties.

Most tribes simply wanted to have their rights to the land and customs protected. The French had long proved themselves to be friendlier to the Indigenous populations than the English. They had sent far fewer settlers to the continent than the English and had long established trade relations with the tribes of the interior. Therefore, many Indigenous groups, namely the Wabanaki Confederacy and the Algonquian, sided with the French in an attempt to put a stop to English expansion, which was pushing them out of their land.

Some groups did side with the English, however. Most notably, the Iroquois Confederacy threw their lot in with the English. Their traditional enemies, the Algonquian, had sided with the French, and the Iroquois hoped that English victories would secure them favorable relations with the powerful empire.

From the European perspective, they may have seemed like essential but small-time players in the struggle for empire. However, from their own point of view, Native Americans fought to protect and ensure rights to the land and the ability to continue traditional ways of life.

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The Native Americans had a role in the wars for empire between 1690-1760.  The Native Americans were in a tough spot.  They knew the Europeans were coming and wanted their land.  When we view the goals of the Native Americans, their goals included surviving, keeping their land, and maintaining their way of life, including making a living.  Thus, the Native Americans had to decide which European power was the least threatening to them.  For many Native Americans, they sided with the French.  They had more trade with the French. The French had converted them to Christianity. Additionally, some of the French had married some of the Native Americans. When it came to choosing sides and achieving their goals, it really came down to relationships and trust. Therefore, from the viewpoint of many of the tribes, the French were a better choice for them. However, in reality, the Europeans really would use the Native Americans to achieve their (European) goals. Thus, while the Native Americans had their own goals and agendas, their fate was doomed (as history would prove) once the Europeans arrived in the New World.

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