How does the period of 1800-1812 look if viewed by the American Indians eyes?

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For Native Americans, the period from 1800 to 1812 was a period of progressive loss of territory to the influx of white settlers to the Midwest. Napoleon sold the vast colony of Louisiana to the US in 1803 (in the Louisiana Purchase). It included the Mississippi basin. The Lewis and...

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For Native Americans, the period from 1800 to 1812 was a period of progressive loss of territory to the influx of white settlers to the Midwest. Napoleon sold the vast colony of Louisiana to the US in 1803 (in the Louisiana Purchase). It included the Mississippi basin. The Lewis and Clarke expedition of 1804-1806 explored the American Northwest, especially the Missouri and Columbia rivers, and started to prepare for the expansion toward the Pacific Ocean. Thomas Jefferson drafted a secret program of deliberate acculturation, commercial and financial subjugation, marginalization, and absorption or displacement of Native American nations. On February 27, 1803, he wrote to the governor of Indiana territory William Henry Harrison:

Our system is to live in perpetual peace with the Indians, to cultivate an affectionate attachment from them, by everything just &liberal which we can do for them within the bounds of reason, and by giving them effectual protection against wrongs from our own people. The decrease of game rendering their subsistence by hunting insufficient, we wish to draw them to agriculture, to spinning &weaving. The latter branches they take up with great readiness, because they fall to the women, who gain by quitting the labors of the field for those which are exercised within doors. When they withdraw themselves to the culture of a small piece of land, they will perceive how useless to them are their extensive forests, and will be willing to pare them off from time to time in exchange for necessaries for their farms &families. To promote this disposition to exchange lands, which they have to spare &we want, for necessaries, which we have to spare &they want, we shall push our trading uses, and be glad to see the good and influential individuals among them run in debt, because we observe that when these debts get beyond what the individuals can pay, they become willing to lop th[em off]by a cession of lands…. This is what private traders cannot do, for they must gain; they will consequently retire from the competition, &we shall thus get clear of this pest without giving offence[sic] or umbrage to the Indians. In this way our settlements will gradually circumscribe &approach the Indians, &they will in time either incorporate with us as citizens of the United States, or remove beyond the Mississippi. The former is certainly the termination of their history most happy for themselves; but, in the whole course of this, it is essential to cultivate their love. As to their fear, we presume that our strength &their weakness is now so visible that they must see we have only to shut our hand to crush them, &that all our liberalities to them proceed from motives of pure humanity only. Should any tribe be foolhardy enough to take up the hatchet at any time, the seizing the whole country of that tribe, &driving them across the Mississippi, as the only condition of peace, would be an example to others, and a furtherance of our final consolidation. (For the full text of this letter, see founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-39-02-0500)

During this period, the Native American peoples were preparing for the struggle to keep the remaining parts of the Midwest. They had recently suffered defeat at the hands of federal troops in the Battle of Fallen Timbers (1795), and the subsequent Treaty of Greenville (1796) gave the Ohio valley as well as parts of Michigan and Illinois (including the place where Chicago would eventually be built) to the US. The new state of Ohio entered the Union in 1803.

In 1808, Shawnee leader Tecumseh and his brother Tenskwatawa founded a new settlement, Prophetstown, which became the center of new Indian Confederacy. Tenskwata was a prophetic figure who led a Native American religious revival and strived to reject white cultural influences and reassert independent Native American culture. In 1811, Tecumseh began an armed struggle against U.S. troops. He allied himself with the British and participated in the ensuing war of 1812 between the US and England. The death of Tecumseh in the Battle of the Thames (October 1813) meant the end of independence for Native Americans in the Great Lakes area.

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Through Native American eyes, American history looks very different in the years 1800-1812 than it does from the eyes of United States citizens. Native Americans felt that they were being treated poorly and disrespectfully.

From the Native American perspective, they viewed the American expansion as a form of thievery. Native Americans were forced to sign treaties that were not in their best interests. In some cases, Native Americans were not being told the truth about what the treaties were going to do. In other cases, they were forced to give up their land against their will.

Things got so bad that Tecumseh tried to organize many Native American tribes into a confederation with him as the leader. This confederation would unite the Native Americans in battles against the expansion of the Americans. Unfortunately for Tecumseh, this confederation never formed because the United States attacked the Native Americans at the Battle of Tippecanoe under the leadership of William Henry Harrison while Tecumseh was away trying to organize this confederation.

The Native Americans viewed westward expansion through a very different lens than American citizens did.

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