In The Sign of the Beaver, why was Ben going to keep away from the river? What happened to the Indians in Matt's area?

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In Chapter 3, Ben tells Matt that he plans to keep away from the river, as he's trying to avoid being seen by the people in town. Apparently, according to Ben, the townspeople are after him for something he did. However, Ben adamantly says that they can't prove whatever it is they're accusing him of.

Ben snorted again. "Not likely. I'm keeping as fur off from that river's I can, till things quiet down." Matt waited. "Tell the truth, I got away from that town just in time. Warn't nothin' they could prove, but they sure had it in for me."

Later on, Ben tells Matt that many of the Indians in his area have either been killed off by smallpox or annihilated during the French and Indian War. While many surviving Indians have moved on to Canada, the ones left in Matt's area, the Penobscots, are the most resilient of the tribes.

"The Indians has mostly cleared out of these parts; Ben told him. "What wasn't killed off in the war got took with the sickness. A deal of em moved on to Canada. What's left makes a mighty poor living, game gettin' so scarce"...Ben waved vaguely toward the forest. "They make small camps for a while and then move on. The Penobscots stick like burrs, won't give up. They still hunt and trap. No way to stop em.

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