Native Americans and the Colonists

Start Free Trial

Were there any attempts to use American Indians as slaves?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Based on the category of this question, I’m assuming you are asking about Native American slavery during the colonial period. During colonial times, the colonists did attempt to use Native Americans as slaves, and they successfully did so, especially on the southern plantations where the cultivation of rice, tobacco, and indigo required extensive labor.

Native American enslavement was short-lived, however, especially compared to the enslavement of African Americans. By 1750, the Native American slave trade was basically over due to the Indian Wars throughout the early 18th century and the influx of African American slaves. The colonists found the Native Americans difficult to enslave because they often ran away—they knew the land much better. They also died of diseases that the colonists brought with them or were casualties of the Indian Wars. As time wore on, the small tribes started banding together to stand against the colonists.

Although the exact number of Native Americans that were enslaved is unknown due to poor record-keeping and a lack of distinction between slavery and indentured servitude, many experts estimate that the number is in the tens of thousands.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team