"The Sign of the Beaver" takes place in 1769 in Maine. It is during this time in Colonial America that conflict between the British and colonists begins to escalate. The French and Indian War had ended five years prior. The British needed to raise money to keep troops in America. At the time of this story, various tax acts were imposed on the colonists to raise the money to keep the troops in America, which further escalated the conflict between the two groups.
In addition to a time of conflict between the British and colonists, and more central to the novel's storyline, there is the ongoing conflict between Native Americans and the white settlers who continue to expand their territory. As the white move into Native American lands, they take land from the Native Americans using unfair treaties the Native Americans cannot read. In the novel, one reason Saknis wants Matt to teach Attean to read is so that Attean can read the white treaties and avoid Native Americans being cheated.