How Settlers Coped with Native American Troubles

When it came to the Native Americans, English colonists had varying opinions. Some thought they should be treated as pets; others as pests. Some thought the Native Americans should be treated with respect. Others thought they should be exterminated, and still others thought they should be tricked out of their lands and then exterminated.

For their part, the Native Americans weren’t sure what to make of their uninvited guests. The newcomers had some pretty clever possessions, but they seemed awfully helpless at times. The English had a strange god, strange customs, and a fixation with other people’s things.

In the Southern colonies, trouble between the two groups started almost as soon as the English got off the ships. In 1642, Native Americans under Chief Opechencanough attacked settlers over a large area of the Virginia colony and killed about 350 of them. The settlers counterattacked a few months later and killed hundreds of Native Americans.

In New Netherland, the Dutch settlers treacherously murdered nearly 100 Native Americans in their sleep, cut off their heads, and kicked them around the streets of New Amsterdam. That launched a nasty war that ended when 150 Dutch soldiers killed about 700 Native Americans at a battle near present-day Stamford, Connecticut.

In New England, thanks in part to the good initial relations between the Pilgrims and local tribes, war was averted until 1634, when a rowdy pirate named John Stone and seven of his crew were murdered by Native Americans that the settlers decided were from a tribe called the Pequot. After an uneasy two-year truce, New Englanders went on the attack.

In 1637, Puritan soldiers and their Native American allies attacked a Pequot fort near Mystic River, Connecticut. In about an hour, they burned the village and slaughtered 600 men, women, and children.

In September 1638, the Pequots surrendered. As many as 2,000 of them were sold as slaves in the West Indies or given to rival tribes. The Pequots were all but exterminated, and the Native American wars in New England were over for nearly 40 years.

In 1675, a Native American chief named Metacom but called King Philip by the settlers because he liked English customs and dress decided it was time to push the white invaders out once and for all. The result was King Philip’s War.

This time, the Native Americans used guns and attacked everywhere. By the time the two-year war was over, half the settlements in New England had been destroyed, and the English were on the edge of being driven into the sea. Finally, however, the colonies united while the Native Americans did not, and the tide began to turn.

King Philip was killed in August 1676, and the war finally ended. It would be 40 years before the area recovered enough to begin expanding its boundaries into the frontier again.

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