Sins of Omission

Red Over Black

For hundreds of years, perhaps thousands, the Indians of North America practiced slavery.  Until the 18th century, those enslaved, for the most part, were other Indians.  The tribes of the Pacific Northwest, for example, raided constantly, principally to secure slaves.  The populations of some villages were one-third slave.  There is even an instance of a Russian seal- and otter-hunting ship running aground and Indians enslaving the crew.  The Pequot of the Northeast made slaves and vassals of hundreds of their neighboring Indians, which explains why the tribes of the Pequot region allied themselves with the English colonists in the Pequot War.  On the Great Plains, the Sioux enslaved captured Arikara and eventually reduced Arikara villages to a state of vassalage.  When Coronado reached New Mexico, he found the Pueblo Indians holding Plains Indians as slaves.

By the middle of the 1700’s, though, various tribes, especially the Five Civilized Tribes of the Southeast, began to acquire black slaves.  By the end of the century, the Cherokee owned nearly a thousand; the Creek, Seminole, Choctaw, and Chickasaw, several thousand more.  The numbers grew sharply during the early 19th century.  When the tribes were removed to Indian Territory, mostly during the 1830’s, they took thousands of black slaves with them.  Accompanying the Cherokee on their “Trail of Tears”...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here