marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

Slavery In Indian Country

Slavery In Indian Country:  The Changing Face of Captivity in Early America by Christina Snyder.

Bit of a misnomer.  It treats with slavery among the "Southern Indians" -- those on the East Coast and as far west as the Mississippi who were south of the territories that the Iroquois controlled.  Not that meant that the Iroquois were not sometimes a problem. . . .

It opens with accounts of the Mound Builder chiefdoms:  vast area controlled by high-status religious figures, the chiefs, often claiming to be descendants of the Sun.  Nutritional deficiencies, particularly those springing from a diet too heavily based on corn, were commonplace among the lower classes.  Particularly the slaves taken in battle.  Slavery was not in opposition to freedom -- it was in opposition to kinship.  Those who were slaves had no place in the clan structure.  And there were a good number since they were always at war, as shown by the way that they did not live in agriculturally efficient small villages, but clumped together.  Also by the injuries shown in the graves.

We know of this in part from the Spanish accounts.  They were not very successful as conquerors or colonists, but they still destroyed them, accidentally, with disease.  They had reorganized themselves in structures more suited to their diminished population by the time they had contacts with whites, which had to help.

War captives did not have to be enslaved; they could be adopted, or tortured to appease the souls of the dead. This was one reason why the captivity accounts did not include rape, even though there were many practices of rape in various cultures; the danger of incest.  It resulted in a very heterogeneous population by appearance.  All bets were off after they had not been adopted, though. . .   They were also used to fetch water and firewood, which is more difficult than it sounds, often involving long distances in dangerous places.

They regarded whites and blacks as different sorts of tribes until solidly into in the 18th-century.  There were "whites" (British), French, and "Christians" (Spanish).  They made heavy use of the slave trade to the white to get guns and other goods, because slaves were more compact value than deerskins, the other valued good.  Many raids were conducted for the product.  (And killing women and children was considered more impressive than killing men, because men were often in the forest, and to kill a woman you had to strike into their very settlement.)  It took decades and a war before that slackened off; their greater vulnerability to disease, ability to run away, and the war convinced white settlers to look to black slaves.  

And the Indians as well.  By the nineteenth century, most were settling into the same practices as the "Virginians" -- anyone who wanted their land, include Spaniards, and even some Indians.  They preferred ranching to farming after hunting was impossible.  Raids to capture blacks were better than those to capture whites because you could sell blacks to anyone, not just their families and government officials.  Blacks who escaped to their territory were usually re-enslaved, and it became the practice that their children were also slaves, which had not been earlier.  Those captured in raids might like it better but might appeal to government officials in hopes of getting back to their white masters.  (Oral histories  of erstwhile slaves seem to indicate that oddly enough, slaves of the Indians found them a mixed bag.)

And the definition of "red" "black" and "white" were settling in, even with creation stories:  God created white man first and pitied him for his weakness, then he tried again and made the black, whom he did not like at all, and then finally got it right with the red -- the white, being pitiful, was allowed to chose his place first, and chose learning, the red, being manly, chose weapons of war, and the black was relegatedto labor because God did not like him at all.

The Seminoles, oddly enough, kept up older practices for longer with the Black Seminoles. 

Lots of interesting stuff.
Tags: history reviews: 15th-18th centuries, history reviews: 19th century-wwi, history reviews: across eras, secondary source, world-building: social structure

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