Early Exploration and Native Americans

De Soto and his band gave to the Choctaws at Moma Binah and the Chickasaws at Chikasahha their first lesson in the white man’s modus operandi to civilize and Christianize North American Indians; so has the same lesson been continued to be given to that unfortunate people by his white successors from that day to this, all over this continent, but which to them, was as the tones of an alarm-bell at midnight. And one hundred and twenty-three years have passed since our forefathers declared all men of every nationality to be free and equal on the soil of the North American continent then under their jurisdiction, except the Africans whom they held in slavery, and the Native Americans against whom they decreed absolute extermination because they could not also enslave them; to prove which, they at once began to hold out flattering-inducements to the so-called oppressed people of all climes under the sun, to come to free America and assist them to oppress and kill off the Native Americans and in partnership take their lands and country, as this was more in accordance with their lust of wealth and speedy self-aggrandizement than the imagined slow process of educating, civilizing and Christianizing them, a work too con descending, too humiliating; and to demonstrate that it has been a grand and glorious success, we now point with vaunting pride and haughty satisfaction to our broad and far extended landed possessions as indisputable evidence of our just claims to the resolution passed by our pilgrim ancestors, “We are the children of the Lord”; and to the little remnant of hapless, helpless and hopeless Indians who calmly wait their turn to be wiped out as tribes and nationalities, that the y also, as all their race before, may give place to our glorious institutions of civilization.

Justly have the ancient Chickasaws been regarded as the bravest and most skillful warriors among all the North American Indians; and it has been affirmed that they never were conquered, though fighting oft under adverse circumstances; and also, had they maintained the fight with De Soto but a few hours longer, they would have defeated him and utterly destroyed his army, leaving not a single one to tell of his overthrow arid Complete extermination. The surrounding tribes recognized and acknowledged them as justly the lords and masters of the vast territory they claimed extending from the Yalobaaiasha (Tadpole Habitation corrupted to Yalobusha), Mississippi, north to the Ohio River, and from the Mississippi to the Muscle Shoals in the Tennessee River ; and oft the Indian hunters from the prairies of Illinois and the lakes of the North, in pursuing the deer and buffalo in the then wide extended and magnificent forests south of the Ohio River, trespassed upon those of the Chickasaws and fierce and bloody battles ensued. As it is the Choctaws boast “they never in war shed an American’s blood” so it is the Chickasaws boast “they never in war shed a white mans blood of English descent.”

Neither the Choctaws nor Chickasaws ever engaged in war against the American people, but always stood as their faithful allies. It has been published that, after the destruction of Fort Mims by the Creeks, in 1812, “the Chickasaw towns began to paint and sing their war songs ; and the Choctaws had snuffed the scent of blood and were panting for war, and ready to draw the scalping knife against the Americans.” This was founded alone on rumor promulgated for sensational purposes, so much delighted in by our people, especially if it regards the Indians. True, had the Choctaws, Chickasaws and Cherokees united with the Muskogee’s and Seminoles in 1812, depopulation of all the white settlements within their territories would have been the inevitable result. The Chickasaws and Choctaws, though distinct nations, yet speaking nearly the same language, were generally animated by the same views and motives; had nearly the same customs and habits; were governed by the same principles, and followed by the same fortunes. Alike, they were doomed to experience the same ingratitude from the American people, which caused thousands of them to descend in poverty and sorrow to untimely graves, leaving it for posterity to do justice to their memory, while the remaining few and feeble stand waiting for us to exert our clemency in helping them to prosperity and happiness, or display our power in the destruction of their nationalist and sending them forth as sheep without a shepherd among ravenous wolves, already howling upon their heels.

But let us go back, reader, a few centuries and review the progress of the early European settlers of this continent and their dealings with each other and also their modus operandi to dispossess the Native Americans and secure, each for their own nationality, the entire continent, as they intruded upon the Indians, tribe after tribe, until they reached the Chickasaws.

Ferdinand de Soto

Twenty years after Columbus made his great discovery Juan Ponce de Leon, ex-governor of Porto Rico, sailed from that island in March, 1512, and landed off the coast of the now State of Florida, which he gave that name, from the profusion of wild flowers, seen on all sides, and its having been first seen on Easter Sunday, which was called by the Spaniards, Pascua Florida “The Country of Flowers.” In May, 1539, Ferdinand de Soto, Governor of Cuba, landed at Tampa Bay.

For many years, by the so called right of discovery Spain claimed the entire country, bounded by the Atlantic to the Gulf of St. Lawrence on the north, all of which being then known by the name of Florida. About twenty years after De Soto made his discovery of the Mississippi river, a few Roman Catholic missionaries made an attempt to establish settlements at St. Augustine and its vicinity; and shortly afterwards a colony of French Calvinists was established on the St. Mary’s river near the coast, but was destroyed in 1565 by an expedition from Spain, under Pedro Melendez de Aviles, cowardly murdering” upwards of nine hundred French men, women and children, and suspending many of the slain to branches of trees, with the inscription “Not as Frenchmen but as heretics.” This diabolical butchery being accomplished, Melendez founded St. Augustine, the oldest town by nearly half a century of any in the United States. Four years after, Dominic de Gourges, to avenge the butchery of his countrymen on the St. Mary’s river, fitted out an expedition at his own expense and attacking the Spanish colonists on the St. Mary’s river, he ravaged the settlements with fire and sword, burning their houses, demolishing their forts, and slaying the inhabitants. This being accomplished, he, in turn, suspended some of the dead bodies from the trees, with the inscription, “Not as Spaniards, but as murderers,” and then returned to France with his fleet. With the exception of a few years, Spain held Florida until 1819, when, greatly diminished from its original boundaries, it was ceded to the United States, and became a state in 1845.

French Explorers

In 1535 James Cartier, a French explorer, sailed with an expedition up the St. Lawrence and took formal possession of the country in the name of his king, calling it New France. In 1608 Champlain founded Quebec, which soon became a nucleus for the settlement of Canada. This was the same year in which the settlement of Jamestown, Virginia, was established; and twelve years before the Puritans landed upon the rocks of Plymouth.

In order to strengthen the power of the French, Champlain resolved to establish missions among the Indians. At that period of time “the far west” had never been trodden by the foot of the European. In 1616 Le Caron, a French Franciscan, visited the Iroquois and Wyandotts, and thence to the tributaries of Lake Huron; and in 1634 the Jesuits established the first mission in that then distant and visionary region of country. A century had passed, however, from the discovery of the Mississippi River, before the first Canadian envoys met the Indians inhabiting the unknown regions of the northwest, in council assembled at the falls of the St. Mary’s, a little below the outlet of Lake Superior. But not till the year 1669 did any of the adventurous trappers and fur-traders spend the winter along the shores of that great lake; nor until 1660 that Rene Mesnard established the first missionary station upon its cold, rocky and in hospitable coast, and who, soon after, was lost in the bleak wilderness and was heard of no more. Father Claude Allouez, five years after, built the first permanent habitation of Europeans among the Indians of the northwest; and in 1668 a mission was established by Dablon and Marquette at the falls of St. Mary’s. In 1671 the French took formal possession of the northwest and Marquette established another missionary station in that country at Point St. Ignace, north of Mackinac, which was the first European settlement in Michigan.

Owing to the hostility of the Iroquois (whose territories lay along the Lakes Erie and Ontario), caused by Champlain inconsiderately joining with a few other Frenchmen, to a war party of Herons against the Iroquis, and a battle ensuing in which the latter were defeated, the missionaries were forced to travel far north by the Ottawa and French rivers of Canada, in journeying west, to avoid their threatened vengeance.

At that period the French had not advanced beyond Fox River, in Wisconsin; but in May, 1673, Marquette, with a few companions, started from Mackinac in canoes; paddled up Green bay; thence into Fox River; thence transporting their little canoes across the country to the Wisconsin river, and launching them upon that stream they reached the Mississippi, and upon its turbid, waters floated down several hundred miles, then returned in the ensuing autumn. The discovery of the great Mississippi was a source of much joy to the French, who, in that age of newly discovered wonders, believed that a direct route to the South Sea, and thence to China, would be found through some of its western tributaries. The indefatigable M. La Salle first explored the mighty stream to its termination in the Gulf, in 1682, and took formal possession of the country, through which it flowed, in the name of the king of France, in honor of whom he called it Louisiana. Three years later he also took possession of Texas, establishing a colony on the Colorado. Being assassinated by one of his men, the colony was, shortly after, dispersed.

Lemoine D. Iberville

Lemoine D. Iberville, a French officer, renewed the explorations of La Salle in 1697. He entered the Mississippi river with two vessels in March 1698; and also erected forts on the bay of Boloxi, and at Mobile, both of which were afterwards abandoned for the Island of Dauphine, which for many years was the headquarters of the colony. He also built Fort Balise, at the mouth of the river, and selected the site of Fort Rosalie, afterwards destroyed by the Natchez Indians. Still, after the death of D. Iberville, in 1706, Louisiana was but little more than a wilderness, since a futile search for gold and the obtaining of furs, engaged the thoughts of the colonists, to the neglect of more substantial pursuits, and valuable time wasted in journeying of discovery, and in obtaining furs and skins among distant tribes.

Kaskaskia and Cahokia, the oldest towns in the Valley of the Mississippi, were founded near the year 1680. The former becoming the capitol of the Illinois country, and where, in 1721, a Jesuit college and monastery were established.

In 1700 peace was established between the two hostile tribes, the Iroquois and Ottawa’s, and the French, which gave the latter the desired opportunities for colonizing the western portion of Canada. Whereupon De la Motte Cadillac, with a hundred men and a Jesuit missionary, laid, in June, 1701, the foundation of Detroit, Michigan. At this period the French claimed the entire, vast and extensive region south of the Great Lakes under the name of Canada, or New France. As a matter of course, this aroused the jealousy of the English to the highest pitch and the Legislature of New York published a Bill for hanging any and all Papish priests who should voluntarily make his appearance in the province.

England and France at War, 1711

When the war broke out between England and France in 1711, the friendship and confidence of the western Indians had been so completely gained by the French through the mild and conciliatory course adopted by them and their missionaries, that all the most powerful tribes became their allies; when the former attempted to restrict the claims of the latter to the country south of the Great Lakes, their effort proved abortive; and though the Fox tribe, as allies of the English, made an attack upon Detroit in 1713, they were sorely defeated and driven back by the French and their numerous Indian allies. But the treaty of Utrecht having been concluded that year, the war closed.

By the year 1720 the French had established a lucrative trade in furs, skins and agricultural products between their Louisiana and Illinois colonies, and settlement had been extended on the Mississippi river to points below on the junction of the Illinois. But for the more effectual confinement of their hated rival, the English, to the Atlantic coast, the French adopted the plan of erecting a line of military posts extending from the great lakes to the Gulf of Mexico; and; as one of the important links of this chain they erected Fort Chartres, on the Mississippi river, near Kaskaskia, where, in close proximity, stood the towns Cahokia and Prairie de Rocher.

The early settlers upon the Great Lakes of the north were chiefly French emigrants from Picardy and Normandy, in France. They settled in and around the forts that had been erected for the extension of the dominion of France, promulgating the Catholic religion among the Indians, and securing the fur trade of the various tribes that visited the forts, bringing their furs to barter with the pale-faces for their new and strange commodities. The most attractive features of those forts, according to the early writers, were the fort garrisoned with a few soldiers, the chapel and its functionaries, the Jesuit priests, and the Indian wig-warns, interspersed here and there, all surrounded with little patches of cultivated land, comprising a commandant and a heterogeneous company of soldiers, priests, merchants, traders, hunters, trappers, half-breeds and the genuine Indians the most respectable and meritorious of the outfit all of whom, the pure Indian excepted, were attached to a system of machinery in religion and in trade peculiar to themselves alone. Next to the command ant in prominence stood the merchants, who were regarded as the masters of the situation when at their post of trade. They were said to be shrewd, careful and frugal, with but, little enterprise and less virtue, and employed their time in procuring skins and furs from the Indians in exchange for their goods and commodities. They kept on the best terms of friendship with the Indians and displayed their regard for virtue and morality in the large number of half-breed children they fostered, but whose mothers they called wives, though only truly so regarded by the Indians them selves; who grew up to speak the language of their parents a mixture of French and Indian and learning just enough of their religion to care for neither. The progress of the Indians, morally and intellectually, were things un-thought of by the French west of the Alleghany mountains, or by the English east.

The design of the French was to enrich themselves by the fur trade therefore they had little motive to attend to anything else; but were remarkable for their skill in ingratiating themselves into the confidence of the warlike tribes around them, and for their easy amalgamation in manners, customs and blood; while that of the English was to enrich themselves in seizing the Indians land.

The French and the Ohio River

At this period (1720) of their history the Ohio River seems to have been but little known to the French, as it appeared to be but an insignificant stream as exhibited on their early maps. Early in the year 1720 their energetic missionaries had explored to the headwaters of the Allegheny River; and in the following year the French trader and agent, Jancairie, established a trading post among the Seneca’s, at Lewistown, and five years afterward Fort Niagara was erected contiguous to the falls. In 1735, according to some writers, Post St. Vincent was built on the Wabash; and about the same time the military post of Presque Isle was erected, on the site of Erie, Penn., and thence a line of posts extended on the Allegheny to Pittsburgh, thence down the: Ohio to the Wabash.

A map published in London in 1775 has the following list of French posts as then existing in the West. Two on French Creek, near Erie, Pennsylvania; Duquesne, where Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, now stands; Miami’s, on the Maumee River, near where Toledo is now situated; Sandusky, on Sandusky Bay; St. Joseph’s, on St. Joseph’s River, Michigan; Ponchartrain, where Detroit, Michigan, now stands; Michilimackinac; one on Fox River, Green Bay; Crevecour, on the Illinois River; Rockport, or Fort St. Louis, on the Illinois River; Vincennes; Cahpkia; Kaskaskia, and one: at each of the mouths of the Wabash, Ohio and Missouri. Others besides, it is said, were also built at that period, but not named. Just below Portsmouth, on the Ohio, ruins have been found which, no doubt, were those of an ancient French port, as they had a port there, it is said, during Braddock’s war.

The Ohio company, principally composed of wealthy Virginians, sent Christopher Gist, in 1748, to explore the country, secure the friendship of the Indians (always ready and willing to cultivate the acquaintance and friendship of the Whites who sought their friendship upon the platform of truth and justice) and learn concerning the movements of the French. He reached the Ohio River over land, thence went down that river to its junction with the Great Miami, thence up the Great Miami to the villages of the Miami’s, nearly fifty miles north of the present Dayton. In the following year the company located a trading post near that point, on Laramie’s Creek, the first place of English settlement in the Western country; but the French, ever on the alert, soon broke it up.

In 1749 the French began a more regular exploration of the Ohio river, and also formed alliances of peace and friend ship with the Indians in Western New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia, while the English, who extended their claims, west to the Pacific ocean, though their  were circumscribed within the comparatively narrow strip east of the Alleghany mountains were becoming more irritated at the rapidly increasing power of the French in the west. Not contented in exerting every means to excite the Indians to hostilities against them, thus using, alike with the French, the misguided Indians as the cat’s paw to draw out the chestnuts from the hot embers, they as a stimulus to private enterprise, gave to the “Ohio Company” six hundred thousand acres of excellent land, without so much as even saying, “By your leave” to the just and legal owners, the Indians. And when they nobly fought against such highhanded business, they were decreed as meriting speedy annihilation.

By the year 1751 the settlements in the Illinois country consisted of Cahokia, five miles south of the present city, of St. Louis; St. Philips, forty-five miles lower down the river; St. Genevieve, still lower; Fort Chartres, Kaskaskia and Prairie de Rocher, still below, and on the eastern side of the Mississippi river. Kaskaskia being the largest of the last three named, containing at one time upwards of three thou sand persons.

The English, ever wakeful to their interests upon the North American continent, viewed with apprehension the rapidly growing power of the French; especially as they regarded themselves as possessing an equal claim by the right of discovery through the Cabots, and of extending their settlements even to the Pacific ocean; while the French, on the I other hand, maintained their claim to the valley of the Mississippi upon the right of having first explored and colonized it; therefore insisted that the English should confine them selves to the country east of the Alleghany mountains. But in their conflicting pretensions, no regard for the prior rights of the Indians, which, in the sight of justice, equally barred the claims of both, was manifested by either. And it is said an Indian chief remarked, with reference to the two disputants, “The French claim all the country to the west, and the English all to the east and west; where, then, is the country of the Indians?” Truly a question that never has been answered, nor will it ever be.

Measures were now adopted by both French and English for the approaching conflict that seemed would inevitably ensue. On the 9th of July, 1755, General Braddock’s army was destroyed, which gave the French a complete ascendancy on the Ohio river and its tributaries, and for a few years, checked the operations of the English, west of the Allegheny mountains. In July 1758, General Forbes, with an army of seven thousand men, started for the west from Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Detachments under Major Grant, consisting of Highland Scotch were defeated on the 13th of September, near Fort Duquesne. Soon after, the French were in turn defeated by the advanced guard under Colonel Boquet. In November, the French army at Fort Duquesne, finding its inability to cope with the superior force advancing under General Forbes, abandoned Fort Duquesne and descended the river to New Orleans leaving the fortress to be occupied by Forbes, who thoroughly repaired it, but changed its name to Fort Pitt, in honor of England’s Prime Minister.

For the first time the English were now in possession of the upper Ohio; while success had also attended them in the North. In 1759 Ticonderoga, Crown Point, Fort Niagara and Quebec fell into their hands and, in the following year, Montreal also, and with it all of Canada. A few days after the fall of Montreal Major Rogers was sent with forces to take possession of the French posts along the southern shore of Lake Erie and also at Detroit.

In 1763 the treaty of Paris concluded, by which France yielded to England, Canada and New France, which embraced all the territory east of the Mississippi River from the source to the Bayou Iberville. The remainder of her North American possessions, embracing Louisiana west of the Mississippi River and the Island of New Orleans, she soon after secretly ceded to Spain, and thus terminated the dominion of France upon this continent, and with it alike vanished her vast schemes for power and self-aggrandizement as mists be fore the morning sun.

Cushman, Horatio Bardwell. History Of The Choctaw, Chickasaw and Natchez Indians. Greenville, Texas: Headlight Printing House. 1899

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