tv Lectures in History CSPAN3 August 31, 2016 11:27am-12:47pm EDT
colin calloway leads a semninar for high school teachers on native american history. he talks about how tribes operated as separate nations both in their interactions with each other and with european nations. it's about an hour, 15 minutes. >> good morning. so we have been talking about ways in which we can incorporate, integrate native american experiences into american history. and i suggested kind of a little cameo appearances, pocahontas, indians waving rifles at wounded knee in 1973. doesn't really help. and i think on sunday i said if we really did this seriously and effectively, we would come up with a very different narrative of american history.
and that may not be attainable and it may not even be desirable because we live in the real world. and school boards and textbook publishers and so on may have problems with that. so there is another approach. that's what i'm going to suggest today. is to look at, if you like the narrative we have, right, the one that i critiqued yesterday. that east/west narrative of american growth and expansion of the nation. to look at that and identify in that narrative a missing strand. and that missing strand would be the native american strand. what i'm going to talk about this morning is kind of a large swath of american history where i pull out native american strand out of it and say without native american presence, without native american power, things would not have happened
as they did. it will take about five minutes to say, wait a minute, some of this is a little sketchy. because, of course, history is complex. it's not all about one thing, there's a multiplicity of issues and factors going on, but i would suggest that identifying a native american strand and saying this explains american history, this explains what happened, is perhaps more extreme or far fetched than saying it's all about freedom. it's a bunch of things, but the one that i think we have omitted in large part is that native american strand. so if we look at this picture and then look at this map, this map is in many ways an academic reflection of that picture. and i just pulled this -- you can pull this from any textbook. it will be called the growth of
the united states. the territorial expansion of the nation. and it's very useful for mapping that. and it shows that east/west geographic growth. and it shows the different nations involved. united states acquires the territory when it acquires its unle independence from great britain, to mississippi. then it acquires the louisiana territory from france, and it acquires florida from spain, and alaska from russia and oregon through agreement with britain. and it acquires the southwest from mexico. there's a lot of nations mentioned in that. and not one native american nation. not a single indian nation on this map. so what our students see when they look at it is this growth of the nation happened in the
absence of native people. and what i suggest is it happens the way it happens in large part because of native people. and this is not inevitable. thomas jefferson spoke about an ocean to ocean republic. an ocean-bound republic. here it is. so it makes sense that we look at this map and say, yeah, everything falls into place lock step, because we know this is going to happen. but our problem is whether we're teachers or students is that we're blinkered if not blinded by hindsight. we know how the story ended. and so given this massive expansion, if you like, of this juggernaut, yeah. indians don't figure much into it because, of course, they are just the victims of this
expansion. but november 1795, john adams said in his diary, george washington, president washington, has dinner one week on four different occasions with different delegations of indian chiefs. this is 1795 when the united states has already won, if you like, the war for ohio. washington is not having dinner every other evening or afternoon with indian delegates because he likes having dinner with indians. i can assure you of that. he's doing it because it matters. because the nation is still young. it's still fragile. it's still threatened by foreign powers who were not too friendly. britain in the north, spain in the south. and it's still threatened by
still formidable indian power. so washington understands that his foreign policy, the foreign policy of the new nation, must involve not only france and britain and spain, but also indian nations. and that's something i think we have forgotten about george washington. and this story did not have to unfold this way. so if we go back to the middle of the 18th century, non-indian view of north america looks like this. again, no indian nations there. but look at all that blue. in the middle of the 18th century, it looked particularly if you were looking at north america from london, like there was a strong likelihood that the
continent was going to be blue, that it was going to be french. because from the british perspective, the british colonies east of the appalachian mountains and west of the appalachians, it's all french. and you would get the impression that this is a predominant french power. well, it's not. it's a house of cards. because the french empire in north america is built on the fur trade which requires indian customers, indian hunters, and french defenses, french power, if you like, in the west, revolves around a network of alliances with indian nations. somebody pointed out yesterday, this is why the french pay such attention to their diplomatic relations with indian people, to getting it right. and that involved not only endless negotiations, learning the language of diplomacy, but
also endless gift giving because in indian society and indian diplomacy, giving gifts and receiving gifts is the lubricant of that diplomacy. gifts which might involve silver medals, guns, alcohol, whatever. not only desirable artifacts but they are symbols of commitment. allies give each other gifts. giving gifts illustrates, demonstrates that you're speaking the truth, that you're backing up what you say with words, when you say we're allies and friends, you demonstrate that in a tangible way with giving gifts. the french got that down to a fine art. and it looks as if and certainly the british in the middle of the 18th century feared that that french relationship with indian nations was not only going to stifle anglo american expansion,
but it would also, might also translate into a permanent french empire in north america. and it didn't. and it didn't because in the french and indian war or what is called in europe the seven years war, the british defeat the french. they do that famously in our textbooks when general wolf captures quebec, et cetera. but they also do that less famously because the british recognize the achilles heel of the french in north america is also their strength, those indian alliances. and they seduce in the 18th century sense of the term indians, win them over to the british side or at least secure their neutrality. they effectively undermine french power. so the french fortresses in the west that dotted through the
west, that sent chills down the spines of british ministers are usually puny little stocka ppst with a garrison of a few guys and their defend for their power and purpose, not on fire power or defenses but on the indian people who are living around them. with very good will, the french have a presence and a power. without the tolerance and allegiance of indian people, it just evaporates. so an important part of the british victory in the seven years war, particularly in the west, involves diplomatic victory. winning indians over. one way to do that is to cut off the supply of goods to the french. because without the giving of gifts, indian diplomacy is
bankrupted. so when the british destroy the french atlantic fleet in 1759, that has huge repercussions. first of all, it means no more supplies, no more troops make it across to canada, but it also cuts out, cuts off french supplies. when the british capture quebec, that severs the french supply line so that french goods, that is gifts for indians, cannot make it into the west. this erosion is taking place after 1758. so that drying up, if you like, of french goods caused a reversal of tide in the war, convinced indians maybe we want
to rethink our options. and either opt out of this conflict, which we have been fighting for the most part on the side of the french, or maybe side with the british. with the british and french talk about that happening, they explain it from a british and french perspective. that is you cannot trust indians. they are fickle. good 18th century word. unreliable, and they're mercenary. they only turn out to fight for the highest bidder. and so what are indians doing? well, we don't know what indians are doing looking at this map because there were no indians on this map. this is a european fantasy. but if we consider that blue area or that blue and red striped area, as inhabited not just by indians but by multiple indian nations, all of whom have their own foreign policies, they
sit at the center of their own universe and they're dealing with not only france and britain but different colonial colonies and different indian nations as well. and that forces us to think differently. what are the indians fighting for? they're not fighting for france, except as far as french interests coincide with their own. they can maybe align with the french if you like, use it french as pawns in their war. to limit english settlement. but two main objects are to main their own independence. you dont want european garrisons and settlers. you do want european traders because they will bring the guns and other things you require. so as situations shift, so do native american foreign policy,
so to tribal foreign policies. this would not be unusual. this is how nations operate. we haven't always attributed that same, if you like, common sense logic to the indian people. and diplomacy is at the heart of all of this. astute, effective, sophisticated, native american diplomats shoveling between quebec and albany, between williamsburg and new orleans, figuring out strategies, whereby then their people have the best chance of survival. the north is becoming an increasingly perilous world for indian people. it's not an easy thing to do. but it's that commitment of native american action, fundamental, not the own lnly t explaining the british victory, but an important aspect of the british victory we haven't
thought about. by 1763 -- yeah, question. >> was there an 18th century version of tecumseh who understood that all the tribes that acted based upon their own individual needs, they were in trouble? >> yeah. i didn't -- so in 1763, the map of north america looks like the map on your right. the blue area is gone. the blue area is gone. france is gone. france has exited north america. it's divided its territory between britain east of mississippi and spain in the west. basically, territory west of the mississippi to keep it out of the hands of the brits. france is gone, with the exception if you look bottom right of a little pink area, red
area. what we would now callkusccusto hearing on the news. 1763, it was a jewel in the french imperial crown because that was the island that produced sugar and coffee. problem was you have 30,000 to 40,000 french colonial population, and close to half a million black slaves, a powder keg. but france is gone. and when you look at the map on your left, so britain fought this world war, churchple hill called it the first world war, was victorious all around the
globe. in america, they acquire this huge empire now. stretching to the mississippi, which is what brits have been fighting for for a long time. get rid of the french and their indian allies and the area west of the appalachians will be open to settlement. we can move west, occupy those lands. people like george washington, thomas jefferson, benjamin franklin, all of these guys, the colonial elites, particularly in virginia, had heavily invested in speculated in western lands in expectation of that glorious day because once the french were defeated, settlers were warm over the mountains and they would clean up, selling or renting their land to migrant population. well, look at the big red line down the middle, down the appalachian trail, close by here.
the same years the british secure this massive victory, they also in a sense slam the door or at least partially close the door on that western expansion. the proclamation line of 1763 is designed to check expansion and to protect indian land. so what's all that about? at the end of the war, the french leave and the british occupy the fort that the french previously occupied. the british had secured indian neutrality in the war by telling the shawnees and the delawares and others the alliance would be safe. once we kick out the french, we will be good neighbors. we're not intent on taking your land. we just want to get rid of the
french who are bad people, and then there will be this new era. what happens instead is the indian people now see french garrisons leaving and red-coated garrisons arriving. not only that, but at ft. duquesne, the fort of the ohio, which had been a major contest point during the war, the british not only occupy it, the fort the french have evacuated and destroyed is now replaced with a new fort, ft. pitt, which is a much bigger, more substantial fort than anything that had been there before. a real, if you like, symbol of british imperial presence. here it is, here is a depiction of the indians leaving ft. pitt, turning their backs on the british ft. pitt.
ft. pitt then, ft. pitt now. at the same time as british garrisons are occupying indian territory, there is a breach of promise to the indian people, british policy shifts because britain has fought a world war. it's bankrupt at the end of this war. it's won a huge empire, but it's broke. and what is it going to do? if you look to the american colonies, one way of doing that is to cut down on the amount of money that you spend on these indian policies, on indian diplomacy. in order to win indians from the french, you have to invest huge amounts of money in gifts to indians.
because gifts are essential to doing business in indian country, to establishing alliances. not because indians are mercenary, but without gifts, without tangible objects to demonstrate you're serious in your commitment and your pledges, it's not going to work. so now the british say we're broke. we have to retrench on our expenses. where can we save a bunch of money? hey, let's look at the indian department because now the french are gone. we don't need to cultivate indian allies anymore. and general jeffrey amherst, the british commander says, we're an empire. we dictate, we don't negotiate. that's not how the french operate, a lesson the english are going to have to relearn. what that amounts to for indian people is these red coats who
presented themselves to us as allies and friends for the future are clearly our enemies. they're occupying our lands with troops, which is the one thing we were fighting against, and at the same time, by cutting off and withholding gifts, refusing to give gifts, limiting trade with us. that's essentially a declaration of hostile intent. and out of that comes a multi-tribal, multi-national indian resistance movement led by or at least attributed to a war chief by the name of pontiac, and he's -- he's not the only guy. this is a ferment of discontent running through the ohio valley, the great lakes. the indian people are looking at what's happening and how their lands and independence are being
threatened by this new imperial presen presence. and 12 years before the american revolution, they take on the british empire. empire and do i tremendous effect. something like 2,000 people are killed, hundreds of british troops are killed. almost all of the british ports west of the appalachian mountains are taken. niagara, detroit, fault pit are all laid siege to. that war ends not so much with british victory but with a series of negotiations. because the british realized that this new policy of dictating to indians doesn't wo work. for an empire to function and survive in indian country requires consent and allegiance
with indian people. what do indian people want? they want their lands protected and preserved. so even before pontiac's war, as it's called, happens, the british are saying we've got to do something about this, we've got to do something to check the flood of settlement going on to indian land. as long as that's unchecked, we're going to have constant conflict and expensive wars which we can't afford. so pontiac's war sends reverberations all the way back to london, produces a couple of -- several key decisions. one is we need to keep an army, a military presence, in north america. we need to keep an army of -- whatever it is -- 10,000 troops. that's expensive. how we going to pay for that at a time when british taxpayers have been taxed to the hilt
after funding this long, expensive war? well, here's an idea. since this war was fought and this garrison is being maintained to protect our north american citizens, let's ask them to help foot the bill. let's have taxation, even though we may not have representation. so we all know where that went. one of the smarter ideas coming out of that. the other thing we don't pay so much attention to is this proclamation line. in october 1763, the british government issues king george iii signs the royal proclamation. basically is says we need to keep maverick traders out of indian country, people who are going to cheat indians, cause all kinds of problems. we've got to limit that.
so you can only trade in indian country with a license from colonial governments. more importantly, we're going to check expansion. we're not going to halt expansion. this line -- imaginary line that we run down the and lash ppalac mountains will be moved. it will happen in an orderly process determined by the central government in london. all this that i'm talking about will sound very familiar in about an hour when i'm talking about united states indian policy. you'll say deja vu. didn't we just do this? yes, we did. similar kind of things. because the thinking is that the problems on the frontier stem from the people on the frontier. people stealing in ining indian murdering indian people, causing conflict. that's going to generate endless
bloodshed. if you have the central government, whether it's in philadelphia or london, determining when this expansion will happen, it can be done in a more systematic way of the fair treatment of indian people. 1763 says they can't just go west, they can go north and south. one of the things the brits were trying to do is populate colonies up in nova scotia and in the south. but indian land west of the appalachians, west of this line, can only be ceded to the government, and it can only be done in open treaty between the duly authorized, if you like, representatives of the indian tribes, and the official agents of the crowns. so you can't have every tom,
dick and harry pulling off a land deal in indian country. now this has huge effects. it doesn't have much effect on squatters. right? scotch-irish immigrants on the frontiers of pennsylvania say, "hell with that. because we're scotch-irish." right? my people. they go across the line and they settle. and sometimes they get kicked out by the brits, by the british army, but the british army doesn't have the resources, will power or the money to keep doing that. the people this proclamation really affects are those people i mentioned earlier -- george washington, benjamin franklin, the people who have been investing heavily and speculating in western land, who were going to make a killing when all the settlers went west to take up these lands. they were going to be there to sell them.
now there's a -- to say the least -- puts a huge cloud over that title. this is a major event that causes many people like george washington to rethink their allegiance to the british empire. because the empire which they fought and served and sacrificed for, instead of rewarding them with their deserved fruits of victories, withholding them. it seems as if that french/indian barrier which once curtailed colonial settlement has been replaced by a british indian barrier. >> who were george washington and his buddies buying the land from? >> buy being? >> snatching. [ laughter ] >> what you do, if you are a colonial government like colonial government of virginia, the king has given you a huge land grant.
i'm simplifying very hugely. king has given you a huge grant of land, so the colonial government or the governor can then distribute that land. so what you have happening say in virginia is that the virginia colonial government, the house of burgesses, which is made up of elite families, members of the elite families of virginia, is making land grants to people who are members of the elite families of virginia. and so you get these claims, is really what they are, to lands out west. but people like washington devote a tremendous amount of effort and money into getting those lands surveyed, and because once you've got them surveyed, then you've got to get those registered and you've got a claim to them. but what happens is, if this line holds for say ten years, and then the british government says, okay, we'll move the line west, and george washington moves -- and this actually
happens in washington's life. he goes west to look at his properties, and there are people living on his property. on what he thinks is his property. he says, wait a minute, i'm george washington, i just won the revolution. you're on my land. and these are, again, sco scotch-irish fellows who say, wait a minute, we were here, we cleared the land, we risked our lives fighting the indians. it's our land, go to hell. and washington takes them to court. so you get the situation where the most important man in the nation, the hero of the revolution, is involved in this court claim with these poor settlers. so that's -- it's all very complicated. but what it seems like to many people is that what we assumed that we had a mutual interest, that we were subjects of the british empire and happy to
sacrifice for that, that's no longer the case. so in a lot of ways when you think of pontiac's wear, taxation, presence of the british army and this proclamation line, it is then a kind of straight shot to the revolution. and 20 years later, 1763, then 1783, very different plan. the british recognized not only the 13 colonies but transferred everything south of the great lakes, north of florida and east of the mississippi, which means that the new united states, having turned its back on one empire, can now turn west and build another empire. but again, this is land inhabited by other people.
so what we've all been talking about here -- or what i've been talking about -- all that i've been talking about, france, britain exchanging territory. colonial governments handing out territory. this is a board game. the european colonial powers play with little or no reference to the people on the ground. but the people on the ground matter, because they still have real power. and so after the break, we're going to be talking about how the united states tries to translate that, if you like, paper claim to this territory which has been handed by great britain, and make that a reality so that you can take tribal homelands and translate them into american real estate. yeah. >> what kind of relationship existed between those scotch-irish settlers and the native nations that they were
encroaching on? >> not particularly positive. actually, we're going to talk about -- these guys are going to come back. we'll talk in about an hour. so when king james vi of scotland becomes king james i of england, union of the crowns, one of the things he wants to do is, first of all, settle conflict on the border between england and scotland. good luck doing that. right? you seen a scottish football team go to wembley recently? [ laughter ] of course deal with the perennial irish problem. one of the things he does is transport people from the border of scotland, england and the west of scotland to northern ireland, create a protestant barrier over there. and they're designed to serve as a barrier against the wild irish. with consequences in irish history that go on well into the
20th, 21st century. in the 18th century, much of those scott-irishes they're then called, migrate to north america. get to philadelphia. and then pennsylvania, government of pennsylvania, does exactly the same thing with them. sort of flagged them out to the frontier, while these scotch-irish who are coming from a culture of hundreds of years of basically beating each other up, can go out on the frontier and act as either the short troops of empire or a buffer against the wild indians. and as we'll see, you follow the appalachian trail, appalachian mountains. right? we talked about the con configuration of the mountains. the tendency in these mountains is south and west. these are settlers who keep going into indian country, down through georgia into cherokee country, then trend west.
people with names like calhoun, jackson, boyd, crockett, these are people on the frontier and they make their way in some cases to texas and we'll -- they'll occur again. they are somebody -- one of the administrators -- government officials in pennsylvania says -- i think he sums up -- "they're hard neighbors to the indians." i think that's probably a pretty fair characterization. but that empire building of the united states doesn't stop at the mississippi, of course, because in 1803 thomas jefferson acquires louisiana for territory for -- what is it? $15 million? 800,000 square miles. the nation doubles size overnight. it is a huge stat in the growth of the nation, and it's one that
obviously thomas jefferson gets huge credit for. but it's not as natural or logical or inevitable as it looks. because that louisiana territory of course had been in 1763 handed to spain. but, in the meantime what's happened, while the revolution has happened, the american revolution has happened, in large part, i would argue, because of what indians have done. in the american revolution, the french come in on the side of the americans as an opportunity to settle old scores with the brits. and you have french officers, french troops in america fighting alongside the americans. who then go home, and they go home in some cases carrying the ideals of revolution. all men are created equal. how is that going to play in a
country with an absolute monarchy. and the french revolution, obviously is a product of a complex interplay of factors, but ideology, thinking, just a simple notion plays into that. napoleon subverts that revolution and begins to create an empire in north america. and in 1800, he pressures spain into handing louisiana territory back to france. because, in part, part of his vision of this new world order that he's going to create, is a rebuilding, a restoration of the french empire in north america. but, the ideas of the french revolution are no more easily
contend than the american revolution, and one of the places where ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity go is santo domidomingo, haiti. there is apparently the big pest slave revolt since spartacus and it is the only time a slave society rises up over shackles and establishes its own independent republic. this is going on in the atlantic in the same era as the american revolution. how often do our books talk about that? so if napoleon is going to have a realistic opportunity to rebuild his french empire in
america and in the west, he's going to get control of what is now haiti. so he sends troops to haiti. and napoleon's french troops in the caribbean do what british troops in the caribbean did in the seven years war. they die. i wanted this to be a picture of the mosquito that carries yellow fever and all kinds of other diseases, including the zika virus. i think it actually might be an asian tiger mosquito, so bear with me. [ laughter ] so you go in, like barnes & noble, and you go to the american history section. and we're all obsessed with biographies of the founding fathers. right? i'm writing one. not a biography but i'm writing on george washington. so the shelves are weighed down with biographies of adams, jefferson, washington, hamilton.
right? musical, right? there should be a biography of this guy. because this guy, i think, is the reason why louisiana territory becomes america. because this is the guy that kills the french troops. french troops are dying by the thousand. so that when thomas jefferson sends troops to paste to negotiate new orleans, because as jefferson said whoever controls new orleans is our natural enemy. right? because you think of that western expansion. if you're a farmer, if you're in the west, if you're in kentucky, or points west, you're not thinking to lug your produce back across the anticipappalach mountains. you're looking to float it down the ohio, down the mississippi to new orleans. if spain holds out, if france holds out, you've got a problem.
so jefferson's ministers go looking to buy new orleans. they arrive in paris and the french minister says, have we got a deal for you. because napoleon has decided to unload. the war with britain, the disasters in the caribbean, convinced napoleon to wash his hands of the french empire. this is not jefferson's vision. this is not -- well, maybe it is divinely ordained. maybe that's what's explains it all. but maybe it's chance. which we don't like to necessarily think about. so look at this. so, yes, this is -- my daughter did this, yeah. but you could construct something like this. and this is my notion of how indian gifts -- the whole question indian gifts affects
american history. so the british failure and refusal to give gifts to indians in 1763 produces an explosion, pontiac's revolt, around detroit. all hell breaks loose. that sends repercussions all the way across the atlantic to london. saying with okay, what are we do about this? one of those being the proclamation of 1763. that sends repercussions all through the colonies. among the people, if you like, who matter -- colonial elites now think maybe we'd be better off on our own. and 1776, declaration of independent, philadelphia. the american revolution sends reverberations all through it the atlantic world, including to france. the french revolution sends reverberations to the atlantic
world, fluidi including to hait. slave revolt in haiti napoleon's plans to rebuild an empire in north america. he sells louisiana territory to thomas jefferson. thomas jefferson sends louis and lark clark up the missouri river to see what he had's bough bought. and louis and clark heading up the river are doing just fine with their relations with indian people -- until they meet the sioux. and the sioux on the missouri river say, hm, okay, more white people coming up the missouri river. we've french traders and spanish traders coming out of new orleans and st. louis heading up to the villages. you pay a toll. this is our river. you recognize our sovereignty by giving us gifts.
you got a boat load of stuff. give us some of it. french traders and spanish traders had had no problem doing that. it was just part of the cost of doing business in indian country. louis and clark are there for a different purspose. they are there to declare united states sovereignty in this new territory that they've acquired. it would be counterproductive, in a sense, to try and establish american sovereignty by giving the gifts that recognized the sovereignty of the sioux people on the river. and the whole thing almost falls apart at that point. fortunately, it doesn't, and louis and clark can be seen as the opening as the start of the
american expansion into the louisiana territory which we will look at in some detail. but what we are moving in to, contrary to those maps that we looked at, is not an empty space. it is a space inhabited by indian peoples, indian nations. and contrary to what those maps might suggest, there's been an lot of stuff going on there in the previous 50 or 100 years, primarily because of the influx in to that area of horses out of the spanish southwest, which not only transformed the way of life of plains indians, but also transformed the plains in to a contested area, because that equation i think of horses and
buffalo and grass is one tremendous power for creating a precedented prosperity. this is a new way of life that beckons people on to the plains. so that the plains becomes not only a place where people have lived for thousands of years, but also a place where other people move in to to take advantage of the new opportunities being presented. go west, young man, 18th century style. right? what american pioneers do in the 19th century, cheyenne and other indian people do in the 18th century. they give up farming to move on to the plains and become equestrian buffalo hunters because that's where the power and the prosperity lies. but you have to fight for it, because other indian people are doing the same thing. they're hunting more
extensively. they are fighting more effectively because they have horses and they're also having guns. and so this becomes a kind of cauldron of conflict. but, this increase of communication of contact and movement on the plains also opens up these societies to devastation. so lots of our books talk about the american revolution. all of our books talk about the american revolution, right? washington and the brits killing each other by the hundreds. right? very few of them talk about what was happening west of the mississippi at the time the american revolution was going on. what we're talking about death tolls not in the hundreds, but in the thousands. in september, 1779, smallpox breaks out in mexico city, kills
18,000 people by christmas. goes everywhere. goes south, goes -- yucatan, baja, california. when it reaches those places -- and it kills 5,000 people in new mexico because the spanish missionaries keep count of the death toll. when it reaches santa fe and san antonio, it's reached places which are already established as trade centers where indian people from across the plains come to get horses. they come to buy them or liberate them. and so what happens is, this smallpox epidemic begins to spread across western north america following the same trails of communication and trade by which horses have
traveled. it's almost as if the horses opened up these arteries by which this killer epidemic now spreads all across north america. spanish horses, a 12-day ride away. as i understand it, smallpox takes 14 days for symptoms to appear. so if you're shishone, you can be down stealing horse, trading horses from the spaniards, be infected with smallpox, you can be hope sleeping with your wife, kissing your babies before the smallpox erupts. it goes pretty much everywhere. black feet get it from shishones, is goes across the northern plains, it goes to the central trade villages. in the winter of 1783-84, hudson
bay company traders on the shores of hudson bay who are used to indian people coming in and bringing their pelts -- nobody comes. so they go out into indian villages and people are dead. and they talk about going in to the lodges and gathering the beaver pelts themselves because their customers and hunters have all died. that's the same epidemic that broke out in mexico city four years earlier. who knows how many people died. conservatively, maybe half the population of the west. what are the implications for that, of that, for american expansion in that area? when we look at the conflict between the united states and the indian peoples of the plains and that american victory, we have to take in to account that these are societies that have been thrown into upheaval even at the same time as they're
building that power. this is a massive, massive event in the west. we need to incorporate these kinds of things in our history, not just so that we can include indians, but so that we can get a full picture of what's going on and what happened. so, now back to texas and our scotch-irish guys. among the peoples moving on to the plains are people like the comanches who emerge and build themselves in to a major indigenous power on the southern plains. they do so by beating up other people. incorporating other people in their society like an american melting pot, controlling and dominating trade networks so that they're getting guns from wichita indians who are trading
with french traders on the mississippi. shuttling between wichita indians and pueblo indians in the west. they build an economy based on buffalo hunting, for sure, but also on herding, pasturalism and also on raiding the south, raiding spanish settlements, and then later raiding mexican settlements. so one of the things the mexican government does is what kind of the pennsylvania government had done, well, let's get some people in here to act as a buffer to protect ourselves against the comanches and the yutes and the apaches, these newly powerful indian nations who now have horses and guns and are beating up on us. so they attract people fromutes newly powerful indian nations who now have horses and guns and are beating up on us. so they attract people from many cases the american south, people like jim boyd, davy crockett.
they are there to act as a buffer. of course, we all know the stories. these are americans, they're not going to put up with mexican dominance for long. they will declare their they'll declare their independence and the attacks for independence. part of the independence, as you know, is the independence to hold slaves. because one of the things the mexican government does is try to bound slavery in its provinces. but those people would no the have been there had it not been for fact that the mexican government is looking for some way to protect its frontiers against indian power. then you look to the mexican section, the sort of pale pink
area. huge chunk of territory. and that we explain of course by the mexican war or the war with mexico, 1846-48. which is often characterized as a pretty easy victory for the united states. and it results in this massive transfer of territory, including california and everything that that means. again, if we look at this map, it seems like that's got to be a pretty straightforward story. this was bound to happen because the mexican government was weak, mexican troops were ineffective, american troops were courageous, all of those kinds of things. but if we look at that map differently, and that includes
this guy, a comanche warrior, you'll get a different story. because first the spanish empire and its northern frontier and the mexico has to confront this comanche power. and so instead of a map that looks like this, consider a map that looks like this, where you plug in an indian nation, and in this case you plug in not only an indian nation but the dominant power, indian or not, on the southern plains. this comanche power, which has been called by some scholars, and a comanche empire, which involves not only the comanches dominating the southern plains, but also including as part of their economy constant raiding south into mexico.
scholars -- not me -- scholars who worked in the spanish and mexican archives have built a picture from the other side, if you like, where these indian raids erode over generations. the capacity of mexico to defend its northern frontiers. when we include this, then our understanding of the mexican war has to shift. and i think this is not just academic interest. i can remember teaching the university of wyoming, getting student essays which talked about the mexican war in derogatory terms about mexicans. obviously we won the war because of negative mexican traits.
mexicans lost the war with the united states, perhaps not because they were mexicans, but because they had been getting beaten up on by major indigenous powers so that by the time american troops arrive, they really just have to topple it over. now i don't want to sort of completely revise everything, but these are the kinds of things we need to talk about. if we inject or super impose perhaps indian nations on to those maps that are empty of indian nations, it prompts us and hopefully prompts our students to rethink it and think that it can't be that simple, especially if we do what we don't normally do, and that is to recognize the indian power matters, indian people were present everywhere in north america at every stage, and that
what they did was make decisions, develop foreign policies, flex their muscles in ways that made sense from their native american perspective, not play out some bit part that's been prescribed for them in american history. so i'll finish again with this map. cycles of history. we've got to incorporate into our thinking native american histories, how they viewed their history, how they lived their own histories, how they shaped their own histories, but also, as i am suggesting in this talk, they shift the history of the united states. and i think we ignore that at our peril if we're going to -- if our goal here is to not only give our students an understanding of american
history, but to get them to think and hopefully to think for themselves. so, that's my spiel on this. thank you very much. i'm not sure if we have time to take questions but i'll take questions. yes. >> as a teacher, it would be so easy to take like the map you showed us yesterday with all the indian lands west of the mississippi and super impose them over the territories and everything kids have engrained in their heads. i'm flabbergasted, thinking right now how can i do that, take this and take that and have the kids actual will create map. why do you think that hasn't been done? it seems to be such an easy fix
for -- small easy fix. why do you think it hasn't been done? >> it has been done to some extent. and you can get lots of maps showing indian positions of indian nation, indian tribes in the united states. the problem with it is -- it is difficu difficult. and i think part of the resistance, or part of the reason why these things haven't been done, is because once you get in to indian history -- speaking personally -- you're done. i mean you're sucked in. it's like peeling an onion. say, okay, i'm going to look at this. but now i have to go over here and understand that because we are not talking about indian history -- even though i've been talking about indian history. we're not talking about indian history, we're talking about the histories of multiple indian nations, and maybe each one has
a history that's as complicated in its own right as that of the united states. so what are you going to do with that in a class? right? how you going to do is that? the other thing is that, in a world set in motion in the way that i've described, a lot of the maps that we do have are somewhat misleading. you can still find maps showing location of indian tribes in the united states or in north america at the time of columbus, and you've got seminoles in florida. seminoles don't exist in 1492. or you get crows in south central montana because that's where they are today. crows don't exist in 1492. they emerge on to the plains, they are an off-shoot of something else.
someone else migrates into florida. they've an off-shoot of the pre- pre-confederacy. i think your original point is right. don't mean to side step it or dismiss it. you're right. we've got to recognize indians as nations. that's a huge first step. and that's not just people like me today being politically correct. because in the 18th century, the brits and the french, and even in the early united states, referred to indians as nations. they recognized them as nations. that's how they understood that you had to deal with them. that's why you have treaties. so these are recognized as
nations. and once we attribute to indian tribes, nation hohood, peopleho sovereignty and those kinds of things, that opens the way for a whole different set of understandings or questions about what's going on that means that doing something else than simply having a knee-jerk generic indian response to white people. because one of the things that i may not get time to talk about this week, but would otherwise, is the indian people on the plains like the crow indians who fight alongside the united states custer has crow scouts. what's going on there? why do crows and sheshones and
ponies, and even later on the arapahos serve as scouts as allies for the united states on other indians. students are often puzzled by that, because didn't all indians realize that white people were -- why didn't indian people from the moment white people arrive on these coasts sort of gang up on them and kick them out. right. >> because in a sense there is no such thing as indian people. they're multiple different nations, going back to that spo spokey kind of diagram that i have, who more often are concerned with the neighboring indian nations than they are with which king thousands of miles away thinks that their land is his land. if you're osage in the 18th
century, in your's f you're com the late 18th century, you don't give it much thought because you are powerful. you control your own destinies. and your power limits the fairly -- still fairly precarious power of these european empires whose ambitions in north america will be realized only if they take account of that indian power. everybody realizes that in the 18th century. but i think we have to work to get back to that understanding in the 21st century. the exercise is not to turn it on its head and say, okay, white white guys bad, indians good, that the way we've understood american history is all wrong. i think to say, okay, if this is
how american history unfolded, we get a better understanding of that if we identify and follow that indian strand, or those multiple indian strands through that story. i don't know whose question that was. >> what role did the comanche play in that mexican/american war. did they just defend the border? did they take a side? >> no. they're doing their own thing. doing their own thing. it is not unlike previous wars where indian people have been pulled in to that. they see no reason to do that. they are not involved in that way. >> do americans just stay out of their border lands all together until -- >> no. there's a lot of overlap. this whole area. one of the interesting things that happens when looking at that border -- i'm not going to go back to that map because that might confuse things. but think of that border that's run at the end of the mexican
war with the treaty of guadalupe. there is an incident where the american surveyors are running the new international border. and they're going across apache country and a bunch of apaches turn up. sitting on their horses watching them. they've got all this surveying equipment. they says, oh, what are you doing? the surveyor say, well, we're mapping the new border. it is an imaginary line but it is a new international border. on this side of the line is the united states territory, on this side of the line is mexico. and the apaches say, huh. where is apache country? right? which, by the way, we're all sitting on. and the american surveyors don't have an answer. two weeks later they don't have
any horses because the apaches realize what's going on. these are not friends. so the whole what's going on here of course is this intrusion of american power, american claims to territory and other things in to an indian world. and that of course is going to be, i suppose, the story of the second half of the 19th century, how to assert that dominance and what happens to that indian power. so comanches are a huge power. but, there is an incident in 1796 -- right? this is just after the smallpox epidemic where spaniards are trying to make peace with the comanches. and one of the reasons that the comanches give for making peace is they say we've recently lost two-thirds of our people.
that would have been to the smallpox epidemic. now that be doesn't mean that two-thirds of all comanches died. it may have just been that particular band. but this is a tumultuous world. elliott west who is a historian that i admire greatly, he's written a number of great books on the west, he says somewhere, talking about this whole pioneer experience in the west and settlers moving west, he said the 19th century west was not a particularly dangerous place to live. unless you are an indian. because if you're indian, the worlds that you built, these new worlds that you built with horses and guns and everything else, are falling apart even as you're developing these things. so it is a hugely tumultuous
story. maybe make this the last question so we can have a break, for once? yeah. >> i'm really interested in the british decision to no longer sustain their -- [ inaudible question ] -- i'm fascinated by this choice and don't know what your take on it is. you mentioned that at the time, they saw us as an empire that only needed to command other nations. can it all be put up to the hubris of this british empire? do you think it was a miscalculation in other respects or was there something like more dismissive toward these indian nations which they've just had negotiations with? >> three weeks ago i wouldn't have given the same answer but now being british, i can give you this answer. it is because british people are dumb. [ laughter ]
brexit. it makes sense. right? just as -- i'll always argue that if we look at what indian peoples do, first step towards understanding is say, okay, let's recognize these people as thinking human beings. and so they're going to make decisions that seem to be in their best interest, given what they can see at the time. and of course, this is part of the tragedy of the human experience. whether it's the first world war, the american civil war, or brexit. you look at something -- i think we look at something and say, okay, if we do this, or don't -- or stick with what we've got here, certain things are going to happen that we don't like. we know that that's not going to be good. so let's do this. right? and sometimes we don't get what we wish for.
and i think from the british perspective, this retrenchment was a necessity. and that was an obvious place to go because they understood their relationships with indians in relation to that conflict with the french. the french are now out of the picture. how big a deal with this be? so i think to many people it's maybe perhaps a no-brainer. i think for jeffrey armhurst who has very negative, vicious attitudes towards indians, it's something else. this is a jeffrey amherst, of amherst, massachusetts. some people accused him of using
i indian warfare against them. the british superintendent of indian affairs in the north who knows indians, he lives with indians, he understands that this is -- he's warning, don't do this, you don't know what you're doing. you don't know where this is going to lead. so it is not, again, a generic british response. it's people making decisions at key moments that seem to make sense to them. and as we know, often the repercussions of our actions have unforeseen consequences. brexit, war in iraq, we can name a million of them. right? and i think the danger for us as historians, especially if you're professional historian, is to look back and, contrary to what
i say, they did that because they were dumb. they didn't. they did that because we would have probably done the same thing in their situation. because what they could see and how they could understand the world would be what we could see and understand the world if we were in that situation. and i think that's an important thing that -- first to think of and remind ourselves of all the time. i think being historians, you need to -- i say it almost as a constant reminder, as a constant injection of humility. right? in order to understand these people we have to not sort of look down on them, if that's the right word. even jeffrey amhurst. we owe him that. okay, thank you very much.
let's take a 15-minute break. american history tv airs on c-span3 every weekend telling the american story through events, interviews and visits to historic locations. this month american history tv is in prime time to introduce you to programs you could see every weekend on c-span3. our features include lectures in history, visits to college classrooms across the country to hear lectures from top history pro professors. reel america revealing the 20th century through archival films and news reels. the civil war where you hear about the people who shaped the civil war and reconstruction. the u.s. presidency focuses on u.s. presidents and first ladies.
this week during american history tv in prime time, we feature our lectures in history series taking you in to college classrooms across the country. each night we debut a new lecture and tonight it's native americans. at 8:00 eastern we'll take to you dartmouth college for an overview of american indian history. at 9:20 the colonial west in the 17 00s from a class at the college of william and mary, followed at 10:30 eastern to a florida state lecture on the creek indians and the first seminole war. that's tonight on american history tv, prime time. with the house and senate returning from their summer break next week, on thursday at 8:00 p.m. eastern, we'll preview four key issues facing congress this fall. federal funding to combat the zika virus. >> women in america today want to make sure that they have the ability to not get pregnant.
why? because mosquitos ravage pregnant women. >> but today they turned down the very money that they argued for last may and they decided to gamble with the lives of children like this. >> the annual defense policy and programs bill. >> all of these votes are very vital to the future of this nation in a time of turmoil and a time of the greatest number of refugees since the end of world war ii. >> gun violence legislation and criminal justice reform. >> every member of this body, every republican and every democrat, wants to see less gun violence. >> we must continue the work of nonviolence and demand an end to senseless killing everywhere. >> and the resolution for congress to impeach irs commissioner john koskinen.
>> commissioner of the internal revenue service for high crimes and misdemeanors. >> we'll review the expected congressional debate with the senior congressional correspondent for "the washington examiner." join us thursday night at 8:30 p.m. on c-span for congress this fall. next on lectures in history, william and mary professor paul mapp talks about interactions between european and colonial powers and native american tribes on the late plains in the 1700 and 1800s. he describes the importance of owning horses and guns and who had the upper hand in both trade and war. this class is about 1 hour and 10 minutes. >> let's go in to this lecture about the great plains. as you know, unlike some of the classic really american history courses, we have a somewhat mor