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Revisiting Indigenous Histories: Iroquois Wars and Notions of Power

Revisiting Indigenous Histories: Iroquois Wars and Notions of Power

How do the Iroquois wars challenge the writing of colonial histories and notions of power that view indigenous as static and unchanging?

Colonial histories for many centuries viewed the indigenous tribes as unchanging and static and portrayed the Iroquois groups as victims leaving out the role they played within the larger historical narrative. Some colonial historians such as Dr. Candice Campbell[1] have argued that the conflicts brought about by the Beaver wars were part of the mourning wars vicious cycle and from destruction by the Europeans through diseases which decimated their populations. These historians argue that during the 17th century, the encounters between the Iroquois society and the Europeans changed including their warfare methodology. Europeans brought commerce and disease which proved harmful to the Iroquois groups.[2] The Iroquois war established the Iroquois groups as a dominant force, a big player and created their identity in Northern American region.

In the early 18th century in 1701,[3] the Great Peace or the Grand Settlement was negotiated between New France and Iroquois Confederacy and it ended 100 years of warfare between the French and the English, Iroquois, Algonquins and Hurons. Play the Iroquois playing neutral, they attained security and defeat but they militarily reigned over their neighboring tribes and French. Furthermore, they gained the hunting rights in the west and continued trading with the West Indians.[4]

Another historian, Fred Anderson,[5] disputes the majority of the arguments forwarded by colonial historians that viewed the indigenous as unchanging and static. He indicated that after the wars, they derived power in shaping the north America’s historical outcomes. For instance, the Indians controlled access to the land and the supply of fur. They would dictate the travelling terms to the Europeans, wielding military power that had the potential of disputing or destroying the life in the American colonies. Despite the fact that they cooperated, they eventually became a significant factor in these intercultural power relations given that they had a decided advantage of comprehending the operations of the land and the fur trade. This also enabled them to mobilize a strong military force against the English and the French.[6]

Why is it necessary to overcome this balance in history?

Given that history is written by the victors and in most instances the others are ignored, silenced or victimized, it is evident that the western histories dominated the historical narrative and therefore they distorted the truth.[7] Their arguments converted the Iroquois society into victims and the Europeans as conquerors who used diseases and firearms to eliminate them.[8] These views have not accounted for the roles played by these individuals in history. Moreover, it empathizes on the Iroquois groups dependency on the Europeans which resulted to their destruction. Therefore, it is necessary to overcome this historical balance and present facts from the two sides.[9]

Another reason why it is important to overcome this balance is to lay out historical facts based on the events that happened. It is evident that the Iroquois Confederacy formed alliances with the French and proceeded in creating a powerful resistance force against the colonialists. Therefore, its important to interpret the roles and active involvement of the Iroquois rather than examining them as victims.

References

Malhotra, Anjali. 2018. “HIST 101- Canada To Confederation”. Presentation, AC Vancouver Campus Rm: 212, , 2018.

Wardhaugh, A. R., and A. MacEachern. 2013. Origins: Canadian history to Confederation. Toronto: Nelson Education.

  1. Malhotra, Anjali. 2018. “HIST 101- Canada To Confederation”. Presentation, AC Vancouver Campus Rm: 212, , 2018.
  2. Ibid
  3. Ibid
  4. Wardhaugh, A. R., and A. MacEachern. 2013. Origins: Canadian history to Confederation. Toronto: Nelson Education.,74
  5. Malhotra, Anjali. 2018. “HIST 101- Canada To Confederation”. Presentation, AC Vancouver Campus Rm: 212, , 2018.
  6. Ibid
  7. Ibid
  8. Wardhaugh, A. R., and A. MacEachern. 2013. Origins: Canadian history to Confederation. Toronto: Nelson Education.,75
  9. Ibid

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