Civil War American Indian Term Paper

Pages: 8 (2457 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Native Americans

¶ … conflict between Native Americans and colonists was inevitable from the beginning. The insurgence of colonialism from the 17th to the 18th century led to the complete transformation of the Eastern American frontier from wilderness to colonial settlements. As a result, the "Indian Civil Wars" between the colonists and the various Indian nations represented some of the bloodiest conflicts in American history. This conflict, which occurred concurrently with the American revolutionary war eventually led to the destruction of the Indian Nations west of the Mississippi. Although often discussed within history books as massacres and genocide, a real examination of the Indian wars upon standards of a "just war" has been lacking. The following analysis will look to understand the conflicts between Native Americans and colonists in terms of the moral legitimacy of warfare. The end result of these conflicts are clear, it led to the deaths of thousands of Native Americans and the eventual disappearance of the majority of the Native American tribes within North America. Although one would argue that results were disastrous for the Native Americans, upon an examination of G.E.M. Anscombie's "The Criteria of a Just War" it is evident that the Indian wars qualify as a just war on all seven fronts.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Term Paper on Civil War American Indian Assignment

In order to determine the legitimacy of the Indian Wars, a context for understanding the agents of action within the war must be developed. The Indian Civil War occurred in parallel to the American Civil War. The conflict began in the wake of the French and Indian War. The British, after acquiring the significant amount of territory ceded by the French dictated that settlements were forbidden west of the Appalachian Mountains. This policy was made to ensure that conflicts between the Native Americans and colonists would not continue to persist. However, due to pressure from the colonists, the British negotiated a treaty with the Iroquois in 1768 to allow for colonial expansion beyond the Ohio River. The principle Indian tribes of the Ohio Valley however were not consulted in the treaty itself and they organized themselves in order to protect the loss of their lands. The conflict, which led to deaths that have been estimated by many scholars to range anywhere from five thousand to five hundred thousand dead. The death and destruction on both sides were brutal and many times escalation of conflict was the result of needless bloodshed. It is evident that the conflict originated from the colonial intent to take over land from the Indian Nations west of the Ohio River. However, they did so under the supposition of a bartered treaty with the Iroquois. Therefore, under legal definitions there actions were constituted as fair and equitable, although from a moral perspective they clearly provoked conflict. However, the actual agents of action that initiated the conflict were the Ohio Valley Indians, primarily the Shawnees. They acted in defense of their territory that had been callously given away by the Iroquois and therefore they were the ones who first initiated conflict and war with the colonial settlers. The conflict and war escalated in parallel to the American Revolution and Native Americans were recruited by both the British and the American forces to fight in what turned into an Indian Civil War.

Under the first criteria of just warfare, that "there must be a just occasion" under which a war can be conducted, the Indian Civil War qualified. Although they were the first to initiated conflict with the American colonists, the Native Americans did so because their land was for the most part unjustly taken away from them. The first action of the war occurred when Indian leaders such as Chief Blackfish of the Shawnees raided into Kentucky hoping to drive settlers out of their traditional land. They initiated the conflict under the belief and clear justification that their land had been wrongfully taken away from them. This fundamentally violates their right to property and a violation of the creeds of conduct. Conversely, the war is also just from the American point-of-view, not only had the Native Americans freely attacked and raided their territory, but they did so after fair bargains were struck between the parties. Oftentimes this occurred because colonists did not understand the dynamics of land control among the Native Americans and bartered with Indian Nations which did not actually own or control the land that they deed over so easily. As a result, from the colonial point-of-view they oftentimes had already paid significantly for the land that they "bought" from the Native Americans. Thus, from the Native American perspective, war was provoked as a result of the hostile takeover of their traditional property, while from the colonial perspective; Native Americans reneged upon their fair and bartered treaties.

The second specific criteria of just warfare are that "wars must be made by a lawful authority." In this case war was sanctioned by many different lawful authorities. The Native American tribes led by the Shawnees against the American colonists were constituted as sovereign nations based upon their tribes. Therefore they were fully legitimate in their authorization to call warfare. Furthermore, they also received permission and official encouragement by the British government. The British actively the Indian Nations west of the Ohio River to aid them during the Revolutionary war, specifically leaders from Delaware and Shawnee were recruited to fight on the side of the British sovereign. The Indians did this on the promise that a British victory would mean that no expansion would occur past the Ohio River and thus protect the majority of the Indian Nation's territories. On the other side of the conflict, a similar situation developed. Native American tribes that supported the American revolutionary effort. The Revolutionary war itself split the support of the Iroquois Confederacy. Tribes decided to independently support either the British or American forces. For the Cherokees who became pro-American, the conflict was authorized by their tribal leadership as well as sanctioned by the newly minted United States government. Therefore the conflict is legitimate because it is fully declared and supported by many lawful authorities.

The third central criteria of the just war are that "the warring states must have an upright intention in making war." This is perhaps the most ambiguously interpreted criteria for just war, because both sides of any conflict believe that they are fighting for a just cause. This is evidenced during the Indian Civil War. For the Indian Nations of the Ohio Valley region, this was a war about their right to their traditional lands; they fought in order to deter violation of property. Even though the colonists bartered for their land, it implicitly did not benefit all of the tribes of the Ohio valley region. As a result they had a just cause in initiating conflict. A similarly argument can be made for the American colonials. They were not only fighting to gain more land for development purposes because of the population growth that was occurring as a result of colonialization, they also had a legitimate claim to much of the land due to their agreements and treaties made with the Iroquois Confederacy. Both sides thought that they had a legitimate reason to be in the conflict, this is especially true in the wake of many bloody raids on both sides of the conflict. On March 1782 for instance, Lieutenant Colonel David Williamson led a local militia to murder 100 Christian Indians for the death of a white woman and her baby found within the region. This escalated to more raids upon Pennsylvania that resulted in the death of 70 colonists. The escalation of bloody raids and brutal murders increased the supposed moral legitimacy of both sides to enter and finish the conflict.

The fourth criteria is a controversial one in application to the just war theory of the Indian Civil War. It states, "Only right means must be used in the conduct of the war." Although it could be said that the brutality and savagery engaged by both sides of the conflict would constitute that this criteria would be unfulfilled, a closer examination may reveal otherwise. Many of the "brutality" conducted on both sides can be understood through the context of culture. One of the practices engaged by the Native Americans was the torture and brutal murder of captured soldiers, as seen through the murder of Colonel Crawford of Pennsylvania was once captured by the Detroit Indians was tortured for two hours before being burned at the stake. Such a murder by modern standards would appear to violate the right means of war standard, however from a cultural perspective this was a Native American means to eradicate the evil spirits that resides within their enemies. From a cultural perspective, though their actions were brutal they were part of the ceremony of war itself. Furthermore, brutality was perpetuated on both sides of the conflict, in the infamous Gnadenhutten massacre; Colonel David Williamson killed 100 Christian Indians, mostly women and children, with hammer blows to the head. These moments of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Civil War American Indian" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Civil War American Indian.  (2007, May 21).  Retrieved August 2, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Civil War American Indian."  21 May 2007.  Web.  2 August 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Civil War American Indian."  May 21, 2007.  Accessed August 2, 2021.