Resisting the European Onslaught

At around the same time in North America, Sconondoa, an elder chief of the Oneida tribe (within the Iroquois League) was attempting to warn his fellow tribesmen of the European danger while the threat of annihilation might yet be removed. As the French and English each pressured the Iroquois to bring their warriors into battle on one side or the other, Sconondoa rose during this important council to speak:

My children, none among all the Iroquois here have lived as long as Sconondoa and no more than two or three even halt as long. Yet, surely among you there must be some who remember what we are and who we are and what we once had. Are there none here who remember when the cry "The Iroquois are coming!" was alone enough to make the hearts of the bravest warriors of other tribes fail within their breasts? Are there none here who remember when this land was all ours and that though other tribes were round about they were there by our forbearance and there was none who could stand before us; are there none here who remember that from the green sea to the east and the blue sea to the south, to the land of always-winter in the north and the land of always-summer in the west, they feared us?

But then came the men in their boats and they brought us gifts. They asked for just a little land and we foolishly gave it to them. Then, when they asked us for more land and we would not give it to them, they asked us to sell it to them and because they had goods that were new and powerful to us, we sold them some. Then they asked us for more land and when we would not give it or sell it, they took it from us and we talked and talked and always it was we who gave in and signed a new treaty and took gifts for what was taken, but the gifts were cheap and worthless and lasted but a day, while the land lasts forever.

Sconondoa's experiences in resisting the European onslaught had covered nearly a century, and from this he demonstrated a unique appreciation for human behavior and the principles of political economy. He understood that those things produced by man quickly deteriorate in condition and usefulness; nature, on the other hand, is regenerative of its wealth producing potential, provided man adopts a manner of harvesting wealth that permits nature to perform its magic. Sconondoa, as had so many other leaders in other once-powerful tribes, saw that his people were fighting a losing battle. Nonetheless, he made one last attempt to rally them against what he recognized as the common threat:

My children, raise your heads! Open your eyes! Unstop your ears! Can you not see that it makes no difference whether these white men are of the French or the English or any other of the peoples from across the sea? All of them threaten our very existence. All of them! When they came here they had nothing. Now, like a great disease they have spread all over the east until for twelve days' walk from the sea there is no room for an Indian to stay and he is made unwelcome. Yet this was not long ago all Indian land. How hasit gone? As these white men have stained the east and the north with their presence, so now they extend themselves to the west, and the northwest and the southwest, forcing all Indians to take sides for them or against them, whether they are French or English, but in such a game the Indian cannot win.

As Sconondoa predicted, tribe by tribe the indigenous Americans quickly lost control of the territories they had inhabited for hundreds, even thousands, of years. The process of complete takeover required nearly 400 years, beginning with the first landings by Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean in 1492, and ending with the surrender of the Sioux warriors under Tatanka Yotanka, the Sitting Bull, near the end of the nineteenth century. The completeness of the transition from indigenous to European control of the Americas is revealed in the terms of surrender dictated to Tatanka Yotanka by John Logan on behalf of the United States of America:

[Y]ou are not a great chief of this country. ...[Y]ou have no following, no power, no control, and no right to any control. You are on an Indian reservation merely at the sufferance of the government. You are fed by the government, clothed by the government, your children are educated by the government, and all you have and are today is because of the government. If it were not for the government you would be freezing and starving today in the mountains.