Americans and Land


Earlier this week President Donald Trump tweeted:

I responded with a couple of tweets:


Not everyone was happy with me:

I thought about this series of tweets again when I read H.W. Brand’s piece at the website of the History Channel.  It is a (very) short introduction to Americans’ relationship to the land.  Here is a taste:

Before long, a critical mass of Americans joined Washington in concluding they needed a government of their own. Complaints over taxation and other issues joined the land question in triggering the American Revolution, which ended with the Americans in possession of the Ohio Valley and much more.

The new land proved the British right about one thing: More western settlement meant more trouble with the Indians. To the tribes of the Ohio and Mississippi valleys, American independence was a disaster. The Americans were more aggressive in seizing land than the British had been. Often tribes secured treaties from the governments of the white settlers, but those treaties rarely inhibited the whites from taking what land they wanted.

At times the Indians resisted. In the first years of George Washington’s presidency, an Indian confederacy that formed in the region between the Ohio River and the Great Lakes inflicted a series of defeats upon settlers and local militia groups. They received arms and moral support from the British, who, still stinging from the loss of their 13 American colonies, were happy to provoke trouble for the upstart republic.

Washington summoned one of his lieutenants from the Revolutionary War, Anthony Wayne, known as Mad Anthony for his impetuous style of command. Wayne led America’s first federal army under the Constitution, called the Legion of the United States, against the Indian confederacy and won a decisive victory at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, near modern Toledo.

The victory allowed the settlement of Ohio, but it meanwhile foreshadowed a century of struggle between whites and Indians over land along the westward-moving frontier.

Read the rest here.

One thought on “Americans and Land

  1. Alan Axelrod’s “A Savage Empire” about the beaver trade in North America from the 17th century until ca. 1900 does a powerful job of presenting westward expansion by Europeans, Americans and Canadians from the Native American/First Nations perspective. It’s not a sentimental or “poor Indians” story, but rather treats Natives as active agents in the unfolding Europeanization of their homeland(s), and he does a good job of presenting the mindsets of the peoples involved. (In other words, it’s not a “good guys, bad guys” story.) But it is clear that from the beginning, in both Europe and here in North America (among settlers), the prevailing attitude was simply that this was all “virgin” land to be claimed European-style, and the pre-Columbian peoples living here were seen as a nuisance, in the way just like wolves, bears and other wildlife.


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