United States

Native Americans and the American Revolution

Without the many sacrifices from Native Americans, our country may have been nothing more than thirteen powerless colonies against the British in the revolution.  Native Americans played a key role during the forming of our country, and majorly contributed to both our successes and defeats in wartime.  Many Native American tribes decided to side with either the United States, or the British during the conflict.  However, two main tribes were a critical factor, each siding with the two opposing countries in the revolution.  These tribes were known as the Oneida and Mohawk.

This is the symbol that represents the Oneida Tribe

The Oneida tribe was the tribe who fought alongside the United States throughout the Revolutionary war. The United States and the Oneida tribe had become allies after the battle of Saratoga. Which made the Oneida support the United States due to their victory over the British in this essential battle. According to an article titled, “The Oneida Nation in the American Revolution” by William Sawyer. Sawyer states that, “Another factor that played into the Oneida’s choice of allies was a loss of sovereignty under the British. In negotiations for the Boundary Line Treaty of 1768 (held at Ft. Stanwix), Sir William Johnson had overstepped his authority, finally wearing the Oneida down and gaining their assent to push the boundary line deep into Oneida land.” This illustrates how one of the main reasons the Oneida Tribe helped fight with the United States, was because the British stripped them of all their collectively owned goods and materials. The Oneida nation was apart of a group called the Iroquois Nation or the known as the Iroquois Confederacy. Caption: These are the six Native American tribes that were involved in the Iroquois Nation.

These are the six Native American tribes that were involved in the Iroquois Nation.

Within this established nation, there were six tribes that had allied together. According to an article titled, “The Revolutionary War and the American Indians”, written by Ojibwa.  Ojibwa states in his article that, “One of the basic foundations of the Iroquois Confederacy was that no Iroquois nation should ever have to conflict with another Iroquois nation. Four of the six nations-Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, and Mohawk-openly declared their support for the British and their willingness to fight for the British.  As a result of this division, the council fire for the Iroquois League of Six Nations at Onondaga was ceremonially covered, symbolically suspending the League.  Each of the nations was now free to go their own way with regard to the war between the colonists and English.” This excerpt from the article says that four of the six tribes left the nation to fight with the United States, leaving the Iroquois Nation divided.  This further led to the whole nation splitting apart and fighting against one another throughout the war.  Some members of the Oneida tribe were so dedicated to fighting alongside the United States, that they converted to Christianity, to further identify themselves with their allies’ religious beliefs and way of life.  This act showed the significance of the dedication these tribe members had to the United States.  After the war, the Oneida tribe had been under the misconception that they would gain their previously owned land back and that they could live in a new post-war peaceful society.  However, this had not turned out to be the case for the hopeful tribe members. According to an article titled, “Oneida Early Historical Background”, it states that, “Despite being on the “winning” side, the Oneida were badly handicapped by the Revolutionary War: their villages had been burned and they were scattered throughout New York, having taken refuge with other Iroquois tribes.” This accurately portrays that even though the United States won the war, this did not mean that the Oneida tribe won in the aftermath along with their allies.  Although the Oneida Tribe had fought alongside the United States during the war they could not benefit from its results. Even after the Oneida sided with the United States to help prevent the British from buying their land, New York had illegally purchased it after the war was over. With no other land to go to, and their previously thought allies turning their backs on the Oneida Tribe members, they had to form an alliance with the Mohawk Tribe.  Although the Mohawk tribe had been supporting the British efforts during the war, the Oneida decided to make peace and attempt to rebuild after all their collective loses.  This is what ultimately led to the Oneida tribe and other tribes such as the Mohawks to make amends with each other.

This symbol represents the Mohawk Tribe.

While a large majority of Native American tribes supported the British war efforts, and the support for the British was nearly unanimous among Native American tribes, arguably the most significant of these was the Mohawk tribe.  The Mohawk tribe contributed to the war in various ways, but more specifically their leader assisted the British throughout the war.  Chief Thayendanegea, or commonly known as Joseph Brant, was an ally to the British and actively supported their war efforts.  Brant was an effective communicator and translator for the British side, which was monumental considering none of the British soldiers could successfully communicate with Native American Tribes.  According to an article on USHistory.org “He convinced four of the six Iroquois nations to join him in an alliance with the British”  He would communicate to other Native American tribes, convincing them to join his tribe’s efforts along with the British efforts to ultimately defeat the United States.  Joseph Brant successfully recruited four Native tribes to join his alliance with the British army, already making him an influential figure in the war. Brant had also successfully converted most of his men to convert to Christianity. Along with gaining support for his side, Brant also led soldiers into attacks against the United States, in reference to Brant the same article on USHistory.org states, “instrumental in leading combined Indian, British, and Loyalist forces on punishing raids in western New York and Pennsylvania in 1778 and 1779.” Brant was able to unify three combative forces to lead multiple attacks on his enemy’s land over the course of a year.  However, these offenses proved miniscule to the United States led counterattacks.  George Washington successfully engaged Native owned lands and villages, along with Native soldiers in the field.  These attacks proved greater in results for the United States than the British, although they had Chief Brant, the British and Native American alliance still suffered.

Native Americans not only assisted both sides in the revolution, but provided great advantages for each opposing country. They made allies with certain sides to help their fellow tribe members in the long run. Along with strategically assisting the war efforts, a large amount of support was given from Native Americans.  The impact of Native Americans is often overlooked or forgotten about, when considering the deciding factors of the war. Whether they sacrificed their men and fellow tribe members, or provided weapons for their allies there was great impact from the Native Americans throughout the Revolutionary War.  

Article by Calista Hudson and Drew Delbrouck


Works Cited

“Revolutionary Limits: Native Americans.” Ushistory.org, Independence Hall

     Association, www.ushistory.org/us/13f.asp.

The Oneida Nation in the American Revolution.” National Parks Service, U.S.

      Department of the Interior, www.nps.gov/fost/learn/historyculture/the-oneida-


“History.” Oneida Indian Nation, www.oneidaindiannation.com/history/.

“American Revolution.” Oneida Nation, oneida-nsn.gov/our-ways/our-story/historic-


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