On this day in 1775, the Continental Congress resolves to recruit Indian nations to the American side in their dispute with the British, should the British take native allies of their own. The motion read: “That in case any Agent of the ministry, shall induce the Indian tribes, or any of them to commit actual hostilities against these colonies, or to enter into an offensive Alliance with the British troops, thereupon the colonies ought to avail themselves of an Alliance with such Indian Nations as will enter into the same, to oppose such British troops and their Indian Allies.”
Few “such Indians Nations” saw any advantage to joining the Patriot cause. Rather, they saw Great Britain as their last defense against the encroaching land-hungry European settlers into their ancestral territory. Racist settlers managed to undermine any residual trust remaining in the Native American population during the revolution by committing atrocities such as the massacre of neutral, Christian Indian women and children at prayer in Gnaddenhutten, Pennsylvania, in 1778. In another example, a Continental officer undermined his own cause with the murder of Cornplanter, a Shawnee leader and Patriot ally, in 1777.
At the close of the War for Independence, the Patriots’ few Indian allies received worse treatment at the hands of their supposed allies than natives who had sided with Britain. Having promised Continental soldiers land in return for their service, Congress seized land from its Indian allies in order to cede it to officers on the verge of mutiny in 1783.