On the Susquehannocks: Natives having used Baltimore County as hunting grounds

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The Susquehannocks’ Prosperity & Early European Contact
By: Adam Youssi
2006          

A Susquehannock, as drawn on Captain John Smith’s 1612 map of the Chesapeake. Click on the image to view the entire map.

The Susquehannock Native Americans of North America have an impressive history.  This tribe from what is now the eastern United States began as a very small nation along the northern Susquehanna River watershed in what became New York State.  We know little of the Susquehannocks prior to their first recorded encounters with Europeans in 1608 when Captain John Smith of Jamestown, Virginia, encountered them on his voyage into the Chesapeake Bay.  Archeology has taken on the task of establishing a pre-contact history of the Susquehannocks.  Interaction with Europeans led to changes in the Susquehannocks’ culture, population, economy, and military strength.  They developed major trade arrangements with most European colonial powers from New England to Virginia.  They were among the few North American Natives to acquire cannons during the fur trade.  Susquehannocks’ settlements and hunting grounds were found at the very center of the Mid-Atlantic fur trade and land rush in the seventeenth century, placing them in an advantageous, albeit precarious, position.  Whether their locus of operations was intentional or by chance is debatable. 

            European trade, alliances, treaties and wars enabled the Susquehannock people to reach their greatest prosperity as an Indian nation.  This should not imply their rise to power was solely because of interaction with foreign settlers, but without such relations their power would not have reached the heights it did.  The Susquehannocks were involved in numerous conflicts with other tribes.  Often, it was war with other Natives and the potential for economic gain that prompted them to interact with Europeans and acquire manufactured goods.  The many different peoples and places with which the Susquehannocks were involved make for a complicated narrative.  The narrative is also troubling in Native American history in that numerous historical and archaeological accounts are sometimes at odds with each other.  While reviewing the events leading to the Susquehannocks prosperity, this essay also explores a few points of debate in their history and archaeology.

A Word On Methodology

Early Native American history is generally difficult to compile; this statement has been mirrored by many experts who have studied the Susquehannocks.  First, Native American history is often an overlooked topic in history.  Despite its enormously important relationship to North American origins, Native American history is a neglected field, perhaps in part because sources are often limited.  Secondly, history is usually written by its victors.  This general fact is exacerbated during particular periods of time.  These periods in time appear when the only remaining witnesses and records of history are those produced by the survivors.  Early Native American history is too often one of these instances.  Thirdly, the Susquehannocks’ (and other Indian nations’) relations to Europeans involves many different languages.  To thoroughly assess Native Americans’ roles in North American history one must prepare to read Swedish, Dutch, French, English and various Native languages too. 

The multitude of languages of documented encounters, combined with the relatively few records of the Susquehannocks requires the researcher to carefully review various Native American scholars’ work.  Among other sources, this essay explores the works of various archaeologists such as Barry C. Kent, John Witthoft, Donald A. Cadzow, and others in order to support or contradict historical records and offer a pre-contact history of the Natives.  Historians such as James Axtell, Charles A. Hanna, William A. Hunter, George T. Hunt, James H. Merrell and others will offer a degree of historical analysis concerning the Susquehannocks in the early seventeenth century.  Along with these scholastic accounts of the Susquehannocks, primary source documents from the seventeenth century will be consulted.  For example, the writings of Captain John Smith, Etienne Brule, Father Andrew White, Thomas Holn and others will offer insight into the Susquehannocks’ strength and locations in the early seventeenth century. 

A Word on Susquehannock Pre-History

            The Susquehannock Native Americans have had many aliases; the French called them the “Andaste.”  The Dutch and Swedes used the Delaware Indians’ name for them, which was “Minqua,” meaning stealthy or treacherous.  Toward their decline, the Susquehannock tribe was also known as “Conestoga” to Natives and Europeans in Pennsylvania.  The name they are best known for now, Susquehannocks, is what Captain John Smith’s Algonquian-speaking guides referred to them as.  Subsequently, Smith recorded them as such, with slight variation on spelling.  Originally Smith, as well as Father Andrew White, recorded them as “Sasquasahannockes.”  It is unknown as to what the Susquehannocks referred to themselves.[1]   

The Susquehannocks are often believed to be of Iroquoian ancestry, or at least culturally related.  The name Iroquois is a twist on its original, Iriⁿakhoiw, by the French who added the “ois,” according to Donald Cadzow.  The Iroquois migrated from the Mississippi Valley into what is now Pennsylvania and New York State prior to the tenth century.[2] 

The exact relation of the Susquehannocks to the Iroquois is an item of debate in the area of archeology.  Barry Kent believes that the Susquehannocks represent a divergence from the Iroquoian people but still maintained a very similar cultural development.  Kent’s Susquehanna’s Indians uses archeological evidence to trace Susquehannock culture from its point of origin in northern New York to southern Pennsylvania.[3]

Throughout Kent’s study of Susquehannock cultural history one can observe their long migration southward along the Susquehanna River valley.  Kent proposes that war and economic strain with the Iroquois in the north pushed the Susquehannocks toward the southern end of the Susquehanna River Valley.  Iroquois scholars, like George T. Hunt in his Wars of the Iroquois, have determined that the Iroquois were under pressure from the Algonquins in the north during the time of the Susquehannocks’ migration.  Therefore, the Iroquois ability to make war on the Susquehannocks was already strained because of the Algonquins.  Because of this we must consider alternative options for the Susquehannocks’ migration.[4] 

Others scholars such as William A. Hunter have argued that the Susquehannocks were not only pushed farther south because of conflict with the Iroquois, but that they may have been drawn south in search of larger, better and safer trading opportunities.  Both of these scholarly interpretations suggest explanations for why the migration occurred.  The hostile trading environment was responsible for pushing the Andastes out of the north while a safer environment drew them southward.[5]

Prior to elaborating further on migration, it should be noted that the migration southward by the Susquehannocks was not immigration to virgin land.  Rather, the Susquehannocks in the late sixteenth century absorbed and conquered pre-existing Natives.  This point should serve to further dispel any belief that North America was an empty land waiting to be claimed.  It should also be noted, for later examinationthat this may have meant the assimilation of people that originally would not have been ethnically identified as Susquehannocks.

The conquests or assimilations of indigenous people in what is now southern Pennsylvania left large numbers of buried artifacts.  The archaeologists who have excavated the area have unearthed the artifacts.  One example of this is visible in the Shenks Ferry Natives’* villages of present day Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  There is evidence of cohabitation between the Shenks Ferry people and the Susquehannocks.  Cadzow points to archeological artifacts that display the blend of culture in ceramic arts, as well as discoveries of simultaneously placed Susquehannock and Shanks Ferry artifacts at burial sites.[6] 

The excavated graves of the Susquehannocks have also revealed that trade with Europeans was taking place prior to European settlement.  Documented encounters between Europeans and Natives have revealed the same fact.  Captain John Smith noted that when he met with the Tockwhogh in 1607 they had “many hatchets, knives, and peeces of iron and brasse, we saw amongst them, which they reported to have from the Susquesahanockes, a mightie people and mortall enemies of the Massawomeks.”**  Kent claims there were hundreds of North American fishing expeditions by the English, Spanish, Portugese and French in the sixteenth century.  This would account for the Susquehannocks’ possession of small European trade goods by the early seventeenth century.  [7]

Early European Contact & the Prosperous Susquehannocks

            According to Cadzow, the Susquehannocks controlled all the upper tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay when they met Smith in 1608.  They even had strong influence farther east according to recorded accounts of their pressure on the Delaware, or Lenne Lanape Indians.  Smith was clearly very impressed with them when they met.  However, his account of the Indians appears somewhat exaggerated.  Smith claimed their size to be tremendous with deep and heavy vocals to match their immense stature.  Additional European accounts also make outrageous claims of the Susquehannocks, recording their height at seven feet tall.[8]  While some archeologists excavated gravesites have found their height to be substantial, but not in the realm of seven feet, others have discovered evidence to completely contradict the outrageous claims of their height.  This evidence will be examined later.  Smith was so impressed with the Susquehannocks that he drew a picture of one on his 1612 map of the Chesapeake Bay and tributaries. 

            An article titled, “Did Capt. John Exaggerate? New Dig Shows Indians Weren’t Giants After All,” ran in the Lancaster County newspaper The Sunday News in 1957.  The article outlines the archaeological dig of a supposed site of Susquehannock Indians.  The curator of the North Museum, Dr. John Price, and State anthropologist, W. Fred Kinsey, as well as other experts on the Susquehannocks supervised the dig.  Among numerous excavated gravesites a Susquehannock chief was unearthed and measured.  He is believed to be a chief because of the ceremonial headdress he was wearing upon discovery.  His height came to a staggeringly short five feet two inches.  The rest of the graves fared no better in terms of the height of their occupants.  In fact, there has not been an archaeological dig to date that has verified Smith’s claims.  These excavations contradict a number of primary source accounts of the size and height of the Susquehannocks.  Why then are they recorded as enormous when five feet two inches would have been short, even to seventeenth century Europeans?  Unfortunately the article does not clarify the experts’ point of view on the matter.[9]

The same archaeological dig is more thoroughly presented by John Witthoft, W. Fred Kinsey and Charles H. Holzinger in Susquehannock Miscellany.  Unfortunately for the historian, the authors failed to account for the conflict between historical sources and archaeological evidence.  One might arrive at the impression that Witthoft blatantly discredits early Europeans’ primary accounts of the Susquehannocks’ height as exaggerations.  Witthoft’s writing comes across in that manner.  However, his conclusions are slightly elusive and unclear. And arriving at the conclusion that Captain John Smith was either lying or greatly mistaken would be slightly pre-mature.  After all, the account of the impressive height of the Susquehannocks’ occurred in various sources spanning a range of years.  Can all these primary source accounts be discredited by one archaeological dig?[10]

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            Etienne Brule is the second European on record who possibly interacted with the Susquehannocks.  He was an interpreter for the Frenchman Samuel de Champlain.  Brule’s account of the Susquehannocks from 1616 took place at the request of Champlain, who sought allies of the Huron for assistance in attacking Onondaga Fort.  The Susquehannocks had long since been, and until their extinction continued to be, close allies of the Hurons.  However, Hunter, the historian, determined this encounter with the Susquehannocks should be taken lightly.  Hunter cited the fact that Brule was unaccounted for and failed to report back to Champlain until three years after the start of his expedition.  Furthermore, Hunter determined the natives Brule spoke to were probably the Senecas or other Iroquois, not the Susquehannocks.[13] 

         Despite the many questions and debates Smith and Brule’s accounts caused, it is clear that European trade with Native Americans was occurring regularly in the sixteenth to early seventeenth century.  It was trade that moved the French to attack the Onondaga Fort, and trade that caused the Susquehannocks to migrate southward.  The Susquehannocks were successful in indirectly acquiring European goods, increasing their prestige and power as a people.  And although the Susquehannocks were prosperous prior to regular European trade, we will see that growing trade relations and increased European settlement spurred more rapid prosperity for them. 

            The Susquehannocks’ centralized location, and reluctance to set loyalties enabled them to take advantage of the competing Europeans, and obtain goods from numerous Natives tribes too.  The Dutch had been very active in Albany and Delaware in the early sixteenth century.  Hunter claims the European goods the Susquehannocks had upon Smith’s arrival were of Dutch origins.[14]  Because of their initial distance from the Dutch the Susquehannocks were required to trade with, or steal from, other Natives to obtain what European wares they had.  They were able to do so very successfully and intimidate surrounding enemies in the process. 

To their south the Susquehannocks could observe the Powhattan confederacy trading with the English near Jamestown.  Meanwhile, they were using most of northern Maryland and Baltimore County as hunting and trapping grounds, but refrained from much confrontation with Powhattan.  West of the Susquehannocks and the Susquehanna River valley were the Senecas.  The Senecas found themselves in the worst position for trade.  Hunt claims that the Susquehannocks were hijacking shipments being traded between the Senecas and Europeans, leading the Senecas to war with the Susquehannocks.  He also stated that the Mohawks (to the east and north of the Susquehannocks), despite their joint membership in the Five Nations confederacy with the Senecas cared more about their own trade relations than the Senecas’ problems with the Susquehannocks.[15]  One may also ascertain that the blockade of the Senecas and the resulting war kept the Susquehannocks occupied, allowing the Mohawks to more easily make hunting excursions and trade along the Susquehannocks’ northern territories. 

In 1626 the Dutch established Fort Nassau on the Delaware River at the mouth of the Schuylkill River.  Their aim was to draw more trade from the Delawares, or Lenapes.  However, the Susquehannocks quickly became interested in trading more directly with the Dutch in what is now southern New Jersey.  The Susquehannocks responded aggressively to potentially closer relations between the Dutch and Lenapes.  The Susquehannocks waged relentless warfare on the Delawares, causing them to retreat from some settlements and cease most trade with the Dutch.  The Dutch were initially not pleased about the war but decided to accept the outcome to avoid conflict with the Susquehannocks.  This information is derived from the primary source account of Isaack de Rasière.  In 1626 Rasière reported to the Dutch West India Company that the Susquehannocks had met with the Dutch in Manhattan to begin trade.  Rasière also indicated that the Susquehannocks were engaged in warfare with the Delawares.[16]

After the Susquehannock onslaught, the Delawares continued to trade with the Dutch on a much smaller scale than was initially planned by the Dutch West India Company.  By the mid-1640s, the Delawares had become completely submissive to the Susquehannocks and had to pay them enormous tributes.  The Susquehannocks were able to easily secure trade with the Dutch once they conquered the Delawares by 1640.  The Dutch quickly realized the unexpected benefit of the Susquehannocks’ victory over the Delawares.  The Dutch seem to have found the Susquehannocks to be a stronger and more powerful ally who were able to secure better furs for trade because of their extensive territorial advantage. 

Shortly after the Dutch relationship began with the Susquehannocks, the English also sought trade with them.  They established forts on Kent and Palmer Islands in 1631 and began expansively settling the Chesapeake in 1634.  They were the first Europeans to successfully begin a settlement west of the Delaware Bay and River.[17] 

English settlements were created and acquired more easily because the Piscataway*** Indians had begun abandoning their villages, citing Susquehannocks’ aggression, thus allowing former Piscataway villages to become new English settlements.  The Piscataways were happy to allow the English to settle nearby.  Father Andrew White, a Catholic missionary with the first European settlers of Maryland, displayed some ignorance of the Piscataways’ acceptance of English settlers when he stated that the natives “exceedingly desire civill life and Christian apparel.”  The Piscataways were more interested in securing English protection, arms and wares against the more frequent Susquehannock invasions, as opposed to being “civilized.”  Not to overstate White’s ignorance since he does briefly recognize that the Piscataways were warring with the Susquehannocks, but he believed the English had found allies in the Piscataways because of their desire for “civill life.”[18]

By 1634, the Susquehannocks were claiming areas to the Choptank and Patuxtent Rivers.[19]  This expansion was due in part to the necessary land grab in search of larger hunting grounds.  The unquenchable European thirst for furs was causing the Susquehannocks to continually expand.  They were expanding in search for land more abundant with beaver furs. 

This was an enormous expansion of territory for a people who formerly held only small portions of New York in the mid-sixteenth century.  They now claimed the land just mentioned as well as most of Pennsylvania, and had strong influence even farther to the east, west and north of lands they claimed. 

Unfortunately for the Susquehannocks, their large land holdings and expanding influence brought them in contact with more Europeans and eventually with diseases.  In the year of 1637 there is an account of the Susquehannocks reception of the smallpox disease.  In the Jesuit Relations of 1637 there are accounts of the Susquehannocks being blamed for infecting surrounding tribes.  An elaborate superstitious story was developed that determined that because of the Susquehannocks’ hostile nature they had been infected, and thus spread the disease to surrounding tribes.  However, general knowledge allows the informed reader the understanding that the disease was actually a result of contact with Europeans.  Despite this affliction, the Susquehannocks continued using European relations to expand their strength and influence.[20] 

In 1638 the Swedes entered into the fur trade on the Delaware River where they erected Fort Christiana.  Once the Swedes had established themselves along the Delaware, the Susquehannocks were positioned within range to trade with and influence them, the English to the south, the Dutch to the east and northeast, and obtain French goods from the north.[21] 

It is at this period in time when the Susquehannocks’ influence assisted them in making great leaps toward their economic prosperity and military strength.  The Susquehannocks were unwilling to set loyalties to particular European nations, contrasting numerous other tribes that did.  As a result the Susquehannocks were able to trade with whichever nation was willing to offer them the goods they desired.  Many Europeans were hesitant to trade firearms to the Indians, yet the Susquehannocks were able to obtain them relatively easily, first from the Dutch, then from the Swedes, and eventually from the English.  The Susquehannocks smartly manipulated Europeans who were vying for influence in the New World.  In the Annals of the Susquehannocks and Other Lancaster County Indians, H. Frank Eshleman quotes John Smith.  In 1623 Smith declared that the Dutch, “furnished the Indians [Susquehannocks] with fire arms…that by their assistance they might expel the English.”  Not only were the Susquehannocks able to obtain firearms and training from the Dutch, they were even capable of acquiring the use of a canon from the Swedes.  This account of a canon is discussed by Hunt as well as mentioned by Thomas Holn, an early European settler.  “There they have guns, and small iron cannon with which they shoot and defend themselves and take with them when they go to war.”[22]

Accompanying the trade in firearms there are records of large controversial land sales made to the English.  One of these sales was a highly disputed sale to William Clayborne, a member of the Virginia Company.  In 1637 Clayborne offered witnesses to his claim of land from Virginia to the Susquehanna River valley, including Kent Island and most of what is now Lancaster County.  An interpreter for Clayborne created a deposition that stated that Clayborne had lived in peace with the Susquehannocks.  It continues on to mention that in April of 1637 an entourage of Susquehannocks came to Clayborne and sold the mentioned land in exchange for a large indemnity.  If it is true that this sale was made, it served no use to Clayborne because in 1638 England made his claims void and forced the land to be forfeited to Lord Baltimore.   This occurred because of Baltimore’s pre-existing patent to the disputed land.  Because of the dispute, Hanna states that Clayborne attempted to set the Susquehannocks at war against the settlers under Baltimore, and in this Clayborne appears to have been successful.  His apparent success will be clarified later.[23]  

            The Swedes, too, recorded land purchases from the Susquehannocks.  Because of their relatively late entrance into the fur trade, the Swedes were very aggressively seeking to buy land and contract with the Susquehannocks.  As we have already mentioned, they were willing to trade canons to the Susquehannocks.  In 1638 the Swedes bought land from the Susquehannocks, land that may have previously been sold to the Dutch.  The land purchased by the Swedes ran from the mouth of the falls of the Delaware River, westward past the Susquehanna River, at about the point in latitude of Philadelphia.[24]  

            Through these instances of land sales, firearms and fur trade, one can clearly grasp the reasons for the increasing economic and military prosperity of the Susquehannocks.  Their ability to manipulate various Europeans served them well up until this point.  It is at this period in time that the tables slowly began to turn against the Susquehannocks.  While successfully navigating the rough waters of European New World trade politics until the 1640s, disease and incursions into “English territory” began to take their toll on the Susquehannocks. 

As previously mentioned, the Susquehannocks had made numerous incursions into the land of the Piscataways, whom the English quickly befriended when settling around the Chesapeake in the early 1630s.  These settlements continued to grow throughout the 1630s and into the 1640s.  Very much as planned by the Piscataways, the English were soon at odds with the Susquehannocks because of the incursions.  . 

In the year of 1638 an act was passed that put the English settlers of Maryland in a state of defense.  This fact bolsters the earlier statement that Clayborne urged the Susquehannocks to make war on Baltimore’s settlers because of his territorial dispute.  The 1638 “Act for Military Discipline” required settlers to bear arms for the service of defense.  If possible, all households were required to provide a specified number of able-bodied men and required to have and maintain arms.  A fine would be incurred if the law was not adhered to.  This is an excellent example of the fear that the Susquehannocks’ struck in the early colonists.  The campaigns against the Susquehannocks that followed the act also lend credit to the possibility of Clayborne inciting warfare between the Susquehannocks and Europeans.  Furthermore, they also clarify the military and economic clout the Susquehannocks had come to enjoy as a result of European trade.[25] 

In response to the Susquehannocks’ harassment of the Piscataways and the English settlers, Maryland prepared and sent an armed expedition to battle the Susquehannocks.  However, the first campaign of 1639 came to a halt after reports that the Susquehannocks possessed firearms.  Apparently the early European settlers were not bold enough to attempt to size up arms with those of the Natives.[26] 

The 1639 hesitation to engage the Susquehannocks in battle was not an isolated incident.  The strength of the Susquehannocks was on numerous occasions feared and caused Marylanders much hesitation.  Again in 1642, after the Susquehannocks, Wicomeses and Nantocokes were officially declared enemies at St. Mary’s on September 13, another militia was gathered to battle the Susquehannocks.  This expedition too was deterred and convinced not to engage the Susquehannocks in battle.  The result of this failed expedition placed Lieutenant General Giles Brent on the defensive because he was initially charged with the expedition’s implementation and success.[27]   

Despite the fact that diseases, warfare, and alcohol had reduced their people,  the Susquehannocks’ ability to frighten and deter the Europeans by show of force was remarkable.  Undoubtedly, their trade with the Dutch, Swedes and English under Clayborne had paid off.  They were now capable of easily deterring European attack because of their accumulated arms, and their fearsome image.  Even though it was public policy to resist and war with the Susquehannocks, the English administrators could not convince the settlers to battle.[28]

In 1643 a third expedition was taken up.  The third expedition was determined not to succumb to the fate of the previous two.  Captain Cornwallis was given command of the expedition and sent fifty-three English against two hundred and fifty Susquehannocks.  Twenty-nine Susquehannocks were killed in the engagement.[29]

Again in 1648 we find an account of the Susquehannocks’ enormous influence in the Americas.  Eschleman cites the 1648 Jesuit Relations volume 23 that states, “The Andaste tribes [Susquehannocks] allied to the Hurons contribute in a great measure it is said, toward the matter of peace, either because the Onondagoes fear to have them as enemies or because they desire their alliance.”  As previously mentioned in the citations, the Onondagoes are members of the Iroquois confederacy.  This is an important fact to remember because it is at this time that the Susquehannocks were attempting to mediate conflict between the Hurons and the Iroquois.  The Hurons’ relations with the Iroquois nations were coming under increasing strain, and the Hurons requested the Susquehannocks to either mediate, or join them in warfare against the Iroquois.[30]

Skirmishes between the English and Susquehannocks continued throughout the whole of the 1640s, and it was not until 1652 that the Susquehannocks found themselves in a dire enough situation with the Iroquois to settle accounts with the English.  The Susquehannocks realized they had met an equivalent or even more powerful force in 1650 when the Iroquois war began.  The Iroquois had been long embittered by the Susquehannocks successful campaigns against the Mohawk and the piracy of Seneca trade from the early 1600s to 1620. 

It was in 1652 that they signed a peace treaty with the Marylanders, which was again renewed in 1661.  The treaty secured the Susquehannocks more ammunition, men, and cannons.  These items were acquired in exchange for much of the territory that the Susquehannocks previously sold to Clayborne.  Once this trade occurred the Marylanders could now officially claim the land they had settled from the Susquehannocks, and they could expect a cessation of hostilities since the Susquehannocks were otherwise occupied in their northern territories.[31]

Into the second half of the seventeenth century the wars with the Iroquois took a serious toll on the Susquehannocks.  This, along with numerous major smallpox epidemics severely restricted the ability of the Susquehannocks to make and continue war on the Iroquois.  The Susquehannocks eventually were forced to capitulate and send ambassadors to request peace between themselves and the Iroquois.[32]

Cadzow states that the Susquehannocks had reached the height of their power in the years between 1660 and 1667. However, he may have over simplified the statement.  In the years of 1660 to 1667 the Susquehannocks had already become drastically reduced in number as was already stated by the account of Holn.  Therefore it can be clarified that their civilization’s height came prior to these dates.  Cadzow’s statement may be accurate in that the Susquehannocks, at this point in time, had achieved their largest number of ballistic arms and weaponry.  This was made possible because of better trade relations with the Swedes and the English while warring with the Iroquois.  However, their civilization’s population had already greatly suffered prior to the years cited by Cadzow.[33]

In the year of 1672 the Susquehannocks were understood to only have had three hundred warriors remaining.  However, little weight should be given to the accuracy of the numbers since the evidence of the Susquehannocks population remains inconclusive.  Finally, by 1675 they had become completely submissive to the Iroquois, and found refuge in northern Maryland where they were resented by the colonists.[34]

Conclusions

The history of the Susquehannocks’ early European contact is full of exaggerations, contradictions, and misrepresentations.  This narrative has attempted to clarify and shed new light on the early history of the Susquehannocks.  Archaeology has made evident that prior to the sixteenth century the Susquehannocks culture was very similar to their Iroquois ancestors.  Conflict drove them away from the Iroquois while trade and more secure settlements drew them south.  They indirectly discovered European wares and trade in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.  It was trade that caught the attention of the Susquehannocks.  Growing trade meant increasing interaction with Europeans.  Though the present paper does not thoroughly engage the Susquehannocks history beyond the 1650s, common knowledge allows us to understand that Indian wars and European interaction was much the cause of the Natives’ destruction. 

Prior to their demise as a powerful people and discernable cultural entity, it was the European trade that brought the Susquehannocks to the pinnacle of prosperity. Trade was what enabled the Susquehannock Native Americans to come into their own as one of the most affluent and prosperous Native American cultures of the mid-Atlantic region.  It was initially trade with the Dutch that brought ballistic arms to the Susquehannocks.  Trade, as well as their ability using piracy to cause economic hardship for the Seneca and surrounding tribes enabled their expansion.  Eventually the Swedes desired the services and friendship of the Susquehannocks.  The Swedish trade brought the Susquehannocks onto another level in terms of military might and influence.  The English were able to briefly threaten the power and land holdings of the Susquehannocks.  However, the threat of the English was shortly thereafter defused with the treaties and alliance of 1652.  This alliance further bolstered the Susquehannocks’ power and achieved them their greatest military arsenal and prosperity.  Therefore the Susquehannocks’ pinnacle of power was a result of the Europeans who are commonly solely associated with the destruction of Native American culture. 


      [1] Donald A. Cadzow, Archaeological Studies of the Susquehannock Indians of Pennsylvania (Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Historical Commission, 1936), 16; Barry C. Kent, Susquehanna’s Indians (Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1989), 28-9; Andrew White, “A Briefe Relation of the Voyage unto Maryland,” in Narratives of Early Maryland, ed. Clayton Coleman Hall (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1953), 42.

 

[2] Cadzow, 11.

 

      [3] Kent, 14.

 

      [4] George T. Hunt, The Wars of The Iroquois: A Study in Intertribal Trade Relations (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1940), 15-6, 137.

 

      [5] William A. Hunter, “The Historic Role of the Susquehannocks,” in Susquehanna Miscellany, eds. John Whitthoft and W. Fred Kinsey, III (Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1969), 13.

 

      * Shenks Ferry people are an undocumented pre-contact group known only through artifacts.

      [6] Cadzow, cited by Kent, 19.

 

    ** Massawomeks refers to the Five Nations Iroquois confederacy comprised of the Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondage, and Seneca.

      [7] John Smith, The General Historie of Virginia New England and the Summer Isles (Glasgow: James Maclehose & Sons, 1907), 126, quoted in Kent, 26; Henry P. Bigger, The Early Trading Companies of New France (Toronto: University of Toronto Library, 1901), 23-4, cited in Kent, 26.

 

      [8] George Alsop, “A Character of the Province of Maryland,” in Narratives of Early Maryland, ed. Clayton Coleman Hall (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1953), 366.

 

      [9] The Sunday News, “Did Capt. John Exaggerate? New Dig Shows Indians Weren’t Giants After All,” June 30, 1957.

 

      [10] John Witthoft, W. Fred Kinsey, III and Charles H. Holzinger, “A Susquehannock Cemetery: The Ibaugh Site,” in Susquehanna Miscellany, eds. John Whitthoft and W. Fred Kinsey, III (Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1969), 110-1.

 

      [11] [section removed].  

 

      [12] [section removed]

 

      [13] Cadzow, 19; Hunter, 10-1.

 

      [14] Hunter., 13.

 

      [15] Hunt, 137-40.

 

      [16] Kent, 34; Isaack de Rasière, in Narratives of Early Pennsylvania, West New Jersey, and Delaware, ed. Albert Cook Myers (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1912), 24,38, cited in Kent, 34.

 

      [17] Kent, 25, 34.

   *** The Piscataways were settled along the Patuxent River in what is now Maryland.

 

      [18] James Axtell, After Columbus: Essays in the Ethnohistory of Colonial North America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 75-6; Andrew White, “Father White’s Briefe Relation,” in Narratives of Early Maryland, ed. Clayton Coleman Hall (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1953), 42.

 

      [19] Cadzow, 20.

 

      [20] Jesuit Relations vol. 14, (1637), 9, cited by Henry F. Eshleman, Esq., Lancaster County Indians: Annals of the Susquehannocks and other Indian Tribes of the Susquehanna territory from about the year 1500 to 1763, the date of their extinction (Lancaster: Express Printing Co., 1909), 19; Cadzow, 20.

 

      [21] Amandus Johnson, The Swedish settlements on the Delaware (Lancaster: New Era Printing Co., 1911), 117,193, cited by Kent, 35.

 

      [22] Eschleman, 16; Hunt, 37; Thomas Campanius Holn, Description of the Province of New Sweden, now called by the English, Pennsylvania, in America (Philadelphia, 1834), cited by Cadzow, 21.

 

      [23] Eschleman, 19-21; Charles A. Hanna, The Wilderness Trail or The Ventures and Adventures of the Pennsylvania Traders on the Allegheny Path: With Some New Annals of the Old West, and the Records of Some Strong Men and Some Bad Ones, vol. 1 (New York: AMS Press, 1972), 36.

 

      [24] Eschleman, 20.

 

      [25] Ibid., 23.

 

      [26] Ibid., 28.

 

      [27] Maryland Archives, vol. 3, (1642), 116, quoted by Eschleman, 27; Eschleman, 29-30.   

 

      [28] Ibid., 28-9.       

 

      [29] Founders of Maryland, 3, cited by Cadzow, 21.

 

      [30] Jesuit Relations vol. 23, (1648), quoted in Eschleman, 40-1; Cadzow, 22-3.

 

      [31] Cadzow, 22-3; Kent, 39; Eschleman, 43.

 

      [32] Cadzow, 23-5.

 

      [33] Rafeix quoted by Cadzow, 25; Cadzow, 26-7.

 

      [34] Ibid.