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Olivia's Genealogy Site: NATIVE AMERICAN SLAVERY

This Web page is based on research of records known to be valid from  State records,  Federal records, manuscripts, and private papers. The following is supported by  the Native American Slavery Bibliography at the bottom of the page.



  1. Before the Europeans arrived Native Americans would usually make Native American captives a part of the tribe or in some cases killed them as retribution for harm done to members of their tribe.  The Europeans taught them about slavery and they began enslaving the captives.
  2. “Slaveholders resented Native American nations for accepting African Americans into their villages and were furious about an Indian adoption system that drew no color line…..Europeans demanded in treaties that Indian nations agree to return all fugitives.”  None of the nations returned a single escapee.  Many nations made it clear that they would fight for African men and women who had married into the nations and were their relatives.  See entry  (1).
  3. The Europeans would either capture or purchase Native Americans for use on the plantations.
  4. Southern Native Americans began to purchase African Americans for use on their own plantations.

1492- October 12:  Christopher Columbus wrote on the day that he landed in the NEW WORLD that he took some natives by force---Native American slavery began that day!!!  He kidnapped twenty-five Indians whom he took back to Spain with him as slaves.  A few  years later, when he was pressed to make a profit from his voyages, and had found little gold or spices, he began shipping Caribbean Indians back to Spain to be sold in the Portuguese Azores, the Spanish Canaries, and the markets of Seville and other mainland cities.  See entry (5) 

1495- Miguel de Cuneo who was a member of Columbus’s second expedition wrote about a slave raid in which they seized 1600 Indian slaves but only 550 fit into the ships.  The men who stayed behind divided 1050 Indian slaves among themselves.  The 550 were shipped out on February 17, 1495 and 200 hundred died at sea and were thrown overboard.  De Cuneo mentioned that Columbus gave him an attractive Carib woman whom he managed to rape only after a long fight and a thorough beating.  See entry (5)

1497-John Cabot made his official discovery of North America for the English crown and brought a few Indian slaves back with him to Europe. “ During the 123 years between his arrival on the shores of America and the first successful English colony, explorers,  traders, and fishermen raided the American shoreline for slaves.  A few Indian slaves could be sold in the Caribbean for food or supplies for one’s ship, or a few slaves taken back to Europe could defray some of the costs of the expedition.”  See entry (5) 

1498- John Cabot, the British explorer took three Native Americans.

1500- “ Gaspar Corte-Real, a Portuguese explorer from Terceira, in the Azores, sailed up the northern Atlantic Coast to what is now Labrador, where he encountered the Nasquapee or Naskapi people, sixty of whom he immediately captured and took back to Lisbon for sale as slaves.”  See entry (5) 

1502- “About ten years after the arrival of Columbus the Spaniards had shipped out at least three thousand Indian slaves, and possibly as many as six thousand to Seville.”  “In addition to the thousands sold in Europe, Columbus enslaved many times that number for use in the early mines and plantations of the Caribbean.”  See entry (5) 

1513 Ponce de Leon looked for Indian slaves as he explored Florida. 

1519 “The Spaniards had nearly exhausted the supply of Indian slaves in the Caribbean.”  See entry (5) 

1524 “Juan (or Giovanni) Verrazano explored the North American mainland for the French crown, and captured slaves on his voyages.”  See entry (5) 

1535 “ Jacques Cartier continued the explorations and the Indian enslavement for the French crown.”  See entry (5) 

1540 Hernando de Soto used thousands of Native people in the South East as pack carriers for his expeditions.  He usually seized the Natives he wanted by force and then placing them in chains with iron collars around their necks.  See entry (4)  He treated the friendly and the hostile Indians with equal cruelty by robbing them and putting many of them to death.  See entry (6) 

1599, January—The Spanish conquered the Acoma Pueblo in 1599.  Indian males and females above the age of twelve  were sentenced to twenty years of personal servitude.  Males above the age of twenty-five endured the additional punishment of having one foot amputated by a Spanish sword before beginning their servitude.  The church distributed children under the age of twelve to work as servants for families of Mexican Christians in the area.  See entry (5)

 1614 or 1615 “The English slave trader Thomas Hunt raided the Wampanoag village of Patuxet and seized Squanto.  Hunt carried Squanto and twenty-seven other Indians across the Atlantic and sold him in the Spanish port of Malaga on the Mediterranean, about sixty miles northeast of Gibraltar.”  See entry (5) 

1622 As a result of the Powhatan uprising in Virginia, the English called the Indians hostiles and used this as an excuse to enslave them. 

1636 New Englanders used the Pequot War as an excuse to enslave Native Americans.  “The Pequots were attacked in the winter of 1636 in what is now Connecticut, and by the spring of 1637 had defeated them.  The colonists of Massachusetts and Connecticut divided the Indian prisoners.  The Massachusetts victors sold their slaves for cash, while the Connecticut colonists kept theirs for domestic service.”  Earlier Queen Elizabeth had exiled all dark-skinned people from her realm.  This expulsion order included “negars and blackamoores” as well as Indians.  Most of the slaves in Britain at that time had to be removed to the British possessions in the Americas.  Since the Pilgrims could not sell their Pequot slaves in England, they sent them to market in Bermuda.” See entry (5)  

1663 William Hilton seized slaves for the Caribbean plantations along the coast of the Carolinas.  See entry (5)  

1670-1715  It has been estimated that the Carolina merchants operating out of Charles Town shipped 30,000-50,000 Indian Captives (particularly the Cherokee, Creek, and Choctaw---See entry (5) in a profitable slave trade with the Caribbean, Spanish Hispaniola and the northern colonies.  There was one African slave to about two to three Indian slaves.  Whites in the north preferred Indian slaves especially women and children. 

1675-76 After King Philip’s War, the colonists used the hundreds of Native American captives as slaves next to the African slaves or exported them to the West Indies.  The selling of the Native American slaves helped to pay for the heavy cost of fighting the war.  Philip was captured, drawn and quartered.  His skull remained on view on a pole in Plymouth as late as 1700.  See entry (3) “The colonists executed older males, selling only the younger Indians of both sexes into slavery.  Colonial law allowed them to enslave the wives and children of any ‘hostile’ Indians.  The owners could brand Indian slaves to prevent escape by pricking a letter or symbol onto the cheek or forehead of a slave and then fill it with gunpowder and Indian ink to leave a combination of a brand and a tattoo.”   See entry (5) 

1683 “The New England colonists sold some of the Indian slaves across the Atlantic in Europe and even in Africa.  In 1683 an Indian shipment was abandoned in the Algiers slave market after the Muslims refused to buy them.  There were other reports of Indian slaves sold in Morocco, along the west coast of Africa, and in the Canaries, the Azores, and the Cape Verde Islands.”  See entry (5) 

1684 King Louis XIV of France announced “these savages are strong and robust”.  The Iroquois were made to serve on French vessels, French officials made slaves of the Pawnees in Canada and the Natchez were kidnapped along the Mississippi valley. 

1700-1705  It is estimated that English and Creek raids on Florida yielded about 4,000 Indian slaves. 

1706 The Chickasaw raided the Choctaws and captured three hundred slaves for the English.  

1707 The governor and Council of South Carolina listed “Boston, Rhode Island, Pa., New York, and Va.” as some of the “places we export Indian slaves.” 

1708 Captain Thomas Nairne, explaining the importance of Indian slavery in the Carolinas, wrote that the colonists enslaved the Indians because they feared that the French to the west might arm the Indians if the English colonists did not enslave them.  See entry (5) 

1708 The population of the colony of South Carolina totaled 9,850 including 2900 African slaves and 1400 Indian slaves.  See entry (4) 

1709 Indians made up one-quarter of all slaves in South Carolina.  See entry (5) 

1710 In a description of the commerce of South Carolina one can find that the colony imported wheat, flour, biscuit, strong beer, cider, salt fish, onions, apples and hops from New England, New York and Pennsylvania, and in return sent thither hides, small deer skins, gloves, rice, pitch, tar and “slaves taken by Indians in War.”  See entry (4) 

1711-1713 During the Tuscarora War, Carolina whites aided by Yamasee took thousands of captive Tuscaroras as slaves.  See entry (4) 

1712 North Carolina Governor Hyde talked about “the great advantage that may be made of slaves, there being many hundreds of them, women and children.”  See entry (4) 

1715 The Reverend M. Johnson said “our military men were….so desirous to enrich themselves by taking all the Indians slaves.” 

1717, January 5—An advertisement in the BOSTON NEWS LETTER offered for sale an Indian woman “fit for all manner of household work either in town or country, can sew, wash, brew, bake, spin and milk cows.”   See entry (5) 

1721 The governor of Virginia had the Five Civilized Nations promise to surrender escapees (African American slaves).  See entry (1). 

1726 The governor of New York made the Iroquois Confederacy promise to surrender escapees (African American slaves).  See entry (1) 

1729, April 10---An advertisement from the AMERICAN WEEKLY MERCURY offered a woman and her child for sale.  The advertisement boasted that the woman “washes, irons, and starches very well, and is a good cook.”   See entry (5) 

1730 Nearly 25 percent of the slaves in the Carolinas were Cherokee, Creek, or other Native Americans. 

1746 The Hurons were made to promise to surrender escapees (African American slaves).  See entry (1) 

1747 The Delawares were made to promise to surrender escapees (African American slaves).  See entry (1) 

1730-1750  This was the approximate date of the end of Indian slave trading. 

1754, April 9---“Matthew Toole sent a letter to South Carolina’s governor, James Glen, asking for permission to use one group of Indians to fight another.  He wrote “(w)e want no pay, only what we can take and plunder, what Slaves we take to be our own of Indians.”  See entry (5) 

1760 French settlers in Canada preferred Native American slaves.  The Treaty of Montreal recognized African and Pawnee slavery in Canada, and the Pawnee became known as the “Negroes of America”.  See entry (5) 

1778 During the American Revolution, George Washington requested slaves for his battalions.  The Rhode Island assembly responded by mustering all Indian, mulatto, and Negro slaves with the promise of eventual freedom for them, if the Americans won the war against the British.”  See entry (5) 

1809 The Cherokee nation of 12,400 had 600 enslaved Blacks. 

1824 It has been estimated that the Cherokee owned 1277 Black slaves. 

1830s and 1840s On the TRAIL OF TEARS as many as 15,000 enslaved Blacks were taken with the Native Americans as they were forced to move to Oklahoma Territory. 

1833-1835 Mission control over the Indians of California was legally terminated between 1833-1835 when the Mexican Republic declared all Indians free and independent.   See entry (5) 

1835 The Cherokee nation of 16,400 had 1600 enslaved Blacks.

1860 The Cherokee nation of 21,000 had 4,000 enslaved Blacks. 

1862 Ten percent of the population of the Cape Fear region in North Carolina died after an epidemic of yellow fever and free labor fled.  Indians and African slaves were conscripted against their will to build a system of forts which were intended to defend Wilmington, North Carolina.  The conscripting of the “Scuffletownian” Indians (now known as Lumbees)  who lived mostly in Robeson County, North Carolina  reduced them to slave status.  See entry (2) 

1868, July 27—The United States Congress outlawed the enslavement of Navajos by Americans and Mexicans through a joint resolution and slavery of Alaskan natives did not legally end until even later.  See entry (5) 

1884 Ranchers in California and other parts of the West maintained virtual enslavement of Indians through various legal charades, such as “debt peonage,” in which the peon owed the rancher for food and other services provided at high prices that the peon could never afford to pay.  The courts offered little recourse for Indians, since the Supreme Court ruled in ELK V. WILKINS in 1884 that the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution freed the African slaves but did not grant citizenship or constitutional rights to American Indians, even to those who had surrendered their tribal status and joined the larger society.  See entry (5) 

1924 Many reservation Indians had a status little higher than that of an indentured servant or a prison trustee.  Some such practices continued until the United States finally conferred citizenship and full constitutional rights on all Indians in 1924.  See entry (5)  


(1)  BREAKING THE CHAINS, African-American Slave Resistance; William Loren Katz; Atheneum, New York 1990  

 (2) BETWEEN TWO FIRES, American Indians in the Civil War; Laurence M. Hauptman, The Free Press, 1995

 (3) AMERICAN INDIANS, The  Chicago History of American Civilization; William T. Hagan; Edited by Daniel J. Boorstin; The University of Chicago Press, 1961

 (4) SLAVERY AND THE EVOLUTION OF CHEROKEE SOCIETY 1540-1866; Theda Perdue, The University of Tennessee Press Knoxville, 1979

 (5) NATIVE ROOTS, How The Indians Enriched America, Jack Weatherford; Crown Publishers, Inc., New York, 1991

 (6) A HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES, by Waddy Thompson; D.C. Heath and Co., Publishers, 1919 



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