The Canadian Iroquois and the Seven Years' War

Voices from the Seven Years' War

We are the 7 Confederate Indian Nations of Canada ... and we come in conjunction with our Father the King of France's troops to fight his enemies the English. Kahnawake delegate, 1755

The French & we are one Blood & where they are to dye we must dye also. We are linked together in each others arms and where the French go we must go also. Kahnawake delegates, 1755

In causing ourselves to be reborn in the same baptismal water that washed the Great Onontio, we have not renounced our liberty, [or] our rights that we hold from the Master of Life.Oswegatchie chiefs and Clan Mothers, 1757

If the English and French had a quarrel, let them fight their own battles themselves, it is not our business to meddle therewith. Tecaughretanego, Kahnawake war chief, c. 1755

The art of war consists in ambushing and surprising our enemies, and in preventing them from ambushing and surprising us. Tecaughretanego, Kahnawake war chief, 1758

[War is] an opportunity of distinguishing ourselves, and of getting some prisoners and scalps to show our people that we had been at war. Tahaghtaghquisere, Canadian Iroquois war chief, 1764

You [Montcalm] have brought into this place the art of war of the world beyond the great lake: we know that in that art you are a grand master, but for the science and the art of scouting, for the knowledge of these forests and the way of making war here we have the advantage of you. Amerindian war chiefs, 1757

I do not need you [The Seven Nations] to defeat the English. Montcalm, 1758

[The Seven Nations] have contributed for a long time to the honour of the arms and the defence of the colony. Vaudreuil, 1758

[The Canadian Iroquois] have it in their power now, by quitting the French, to become once more a happy people, but if ... they should act a different part, they must expect no quarter from us. Sir William Johnson, 1759

We have now made a firm peace with the English ... you have now settled all matters with us & we are become firm friends. Seven Nations delegates, Treaty of Kahnawake, 1760

The Good Work of Peace. Ad'yadarony, Kahnawake war chief, 1760


Excerpts from the book

Although a French soldier and Mohawk warrior might be marching and fighting side by side, they were fighting two very different wars.

Rather than joining with their French allies to achieve the same objectives, Canadian Iroquois warriors conducted parallel campaigns, directed at the taking of prisoners ... [alongside] French military expeditions, which were directed at the capture or defence of forts.

For Amerindians, to take part in a formal siege was to step out of the forest and into a military twilight zone ... a stark, empty landscape, scarred by trenches and dominated by [artillery] ... a landscape where humans lived below ground level or died.

If they had found the officers as worthy of attention as the gunners and sappers, Amerindian observers could have noted a typical post-Gutenburg European response to a novel situation -- the attempt to convert a new experience into a [profitable] best-seller.

Materializing out of the darkness, completely naked and shouting war cries ... Ohquandageghte snatched up their muskets and flung them out their window. Seconds after entering the guard house, the lone warrior had his [eleven] enemies surrounded.

Under the right conditions, an Amerindian force could obliterate a European army, reducing whole regiments to shattered, fleeing rabble.

Bound by their status as colonials ... confronted with a successful invasion, the French in Canada had no option but surrender ... [The Canadian Iroquois] on the other hand, were ... free to act as they saw fit to protect their interests. They used this freedom to negotiate first neutrality, then alliance, with the invaders.


Table of Contents


Dust-jacket text

The participation of the Iroquois of Akwesasne, Kanesetake (Oka), Kahnawake and Oswegatchie in the Seven Years' War is a long neglected topic. The consequences of this struggle still shape Canadian history. The book looks at the social and economic impact of the war on both men and women in Canadian Iroquois communities.

It deals with each individual campaign as Amerindians and Frenchman conducted "parallel warfare," each group holding to its particular practices and aspirations. Since goals frequently conflicted, the war was as notable for cultural conflict with the French as for military engagements with the British.

MacLeod shows how the Canadian Iroquois demonstrated their independence from external control by turning from war to diplomacy -- negotiating first neutrality, then alliance with the British. The British proved difficult allies, however, and the first "Oka Crisis" occurred when they deployed troops and issued weapons to French inhabitants for use against the Iroquois. This was followed by the razing of the Iroquois town of Oswegatchie, a series of violent attacks by British soldiers and interfererence in the Iroquois fur trade with Albany.

The Canadian Iroquois provides an enhanced appreciation both of the role of Amerindians in the war in the war itself and of their difficult struggle to lead their lives within the unstable geopolitical environment created by European invasion and settlement.


Cover Art

David Rickman, Eastern Woodland Indians, middle of the eighteenth century, Department of National Defence.


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Copyright © 2001 D. Peter MacLeod

The bottom center image is a detail from David Rickman, Eastern Woodland Indians, middle of the eighteenth century, Department of National Defence.