Book Review: The Enslavement of the American Indian in Colonial Times, Barbara Olexer (2005)

January 30th, 2006 11:59 pm by Kelly Garbato

An enlightening look at an oft-ignored subject!

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review at the author’s invitation.)

In THE ENSLAVEMENT OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN IN COLONIAL TIMES, author Barbara J. Olexer examines the subject of American Indian slavery. While she does trace the roots of American Indian slavery back as far as 1013, her discussion primarily focuses on the colonial period, particularly the 1600s and 1700s. THE ENSLAVEMENT OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN… offers an illuminating look at what, sadly, is a little-known subject. Given the dearth of books on this topic, Ms. Olexer’s tome makes a welcome addition to the existing literature.

Starting with the Norsemen’s “discovery” of America in the tenth century, THE ENSLAVEMENT OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN… explores the topic of American Indian slavery. What started as the kidnappings of individual American Indians eventually escalated into an American Indian slave trade, albeit on a smaller scale than the African slave trade. The trade reached its height during the 17th and 18th centuries, but had largely ceased by the 1780s. The reasons for the American Indian slave trade were many. Commonly, colonists instigated warfare between already unfriendly tribes, as a means of weakening their enemies as well as obtaining American Indian slaves “legally.” Additionally, trading in American Indian slaves was another tool with which to rob the Indians of their land. American Indians were often tricked into slavery, ambushed by unscrupulous colonists, or simply kidnapped and “exported.” By the end of the Revolutionary War, however, American Indian populations were decimated to such a degree that slavery was no longer necessary. Nor was it profitable; Africans were more plentiful and made for more obedient and resilient slaves.

THE ENSLAVEMENT OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN… covers both the scale of and the reasons underlying the American Indian slave trade. The book is divided into eleven chapters: It Began as Kidnapping; The Pilgrims and the Pequots; King Philip’s War; The French in Canada; The English and the Westo; The Traders and the Neophytes; The Tuscarora and Yamassee Wars; The End of the Trade in Carolina; The French in Louisiana; The French and the Natchez; and Conclusion.

As you can see from the chapter titles, Ms. Olexer looks at the French as well as the English settlers, and also examines Spanish-Indian relations. A number of American Indian groups make an appearance, including the Huron, Eskimo, Pequot, Narragansett, Saconnet, Nipmuc, Mohegan, Iroquois, Seneca, Tuscarora, Westo, Powhatan, Catawba, Chowan, Yamassee, Cherokee, Creek, Chickasaw, Waccamaw, Natchez, Sauk and Fox tribes, as well as the Wampanoag Federation and the Five Nations. Geographically, the discussion concentrates on the north- and south-east of the United States. Several chapters are devoted to the Carolina region in particular.

Although schools and scholars are finally beginning to acknowledge our forbearers’ brutal treatment of the Americas’ original inhabitants, the subject of American Indian slavery still merits little attention. Indeed, I don’t recall learning of the topic at all during elementary, junior, or high school. Unfortunately, few books exist that tackle this significant topic. Barbara Olexer’s THE ENSLAVEMENT OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN… helps to fill this void, and makes a great addition to the history buff’s bookshelf. It’s a must-read for anyone interested in the American Indian experience or the history of slavery. An added bonus: the author donates a portion of the proceeds to the National Museum of the American Indian.

(This review was originally published on Amazon and Library Thing, and is also available on Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you think it so!)

Be Sociable, Share!

Filed under , , , , ,

Leave a Reply