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[Detail] Vue de Quebec, capitale du Canada. 1755.

Historical Issues Analysis and Decision Making: A Delaware Chief’s Decision

While the parties engaged in a war obviously must make numerous decisions, those not initially involved also face an important decision: whether to support one side or the other or to remain neutral. Such was the case for Indians when the British and Americans clashed in the American Revolution. Read the remarks that Buckongahelas, a Delaware chief, is reported to have made to the Indians explaining his reasons for supporting the British during the American Revolution. 

Friends! Listen to what I say to you! You see a great and powerful nation divided! You see the father fighting against the son, and the son against the father! The father has called on his Indian children, to assist him in punishing his children, the Americans, who have become refractory. I took time to consider what I should do; whether or not I should receive the hatchet of my father to assist him. At first I looked upon it as a family quarrel, in which I was not interested. However, at length, it appeared to me that the father was in the right; and his children deserved to be punished a little. That this must be the case, I concluded from the many cruel acts his offspring had committed from time to time on his Indian children, in encroaching on their land, stealing their property, shooting at, and murdering, without cause, men, women, and children. Yes! even murdering those, who at all times, had been friendly to them, and were placed for protection under the roof of their father's house—the father himself standing sentry at the door at the time. Friends! often has the father been obliged to settle, and make amends for the wrongs and mischiefs done to us by his refractory children; yet these do not grow better. No; they remain the same; and will continue to be so, as long as we have any land left us. Look back at the murders committed by the Long-knives [English colonists] on many of our relations, who lived peaceable neighbors to them on the Ohio. Did they not kill them without the least provocation? Are they, do you think, better now than they were then?

From "Memoir sent in 1693, on the discovery of the Mississippi," pages 175-176

  • What reasons did Chief Buckongahelas give for joining the British during the American Revolution?
  • What metaphor did Buckongahelas use to describe the revolution? In what way might this metaphor have convinced others to support his position?
  • How do you think Buckongahelas regarded the terms of the treaty of peace? Explain your answer.