- Persons held as property by others. Slavery was common to some
Indian tribes in America. Until the coming of the white man, slaves
usually were other Indians captured in war and held within the tribe.
Later Indians learned the trading value of slaves.
The Navajo, after the Spanish had taken
some of their tribesmen into slavery, began to make slaves of Mexican and
Spanish men, women, and children.
Although there is little evidence that
slavery was widespread in pre-Columbus days, it is known that the Tlingit
of the Northwest were old time slave holders. Their slaves were war
prisoners and often were killed either in anger or as a sacrifice.
The Tlingit had a special implement known as a "slave killer."
The French in the early days obtained many
Pawnee slaves, captured by other tribes especially for sale to the French.
Such slaves were known as Panis, another word for Pawnee, but which
later became a word meaning Indian slave. The last auction of Indian
slaves was held in Montreal in 1797.
The Natchez of the South owned many Negro
slaves. It has been recorded that in 1825 the Cherokee owned Negro
slaves, the tribe as a whole having 1,275 in that year. The Creek,
Choctaw, and Chickasaw also learned the value of such slaves and when runaway
Negroes fell into their hands they held them. It was not long before
all these tribes were buying and selling slaves. The Seminole, on
the other hand, treated runaway slaves differently and adopted them into
the tribe. It was this practice that brought on the First Seminole
Following the Civil War all Indian nations
holding slaves were forced to free them. This, of course, included
the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, and Chickasaw, of the Five Civilized Tribes
of Oklahoma. In many cases the freed slaves were adopted into the
There are many stories of the early white
settlers using Indians as slaves. Those of South Carolina at one
time carried back to Charleston the entire population of seven Indian villages
-1,400 persons - and sold them among other settlers as slaves. in
New England the early colonists gave vanquished Indians the choice of entering
villages of "Praying Indians" or being sold into slavery.
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