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Slavery among the indigenous peoples of the Americas

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Title: Slavery among the indigenous peoples of the Americas  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Marguerite Scypion, Slavery, Slavery in the United States, History of slavery, House slave
Collection: History of Indigenous Peoples of the Americas, Indigenous Topics of South America, Indigenous Topics of the Caribbean, Slavery in North America
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Slavery among the indigenous peoples of the Americas

Illustration of the Demerara rebellion of 1823, an insurrection of the African slaves in the colony of Demerara. African women and children stand near a group of Indigenous Americans carrying sticks form a semi-circle around a European officer.

Slavery among the indigenous peoples of the Americas took many forms throughout North and South America. Slavery was a common institution among various Pre-Columbian indigenous peoples of the Americas; however, chattel slavery was introduced only after European and African contact. Indigenous peoples owned indigenous slaves, and after contact, owned African slaves. An international indigenous American slave trade was active beginning in the late 15th century into the 19th century. Although slavery is illegal throughout the Americas, some Indigenous peoples are still enslaved today.[1]


  • Indigenous enslavement of indigenous peoples 1
  • European enslavement of indigenous people 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6

Indigenous enslavement of indigenous peoples

In Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica the most common forms of slavery were those of prisoners of war and debtors. People unable to pay back a debt could be sentenced to work as a slave to the person owed until the debt was worked off. Slavery was not usually hereditary; children of slaves were born free.

Most victims of human sacrifice were prisoners of war or slaves.[2]

Pawnee and Klamath, the Caribs of Dominica, the Tupinambá of Brazil, and some fishing societies, such as the Yurok, that lived along the coast from what is now Alaska to California.[3] The Haida, Nuu-chah-nulth, Tlingit, Coast Tsimshian and some other tribes who lived along the Pacific Northwest Coast were traditionally known as fierce warriors and slave-traders, raiding as far as California and also among neighboring people, particularly the Coast Salish groups. Slavery was hereditary, with new slaves generally being prisoners of war or captured for the purpose of trade and status. Among some Pacific Northwest tribes about a quarter of the population were slaves.[4][5][6]

European enslavement of indigenous people

The encomienda system was an agreement between the Council of the Indies and the Spanish crown to exchange education and protection from warring tribes for the use of the land owned by the caciques, lords, or encomienderos and the promise of seasonal labour.[7] Intermittently, the colonists needed to purge these anaborios (native mercenaries). From the earliest days on the Caribbean islands they settled, the Spanish encomienderos precipitated many revolts and hostilities, both Native American and Spanish in origin, through their harsh treatment. One of the first localities for intensive use of encomienda was the gold mines of Hispaniola. The caciques arbitrarily set wages.[8]

After the arrival of the Portuguese, the Native Americans started to trade their prisoners, instead of using them as slaves or food, in exchange for goods. But the enslavement of Europeans could also occur as happened with Hans Staden who, after being set free, wrote a book about the habits of the Native Americans.

Native American slavery was also practiced by the English in the Carolinas who sold Native American captives into slavery locally and on the English plantations in the Caribbean.[9] One of the first tribes that specialized in slave raids and trade with Carolina was the Westo, followed by many others including the Yamasee, Chickasaw, and Creek. Historian Alan Gallay estimates the number of Native Americans in southeast America sold in the British slave trade from 1670-1715 as between 24,000 and 51,000. He also notes that during this period more slaves (Native American, African, or otherwise) were exported from Charles Town than imported.[10]

Many Native American tribes did enslave small numbers of captives and in the southwestern United States, some were sold to local Hispanic residents. In at least one instance in the San Luis Valley of Colorado a female household slave continued in her status long after the Emancipation Proclamation.

Slavery of Native Americans was organized in colonial and Mexican California through Franciscan missions, theoretically entitled to ten years of Native labor, but in practice maintaining them in perpetual servitude, until their charge was revoked in the mid-1830s. Following the 1848 American invasion, Native Californians were enslaved in the new state from statehood in 1850 to 1867.[11] Slavery required the posting of a bond by the slave holder and enslavement occurred through raids and a four-month servitude imposed as a punishment for Native American "vagrancy".[12]

The citizens of New France received slaves as gifts from their allies among First Nations peoples. Many of these slaves were prisoners taken in raids against the villages of the Fox nation, a tribe that was an ancient rival of the Miami people and their Algonquian allies.[13] Native or ("panis", likely a corruption of Pawnee) slaves were much easier to obtain and thus more numerous than African slaves in New France, but were less valued. The average native slave died at 18, and the average African slave died at 25.[14] In 1790, the abolition movement was gaining credence in Canada; there was an incident involving a slave woman being violently abused by her slave owner on her way to being sold in the United States.[4] The Act Against Slavery of 1793 legislated the gradual abolition of slavery: no slaves could be imported; slaves already in the province would remain enslaved until death, no new slaves could be brought into Upper Canada, and children born to female slaves would be slaves but must be freed at age 25.[4] The Act remained in force until 1833 when the British Parliament's Slavery Abolition Act finally abolished slavery in all parts of the British Empire.[15] Historian Marcel Trudel has discovered 4,092 recorded slaves throughout Canadian history, of which 2,692 were aboriginal people, owned mostly by the French, and 1,400 blacks owned mostly by the British, together owned by approximately 1,400 masters.[4] Trudel also noted 31 marriages took place between French colonists and aboriginal slaves.[4]

See also


  1. ^ "Sexual Slavery Within Latin America." Libertad Latina: Indigenous & Latina Women & Children's Human Rights News from the Americas. (retrieved 14 June 2011)
  2. ^ Britannica Concise Encyclopedia"Human sacrifice",
  3. ^ Slavery in the New World
  4. ^ a b c d e Cooper, Afua. The Untold Story of Canadian Slavery and the Burning of Old Montreal,(Toronto:HarperPerennial, 2006)'
  5. ^ Digital History African American Voices
  6. ^ Haida Warfare
  7. ^ By Anghiera Pietro Martire D'. De Orbe Novo, the Eight Decades of Peter Martyr D'Anghera. p. 181. Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  8. ^ By Anghiera Pietro Martire D'. De Orbe Novo, the Eight Decades of Peter Martyr D'Anghera. p. 182. Retrieved 10 July 2010. 
  9. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica: Slavery
  10. ^ Gallay, Alan (2002). The Indian Slave Trade: The Rise of the English Empire in the American South 1670-1717. Yale University Press. pp. 298–301.  
  11. ^ Castillo, Edward D. (1998). Short Overview of California Indian History", California Native American Heritage Commission.
  12. ^ Beasley, Delilah L. (1918). "Slavery in California," The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 3, No. 1. (Jan.), pp. 33-44.
  13. ^ Brett Rushforth, "Slavery, the Fox Wars, and the Limits of Alliance" William and Mary Quarterly, 63 (January 2005), No.1, para. 32. Rushforth confuses the two Vincennes explorers. François-Marie was 12 years old during the First Fox War.
  14. ^ Cooper, Afua (2006). The Hanging of Angélique. Harper Collins.  
  15. ^ "Slavery Abolition Act 1833; Section LXIV". 1833-08-28. Retrieved 2008-06-03. 

Further reading

  • Brown, Harry J.; Hans Staden Among the Tupinambas
  • Gallay, Alan; Forgotten Story of Indian Slavery (2003).
  • "English Trade in Deerskins and Indian Slaves", New Georgia Encyclopedia
  • Carocci, Max; Written Out of History: Contemporary Native American Narratives of Enslavement (2009)

External links

  • - Website, Aframerindian Slave Narratives
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