In 1787, when the lands of the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley were officially opened for settlement through the Northwest Ordinance, the area that would become Indiana was not, by any means, an empty wilderness void of a human presence. In fact, several Native groups lived on the land and the Potawatomi and Miami were particularly influential groups. The principal Miami village, Kekionga, was located at the present site of Fort Wayne. The Potawatomi and Miami were farmers, especially of corn. They also hunted, fished, and gathered berries, nuts, roots and maple sap.
In 1679, French explorer Robert Cavalier de La Salle entered Indiana and began the French fur trade era. The French exchanged European goods such as guns, knives, kettles, axes, hoes, traps, cloth, beads and other supplies for furs gathered by the Potawatomi and Miami. The French were not interested in colonizing North America, but they did hope to convert native groups to Catholicism. Contact with the French led to population decline among the Native Americas, disruption in their leadership structure and changes in religious beliefs.
The 1740s brought more upheaval as British traders arrived to challenge French dominance of the fur trade. The British and French conflict erupted into war in 1756. The Seven Years War, or the French and Indian War, as this conflict was known, ended in 1763 with a British victory. A proclamation issued by the British in this same year was supposed to prevent colonists from settling west of the Appalachian Mountains, but it was largely ignored. The American Revolution put control of the government in the hands of the colonists and soon the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 sanctioned the settlement of whites on lands that became the Indiana Territory.
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Indiana 1700-1851: Native Americans to the National Road (a two-disc DVD set)
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