The First Slaves
year, "Tall Oak" Weeden and a delegation of Wampanoag Indians and
Mashantucket Pequots went hunting for remnants of this forgotten
Connecticut: In May of 1637, Puritans massacred up to 700 Pequots in a single hour near today's Mystic, CN. Six weeks later, they cornered the remaining "most terrible" Pequots -- 200 old men, women, and children -- who had been hiding in a swamp.
A group -- perhaps 17 and mostly children -- were thought to have been exported as slaves. Others were given to soldiers as wartime booty.
This began a dark century in American history: the New England Indian slave-trade.
"There are a lot of things that people in America don't have any
idea about,"' said Everett "Tall Oak" Weeden, who has Pequot and Wampanoag ancestry. "History has been
Colonists considered these wars as "civilized" English against the "savage" natives. But a note left by Nipmuck Indians reveals much about the time: "We have nothing but our lives to loose but thou has many fair houses and cattell & much good things."
As the 17th century wore on, New England colonists soon outnumbered natives by about 2 to 1. By the end of the 1600s, there were probably thousands of Indian slaves.
Indians often came to public auction "tied neck to neck. " They sold for half of what an African might bring. At times, there were so many captured Indians that a few bushels of corn or 100 pounds of wool served as payment. Slaves bound for slave markets in Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and elsewhere were packed tightly into ships.
The money their profiteers had paid for them was used by Colonial authorities to finance more wars against the Indians.
Some Indians were sold as indentured servants to be freed at age 24. Others were bound for indefinite periods. Children sold as indentured servants had to serve 10 years. However, if they got into trouble with Puritan Courts, they served longer terms.
Almon W. Lauber in his 1913 book, Indian Slavery in Colonial Times, writes: "The general court appointed certain persons in each county to receive and distribute these Indian children proportionately, and to see that they were sold to good families.
Slavery helped dispose of war
captives, make profits for greedy traders, and fill the high demand
for labor. Indian slavery lasted well into the 1700s when the
practice faded because so many Indians had been eliminated, and
because African slaves were more in demand.
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