The Native Americans' Role in the American Revolution: Choosing Sides

At the outbreak of the Revolutionary crisis in the 1760s, Native Americans faced a familiar task of navigating among competing European imperial powers on the continent of North America. At the close of the era in the 1780s, Native Americans faced a "New World" with the creation of the new United States of America. During the years of conflict, Native American groups, like many other residents of North America, had to choose the loyalist or patriot cause—or somehow maintain a neutral stance. But the Native Americans had distinctive issues all their own in trying to hold on to their homelands as well as maintain access to trade and supplies as war engulfed their lands too. Some allied with the British, while others fought alongside the American colonists.

In this lesson, students will analyze maps, treaties, congressional records, firsthand accounts, and correspondence to determine the different roles assumed by Native Americans in the American Revolution and understand why the various groups formed the alliances they did.

Guiding Questions

Why did some Native American groups become involved in the American Revolution—either on the British or American side?

What roles did they play in the conflict and what were the consequences of their decisions?

Learning Objectives

Students will understand the different roles assumed by various Native American tribes during the American Revolution.

Students will understand the issues involved for Native Americans in choosing the British or the American side of the conflict, such as maintaining trade or preserving homelands.