by Thomas Dahlheimer
This article is mostly about how and why European Christian colonists used alcohol as a chemical weapon of warfare in their genocidal and ethnic cleansing mistreatment and exploitation of indigenous peoples.
It also addresses the subject of how and why European colonists used the Ojibwe’s weakness to abuse alcohol during the fur trade era to force the Dakota from their northern Minnesota homeland.
In this article I present statements made by historians who wrote about the fur trade as well as statements made by Indians who lived during the fur trade era. I also present commentaries on this topic. They present information about the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the fur trade and how and why it participated in the corruption/harm that the trading of alcohol for furs brought upon indigenous peoples.
In the fifteenth century a series of Papal bulls/decrees set the stage for the radical mistreatment and exploitation of indigenous peoples. They were official authorizations to “invade, capture, vanquish” and “subdue” indigenous peoples, “subjugate” them, so that they would be “brought to the faith itself” and the “Christian Empire” would be propagated. They also authorized Europeans to “reduce their persons to perpetual slavery” and “take away all their possessions and property”.
“The trading posts introduced many types of alcohol (especially brandy and rum) for trade. European traders flocked to the continent and made huge profits off the exchange.
“For many years, Jesuit missionaries had complained about the corruption which the fur trade was creating among Native Americans. These protests fell upon deaf ears, especially after the Louis XIV’s dispute with Rome began in 1673.”
“The difficult problem of alcohol in the fur trade was never eliminated. In fact, its effect on the Indians increased as the fur-bearing animals were depleted and the Indians began to surrender their lands.”
In the end, the fur trade escalated into inter-tribal war, which became even more deadly with the infiltration of European guns and ammunition. Sadly, alcohol also came into the picture as a result of European trade. Traders introduced alcohol to the Wabanakis, who later traded expensive furs to support their newfound addiction. English negotiators even went so far as to use alcohol to get the Wabanakis drunk before signing treaties.
“Your Traders now bring scarce anything but Rum and Flour; they bring little powder and lead, or other valuable goods. The Rum ruins us. We beg you would prevent its coming such quantities by regulating the Traders. We never understood the Trade was to be for Whiskey and Flour. We desire it may be forbidden, and none sold in the Indian Country….”
“When these Whiskey Traders come, they bring thirty or forty kegs and put them down before us and make us drink, and get all the skins that should go to pay the debts we have contracted for goods bought of the Fur Traders….”
“Pressures from fur and whiskey traders goes much further in explaining the Indian wars than any lack of “civilized” values. Who needed civilizing were the entrepreneurs who used such poisons to make the Indian dependent. While in one sense, we have become inured to the idea of alcohol being a symptom of American Indian despair, it is important to understand how this substance entered their society. Today, there are all sorts of investigative journalists reporting on how the contras introduced crack cocaine into the United States in order to fund the war in Nicaragua. An investigation of the introduction of whiskey into the northwestern Plains states would also be a good idea. Just as British capitalism used rum, sugar and slaves to drive its commercial expansion into the Caribbeans and American south, so did the fur trading companies use a combination of whiskey, furs and alcohol-addicted Indian hunters to increase their wealth.”
“To put it more bluntly, the British and American fur traders lured the Indians into the cash trade by offering them whiskey, the one thing that was not available on the open range. They used whiskey in the same way that the British used opium in China. It was a way of breaking down the doors of a local economy that had little use for the lure of imported goods.
“Fur traders did act as wilderness explorers but many aspects of their business were anything but heroic. It is vital to balance the picture of the fur trader as an explorer and pioneer with the less flattering portrait of the fur trader as a pusher of dangerous and addictive substances, a fomenter of intertribal and intratribal conflict,…”
“The Beaver Wars (1630-1700) began in the east but soon spread to the Great Lakes. The fur trade turned the Great Lakes into a war zone.”
“…the western Great Lakes were relatively peaceful before 1630, but the fur trade changed this. Fur traded for steel weapons allowed the Ojibwe to take hunting territory from other tribes. This gave them more fur to trade for more weapons to expand even farther. War with the Dakota and Winnebago became more intense,…”
“Trying to restore a balance of power and protect the trade route through the Ottawa Valley, the French broke a long-standing rule and began to supply firearms to the Algonkin and Montagnais. This turned the tide only briefly, since the Dutch started selling guns to the Iroquois. The result was an arms race and greater violence. The Huron and Ottawa also received firearms from the French, and some of these weapons were traded to the Neutrals and Tionontati. All this new armament arrived just as beaver were becoming scarce in southern Ontario from supplying the French. Huron, Ottawa, Neutral, and Tionontati hunters solved this by moving into lower Michigan and using their new weapons to take territory from the Assistaeronon, or Fire Nation (an alliance of Fox, Sauk, Mascouten, and Potawatomi). Although the French were aware of what was happening, they made no attempt to stop it.”
“The French allies and trading partners started the process of forcing the original tribes from lower Michigan, but they never got to complete it. Facing a similar shortage of beaver in their homeland from trading with the Dutch, the Iroquois during the 1630s needed to find new hunting territory but were hemmed in by powerful enemies.”
For many tribes, lack of beaver furs meant lack of the addictive and dangerous drug alcohol. Consequently, lack of beaver furs meant suffering due to unsatisfied alcohol addiction cravings. Tribes would leave their own land when most of the beaver were used up. They would then, armed with guns and ammunition, invaded other tribes’ lands to get furs for alcohol. This was causing many intertribal wars. European Roman Catholic Monarchs and the Roman Catholic Pope were aware of this and did nothing to stop it. They were using alcohol as a chemical weapon of warfare to greatly deplete the native people’s population to make room for “superior” white European Christian immigrants and so that the remaining natives (a smaller population) could be more easily “subjugated” and exploited.
“In the east, Indian slaves became a viable component of trade, along with deer skins and furs; in the west, American Indians were enslaved by the Catholic Church in order to build and maintain its missions … Indian slavery was … an integral part of the colonial economy.”
“The Ojibwe had used up most of the beaver on their own lands supplying the French. This forced them to rely more on hunting territory shared peacefully with the Dakota and to look with a jealous eye on the fur and rice lakes the Dakota had in Minnesota.”
To the Ojibwe, the coveted fur in the Dakota’s land meant a good steady supply of alcohol to satisfy their alcohol addiction cravings and a lot of wild rice. It also meant winning favior with the powerful White colonists.
“One of the Dakota antagonists was the Ojibwa. These conflicts became exacerbated with the arrival of the White cultural, especially with the trading posts selling guns and whiskey, voyageurs and trappers selling guns to the Ojibwa, and possible government activity, which encouraged the arming of the Ojibwa.”
“Early White/Indian intervention played an important role in the settlement of the area by white men. The French, instigated fights between the Ojibwe and Dakota so as to ally themselves with the Ojibwe.”
“The Dakota became increasingly disturbed by the heavy Ojibwe hunting, but the explosion came in 1736 when Verendrye attempted to lure the Cree and Assiniboine away from the British by selling them firearms. The Dakota would not tolerate the French arming their enemies…”
“The Dakota uprising against the French in 1737 had been building for many years and would be the beginning of 130 years of continuous warfare between the Ojibwe and Dakota. There were hostilities between these two tribes before the first European saw the Great Lakes, but this had been low-level compared to what the fur trade created.” reference
The Roman Catholic Church sanctioned fur trade, or the trading of the addictive and dangerous drug alcohol for furs, caused 130 years of continuous warfare between the Ojibwe and Dakota and also the loss of the Dakota’s northern Minnesota homeland, especially including their Mille Lacs homeland, which was the center of the Dakota world.
“Following the French fur trade west during the 1720s, they moved beyond Lake Superior and into a war with the Dakota (Sioux) in 1737. During the next century, the Ojibwe forced the Dakota out of northern Minnesota and Wisconsin.”
“Starting from Chequamegon (La Pointe), the Pillager Band (of Ojibwe) began an invasion of the Dakota homeland. The initial movement was inland towards Lac Courte Oreilles and Lac Flambeau to take northern Wisconsin. From there they spread west into Minnesota to attack the center of the Dakota world, Mille Lacs. Allied with the Cree and Assiniboine, the Ojibwe at the same time advanced west from Thunder Bay up the Rainey River portage dislodging the Dakota from what is now the border of Minnesota and Ontario. Following the three-day battle at Kathio in 1750, the Dakota abandoned most of their villages in northern Minnesota (Mille Lacs, Sandy Lake, Red Lake, Leech Lake, Cass Lake, and Lake Winnebegosh) and retreated south. By 1780 there was not a single Dakota village north of the Minnesota River.
As previously stated in a quote, the French used some of their addicted to alcohol displaced Indian allies (the Huron, Ottawa, Neutral, and Tionontati), who they had armed with guns and ammunition, to try to force the original tribes from their homelands in lower Michigan. This was not the last time the French would use this process to mistreat and exploit Indians. The French continued to proceed in the same despicable process in northern Minnesota.
The Dakota had lived in their own land in northern Minnesota for several hundred years, and then the French used an addicted to alcohol displaced Indian ally of theirs (the Ojibwa), who they had supplied with guns and ammunition, to violently forced an original tribe (the Dakota) from their northern Minnesota homeland, including an area now known as Mille Lacs, which was the center of the Dakota world.
At Mille Lacs, there were sacred Dakota sites where sacred events occurred.
“To act out many of their rituals, Indians had to travel to specific sites at which they believed sacred events occurred. Their difficulty was that when the U.S. government restricted them to reservations, often they no longer had access to these sites, and therefore were unable to practice these rituals. Since their rituals were linked to certain sites in the natural world, their religions declined as a result of being cut off from these sites.
There were sacred sites in the Dakota’s northern Minnesota homeland. Therefore, when the Dakota were forced from their northern Minnesota homeland they were also forced from their sacred site. After this occurred, their religion declined as a result of being cut off from these sites. And what made the situation even worse was that when the U.S. was established it did not give the Dakota’s northern Minnesota land back to them. It took possession of it and gave the Ojibwe occupancy rights to some of it. The Dakota remain in excile to this present-day.
It was because of their Roman Catholic mission that the French were using their, alcohol addicted, displaced Native allies to force original tribes from their sacred lands. Their Papal directed mission was to “subjugate” the indigenous peoples, or make them believe that they did not own land, and could only have occupancy rights to European colonized Christian land. It was also their mission to “bring them to the faith itself”. It was more difficult to convince a tribe that had lived in an area for a long time that their land no longer belonged to them than it was to convince a newly arrived tribe that they did not own the land. And it was also easier for them to be “brought to the faith itself”. The original tribes’ traditional religions were deeply interconnected with their sacred homelands. The newly arrived tribes’ religions were foreign to the original tribes’ stolen lands, making it easier for them to be “brought to the faith itself”.
It was a Roman Catholic mission to exploit the Indian tribes’ weakness to abuse alcohol. Roman Catholic European nations that were part of the colonization of Americas process used alcohol to steal indigenous peoples lands and resources and to destroy their traditional religions and cultures. Alcohol abuse associated with the fur trade caused many intertribal wars. Many Indians died because of alcohol abuse and the intertribal wars caused by fur traders selling alcohol for furs. This process of mistreatment and exploitation of Indian tribes was a part of the Roman Catholic Church’s genocidal and ethnic cleansing mission against the Indian tribes, and it worked very well.
Indigenous peoples of Africa were abused in a similar way. European salve traders brought ship loads of rum across the sea to African tribal leaders and gave some of the barrels of rum to them. And they did this without warning them that it was addictive and dangerous. They also neglected to warn them that, if they were to get addicted to it they would do evil things to get more of it. By neglecting to warn them of the addictive and dangerous qualities of alcohol, the European salve traders intentionally tricked the African tribal leaders. The tribal leaders’ addiction to alcohol caused them to capture many of their own people for the purpose of trading them (as salves) for more rum.
Hence, the white slave traders were able to make a lot of money. They put the captured black African slaves in their ships as cargo bound for America. And on the way to America 8,000,000 of them died because of the ships unhealthy living conditions. And for the slaves that survived the trip many were separated (husband from wife, children from parents) and sold to white customers who lived many miles apart.
Many of those white customers were Catholics. Both Catholic Bishops, as well as Catholic laymen bought and owned black African slaves. They greedily made a profit from the slave traders’ promotion of alcohol abuse in Africa. The slave trade was a promotion of alcohol abuse, greedy money-making, white racist scam and atrocity that many of our nation’s Catholic Bishops and laymen participated in. By not telling their people to quit buying slaves, the Roman Catholic Church’s supreme hierarchical authorities encouraged this alcohol abuse atrocity to continue, This radical neglect of their moral responsibility caused untold grief and suffering for multitudes of indigenous people.
When writing about the beginning history of the European slave trade, Mrs. S.U. Abramova wrote, in a UN “working paper” , during a United Nations meeting of experts on the slave trade: “In 1441, ten African slaves were brought back to Europe. Several were given to Pope Eugene IV. The others were sold in Lisbon at an extremely high price. Following this first profitable sale of Africans the Portuguese sailors began to bring back slaves from every voyage to Africa.”…. “Pope Nicolas V issued a special bull granting the King of Portugal, Alphonso V, the right to seize lands and enslave heathens in regions discovered by that time in Africa, and in these that would be discovered.”
Because of the Doctrine of Discovery, or a series of 15th Century Papal bulls/decrees, and the 1823 U.S. Supreme court ruling [Johnson vs. McIntosh], a ruling based on the Doctrine of Discovery’s principle that called for the subjugation of indigenous peoples, our nation’s indigenous peoples our still living in a racist subjugated state of existence.
During a July, 2009 convention, the national Episcopal Church passed a landmark resolution that repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery. The resolution identifies where the source of the racism against U.S. indigenous peoples came from during our nation’s early history and where it is still coming from, the Doctrine of Discovery.
Because the Doctrine of Discovery and the incorporation of some of its despicable principles into, both, U.S. federal Indian law and into other nations’ laws as well, the United Nations had to adopt a [separate] human rights declaration, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The State of Maine has adopted a resolution that endorses the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. By doing so, Maine has indirectly repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery.
Because present-day indigenous peoples’ ancestors were not Christians at the time of their [discovery] by white European Christians, they, according to U.S. federal Indian law, still can not be granted absolute ownership of their ancestral homelands, nor can they be granted full independent sovereign nations status and rights.
These fundamental human rights of theirs are still being denied them, and this causes many indigenous people to experience low self esteem, which subsequently causes depression, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug abuse problems, lack of incentive to work and provide for themselves, their families and tribes. Hence many experience poverty and serious health problems that end with death. And this amounts to a slow genocidal process that continues to plaque indigenous peoples to this present day.
I hope that the readers of this article will become aware that here in America a great awakening is occurring that is similar to the awakening that the Germans experienced after World War II: an awakening to their criminal nature and behavior. America is awakening to its terrible crimes against humanity, to its need for radical repentance and to its need to offer restitution justice to the indigenous people it has so radically abused.
Links to where quotes in this blog came from can be found at http://www.towahkon.org/alcoholfurtrade.html