Indian Country


Occom’s Third Mission to the Oneidas


Deloria, Vine and Clifford M. Lytle. “Indian Country.” American Indians, American Justice. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1983. Web.

General note

There term Indian Country originally referred to lands beyond the frontier populated by Indians. In the colonial period, the Appalachian Mountains separated lands settled by English colonists and lands inhabited by Indian tribes, largely by the tribes of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy. During colonial times, many of the borders between European and Indian territories were determined on a de facto basis. After the French and Indian War, the King of England became more interested in England’s influence in colonial events. He issued a proclamation in 1763 that marked the “crest of the Appalachian Mountains a formal boundary beyond which settlement was prohibited,” hoping that a clear demarcation would prevent settlers from intruding on Indian hunting grounds and in turn improve relations between colonists and tribes (Deloria and Lytle 59). At this point, Indian Country was designated as a European legal term rather than just a reality on the ground. During the American Revolution, the English used this legal proclamation to gain frontier Indian alliances, which in turn caused the Americans to fight some tribes and to seek out treaties with others in order to alleviate tensions on the frontier during the war. In September of 1763, Wheelock writes a letter to B. Forfitt in which he refers to Samuel Ashpo, a Mohegan missionary who was supposed to accompany Occom on his third mission to the Oneidas, which was cancelled due to Pontiac’s War. Ashpo set out on the 6th of August on a separate mission, and because Wheelock has not heard from him at the time of the letter, he expresses concern that he has gone into Indian Country. Wheelock writes that he hopes that Ashpo “will not fall a Sacrifice to . . . their Rage,” as “no english Missionary dares to go among them” at this time (manuscript 763508).