bringing freedom to native an american tradition

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    Bringing Freedom to Dusky Natives an Old American Tradition

    Frustrated by their inability to inflict punishment on their Indian enemies, and bitter over the colony's refusal to provide any aid, a band of Scots-Irish frontiersmen lashed out in an easterly direction against the only Indians they could find. The settlers were furious that the colony provided food, clothing, and protection for "Moravian" or Christian Indians living around Lancaster [Pennsylvania], but no relief for white refugees [of frontier Indian attacks.] They were enraged by rumors that the "peaceful" Indians funneled supplies and perhaps information to the warriors who rampaged unchecked in the western country.

    At dawn on December 15, [1764,] fifty-seven armed settlers descended on the village at Conestoga Manor, where a group of about twenty Indians lived under the governor's protection. Brandishing firelocks, short-swords, and hatchets, the whites quickly dispatched the three Indian men, two women, and one boy they found at home. The ancient Chief Shehaes was chopped to pieces in his bed. All the victims were scalped and their bodies mangled. The huts were then set on fire with the bodies inside, and the avenging frontiersmen dispersed after a search for the other villagers and a brief celebration of their victory.

    Lancaster officials feared for the lives of those Conestoga Indians who had escaped the massacre and decided to collect them in the county workhouse for their protection. White frontiersmen heard of this plan, and another band of about fifty men attacked the workhouse on December 27.

    When the sixteen unarmed Indians realized their fate, "they divided into their little families, the children clinging to their parents. They [the adults] fell on their knees, protested their innocence, declared their love to the English, and that, in their whole lives, they had never done them injury." Still in the posture of prayer, each man, woman, and child was hacked to death. The murderers then mounted their horses, "huzzaed their triumph, as if they had gained a victory, and rode off - unmolested!" Despite the attempts of authorities, no one was ever apprehended for this crime. No witnesses could be found to testify against the frontiersmen who publicly bragged about their identity as "Paxton Boys" for the rest of their lives.

    Colony officials in Pennsylvania were outraged by the two massacres, but, as usual, their edicts had no effect in the West. The government did make provisions to move other peaceful Indians back East, and even tried, unsuccessfully, to export some to New York. The fury of the rontiersmen against all Indians . . . had not abated. Reports reached Philadelphia early in the new year that "some thousands" of pioneers were marching toward the city intent on eliminating the remaining Conestoga Indians and pressing their other demands on the legislature. Ultimately, only two hundred arrived; and a promise to consider their petitions brought a close to the Paxton affair.

    The colony then ignored the petitions. . . . Indians went on acting as rogue pawns in the chess game of intracolonial politics.

    -- Thomas P. Slaughter, "The Whiskey Rebellion: Frontier Epilogue to the American Revolution," pp. 28-29.

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