Indian Slavery

Indian Slavery
Stephen Webre, 64 Parishes

Indian slavery had a long history in French Canada, on the Gulf Coast, and in the Mississippi Valley. In colonial Louisiana both French and Spanish authorities sought to discourage it, but the practice continued until after the Louisiana Purchase. Indian slaves were never as numerous as enslaved persons of African origin, and their roles in colonial society were different. Through a process of miscegenation, enslaved Indians and their descendants appear to have been assimilated into Louisiana’s larger white and black populations.

The French Colonial Period (1682–1762)

Native American tribes frequently exchanged captives taken in warfare with French and English traders. Centered in Virginia and the Carolinas, the English ran a highly organized and regulated trade in Indian slaves serving labor markets in New England and the West Indies. Because demand for such slaves promoted warfare between tribes allied with Great Britain and France, this commerce played an important role in the great power competition for control of the North American continent. In an effort to discourage intertribal warfare, as early as 1702 Gov. Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, sieur de Bienville, sought to prohibit the Indian slave trade. When Louis Juchereau de Saint-Denis, later famous as founder of Natchitoches, arrived at Mobile with a consignment of captives, Bienville ordered them returned to their tribe. Such measures had little effect, however. The Indian slave trade and associated warfare continued, with significant demographic consequences for a number of nations.

Employed as interpreters, guides, servants, hunters, fishermen, and stock herders, the earliest Indian slaves were mostly males. Later in the eighteenth century, women displaced men numerically, playing roles as prostitutes, concubines, and wives. Slaves came from a wide variety of Native American nations, but Chitimachas, Comanches, and Pawnees were especially numerous.

In areas where plantation agriculture developed, such as Pointe CoupĂ©e, the German Coast, and the Acadian Coast, French settlers favored African slaves over Indians because the latter proved poorly adapted to disciplined labor. In a 1726 census of the Louisiana territory, enslaved blacks already numbered 1,540, compared to only 229 Indian slaves. By the beginning of the Spanish period, the number of African slaves had reached approximately 5,000, while the number of Indians held in captivity remained approximately the same as four decades earlier.


THIS has been a topic of research for me since 1999, when I moved to New England. There is SO MUCH not written. (or written as lies)
I wrote a paper on Indian Slavery and presented it in 2000 - then people were shocked by my paper and are still shocked.


Take a listen

find me on twitter!

you liked 'em