in the region of the Blue Ridge
Much has been written and glorified in film of the great indian battles that took place in the American West. From the 1850's to the 1880's, the white man dramatically expanded his range from the East Coast of the United States to the West. The ultimate "settling" of what now comprises the present United States was bloody, and resulted in the subjugation and elimination of Native American Indians who had lived on the land for millennia.
Today, records of this advance are documented in countless books and movies, some accurate, some glorified and not so accurate. Predominantly, they take place in the American West, from areas east of the Rocky Mountains ranging from Montana south to New Mexico and Arizona. What is often missed are the "first" Indian Wars - those that occurred during the time prior to America's Revolutionary War (1770's) to the beginning of the 1800's. Every bit as bloody, every bit as brutal, they mark the beginning of what was to become a long series of misunderstandings, accusations, broken treaties, and wars, against the backdrop of westward expansion that led to the ultimate demise of the Indian culture in North America 100 years later.
This portion of the PATC Website has been developed to familiarize visitors with the early days of that expansion when the eastern mountains formed the first great barrier to expansion, and the Native Americans represented the first real threat to that expansion. Included are cultural information about the Indian's way of life, as well as stories of the Indian Wars and the westward expansion into the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains.
Since the PATC web site is regional in nature, these historical pieces concentrate on the Indian cultures that resided in the regions of Virginia, western Virginia (now West Virginia), Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Two groups are of particular interest - the Powhatan Confederation which existed primarily in the Virginia regions east of the Blue Ridge mountains, and the powerful and brutal Shawnee (know as the "Shawanese" at the time) who ranged primarily in the present day western Virginia and West Virginia mountains, western Pennsylvania, and eastern Ohio.
A number of sources have been tapped for information. The Powhatan information has been assembled by Kathy Spaar, naturalist with the Fairfax County Park Authority working at Hidden Oaks Nature Center. Kathy offers programs that interpret Indian life in Virginia at the time of European contact, and also presents programs on edible and medicinal plants with a focus on their uses in Native American and European cultures. I have drawn the Shawnee information from two sources:
History of the Early Settlement and Indian Wars of West Virginia
(1851) by Wills De Hass, and
Both are utterly fascinating accounts of life on the frontier. Thankfully, both are also in print thanks to McClain Printing Company (212 Main Street, Parsons, West Virginia 26287 Ph. 304-478-2881). If you find these period accounts of early life on the frontier interesting, I would strongly encourage you to order the books. They are in depth accounts written by people who actually lived during the period. Since these direct accounts represent the white man's perceptions of the Indians at the time, PATC would like to apologize in advance in the event that readers are offended by comments or observations made by the authors of that day. It is felt that by directly quoting the text from these informative publications, visitors can gain new insights into the way of thinking of early Americans towards the Native Americans.