The tribal territories of the Great Lakes were loose-knit and dynamic before the arrival of Europeans, with frequent warfare, conquest and displacement. The Iroquois Confederacy was notably belligerent, acquiring land from the Algonkin (whom they described disparagingly as ‘Adirondacks’ or ‘tree-eaters’), and subjugating the Delaware. The southern Ojibwa drove the Dakota from the Great Lakes, but their northern cousins were placid, mocked as ‘rabbits’. The French were the first colonial presence, and soon influenced tribal economies through their insatiable demand for furs. Indians travelled hundreds of miles to trading centres like St Joseph and Green Bay to exchange furs for guns, ironware, textiles and alcohol. In the Beaver Wars, waged intermittently throughout the 17th century, the French and their Algonkin allies were pitted against the Iroquois. However, the tribes to the west were favourably disposed to the French, and reacted to their autocratic British successors with Pontiac’s Rebellion (1763–4).
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