While we are familiar with the U.S. Revolutionary war as a declaration of U.S. independence from Britain, Native communities also played a role in fighting and were changed by the results of the war. In “Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Revitalization,” Alyssa Mt. Pleasant brings attention to the poorly known Sullivan Campaign, when the Continental Army invaded and destroyed much of Haudenosaunee territory in the Finger Lakes region.
At the outset of the War, Native people and loyalists carried out destructive raids on the frontiers of New York and Pennsylvania in 1778. The Sullivan Campaign of 1779 was an attempt to counter those raids. The Sullivan campaign destroyed the lands, homes, and farms of Native populations and reduced their ability for self-sufficiency.
The two major battles, the Battle of Chemung and the Battle of Newtown, in the Sullivan Campaign occurred in August 1779. The Battle of Newtown occurred near present day Elmira, NY. By discussing the resources and strategies Native people drew upon to rebuild in the wake of war, Professor Mt. Pleasant explains how numerous reservation territories in today’s Western New York came to exist.
For more on the Sullivan campaign, please join us on Saturday, 9/24 from 11 am – 12 pm at Rockwell Hall, Room 304 on Buffalo State University’s campus. You can purchase tickets and daypasses to the Festival here.
Alyssa Mt. Pleasant (Tuscarora) teaches Native American Studies at the University at Buffalo. A historian who specializes in the colonial period and early American republic, her current project focuses on the Buffalo Creek Reservation. She has been a guest on CNN and has been profiled in the New York Times and Indian Country Today.