The American Revolutionary War did not involve only the Americans up against British soldiers and loyalists. Because the Native American population was still powerful and influential at that time, British and American relations with the First Nations strongly affected the outcome of the war. Different tribes fought for either side, depending on the states of those relations.
Points of Contention
During the time of the independence movement in the American colonies, there was great conflict between the colonials and the British government regarding the treatment of Native Americans. Between 1763 and 1775, the British crown negotiated a series of fixed borders between Native American tribes and colonial settlements along a line from Lake Ontario to Florida. Many colonists resented this limit on their expansion. As this negotiation happened without consulting the colonials, it was one more factor that led the colonies to declare their independence.
In 1763, the British crown issued a royal proclamation forbidding colonial expansion west of the Appalachian mountains. This order was intended to reserve the westward land for Native American tribes and prevent -- or at least reduce -- conflict between the original inhabitants and the colonists. When the Revolutionary War broke out, tribes that believed the colonists would not respect this order if they won their independence chose to fight for the British in order to preserve their lands.
At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, the Ohio Nation intended to remain neutral, but were faced with attack from colonial troops who wanted to settle their land or move through it. This led several Ohio tribes, including the Delawares and the White Eyes to join the British side. These Ohio tribes fought against the Americans until 1783, well after the British troops surrendered.
Siding With the Colonies
Other tribes saw siding with the Americans as an opportunity to protect their lands by allying with the nearest side. The Pennobscott and Passamaquoddy Indians enlisted with George Washington's army as early as the winter of 1774-75. The Iroquois Nation was divided over which side to support. It split as a result of the conflict, with the Oneida and Tuscarora tribes fighting on the side of the colonists.