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It was 1715 and a tribal people were preparing to assist in restoring Britain’s exiled Royal House of Stuart, sharpening tomahawks, covering themselves in war paint and raising sails on ships built to the highest technical standards of the day.
No, I haven’t been drinking too much Bourbon. Nor am I confusing Scottish highlanders, American Indians and Caribbean pirates. I am writing about a combination of two facts – the amassing of a fleet of sailing ships by the Indian tribes of the Wabanaki confederation, and the role which those tribes played in the Jacobite movement – facts which are virtually unknown but which can be studied in Matthew Bahar’s book, Storm of the Sea: Indians and Empires in the Atlantic’s Age of Sail.
Wabanaki - Tribes - United - States - Canada
The Wabanaki tribes were native to what is now the north-east United States and south-eastern Canada. For centuries before the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century, the Wabanaki way of life had been largely based on the sea.
When Europeans did arrive, Wabanaki perplexity at the newcomers’ mode of transportation did not last long. Native men immediately commenced a study of the foreign sailing technology and quickly became proficient in its use, so much so that it became common for Wabanaki crews to perform better than European ones. Sometimes through trade and sometimes through theft, the nautical Indians began to amass a substantial fleet of ocean-going vessels.
Europeans - Visitors - Atlantic - Voyages - Exploration
At first, Europeans were visitors who sailed the north-west Atlantic on voyages of exploration, to purchase furs and to fish off the coasts, but by the middle of the 1600s both English and French colonies had been established in the region. The Wabanaki had no general preference for Frenchmen over Englishmen, but several factors led them to favour the former over the Puritans of New England.
In part, this was because the French...
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