Native American Slave Trade

Europeans brought with them more than just disease and warfare during their invasion of North America, they also brought with them African slaves. Although Native Americans had a slave type of system pre-Europeans there was a difference from the Europeans the Native American slave systems. For example, Native American slaves were, in essence, captives from wars and were not treated as a type of inhuman or subhuman property, like the Europeans did with the African slaves.[1] However, as more Native Americans and Europeans mixed together, both socially and matrimonially, Native Americans changed their ways to match that of their European counterparts, including that of slavery. Consequently, Native Americans started the process of selling their war captives to the Europeans for profit. As a result, “Unscrupulous traders, frontier settlers, and government officials encouraged Indians to make war on other tribes to reap the profits from the slaves captured in such raids or to weaken the warring tribes”[2] The results of the Native Americans entering the slave populations were a drastic upset to the Native American populations, as it is estimated that upwards of 50,000 Natives were sold and shipped to slave owners across the nation and beyond between the years of 1670-1715 alone.[3] Thankfully, the Native American slave market was dysfunctional by the 1730s; however, the damage to Native American culture had been done. The wars between the tribes had decimated populations and introduced the Natives to slavery like that had not known before. Therefore, Native Americans eventually joined in on the European tradition of owning African slaves.

Note: This article was originally published by Misty Hamilton Smith on Dec. 07, 2017, for the course HIST 314 at Southern New Hampshire University.


[1]. Tony Seybert, “Slavery and Native Americans in British North America and the United States: 1600 to 1865,”, (accessed December 7, 2017).

[2]. Ibid.

[3]. Ibid.


Seybert, Tony. “Slavery and Native Americans in British North America and the United States: 1600 to 1865.” (accessed December 7, 2017).


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