The Sixty Years' War (1754–1814) was a military struggle for control of the Great Lakes region in North America, encompassing a number of wars over several generations. The term Sixty Years' War is not widely known, and is used primarily by academic historians who specialize in various aspects of the conflict. Traditionally, the war for control of the Great Lakes region has been written about only in reference to the individual wars; the designation Sixty Years' War provides a framework for viewing this era as a continuous whole.
As defined by historian David Skaggs, the Sixty Years' War consists of six phases:
1. French and Indian War (1754-1763)
- The North American theatre of the Seven Years' War, and generally referred to as such in Canada, began as an imperial struggle between the British Empire and France for control of the Ohio Country and Great Lakes region—what was known in New France as the "upper country" (the pays d'en haut). American Indians of the pays d'en haut, who had longstanding trade relations with the French, generally fought alongside the French. The Iroquois Confederacy attempted to remain neutral in the conflict, except for the Mohawks, who fought as British allies. The conquest of New France by the British marked the end of French colonial power in the region and the establishment of British rule in what would become Canada.
2. Pontiac's Rebellion (1763-1765)
- American Indian allies of the defeated French renewed the struggle against the British victors, eventually leading to a negotiated truce.
3. Lord Dunmore's War (1774)
- The expansion of colonial Virginia into the Ohio Country sparked a war with Ohio Indians, primarily Shawnees and Mingos, forcing them to cede their hunting ground south of the Ohio River (modern Kentucky) to Virginia.
4. Frontier warfare during the American Revolution (1775-1783)
- The American Revolutionary War spilled over onto the frontier, with British commanders in Canada working with American Indian allies to halt American expansion and to provide a strategic diversion from the primary battles in the east. With the victory of the United States in the war, Great Britain ceded the Old Northwest—the homeland of many of her American Indian allies—to the Americans.
5. Northwest Indian War (1785-1795)
- The American occupation of the Old Northwest was resisted by a large confederation of American Indians. After suffering great defeats, the U.S. won the Battle of Fallen Timbers and gained control of most of modern Ohio.
6. War of 1812 (1812-1814)
- A number of American Indians, many under the leadership of Tecumseh, continued to resist American hegemony and expansion in the Northwest, suffering a defeat in the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. When the United States declared war on Great Britain in 1812, the British once again turned to American Indians to provide much needed manpower for their frontier war effort. This included the Battle of Fort Dearborn. The war between the United States and British Canada ended as a stalemate, establishing the Great Lakes as a permanent boundary between the two nations. After this struggle, American Indians in the region no longer had European allies in the struggle against American expansion. (This, however, did not halt attempts by the Indians of the Midwest to resist white encroachment. The Winnebago War broke out in 1827, and the Black Hawk War five years later. Significantly, Black Hawk expected British assistance from Canada, just as he and other Indians had received in the War of 1812; see Trask, 2006.)
- Skaggs, David Curtis and Larry L. Nelson, eds. The Sixty Years' War for the Great Lakes, 1754-1814. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2001.
- Tanner, Helen Hornbeck, ed. Atlas of Great Lakes Indian History. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987.
- Trask, Kerry A. "Black Hawk: The Battle for the Heart of America". New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2006.
- White, Richard. The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815. Cambridge, England: University of Cambridge Press, 1991.
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