On this date…  June 1, 1773… Georgia

Many people believe that Europeans took the land from Native Americans by military conquest.  That was almost never the case.  On this date in 1773, the Creek and Cherokee signed over 2.5 million acres of land to the British to settle their on-going trade debts. 

It was a Third World debt crisis in the eighteenth century.  Rum and guns and duffel blankets and stroud cloth (manufactured in England to Indian specifications) and pots and pans and vermilion pigment and enamel beads moved to America, all for the deerskins.  Creek and Cherokee fashion exploded with the accoutrements of the global marketplace.  

But the native deer hunters did not control the means of production.  They were merely cheap labor, a small cog in the wheel that created leather products for sale in Europe.  To even do their job, they required guns and ammunition produced in Europe.  They obtained this on credit, to be paid back in deerskins at the end of the winter hunting season. 

But world prices were soft and deer were growing scarce.  It was a deal for Sisyphus; their debts always exceeding their revenue.  They were a forest proletariat, growing poorer the more they worked. 

Up and down the Chattahoochee and Coosa Rivers, when spring arrived, the English traders tallied up their losses.  With deficits in deerskins from Creek and Cherokee hunters, they too were in debt.  This was passed on to Augusta, Savannah, and Charleston.  It was a crisis that had to be solved.   

Like cutting an arm from their body, the solution was painful, but it erased the debts and kept the guns and cloth flowing.  In a land-for-debt forgiveness swap, the Creek and Cherokee gave up all lands east of the Oconee and Altamaha Rivers, two and a half million acres.  (Basically the red area on the map.)Image

Before the ink was dry, Georgian settlers began to occupy the land.  This was not the only example of land-for-debt across indigenous America.  

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