Indigenous slavery in the American Southeast

An Indigenous History of North America

It is fairly well-accepted that American slavery of the 19th century developed from three distinct traditions of slavery that were mutated into a new, racialized, institutionalized form: European indentured servitude, West African slavery, and southeastern Native American slave trading. Of these, the last is probably the least well-known, despite it being essential to understanding how slavery as it’s popularly known became such an economic force in the southeast. So this is a brief overview of southeastern slavery before 1800.

Indigenous Traditions of Slavery

The period from 900 to 1700 CE in the southeast is known as the Mississippian period. During this time, people lived primarily in provinces composed of towns that paid tribute to a mico, or chief, who inherited his position through the maternal line. Power was established through deeds of war, so provinces frequently fought with one another. As a part of this, captives were often taken, although…

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