Sixty Years' War

The Sixty Years' War (1754–1815) was a military struggle for control of the North American Great Lakes region, including Lake Champlain and Lake George,[1] encompassing a number of wars over multiple generations. The term Sixty Years' War is used by academic historians to provide a framework for viewing this era as a whole, rather than as isolated events.[2]

A 1755 map of the Great Lakes region

French and Indian War (1754–1763)Edit

Canadians view this war as the American theater of the Seven Years' War, whereas Americans view it as an isolated American conflict with no bearing on European conflicts. Some scholars interpret this war as part of a larger struggle between the Kingdoms of Great Britain and France; most historians view it as a conflict between the colonies of British America and those of New France, each supported by various Indian tribes with some assistance from the "mother country". Both sides sought control of the Ohio Country and Great Lakes region, known in New France as the "upper country" (the pays d'en haut). Indians of the pays d'en haut had longstanding trade relations with the French and generally fought alongside the French. The Iroquois Confederacy attempted to remain neutral in the conflict, except for the Mohawks who fought as British allies. British conquest of New France marked the end of French colonial power in the region and the establishment of British rule in Canada.

Pontiac's War (1763–1765)Edit

American Indian allies of the defeated French launched a war against the British due to dissatisfaction with their handling of tribal diplomacy, eventually leading to a negotiated truce.

Lord Dunmore's War (1774)Edit

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 (Kentucky) to Virginia.

Western theater of the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783)Edit

The Royal Proclamation of 1763 prohibited American colonists from settling the lands acquired from France at the conclusion of the French and Indian War, but this caused resentment among the colonists and is often cited as one of the causes of the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783). The war spilled onto the frontier, with British military commanders in Canada working with North American Indian allies to provide a strategic diversion from the primary battles in the east coastal colonies. Many conflicts in this western theater would harden the animosity between the native tribal nations and the new United States, but with their losses in the long colonial war, Great Britain ceded the Old Northwest, home of many of Britain's Indian allies, and all of the lands between the mountains south to the Gulf of Mexico, extending to a new western border at the Mississippi River in the middle of the continent to the new United States without consulting their native allies, by negotiators three thousands miles away across the ocean in the Treaty of Paris of 1783.

Northwest Indian War (1785–1795)Edit

Following the 1783 peace treaty with Great Britain, a nascent United States sought expansion into the Ohio Territory. A large confederacy of Native American nations resisted settlement and sought to establish the Ohio River as the boundary between themselves and the United States. After years of minor skirmishes between militias and Native Americans, the United States launched a series of punitive campaigns deep into the Great Lakes region. The confederacy won overwhelming victories in 1790 and 1791, and gained support from Great Britain. The United States was forced to rebuild the Army and finally defeated the confederate forces at the 1794 Battle of Fallen Timbers. The confederation fractured, and the war officially ended with the Treaty of Greenville, which granted to the United States control over most of the modern state of contested Ohio.

During this time period, U.S. Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance, which stated "Indians; their lands and property shall never be taken from them without their consent; and, in their property, rights, and liberty, they shall never be invaded or disturbed, unless in just and lawful wars authorized by Congress."[3] Seeking to avoid another costly war, President Thomas Jefferson promoted a policy of assimilation and removal. This continued to foster resentment among the native nations.

War of 1812 (1812–1815)Edit

A number of North American Indians under the leadership of famous war chief Tecumseh formed a union to resist white American hegemony and expansion in the Old Northwest. While Tecumseh was away, Tecumseh's Confederacy suffered a drastic defeat in the 1811 Battle of Tippecanoe, a year before the second British-American War. The United States declared war on Great Britain in June 1812, and the British Canadians once again turned to North American Indians on the interior to provide manpower for their frontier war effort. This included the Battle of Fort Dearborn (near the site of present-day Chicago). The war between the United States and British Canada eventually ended after numerous bloody border engagements as a stalemate, after resisting a set of American invasions seeking to unite the northern Canadian British and French colonials into the independent American union of states, a prime goal of the original western "War Hawks" agitators, south of the border.

After the peace signed in Ghent reaching North America in 1815, joint efforts began establishing the Great Lakes as a permanent boundary between the two nations.

Following this long struggle, the increasing numbers of Canadian immigrants from Europe were free (like their more independent neighbors to the south) to slowly began gradual development of the several northern British colonies of Upper and Lower Canada into semi-independent provinces and eventual confederation in 1867 as an autonomous Dominion under the Crown in the British Empire.

Indians in the region no longer had European allies in the struggle against American and Canadian westward expansion.


Andrew Cayton argues that while the wars in the Great Lakes region were downplayed by colonial powers along the Atlantic coast, their influence is immense. The United States greatly expanded in size, and set their shared border with British Canadians along the Great Lakes. French communities south of the lakes were soon Americanized, and Native American nations were marginalized, removed, or destroyed.[4] The conclusion of hostilities permitted the United States to focus resources on the Creek War and Seminole Wars in the South.[5] The Ohio River continued to act as a border between southern states and the Northwest Territory, where slavery had been outlawed, setting regional differences that would help shape the American Civil War.[6]


  1. ^ Skaggs 2001, p. 4.
  2. ^ Skaggs 2001, p. 1.
  3. ^ Hill, Roscoe R., ed. (1936). "A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774 - 1875". Journals of the Continental Congress. Washington: Government Printing Office. 32: 340. Retrieved February 17, 2021. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ Skaggs 2001, pp. 274-275.
  5. ^ Skaggs 2001, p. 275.
  6. ^ Skaggs 2001, p. 376.


  • Skaggs, David Curtis; Nelson, Larry L., eds. (2001). The Sixty Years' War for the Great Lakes, 1754–1814. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press. ISBN 0-87013-569-4.
  • Tanner, Helen Hornbeck, ed. (1987). Atlas of Great Lakes Indian History. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
  • Trask, Kerry A (2006). Black Hawk: The Battle for the Heart of America. New York: Henry Holt and Company.
  • White, Richard (1991). The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650–1815. Cambridge, England: University of Cambridge Press.