[Note: This is a single part of what will be, by my classification, about 240 compact tribal histories (contact to 1900). It is limited to the lower 48 states of the U.S. but also includes those First Nations from Canada and Mexico that had important roles (Huron, Micmac, Assiniboine, etc.).
This history's content and style are representative. The normal process at this point is to circulate an almost finished product among a peer group for comment and criticism.
Using the Internet, this can be more inclusive. Feel free to comment or suggest corrections via e-mail. Working together we can end some of the historical misinformation about Native Americans. You will find the ego at this end to be of standard size. Thanks for stopping by. I look forward to your comments...Lee Sultzman]
Southern Ontario north of Lake Erie. Their territory also included a some of western New York (east and south of Niagara Falls) and a portion of southeastern Michigan near Detroit.
The population of the Neutrals in 1615 has been estimated at somewhere between 10,000 to 20,000 living in 28-40 villages spread across southern Ontario.
Because they were neutral in the wars between the Huron and Iroquois, the French called this large Iroquian Confederacy the Neutre (Nation du Neutre, Neuter Nation or Neutrals). Whatever name the Neutrals used for their confederacy has been lost, but most Iroquoian tribes in southern Ontario referred to themselves collectively as the Wendat "dwellers on a peninsula."
The Huron called them the Attiwandaron (Attionondaron or Attiwandaronk) meaning "those who speak a little differently." The Iroquois name, Hatiwantarunh, had a similar meaning. Apparently some of the Neutrals were more closely attached to the Erie than the others, because both the Seneca and Huron often referred to both the Erie and Neutrals as the "Cat Nation." The Seneca name in this case was Kahkwa (Kahqua), while its equivalent in Huron was Yenresh.
Iroquian - several dialects which differed only slightly from Huron.
The Neutrals were a confederacy, but the names and exact number of the member tribes are unknown. The following names have been associated with them, but could be either tribes or villages:Ahiragenrega, Ahondihronon, Andachkhrob, Antouaronon, Aondironon, Atiaonrek, Atirhagenrat, Atiraguenrek, Attiragenrega, Attiuoaisgon, Kakouagoga, Kandouche, Kehesetoa, Khioetoa, Niaggorega (Niagagarega, Onguiaahra, Onguiaronon), Ouaroronon, Ongniaahraronon, Ounonisaton (Ounontisaston), Rhageratka, Skenchioe, and Teotoguiaton (Teotongniaton).
Warlike and aggressive, the neutrality of the Neutrals applied only to wars between the Huron and Iroquois. Otherwise, this confederacy was anything but peaceful. For the most part, the Huron considered the Neutrals as hostile (but not enemies), and relations between them were usually tense, even when they visited each other's villages for trade. Men filled most positions of leadership, but some Neutral villages were known to have been ruled by women. In most ways, the Neutrals closely resembled the Huron and Iroquois. Their villages of bark-covered longhouses were fortified and usually built in high, easily-defended locations. Diet depended mostly on agriculture (corn, beans, squash, sunflowers, and tobacco) supplemented by hunting and fishing. Meat and fish constituted a relatively small portion of their diet, and as much as 80% of their calories came from agriculture and the gathering of wild fruits and vegetables. The Iroquian peoples of this region grew at least 15 varieties of corn, 60 types of beans, and six kinds of squash.
Early French reports on the Neutrals are sketchy, because the Huron protected their trade relationship with the French and discouraged direct contact. While the Huron welcomed French traders and priests to their own villages, they told the Neutrals that the French fur traders carried sickness and described Jesuit "Blackrobes" as evil witches with spells and magic. These stories were effective, and the French usually met with a chilly, and sometimes hostile, reception when they tried to visit the Neutrals. The Jesuits made only two visits: Father Joseph D`Alyon in 1626; and Fathers Jean de Breboeuf and Pierre Chaumonot in 1640. Both times, the priests were forced to leave when the Neutrals began to suspect them of sorcery. Despite their reluctance to deal directly with the French, the Neutrals were active in the fur trade through the Huron. While this new economic relationship brought prosperity, it also disrupted the peace of the entire region.
The Neutrals' territory extended entirely across the Niagara Peninsula of southern Ontario into southeastern Michigan, and to find the necessary furs, they began to expand west for hunting. This soon had the Neutrals encroaching into the lands of the Algonquin-speaking tribes who lived in Lower Michigan and brought war. In 1635 the Huron told the French that the Neutrals had given refuge to the Aouenrehronon, an unidentified Iroquian-speaking tribe from the western end of Lake Erie (possibly Erie or Neutrals). The Aouenrehronon had been attacked by the Asistagueronon, presumably as a result of the increasing tension and competition for hunting territory. Asistagueronon literally means "Nation of Fire," which would seem to indicate they were Potawatomi. The name was probably learned from the Huron's trade with the Ottawa (close relatives of the Potawatomi), but as the Huron used it, Asistagueronon was a general name for all Algonquins who lived in Lower Michigan (Fox, Sauk, Mascouten, and Potawatomi).
The defeat of the Aouenrehronon in 1635 was apparently the only major victory for the Asistagueronon. With the advantage of metal weapons (and at later dates - firearms) in the years immediately afterwards, an alliance of tribes who traded with the French and Huron (Neutrals, Tionontati, and Ottawa) swept into Lower Michigan and began driving out the Algonquin - marking the beginning of the Beaver Wars in the western Great Lakes. The thoroughness and extent of this conquest during the 1630s and 40s by the French allies is uncertain. It is known that it was completed a decade later by the Iroquois League. Only one detailed report of the actual warfare reached the French, again through the Huron. In 1641 2,000 warriors of the Neutrals attacked a large, fortified Asistagueronon village in central Michigan (presumed by location to have been Mascouten). After a ten-day siege, the village was overrun, and 800 prisoners taken. Women and children were taken back to the Neutrals' villages, but the men were blinded and then left to wander aimlessly in the woods until they starved to death.
The Neutrals, however, were also forced to deal with the growing power of another competitor in the fur trade, the Iroquois League from upstate New York. Increasingly well-armed with firearms through their trade with the Dutch, the Iroquois were determined not to be shut out of the French fur trade by the Huron. The rivalry exploded into a series of wars in which the Neutrals steadfastly refused to take sides with either adversary. The Neutrals just looked the other way while Iroquois and Huron war parties slipped through their territory to attack each other's villages. Since a time before the Europeans came, the Neutrals had protected themselves against the Iroquois and Huron through an alliances with the Wenro and Erie. For some reason, the Erie and Neutral abandoned the Wenro in 1639 leaving this small tribe to face the Iroquois alone. Without their powerful allies, the Wenro were attacked and quickly defeated. Some found refuge with the Neutrals, a large group (800) fled to the Huron, and one Wenro village east of Niagara Falls held out against the Seneca until it was abandoned in 1643 - the survivors joining the Neutrals.
In 1640 the Dutch began supplying the Iroquois with unlimited amounts of firearms and ammunition. With this arms advantage, the Iroquois' war with the Huron escalated, and the League became increasingly demanding with the Neutrals. In 1647 the Seneca accused the Attiuoaisgon (Neutrals) of sheltering Huron war parties. A brief war followed which forced the Attiuoaisgon to retreat across the Niagara River into Ontario. The failure of the Erie to support the Neutrals in this conflict led to the collapse of their alliance the following year. After the Iroquois overran the Huron homeland during the winter of 1648-49, the Tahontaenrat (Huron) fled enmass to the protection of the Neutrals. Apparently, the Neutrals captured some small groups of Huron and turned them over to the Iroquois, but they let the Tahontaenrat stay in their territory unmolested. Temporarily respecting the Neutrals' numbers and neutrality, the Iroquois next (December, 1649) attacked the Tionontati, Huron allies who had taken in a large number of Attignawantan Huron.
With the Tionontati beaten and dispersed, the Iroquois were down to less than 1,000 warriors but were able to rebuild their numbers through the massive adoption of Huron and Tionontati prisoners. Meanwhile, the Tahonaenrat (Huron) had continued to make war on the Iroquois from their refuge in the Neutrals' homeland. The Iroquois blamed the Neutrals for permitting this, and after diplomatic efforts failed to force the Neutrals to surrender the Tahontaenrat, the western Iroquois attacked the Neutrals in 1650. At first the Susquehannock attempted to help the Neutrals, but their assistance ended when the Mohawk, in a separate war, attacked the Susquehannock in the fall. For the most part, the war was over by the following year, and the Neutrals had ceased to exist. Many were captured by this time and later incorporated into the Iroquois, but several groups of the Neutrals were able to elude the Iroquois for some time after their defeat.
One small group is believed to have fled west across the Great Lakes and joined the Huron and Tionontati refugees living near Green Bay (Wisconsin). Another seems to have reached the Susquehannock (Pennsylvania) where a combined group of Neutrals and Susquehannock was reported to have defeated a large Seneca war party in 1652, and there were about 800 Neutrals living in at least two villages near Detroit during the winter of 1653. These Detroit villages may have continued until 1660. Other Neutrals were reported as living south of Lake Erie in 1656. However, both had disappeared by 1660, and their fate is unknown. By far the largest group (including many Huron) fled south into northern Ohio and found refuge with the Erie. The Erie accepted them but kept them in a status of complete submission which some have described as virtual slavery. Demands by the Iroquois that the Erie surrender these former enemies were refused, and the situation deteriorated into war by 1653. After three years the Erie were also destroyed and absorbed. It should be noted that between 1648 and 1656 the population of the Iroquois League grew from 10,000 to more than 25,000.
In the years afterwards, many Seneca towns were composed entirely of conquered enemies. Gandongarae was one example, and in 1680 its population was reported as being entirely Neutrals. Although previous attempts by French Jesuits to establish missions with the Iroquois usually had fatal consequences for the missionary, the presence of so many Huron and Tionontati Christians among the Iroquois villages opened the door. The first Jesuit mission for the Iroquois was Notre Dame de Gannentaha on Onondaga Lake. Some of the first converts were Neutrals. Many other conversions followed among the Mohawk and Onondaga. The mission had to be abandoned in 1658 with the renewal of hostilities between the French and Iroquois, but the damage to Iroquois unity had already been done. Afterwards, the Iroquois began to have serious doubts about the loyalty of the Christian converts living in their midst.
Eventually, many of these were made uncomfortable enough they left the Iroquois homeland in 1667 and moved to La Prairie (Caughnawaga or Kahnawake) just south of Montreal. In later wars between Britain and France, the Caughnawaga Iroquois were allies of the French while the Iroquois League was neutral or sided with the British. Because they were on different sides, it was difficult for the Iroquois to adhere to the "Great Law of Peace" not kill each other, but they somehow managed to avoid this until the American Revolution (1775-83). Many of those who went to Caughnawaga were Neutrals, and in 1674 there were still identifiable groups of Neutrals among its population. It can be presumed that many of their descendents are still living there today. Other descendents of the Neutrals may have joined the Mingo who began leaving the Iroquois homeland during the 1720s and settling in Ohio. The Mingo later fought the Americans in the wars for the Ohio Valley (1774-95) and were removed to Oklahoma during the 1840s. Some of the blood of the Neutrals probably still flows in the veins of the Seneca in Oklahoma.