After 1492 until 1620 explorers, traders, fishermen routinely raided the east coast for Native American slaves to make extra profit. These enterprising men include Christopher Columbus, John Cabot, Gaspar de Luxan, Antonio de Espejo, Portuguese explorer Gaspar Corte-Real, Giovanni Verrazano and Jacques Cartier.
In 1492 Christopher Columbus, kidnapped 25 Native Americans to take back to Spain as slaves. A few years later to raise money he began sending Caribbean Natives to Spain to be sold in the Azores, Canaries, Seville and other mainland cities. He had the deliberate policy of using Native slaves and labor to finance his conquest of new lands. Within the first decade, 3,000 to 6,000 Native American slaves went sent to Seville, Spain, for sale. He enslaved the same number to put to work in early mines and plantations in the Caribbean.
After Queen Isabella ruled that Native Americans of the New World belonged to the monarchy and couldn’t be sold in Spain, he sold them elsewhere, in the Canaries, Azores, Cape Verdes and the Caribbean. By 1519 Spanish nearly exhausted the population of Native Americans in Caribbean and had to begin importing African slaves. In the 1600s when the French couldn’t make an alliance with the Haudenosaunee, they captured them and sold them to work as galley slaves for the king.
All early colonies on the North American continent enslaved Native Americans. Male Native slaves were impressed as sailors and soldiers by almost every European nation they had contact with because the laws required slaveholders to furnish slaves for combat in timers of emergency. In 1778 during the American Revolution, General George Washington requested slaves for battalions. The Rhode Island assembly sent some who were Native American.
One of the most famous slaves was Squanto, one of the Native Americans who befriended the Pilgrims. He was captured by English slave trader Thomas Hunt who raided Patuxet and captured him along with 27 more. Squanto was sold in Málaga, Spain. He escaped and worked his way back to Massachusetts through England and Newfoundland. He arrived back at Patuxet to find the village deserted from slave raids and disease.
Beginning in 1634, the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the Plymouth and Saybrook colonies began a war against the Pequots along with their Native American allies the Narangansetts and Mohegans. In November 1636 they attacked the Pequot village of Mystic. The survivors were cornered and fought in a Connecticut Swamp. By September 1638 the 200 survivors had no place to go and surrendered to lives of slavery. They were divided between Massachusetts where they were sold and Connecticut where they were kept as domestics.
King Philip’s War in New England from 1675 to 1678 was the New England Native Americans’ last major attempt to rid their land of the European settlers. After the Wampanoag leader Metacom (King Philip) was assassinated in August 1676 Europeans began raiding villages for slaves. Older males were killed and younger Native Americanss sold into slavery in Spain and the Caribbean. The widow and son of Metacom were sold in West Indies for 30 shillings each. Women and children could be and were enslaved.
One reason slaves were shipped elsewhere for sale was to reduce the danger of Native attacks. As colonies became stronger and Native communities weaker, the colonies often exchanged slaves with different colonies. New England settlers used Native American slaves in manual trade: carpenters, coopers, wheelwrights, butchers. Native American women learned domestic tasks and usually work in one household for years.
The colonial governments encouraged the wars for dominance waged by their Native American allies. The members of the nations unwilling to submit were often sold as slaves. This was especially true in the Southeast where the Native allies were encouraged to capture others to sell for cheap trade goods. The Europeans used the profit to finance new wars of conquest. In 1663 Native tribes raided for slaves along the Carolina coast. Charleston became the primary exit point for slaves that included Cherokees, Creeks, and Choctaws. There were long trade lines across southern country to Mississippi River. Victims were first obtained by warfare, and then by kidnapping. By the 1760s lines of slaves were marching through the Carolina backcountry to the coast as much as they were filing through the African interior to the trading ports on the African coast.