As the colonial settlements of North America grew, rivalry over land rights and use increased dramatically. Matters were particularly heated along the border of the French and English colonies. French colonists, English colonists, and Native people all struggled for dominance in the area. In 1754, this struggle boiled over into the French and Indian War.
This image, made over 100 years after the events it portrays, demonstrates the power wielded by Native communities in the years leading up to the French and Indian War. In 1753, George Washington was commissioned as a major in the Virginia militia. He was sent as an ambassador to the French and Native communities in western Pennsylvania and the Ohio Valley. On his way through the area, he passed through the territory of Seneca leader Queen Aliquippa without paying his respects. Aliquippa was a well-respected leader in western Pennsylvania, and the insult put the British alliances in the area in danger. On his return journey, Washington went out of his way to give her gifts. The episode demonstrates that the British believed Native communities were critical allies in their settlement endeavors, and they were willing to do what it took to keep their allies happy.