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Wau-Bun, The Break of Dawn

After the American War of Independence, when the western boundary of the new United States of America was set at the Mississippi River, many New Englanders began to move westward to the fertile lands of the Northwest Territory. This consisted largely of the modern-day states that surround the Great Lakes and lie northward of the Louisiana Territory.

The book Wau-Bun, The Break of Dawn is the account of the wife of the Indian agent John Kinzie, whose job it was to promote good relations between the American government and the Indian tribes and to keep an eye on the British influence in the area. Mrs. Kinzie traveled through the wilderness with her husband and they lived among the tribes on the Fox River in Wisconsin. Her account, compiled by her daughter-in-law, Juliette A. Magill-Kinzie, shows how these people of different ethnic backgrounds developed a real love for one another in the days before the outbreak of the War of 1812, when the British rekindled many old alliances among the tribes with gifts of silver coins from "The Great White Father" in England. The Americans soon adopted this practice and paid annual subsidies of silver coins to maintain the friendship of their allied tribes.

For over a hundred years, the English and the French had fought over the right to trade with the native tribes of the area, which was adjacent to French Canada. Despite the establishment of the Mississippi River as a boundary, there were long-established English trading posts that the English traders were unwilling to give up. For years, there were conflicts over this rich region that did not really end until the War of 1812 was fought between the British and the Americans. each with their own tribal allies. Many of the tribes allied with the French were happy to fight against the British at this time.

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