Strangers On Our Shores: Friend or Foe?


Early European contact brought fur trade and a time of prosperity for the Potawatomi people. The first contact with the Potawatomi wasn't until 1634 when Jean Nicolet, a French explorer and interpreter, visited Green Bay, Wisconsin. After this meeting, life began to change drastically for the Potawatomi. The Strangers On Our Shores: Friend or Foe gallery highlights the colonial and Potawatomi convergence, featuring items and tools that were a result of this early commerce.

While European settlement allowed new alliances and lucrative avenues of trade to develop, it also caused new conflicts over territory and resources that resulted in an exodus by the Native population to avoid the detrimental conditions that accompanied the political and social instability. The Nishnabe have always held prowess on the battlefield in high regard.

Many Native Americans called the Great Lakes home, and the colonial powers vied for control of the region, utilizing the Indigenous’ superior knowledge of the terrain and warfare tactics conducive to fighting in the area. European settlement significantly constrained Native mobility, eventually causing fighting and destruction of old alliances, all of which greatly hindered the structure of tribal communities.

The paintings featured throughout the Strangers On Our Shores: Friend or Foe? Gallery provide a visual representation for this tumultuous time in Potawatomi history and highlight the tribe’s influence in the lucrative fur trade, skirmishes and wars including the French Indian War.