The Susquehannocks, also known as Minquas and later Conestogas, were a nation that did not, as far as historians and archaeologists can be certain, inhabit the Wyoming Valley as a nation, but played a major role in its history. However, natives of Susquehannock origin did inhabit the valley as members of the ethnogenesis "Wyoming Delawares" into which they married (see "Wyoming Delawares" tab for more). Although it is a bit unfair to the memory of the Susquehannocks, their relevance to this project is essentially boiled down to one facet of early American history – war. The Susquehannocks were constantly at war during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries and it had consequences for the peoples who eventually sought refuge in the Wyoming Valley.

Judging by their military prowess in the seventeenth century, one can assume that the Susquehannocks were a major power in pre-contact America. Upon Dutch arrival in the Chesapeake Bay and lower Delaware river valley regions in the early 1600’s, the Susquehannocks were at war with the Lenape. Perhaps first impressions have played a part in history’s remembering of the Susquehannocks, perhaps not – after all, the Susquehannocks engaged in mourning wars (see "Haudenosaunee" for more on thiis practice). What we do know is that from the time Europeans arrived until their downfall, the Susquehannocks showed themselves to be very proficient at warfare, and were even feared by the Iroquois. 

The reason for this early warring with the Lenape is uncertain. The Susquehannocks were the largest nation in Pennsylvania prior to white arrival, likely with a population between five and eight thousand. Some scholars have suggested that the Susquehannocks inhabited eastern Pennsylvania for more than a thousand years prior to white arrival. One can then infer that the Susquehannocks may have been simply asserting their control and dominance over the Lenape – perhaps the Lenape were living on land that the Susquehannocks considered rightfully theirs. This warring could also have been mourning war as a result of epidemic brought south (or north) by tribes that had already made contact with Europeans. Or, the Susquehannocks could have been strategically preparing for what probably felt like the inevitable arrival of Europeans in the lower Susquehanna river, Chesapeake bay, and Delaware river valley region. Regardless of reason, it is clear that the Susquehannocks were a powerful people in what would become Pennsylvania. This is a flawed comparison on many levels, but it could perhaps be useful to think of the Susquehannocks as the Iroquois of eastern Pennsylvania in terms of their power in the early stages of American history. 

This warring did not end with European arrival, in fact Dutch arrival would only exacerbate conflict. With European arrival, the Susquehannocks and Lenape were thrust into a competition for trade markets. However, by 1638, the Lenape and Susquehannocks reached a critical point. Both tribes had seen severe population loss as a result of disease, and likely recognized that the cycle of trade, war, and disease that they were engaged in could not end well. As a result, they established peace relations and quickly became key allies of one another. Seen from a Susquehannock perspective, this seems to have been a strategic peace to maintain power. The Susquehannocks had to have recognized that establishing peace with their immediate neighbors would be necessary for maintaining their place of power in the world. With encroaching threats on their sovereignty – namely, disease, land-hungry colonial powers, and similarly desperate enemy nations like the Iroquois – the Susquehannocks needed allies, and the Lenape proved a worthwhile friend.

Establishing alliances with their neighbors did not bring peace to the Susquehannocks. Rather, it merely lessened the chaos and enabled them to survive and remain powerful a little longer. Following the Haudenosaunee’s defeat of the tribes in the Great Lakes during the Beaver Wars of the seventeenth century (see Haudenosaunee), the Susquehannocks found themselves in the crosshairs of Haudenosaunee expansion from 1663-1674. Haudenosaunee motivations ranged from territorial expansion, to demographic replenishment through mourning war, to revenge on the Susquehannocks for their alliances with defeated Great Lakes tribes like the Hurons. The Haudenosaunee and Susquehannocks traded blows off-and-on for eleven years before the conflict came to a close. At the close of the conflict, the Susquehannocks were betrayed by colonial officials in Maryland who decided to ally themselves with the Haudenosaunee. From 1674 to 1677, the Susquehannocks in the Chesapeake Bay region were overcome by attacks from militiamen in Maryland and Virginia during Bacon’s Rebellion and by Haudenosaunee warriors who were allowed to attack the Susquehannocks due to their alliance with Maryland’s colonial government. This was a massive disintegration of Susquehannock power over their homelands. The Maryland colonial government successfully manipulated enemy tribes in order to gain more land and power in North America.

With this defeat in the Chesapeake Bay region, the Susquehannocks were now reduced significantly in numbers from war and disease. They found themselves inhabiting only sections of central and eastern Pennsylvania without the power they once had. Most Susquehannocks migrated into Iroquoia and melted into the Haudenosaunee, others sought refuge and joined kin in Pennsylvania, some even sought refuge among the Lenape, and finally some migrated to the Wyoming Valley where they assimilated with the other peoples seeking refuge. Further, their loss of power and population essentially necessitated that they invite their allies to the west – the Shawnee – to Pennsylvania. As a people, the dawn of the eighteenth century held a grim outlook for the Susquehannocks.

Over the course of the first half of the 1700s, the Susquehannocks faded into memory. Struggling to survive because of population loss due to war and disease and loss of members to neighboring tribes, they found themselves relying on intermarriage with other tribes. The Susquehannocks quickly became multiethnic, incorporating Conoy, Nanticoke, Seneca, and Shawnee heritage from intermarriage. As a result, the Susquehannocks, as they once were, were no more. They were an ethnogenesis on the brink of collapse, increasingly losing land and people and relying on outsiders to survive. Susquehannock territory became increasingly smaller, focused around the town of Conestoga. At this point, due to intermarriage and culture-loss, the Susquehannocks could be thought to be an extinct nation, and would be better understood by the term Conestogas. Conestoga was a successful trading town through the mid-eighteenth century, but, tragically, these last remnants of the Susquehannocks were part of the Covenant Chain – in other words, they fell under the protection and control of the Iroquois. Thus, in less than a century the Susquehannocks were reduced from a major regional power to hardly a people at all.

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