Artist/maker unknown, American, for trade with the Native Americans
Among American Indian tribes, the giving and receiving of gifts was an essential component of maintaining intertribal relationships. During the eighteenth century, British and French colonists adopted this Native American custom as they sought to secure the Indians' friendship and make alliances in their struggle for an empire in America. Early gifts included hats trimmed with lace, brightly colored cloth, and utilitarian items such as knives, shot, tin pots, needles, and scissors. As the competition for territory between the British and French increased, they created more valuable gifts made from currency and scrap silver, including gorgets, breastplates, brooches, and necklaces. This practice continued into the early nineteenth century, when American traders began offering silver articles of adornment to the Indians along the northern and western frontiers in exchange for furs and trading rights.