Early Native American Oil Discoveries

Oil in America is thought to be only a modern business, located in Texas, California and Alaska. This belief also leads many to think that oil has been a 20th century discovery, with the first wells in Texas struck in 1901, in California in 1912 and in Alaska in more modern times. Oil in America, however, dates back to even before any European walked the new continent.

Long before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, the Native American Indians had discovered oil in the Northeast, but most importantly in Pennsylvania, where numerous tribes fought over the great farming lands there.

Western Pennsylvania abounds in oil seeps that oozed thick black crude into the water stream. These seeps were well known to the Seneca Indians, one of the 11 Iroquois Nation tribes. After a long protracted war was fought between the Iroquois and the Mohicans, the Iroquois emerged victorious, claiming most of Pennsylvania and with it, the numerous oil seeps.

The Iroquois, one of the most advanced and cultured of all tribes, began to extract oil from the ground - using it as a salve, mosquito repellent, purge and tonic. The Indian Medicine men were the first oil drillers in America, believing that the oil seeps were gifts from the heavens. As far back as 1410 they had harvested the oil, using a skimming technique that was quite primitive, yet foreshadowed a rich future.

In time they would pass on stories of the “black water” that seeped through the ground, and generation after generation would be taught that the oil was a gift from the Great Spirit in the sky. As time would pass and American settlers would begin to move westward, the Iroquois nation would become one of the first tribes to be pushed off their land.

The settlers were not in search of oil, but for the rich farming land that covered it. The Iroquois would fight, but as the 1700’s came upon them, they would begin to lose their grip on their land and on their gift from the Great Spirit, and in time would fade into a memory. Their discovery of oil would be passed to the white settlers who themselves would begin the process of creating a business from the “black gold”.


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