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January 18 & 25, 2006

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The Players in the French and Indian War

Three major groups fought over North America during the French and Indian War: Great Britain, France, and the American Indians. The three powers rivaled each other for domination of the continent — Great Britain and France for an empire, and the American Indians for their way of life. Learn about each group and their reasons for war below.

Two British soldiers in red uniforms and tricorn hats sit atop their horses overlooking their troops

Great Britain

Great Britain's colonies inhabited the eastern seaboard, and colonists in Pennsylvania and Virginia wanted to expand westward into the Ohio River Valley. However, the valley, inhabited by American Indians, was pivotal to French trade. Both empire-builders, Great Britain rivaled the French for domination of North America.

French Soldiers in blue uniforms and carrying muskets march through the forest

France

France, which had North American settlements in Canada, Louisiana, and the Great Lakes region, dominated the Ohio River Valley through exploration, trade and strategic alliances with the American Indians. But, many of the settlers living there were of British descent. France wanted to keep its trade routes and claimed the territory as its own, but Great Britain also laid claim to the valley.

An American Indian with a red mohawk, and skin painted black, peers into the distance

American Indians

Groups of American Indians fought alongside both parties, but they were primarily allied with the French. The American Indians were the original inhabitants of the Ohio River Valley; at the time of the war, 3,000 to 4,000 indigenous people lived there. For economic, political and cultural reasons, all three powers wanted to control the Ohio River Valley -- but the American Indians fought for their own interests, and not those of the French or British.