Atlantic History Native American Histories in North America
by
Susan Sleeper-Smith
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 June 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 January 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0157

Introduction

The involvement of Indian activists in the public protests of the 1960s and 1970s offered dramatic evidence about the persistence of Indians. Both popular and scholarly perceptions of Indians changed, and this shaped the evolution of a new Indian history. Robert F. Berkhofer, a well-known scholar, called for historians to focus on issues of persistence and not demise. His call to write a new Indian history paralleled a growing scholarly emphasis on community studies, which looked at history from the bottom up. These community studies generally focused on the colonial period, and most colonial historians tended to focus on New England. Thus, it was this region initially that attracted the greatest amount of research attention. But most Indians live in the West, and their activism made it obvious that historians needed to focus on that region. With the work of scholars like Howard Lamar, a Western history emerged that more fully focused on Indian agency. Western history took a second dramatic transformation in a 1990s movement that advocated a new Western history and incorporated Hispanics, Latinas, and women as well as Indians. This new direction included a new geographical emphasis that focused on borderlands where European empires interacted with Indians. The year 1992 signaled the emergence of the Southwest as part of the new Western history when David J. Weber’s The Spanish Frontier in North America (Weber 1992, cited under Southwest), won the Western History Association book prize and Ramón Gutiérrez won the Frederick Jackson Turner Award of the Organization of American Historians for When Jesus Came, The Corn Mothers Went Away (Gutiérrez 1991 cited under Southwest). Within the decade, understanding the Southwest became integral to understanding Indian history and the West. An increased emphasis on science in the last decades of the 20th century brought an increased awareness of how biological developments affected the outcomes of encounters between Indians and Europeans. This direction appealed to many historians, for it appeared to objectively explain the triumph of Europe without reference to human behavior. Historians critical of this deterministic approach triumphed the new field of environmental history, which came to the fore with William Cronon’s Changes in the Land (Cronon 2003, cited under Biology and Conquest) and now produces some of the most innovative work in the field of Atlantic history, with work on North America as well as Mexico and the Caribbean. Atlantic history initially focused on interaction with the English, but increasingly, other European powers became crucial to a more nuanced understanding of imperial and colonizing processes. By the 1990s, Spain, France, the Dutch, and the Swedes garnered increased scholarly attention.

General Overviews

Few scholarly works provide an overview of Indian history; one of the earliest and most significant is Nash 2010. This classic work inspired many followers, including James Axtell (Axtell 1981), whose anthropological and historical insights shaped the field of ethnohistory. Overviews of Indian history are limited by the diversity of Indian peoples. Instead, Indian history is notable for reference works, such as the widely respected Smithsonian’s Handbook of North American Indians (Sturtevant 1978–2008), which summarizes precontact and postcontact cultures by specific region. Among the multiplicity of textbook volumes, one of the most significant is Edmunds, et al. 2007. Other textbooks approach Indian history topically, incorporating both primary and secondary sources, such as Hurtado and Iverson 2001. Edited volumes also provide broad overviews; most suitable for understanding the Indian perspective on encounter is Calloway 1994.

  • Axtell, James. The European and the Indian: Essays in the Ethnohistory of Colonial North America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.

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    Collection of ethnohistorical essays in which Axtell explores the cultural adjustments of encounter and explores a wide range of issues: Native funerals, religious practices, education, guerrilla warfare, moccasins, and a multiplicity of other issues. He explores a number of popular myths, such as scalping, and in conjunction with William Sturtevant shows how this practice preceded the arrival of Europeans.

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  • Calloway, Colin G. The World Turned Upside Down: Indian Voices from Early America. Boston: St. Martin’s, 1994.

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    Collection of original documents that focuses on the Northeast and attempts to provide voices of Indian people during the 17th and 18th centuries. The Indian-authored documents generally speak to the changes in their lives following encounter, while those composed by Europeans are more descriptive of Indian cultures.

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  • Edmunds, R. David, Frederick E. Hoxie, and Neal Salisbury. The People: A History of Native America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2007.

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    Provides detailed information about Indians in a chronologically based narrative format that spans the period from precontact to the present day. This narrative is written from an Indian perspective.

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  • Hurtado, Albert L., and Peter Iverson. Major Problems in American Indian History: Documents and Essays. 2d ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2001.

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    This text contains primary source readings as well as interpretative essays by historians.

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  • Nash, Gary. Red, White, and Black: The Peoples of Early North America. 6th ed. Boston: Prentice Hall, 2010.

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    Examines how people from widely disparate cultural backgrounds interacted over four centuries. Acculturation failed to produce one people, and this book focuses on the Indians and African Americans who lost their freedom, sovereignty, and land. Relies on research-based information about demography, sex ratios, environmental conditions, and cultural situations of the New World, rather than Old World heritage, to explain the determinants of change.

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  • Sturtevant, William C., ed. Handbook of North American Indians. 20 vols. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1978–2008.

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    Volumes are arranged regionally, topically, and temporally. Volumes 5–15 cover the history and culture in each of the cultural areas of North America. Volume 4 is frequently consulted because it addresses the history of Indian-white relations. Each volume contains an extensive bibliography of all materials referred to by the authors, and these detailed lists are crucial to beginning scholars.

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Encounter in an Atlantic World

Biological factors became an early and crucial means of evaluating the impact of disease on the encounter of Europeans and Indians. Disease did impact indigenous population levels, but following the evolution of environmental history this approach was increasingly criticized for being too narrow and for failing to incorporate political, economic, and cultural factors. The advent of Atlantic history simultaneously meant that the encounter was no longer confined to the 16th century and the Atlantic coast but stretched from the Atlantic coastal region to the Pacific coast and extended from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Historians did not focus only on the English but analyzed a variety of interactions with the Spanish, French, Dutch, Swedes, and Russians. Disease followed Europeans westward, and epidemics continued to reduce Indian population levels until the end of the 19th century, when the populations began to recover. But historians also increasingly understood the ways in which encounter with Europeans produced a variety of responses in different regions, and they set about analyzing encounters in the West, the Southwest, and borderlands such as the Great Lakes. The analysis became increasingly more complicated as the idea of encounter entailed both the regional rethinking of this early time frame and increasingly incorporated other emerging disciplinary interests, such as race, gender, and ethnicity.

Biology and Conquest

A seminal work in the biological approach to encounter is Crosby 2003. There is great appeal in explaining the outcome through the inevitability of epidemic disease, but reducing encounter to biological outcomes has been increasingly criticized by historians whose more nuanced narratives suggest that biological factors were mediated by the interplay of political, economic, and cultural forces. The biological approach has been criticized by environmental historians such as Bill Cronon, who describes alternative cultural scenarios in New England (Cronon 2003), and Timothy Silver, who relies on similar arguments to write about the Southeast (Silver 1990). Increasingly, environmental history has begun to examine unanticipated demographic changes. McNeill 2010 focuses on the Caribbean and uncovered the demographic shifts created by yellow fever and malaria. Kelton 2007 focuses on slave raiding and demonstrates that such raids introduced more significant population reductions than did Spanish diseases and conquest. Arguments that disease was also impacted by geography and was neither immediate nor inevitable are suggested by Jones 2003.

  • Cronon, William. Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England. Rev. ed. New York: Hill and Wang, 2003.

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    Ecological change, or people’s relationship to the land, serves as the central analytical model for this monograph on the Northeast. The author shows how Indians lived “lightly” across the land and moved to harvest its seasonal resources. They were gradually replaced by English colonists who commodified the land through intensive agriculture and the extraction of natural resources, such as timber and fish, and transformed the land and its natural resources into salable commodities that were produced for a market economy and fueled a nascent capitalistic system. Originally published in 1983.

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  • Crosby, Alfred W. The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2003.

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    Crosby claimed that disease facilitated the comparative ease of initial European invasion, as “virgin soil epidemics” devastated Indian villages and brought death to most inhabitants. Temperate North American climates were also more accommodating than other zones for European habitation and for the plants and animal species that accompanied them. Invasive plants and animals flourished, supplanting local species. First published in 1972 (Westport, CT: Greenwood).

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  • Jones, David S. “Virgin Soils Revisited.” William and Mary Quarterly 60.4 (2003): 703–742.

    DOI: 10.2307/3491697Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues against the idea that Indians lacked immunity to European diseases and contends that virgin soil epidemics produced high death tolls where Indian people were already suffering from the impact of diseases such as rickets. Explores the variety of reasons why the effect of virgin soil epidemics has been overestimated.

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  • Kelton, Paul. Epidemics and Enslavement: Biological Catastrophe in the Native Southeast, 1492–1715. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2007.

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    Examines the spread of disease in the colonial Southeast from precontact to the Yamasee War (1715–1717). Expansion of the slave trade and slave raiding introduced widespread epidemic diseases, transforming the Southeast into a deadly environment. Slave raiding and disease transformed this sedentary agrarian world into an increasingly mobile society in which 65–90 percent of the population perished, becoming most severe where Indians were victimized by slave raids.

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  • McNeill, J. R. Mosquito Empires: Ecology and War in the Greater Caribbean, 1620–1914. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511811623Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    McNeill examines the plantation zone that stretched from Surinam to the Chesapeake and shows how differential immunity to two species of mosquito, one that carried yellow fever and the other that carried malaria, impacted geopolitical outcomes. McNeill argues that immunity gave local populations a major military advantage against Europeans.

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  • Silver, Timothy. A New Face on the Countryside: Indians, Colonists, and Slaves in South Atlantic Forests, 1500–1800. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

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    Examines how environmental factors and interaction between English, French, and Spanish settlers and Native Americans and African slaves created a new face on the countryside in the Southeast. Silver considers the multiple dynamics of human interaction with the landscape; although European settlers transformed Carolina lands through agriculture, he claims that “even as colonists, Indians, and Africans were changing the land, the land was changing them.”

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Eastern Woodlands

The lands east of the Mississippi to the Atlantic coastal region are referred to as the Eastern Woodlands. This landscape was notable for highly fertile soils, extensive woodlands, and a multiplicity of rivers and streams. In this region, before encounter, most Indians communities were agrarian and not nomadic. Indians moved across the landscape to harvest the land’s resources, but moved within circumscribed landscapes. This region had a multiplicity of peoples and this led to many persistence strategies. The diversity of the Indian population has led to numerous revisions in the original US narrative of contact and demise. The large number of European documents for this region, especially those in French and Spanish archives, provide a rich and often unexplored source of documentation for this region. Close readings and rereadings of the many written materials, oral histories, and material artifacts have created one of the richest and most complicated dynamic narratives in the field of American Indian history.

1965–1985

The new Indian history incorporated methods drawn from a variety of disciplines that challenged former scenarios about Indian demise, the nature of colonial rule, and European hegemony over colonized spaces. Several of these first narratives remain classics of the new Indian history, especially Wallace 1969, on the Seneca, which continues to serve as an important model for historical research. The new Indian history explored the way in which Indians were crucial to colonist survival following encounter, and works such as Jennings 2010 not only created new scenarios of encounter but were highly critical of the work of previous historians. Most historians, like Neal Salisbury and Karen Kupperman, drew attention to the alternative adaptive strategies of Indians while assessing and appreciating the impact of epidemic diseases (see Salisbury 1982 and Kupperman 2000, respectively). These scholars were impacted by the new field of ethnohistory, which united historical and anthropological lenses to examine these changes. Simultaneously, there was also a literary dynamic that influenced how this new Indian history would be written. Berkhofer 1979 influenced this literary approach and began a tradition of understanding Indians through this lens.

  • Berkhofer, Robert F. The White Man’s Indian: Images of the American Indian, from Columbus to the Present. New York: Vintage, 1979.

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    Explores the images that have masked Indian identity since encounter. Explores how European attitudes shaped descriptions of Indians and how white American subsequently constructed images of Indians as either “noble savages” or primitive warriors to support their interpretations of the past. Extensive documentation and imagery from both Europe and the Americas.

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  • Jennings, Francis. The Invasion of America: Indians, Colonialism, and the Cant of Conquest. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010.

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    In his first book (originally published 1975), Jennings scathingly dismissed the falsehoods which he accused historians of using to explain Indian history. He demolished Parkman’s writings as racist and accused him of intentionally distorting his sources. He went on to use New England Puritans as a case study, denouncing Puritan interaction with Indians and claiming that the English victors had written history to justify and glorify their Protestant triumph.

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  • Kupperman, Karen Ordahl. Indians and English: Facing Off in Early America. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000.

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    Examines English-Indian interactions when both societies faced dramatic social and economic change. New England colonists feared proximity to Indians and the degeneration of their culture, while Indians became more centralized and hierarchical, a process that intensified with contact and led to processes of self-definition. Such categories as “European,” “English,” “Indian,” and “Narragansett” emerged and solidified with contact. First published in 1980 as Settling with the Indians: The Meeting of English and Indian Cultures in America, 1580–1640 (Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littlefield).

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  • Salisbury, Neal. Manitou and Providence: Indians, Europeans, and the Making of New England, 1500–1643. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982.

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    Examines the early contact world of New England Indians and shows the impact of disease on Indians, well in advance of European arrival. Uses an ethnohistorical approach to show the diversity of this Indian landscape and examines how Indians adapted to change when early explorers like Cabot brought infectious diseases that dramatically reduced the population.

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  • Wallace, Anthony. The Death and Rebirth of the Seneca. New York: Knopf, 1969.

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    History, anthropology, and psychology are intertwined to situate the reader in the everyday life of the Seneca longhouse, moving into the abyss of near cultural extinction, followed by a cultural renaissance that drew on the teachings of Handsome Lake.

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1985–2000

The 1990s provided richly nuanced portraits of individual communities, and this was a prolific decade of writing about Indian history. These studies provided detailed portraits of Indian communities that examined how Indians survived despite destructive colonial circumstances. These monographs repeopled the Atlantic seaboard with an incredible variety of Indian communities. Many of these historians who recreated these communities focused on the adaptive strategies. Thus, Merrell 1989 explored how and why the Catawbas came to ally with the Americans, Richter 1992 showed how the Iroquois were able to play the British against the French, Calloway 1997 described the mutual exchange of ideas and behaviors between Indians and Europeans, and O’Brien 1997 demonstrated that despite a diminished land base, land transactions guaranteed the persistence of the Natick community. A few of the new studies completed during this decade suggested the ways in which inherent problems caused by cultural interaction eventually led to Indian removal. From the perspective of Saunt 1999, Creek problems arose from intermarriage and an increased mestizo population that allied with elite Creek, both of which fostered individual values over communal values. Merrell 1999 also began to see how interaction with Englishmen led to a mixed-ancestry population that acted for a time as cultural brokers but would be unable to insure the continuance of Indians in the Pennsylvania region. Neither described immediate demise as historians had done previously, but they suggested that interaction with Europeans either introduced the individually oriented values of Western societies or that European and Indian societies were incompatible, which led, however belatedly, to eventual demise. Finally, the rich tradition of telling Indian history through literary analysis, with Robert Berkhofer in the forefront, found a disciple in historian Jill Lepore, who described in Lepore 1998 how literate colonists imposed new layers of imagery on Indians.

  • Calloway, Colin G. New Worlds for All: Indians, Europeans, and the Remaking of Early America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.

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    Views encounter as an interactive process in which Indians changed Europeans and Europeans changed Indians. Interaction with the English, Dutch, Spanish, and French created multiple new worlds and led to nomadic Indian behaviors. Views the colonial period as a moment when relations between the colonist settlers and Indians remained fluid.

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  • Lepore, Jill. The Name of War: King Philip’s War and the Origins of American Identity. New York: Knopf, 1998.

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    Builds on the tradition established by Robert Berkhofer and relies on literary analysis to examine King Philip’s war against Puritan New England. Examines the role that literacy played in triggering the war and examines how the English wrote about the war in four sections: language, war, bondage, and memory. Emphasizes the power of victorious and literate colonists to impose their own meanings on the war and uses several episodic stories to locate parallels in subsequent centuries.

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  • Merrell, James H. The Indians’ New World: Catawbas and Their Neighbors from European Contact through the Era of Removal. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989.

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    One of the first scholars to acknowledge and respond to Berkhofer’s challenge. Examines the Catawbas in colonial and post-independence South Carolina, their numerous adaptations to changed conditions after the arrival of the Europeans, and their decision to ally with the colonists, demonstrating both the benefits and costs of that choice.

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  • Merrell, James H. Into the American Woods: Negotiators on the Pennsylvania Frontier. New York: Norton, 1999.

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    Examines the role of cultural brokers, or go-betweens, on the Pennsylvania frontier. At first, this was a viable means for communicating between disparate worlds, but by 1750 Merrell views it as a failed system where it was no longer possible to reconcile Indian and white settler worlds. The woods serve as a metaphor for a dark, threatening landscape that was feared by Indians. Unlike the middle ground of Richard White’s 1990 study, the woods are meant to represent and simultaneously separate two irreconcilable worlds.

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  • O’Brien, Jean. Dispossession by Degree: Indian Land and Identity in Natick, Massachusetts, 1650–1790. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511600975Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Counters the harsh portrayal of Puritans by stressing the alternative adaptive strategies of Indians. This thorough examination of land transactions and transfers involving the Natick community shows how Indians remained on their lands and maintained their community, despite the unending influx and intrusion of Puritan settlers.

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  • Richter, Daniel K. The Ordeal of the Longhouse: The Peoples of the Iroquois League in the Era of European Colonization. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992.

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    Explores the geographical and cultural factors that allowed the Iroquois to survive settler intrusion. Shows how their location encouraged them to play one European power against the other, how agrarian prowess provided a cushion in the face of overhunting, and how the incorporation of outsiders allowed for increased immunity to deadly diseases. By 1730s, settler intrusion seriously began to undermine Iroquois autonomy.

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  • Saunt, Claudio. A New Order of Things: Property, Power, and the Transformation of the Creek Indians, 1733–1816. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511511554Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines three decades of change in Creek life that occurred following the revolution and lasted until the first decades of the 19th century, leading to Creek involvement in the Redstick War. The crisis arose when elite Creek and mestizos endorsed private property, centralized authority, and individual responsibility and were opposed by those who sought to maintain a communal ethos.

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2000–Present

During the first decade of the 21st century, historians expanded the scope of Indian history to provide a clearer voice for Indians and to address why Indians were often dismissed as unimportant historical actors. Much of this work required the reinterpretation of long-established narratives and the ability to imaginatively recreate history from an indigenous perspective. Richter 2001 re-creates the Indian world of the Eastern woodlands and Mississippi River valley, depicting a world with a substantial Indian population that faced east rather than west and watched Europeans struggle to cross the Atlantic and stumble to the shoreline. Both Lisa Brooks and Maureen Konkle relied on an Indian voice and drew directly from Indian writings to construct their monographs. Konkle 2004 employs Indian narratives to create a cadre of influential 19th-century Indian scholars. Brooks 2008 describes Indian conceptions of the land in Indian terms and reimagines the lands of western New England and the Great Lakes. Each of these historians brings to life new visions of encounter and interaction and shows us how new interpretations of old narratives can provide greater agency to Indians and play a crucial role in how we write history. Increasingly, the new Indian history has provided new interpretations of familiar scenarios. These 21st-century scholars have not viewed contact as a monolithic scenario; rather, they have explored the multiplicity of textures that define contact. This is the framework in which Preston 2009 imagines the Iroquois. Preston argues for a diverse variety of encounter scenarios that took place along the Iroquoian frontier, interactions that differed across time and space.

  • Brooks, Lisa. The Common Pot: The Recovery of Native Space in the Northeast. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008.

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    The “common pot” symbolizes the interdependent environment of Native people, connecting human and nonhuman across a landscape stretching from New England to the Great Lakes. Native leaders like Samson Occom, Hendrick Aupaumut, Joseph Brant, and William Apess incorporated technologies of European writing into older indigenous traditions of birch-bark scrolls and wampum belts to map the “relationships between people, between places, between humans and nonhumans, between the waterways that joined them.”

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  • Konkle, Maureen. Writing Indian Nations: Native Intellectuals and the Politics of Historiography, 1827–1863. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

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    Examines the writings and ideas of Native American writers and leaders during the 19th century and demonstrates that they intellectually asserted their own autonomy while simultaneously engaging and often contradicting the mainstream intellectual elite of white society. Shows how Indian writers, such as George Copway, simultaneously engaged writers from other tribes and created an intellectual tradition which continues to the present day.

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  • Preston, David. The Texture of Contact: European and Indian Settler Communities on the Frontiers of Iroquoia, 1667–1783. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009.

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    Argues for a more complex and harmonious relationships between the colonists and the Iroquois, contending that the Seven Years’ War began to change these relationships, especially in the Ohio River Valley. Adjacent to Iroquoia, settler relationships remained fairly stable. In the Great Lakes, Britain became increasingly distant from the Iroquois. Although the American Revolution devastated Iroquoia, many communities survived, which suggests the varying but ongoing texture of contact.

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  • Richter, Daniel K. Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001.

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    Reimagines European arrival from the densely populated Mississippi River Valley, where Indian villagers first encountered the newcomers through trade goods. Relies on three familiar 17th-century Indian figures—Pocahontas, Kateri Tekakwitha, and Metacom—to explore the various motives and interests that determined the nature of the encounter. Concludes by examining conversion narratives and treaty sessions to focus on the increasing alienation from Europeans.

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The West

Until the 1970s, only a few graduate programs offered frontier history, and they most often narrowly focused on pioneer settlement in the trans-Mississippi region. There were no graduate programs in American Indian studies until the 1950s, and even schools like the University of Wisconsin, Frederick Jackson Turner’s academic home, taught neither frontier nor Western history. The social activism of the 1960s challenged this perspective, as did the increased activity of the Indian Claims Commission, which required expert testimony to certify Indian claims. The Newberry Library in Chicago, which houses extensive Native American archives, brought together historians and anthropologists in 1952 to address this need. In the midst of this activity, scholars interested in untangling Indian history from old paradigms established the Western Historical Association in 1961. No scholar was more influential in establishing new perspectives for studying the West than Howard Lamar, whose seminar in Western history at Yale University trained many of these new historians. These scholars openly challenged long-established ways of approaching the history of the frontier. Lamar 1991 showed the benefit of using regional analysis, and White 1988 explored motivations that went beyond the impact of disease and population loss. Both reconstructed Western history in ways that included Indians and did not focus on their demise.

  • Lamar, Howard. Texas Crossings: The Lone Star State and the American Far West, 1836–1986. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1991.

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    Short but notable work that provides a model for regional analysis and comparison; shows how people, events, and ideas in Texas influenced the Southwest, especially California. Demonstrates how Texas influenced the California gold rush, the politics of statehood, and other imperial strategies in the Southwest.

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  • White, Richard. The Roots of Dependency: Subsistence, Environment, and Social Change among the Choctaws, Pawnees, and Navajos. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988.

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    Tackles the issue of Indian dependency by going beyond simplistic explanations of disease and population loss to show how environmental changes, often human induced, created dependence on government assistance.

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New Western History

The movement toward a new Western history was spearheaded by four historians: Patricia Limerick, Richard White, William Cronon, and Donald Worster. Only White focused on Indians, but he brought a depth of interest to the field that would change both Western and Indian history in several ways. His first work focused on the West, but as his scholarly interests shifted he concentrated on earlier colonial periods, when Indian history was more directly linked to the empires of the Atlantic world. White 2011 (cited under Borderlands) studies the French and the Indians in the Great Lakes. Hackel 2005 links the Spanish and Indians through the California missions, while Blackhawk 2008 also examines Spanish-Indian interaction, but in the Great Basin. Many of the same paradigms for how we understand empire in the early American world, particularly terms like empire, imperialism, and colonialism, have increased relevancy for understanding Indian history in the West. Hämäläinen 2008 provides a view of how the Comanche themselves thought in terms of empire. Because Western historians had traditionally focused on the late 19th and early 20th centuries, this new emphasis on early American history attracted scholars who now wrote about the precontact past but linked it to postcontact history and the changes brought by the encounter. Colin Calloway was one of the first to talk about the shaping of the West during this early period; Calloway 2003 describes the uniqueness of this precontact past and shows how the changes that took place were fashioned by Indians but influenced by the interaction with foreigners. Empires spread their tentacles of influence into regions, influencing change before Europeans arrived.

  • Blackhawk, Ned. Violence over the Land: Indians and Empires in the Early American West. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008.

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    Examines violence in the Great Basin region and shows how ongoing violence shattered both Indian and Spanish communities, reducing them to poverty and disrupting social structures, which allowed outsiders to assume that they were “primitive.” Violent slave raiding, which captured women and children, characterized both the Native and Spanish imperial histories of this region.

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  • Calloway, Colin G. One Vast Winter Count: The Native American West before Lewis and Clark. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003.

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    Examines precontact history of the West by looking at material culture: winter counts, wampum belts, rock art, calendar sticks, knotted strings, maps, and oral traditions. Depicts Indians as pioneers who moved into new regions to harvest the natural resources of specific environmental niches. Because the Western environment was often unstable, Indians either responded through adaptation or moved to new places.

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  • Hackel, Steven W. Children of Coyote, Missionaries of Saint Francis: Indian-Spanish Relations in Colonial California, 1769–1850. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005.

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    Examines the intersection of Spanish and Indian worlds during the waning years of Spanish rule, which was then followed by US rule. Uses the mission San Carlos Borromeo to explore the impact of Spanish colonialism, the author shows how the missions created crises within Indian communities and then offered the pathway of salvation from these situations.

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  • Hämäläinen, Pekka. The Comanche Empire. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008.

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    Presents the Comanches as an empire that rested on the control of a vast geographic expanse—250,000 square miles of the continent—and thwarted Spanish expansion in the West. The Comanches created a raiding and trading economy that rested on bison products, horses, and slaves and evolved within the context of a competitive, contested international arena.

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Southwest

Until the 1990s, much of the new Indian history focused on either the Eastern Seaboard or the West. A crucial event that influenced the direction of Indian history was the quincentenary of the Columbian encounter, which stimulated public debate about the plight of Native peoples. Concern was expressed at the highest levels of public opinion, with the United Nations serving as a crucial site for these debates. In 1992, when Mayan activist Rigoberta Menchú won the Nobel Prize, the academic community responded, and the Organization of American Historians selected Gutiérrez 1991 as the best book of the year. His book drew harsh criticism from Native people for its subject matter (see the commentaries by Gutiérrez 1993), but the book also drew increased attention to the Southwest and the need to better understand indigenous encounters in that region. Weber’s synthetic analysis of this region (Weber 1992) also won the Caughey Book Prize from the Western History Association; it provided an overview of recent work in the field and emphasized the social and cultural scholarship that was utilized by subsequent scholars. Much of the new direction established by Weber influenced subsequent work and reconceptualized the ways in which Indians controlled these lands. Weber and subsequent scholars focused on interaction between Indians as well as relations with Europeans. Brooks 2002 was one of the first to describe the harsh reality of those encounters and to show how intercultural alliances between Indians emerged through captivity. Barr 2007 demonstrates how gendered diplomacy was central to these intercultural alliances and how Indians conceptualized issues of power and authority.

  • Barr, Juliana. Peace Came in the Form of a Woman: Indians and Spaniards in the Texas Borderlands. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007.

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    Examines Indian and Spanish relations in the Texas borderlands and shows how they were shaped by gendered diplomacy. The presence of Indian women demonstrated peaceful intentions in a land where Comanche and Spaniards were bitter enemies. Spanish traders, soldiers, and missionaries lived precariously in a land dominated by the Caddo, Apache, Wichita, and Comanche.

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  • Brooks, James F. Captives and Cousins: Slavery, Kinship, and Community in the Southwest Borderlands. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.

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    Examines how Native and Euro-American men in the Southwest relied on the kidnapping and exploitation of women and children to establish a regional economy, eventually transforming captives into cousins. Builds on the concept of shared cultural traits and contends that Iberian and Southwestern societies shared similar traditions of violence, exchange, honor, and shame.

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  • Gutiérrez, Ramón A. When Jesus Came, the Corn Mothers Went Away: Marriage, Sexuality, and Power in New Mexico, 1500–1846. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1991.

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    Examines Spanish, Mexican, and Indian interaction over three centuries. Relies on marital practices as an analytical category to examine kinship and notions of honor and virtue. Shows how social status and racial classification affected marital practices and provided access to power. Has been criticized for its depictions of sexuality, which were influenced by Spanish accounts, especially those of Catholic priests.

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  • Gutiérrez, Ramón A. “Commentaries: When Jesus Came, the Corn Mothers Went Away: Marriage, Sexuality, and Power in New Mexico, 1500–1846.” In Special Issue: Encounter of Two Worlds: The Next Five Hundred Years. American Indian Culture and Research Journal 17.3 (1993): 141–177.

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    Series of critiques compiled by the American Indian Studies Center at the University of New Mexico and offered by Pueblo people about Gutiérrez 1991.

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  • Weber, David J. The Spanish Frontier in North America. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992.

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    Synthetic survey of the Spanish borderlands that incorporates the significant scholarship since Herbert Eugene Bolton’s work in 1921. Contemporaneous with the founding of the United States was the development of a much larger Spanish domain that stretched over three thousand miles from Florida to California. Weber reconstructs the dynamics of a Hispanic frontier culture, examining migration, class conflict, race and racism, and the exploitation of labor and women.

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Borderlands

Historians Richard White and Daniel Usner draw attention to the lands west of Appalachia, and their focus on the 17th and 18th centuries incorporates the borderlands regions into the realm of Atlantic world history. White 2011 questions the traditional narrative about French and English expansion in the Great Lakes region, and Usner 1992, the narrative about French and Spanish expansion in the lower Mississippi. Both historians demonstrate that Indians cooperated with but also challenged imperial expansion in borderlands regions. White challenges the old paradigms of contact and demise but also offers a model for how historians might look for commonality rather than difference. White’s work on the Great Lakes suggests that European imperialists and Indians often shared similar goals. Borderlands regions offer historians of the Atlantic world an insightful model for analyzing imperial expansion. In addition, when Usner recasts the history of the Lower Mississippi as a regional analysis, he furthers the notion that early United States history might be thought of as a series of regional encounters. White’s work draws on Tanner 1988, which first cartographically depicted the Great Lakes as an Indian region. Just as White draws on Tanner’s concept, both Michael Witgen (Witgen 2007) and Heidi Bohaker (Bohaker 2006) draw on White’s work to frame their understandings of the Great Lakes as an Indian region. While White offers the vision of a middle ground, historian) Kathleen DuVal used her work to counter White’s framework. DuVal 2006 disputes White 2011 by countering that along the Arkansas Europeans were uninvited visitors who needed to adopt Indian behaviors and lifestyles if they wished to remain. There was no room for accommodation by Indians to the European presence. Although now disputed, White’s work remains an important framework for understanding the Great Lakes as a distinct region where France, Europe, and the United States laid claim to Indian lands. This was a colonial region where Atlantic empires mattered, and historians increasingly attempt to understand why most failed and only the United States succeeded. We will also encounter more books that describe this as a region of empires, as does Hinderaker 1997.

  • Bohaker, Heidi. “Nindoodemag: The Significance of Algonquian Kinship Networks in the Eastern Great Lakes Region, 1600–1701.” William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser., 63.1 (2006): 23–52.

    DOI: 10.2307/3491724Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This research attempts to lessen the impact of the fur trade wars and contends that movement in the Great Lakes was deliberate and often planned. Migration patterns were far from random and were not indicative of demographic instability. Indian villages relocated adjacent to their kin.

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  • DuVal, Kathleen. The Native Ground: Indians and Colonists in the Heart of the Continent. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006.

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    Introduces the idea of native ground as an analytical tool for understanding the interaction of Europeans and Indians in the lower Arkansas River Valley. Suggests that Indians dominated the landscape, which she refers to as native ground. Europeans more frequently accommodated to Indian ways, and the Europeans who remained were often incorporated into Native communities, their presence enhancing the diversity of the region.

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  • Hinderaker, Eric. Elusive Empires: Constructing Colonialism in the Ohio Valley, 1673–1800. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511528651Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Compares French, British, and United States attempts to exert control over the Ohio River Valley. France pursued fur trade profits and failed and Britain followed the same economic pathway, while the United States pursued aggressive settler colonialism, which allowed the United States to control the Ohio Valley through resettlement of the landscape rather than institutional governance.

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  • Tanner, Helen Hornbeck, ed. The Atlas of Great Lakes Indian History. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1988.

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    A Newberry Library Research project that spanned almost thirty years, the timeframe 1600–1880s, and explored the residence patterns of Indians in the western Great Lakes, including Canada. Includes maps, the atlas, and extended text which describe residential patterns for Indians and explains why they chose to locate in particular locations. Additional topical chapters describe how settlement and population growth were often limited by vegetation patterns, different subsistence models, and disease outbreaks.

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  • Usner, Daniel H. Indians, Settlers & Slaves in a Frontier Exchange Economy: The Lower Mississippi Valley before 1783. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992.

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    This work is divided into two parts. The first examines the development of this region from the time of its founding until 1783 and shows how Indians, Africans, and Europeans created a regional, shared world. The second provides greater detail about the regional economy. This work brought Louisiana into the mainstream of colonial historiography while making Indians central to that world.

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  • White, Richard. The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650–1815. 2d ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

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    Shifts the history of Indian-white relations from a story of conquest to one of a mutually invented middle ground where “cultural congruences” led to European and Indian alliances. Depicts Indians as central to cultural interaction. White narrates the history of this region as an imperial rivalry between the French and British and the Iroquois and Algonquians.

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  • Witgen, Michael. “The Rituals of Possession: Native Identity and the Invention of Empire in Seventeenth-Century Western North America.” Ethnohistory 54.4 (2007): 639–668.

    DOI: 10.1215/00141801-2007-025Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines how the cartographic practice of mapping empire influenced how Native people were identified. These imperial practices masked the process of indigenous social formation in the Great Lakes. Indians villages evolved independent of Europeans, and in the northwestern interior Indians chose to either include or exclude, or even ignore, the French or English. Indians villages evolved in relationship to the land.

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New France

The early literature of New France, like that of Canada, initially focused on the fur trade as the primary arena of encounter. Scholars like William J. Eccles reimagined encounter from a wider perspective, incorporating a frontier thesis model to show how the fur trade as well as imperial and military expansion shaped the Canadian frontier from the 1530s to the Seven Years’ War. Eccles 1983 reinterpreted the role of the Indians and showed that they were more than pawns in the ensuing power struggle with Europeans. Trigger 1985 relied on archeology to reimagine a more active role for Native people during encounter. Delâge 1993 offered a world-system approach to this more complex understanding of encounter, viewing Europe’s expanding market economy and encroaching imperialism as subverting an Indian world that was initially rooted in the “Stone Age.” By the 1980s, migration to New France became the more firmly contextualized model for understanding the Atlantic world, and Choquette 1997 shows how migration was a by-product of other movements that situated New France within the realm of Atlantic expansion. Banks 2002 firmly establishes New France history within a trans-Atlantic context, although the author does not address Indians. One of the most significant collections of essays viewing expansionist Atlantic history from an indigenous perspective is Brown and Vibert 2003. Scholars like Carolyn Podruchny have also attempted to read beyond the words to better explain how European and Indian values intersected in this transatlantic context; Podruchny 2006 examines the intersection of Indian and French worlds. Havard 2001 also moves beyond economic motivation to show how the Great Peace brokered by the French changed Iroquois and Algonquian relationships in the Great Lakes and facilitated cultural and political interactions. Additional literature that examines New France through a transatlantic lens can be found in the sections on Borderlands and in Gender and Society.

  • Banks, Charles J. Chasing Empire across the Sea: Communications and the State in the French Atlantic, 1713–1763. Montreal and Ithaca, NY: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2002.

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    Looks at the communication linkage between France and its Atlantic colonies and firmly situates New France in an Atlantic paradigm.

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  • Brown, Jennifer S. H., and Elizabeth Vibert. Reading Beyond Words. 2d ed. Peterborough, Canada: Broadview, 2003.

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    Examines the process of encounter between American Indians, Canada’s First Nations, and Europeans by relying on a variety of sources—written texts as well as oral documents, artifacts, and images—to understand and present alternative views of encounter and multiple ways of knowing that emerging Atlantic world. Inspired by the work of ethnohistory, these articles attempt to deconstruct traditional ways of understanding the interaction between Europeans and Indians. First published in 1996.

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  • Choquette, Leslie. Frenchmen into Peasants: Modernity and Tradition in the Peopling of French Canada. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997.

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    Examines the peopling of New France through the origin of the individual immigrants, describing them by gender, class, occupation, region, religion, age, and time of departure. This book demonstrates that outward-looking members of French society were integral to this period of Atlantic expansion. While Native people are not part of this narrative, this monograph positioned New France within the context of an Atlantic world.

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  • Delâge, Denys. Bitter Feast: Amerindians and Europeans in Northeastern North America, 1600–94. Vancouver, Canada: University of British Columbia Press, 1993.

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    Offers an overview of the French, Dutch, and English colonization of northeastern America by drawing on world-system theory. Delâge views colonization efforts within a hierarchical organization of economic development that described expansion within the parameters of periphery and semiperiphery. The author stresses the primacy of Holland and relies on Iroquoian rather than Algonquian societies to examine the interaction of Europeans and Indians. Originally published in 1985 as Le Pays renversé: Amérindiens et Européens en Amérique du nord-est, 1600–1664 (Montreal: Boréal Express).

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  • Eccles, W. J. The Canadian Frontier, 1534–1760. Rev. ed. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1983.

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    First published in 1969 (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston), Eccles’s work reshaped the understanding of Canadian history. He avoided the great-man approach that traditionally viewed explorers like LaSalle and Montcalm as an equivalent to the founding fathers of US history; instead, he emphasized the role that merchants played in shaping westward expansion. From Eccles’s perspective, it was the search for merchant profits that paved the way for New France expansion. Eccles views the Indians and the British as equal and competing forces in fur trade expansion.

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  • Havard, Gilles. The Great Peace of Montreal of 1701: French-Native Diplomacy of the Seventeenth Century. Montreal and Ithaca, NY: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2001.

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    Examines the speeches of Native and French participants during the 1701 Montreal peace conference, which marked the end of hostilities between the Iroquois, the French, and their western Indian allies. Downplays economic motives and argues that the Iroquois, like the French, were motivated by complex political and military concerns. The Iroquois relied on this treaty to maintain their political sovereignty and to establish trading relations with the western Algonquian Indians and the French while simultaneously remaining allied with the British. Previously published as La Grande Paix de Montréal de 1701: Les voies de la diplomatie franco-amérindienne (Montreal: Recherches Amérindiennes au Québec, 1992).

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  • Podruchny, Carolyn. Making the Voyageur World: Travelers and Traders in the North American Fur Trade. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2006.

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    Explores the distinctive identities created by the French Canadian workers who paddled the canoes, transported trade goods, and staffed the fur trade posts in Canada. This volume shows how the distinctive identities developed by voyageurs emerged from their roots in French peasant culture, the Indian people they encountered, and the nature of their employment.

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  • Trigger, Bruce G. Natives and Newcomers: Canada’s “Heroic Age” Reconsidered. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1985.

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    This work is a summary of Bruce Trigger’s earlier, longer work, The Children of Aataentsic: A History of the Huron People to 1660 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1976). It focuses on Indian-European relations in the St. Lawrence lowlands, to the north and south of lakes Erie and Ontario, during the 16th and 17th centuries. Trigger focuses on Iroquoian archeology to challenge former notions about demise and to explore the more active role that Native people played in shaping the history of New France and eventually Canada.

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Gender and Society

When Women’s History emerged in the 1960s, historians also began to study Indian women. But these initial studies often romanticized the past and assumed that Native women enjoyed perfect equality with men. Europeans were believed to have led Native men down the pathway to sexism. A second problem arose when historians were hampered by the lack of adequate archival sources. For this reason, many historians began to incorporate nontraditional sources, such as marital registers, wills, court records, and folktales, to search for evidence about Indian women. Unfortunately, tackling the history of Native American women was far more complicated than most historians had envisioned. Much of Indian society was characterized by a sexual division of labor that made it difficult for historians to access and understand the gendered nature of these different tasks—women farmed and gathered while men hunted. These were differences that did not emerge from the Western historical notions of male hierarchy but emerged because of the need for balance and harmony in Indian communities.

1975–1990

Indian women were marginally introduced into the scholarship of the new Indian history, and by the mid-1970s a few scholars successfully situated Indian women within its context. One of the first historians of women was Rayna Green (see Green 1975). While Green focused on the East, two anthropologists, Pat Albers and Beatrice Medicine, began to look at Indian women from a transcontinental perspective and self-published one of the most significant edited books of the 1980s, The Hidden Half (Albers and Medicine 1983). Two other anthropologists, Sylvia Van Kirk and Jennifer Brown, drew on the work of Medicine and Albers to focus on women’s involvement in the fur trade of the Canadian Northwest; see Van Kirk 1983 and Brown 1980.

  • Albers, Patricia, and Beatrice Medicine, eds. The Hidden Half: Studies of Plains Indian Women. Papers presented at a symposium held in 1977 at the Plains Conference in Lincoln, Nebraska. Washington, DC: University Press of America, 1983.

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    The collected papers from a symposium, “The Role and Status of Women in Plains Indian Cultures.” Primarily focuses on women’s work and their place within Plains Indian culture.

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  • Brown, Jennifer S. H. Strangers in Blood: Fur Trade Company Families in Indian Country. Vancouver, Canada: University of British Columbia Press, 1980.

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    Examines the impact of fur trade company policies on intimate relationships in the fur trade. Indian women of Canada played an important role in the initial stages of the trade but were then displaced by métis women, who were the offspring of traders and Indian women.

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  • Green, Rayna. “The Pocahontas Perplex: The Image of Indian Women in American Culture.” Massachusetts Review 16.4 (1975): 698–714.

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    Explores the mythology associated with Native American women and shows how two images have dominated our perceptions of Indian women. The image of Pocahontas is highly positive and invokes the idea of the noble princess who willingly sacrifices her life to save white men. The contradictory or negative image of the squaw represents Indian women considered as sexual conveniences for men.

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  • Van Kirk, Sylvia. Many Tender Ties: Women in Fur-Trade Society, 1670–1870. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1983.

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    Explores women’s roles as the country wives of fur traders in the Canadian Great Lakes when large fur trade companies dominated economic encounters between Great Britain and Indians. Shows how kin relationships facilitated the exchange process and provided access to furs.

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1990–2000

During the last decade of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century, Indian women attracted increased scholarly attention. They became the research focus of historians as well as anthropologists and archeologists. Archaeologists drew attention to task differentiation, how women’s work differed from that of men. Women often worked in separate spaces, and Janet Spector explored how work impacted women’s lives in Spector 1993. Anthropology and especially the new field of ethnohistory helped influence new historical perspectives. Historians continued to draw attention to the importance of women in Indian society, and this decade produced several monographs which highlighted the position of women within Indian communities. Jean O’Brien’s richly textured history of Natick (O’Brien 1997) drew attention to the role that Indian women played in the persistence of the Natick community, and Perdue 1998 uncovered the matrilineal world of Cherokee society, while Thorne 1996 researched the Indian fur trade wives of the upper Missouri. One of the most important new research directions was suggested by Nancy Shoemaker’s work. Shoemaker 1995 drew attention to gender as an analytical category, creating a work that was parallel in importance to Albers and Medicine 1983 (cited under 1975–1990).

  • O’Brien, Jean. Dispossession by Degrees: Indian Land and Identity in Natick, Massachusetts, 1650–1790. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511600975Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines land transactions and transfers and the tremendous pressures Indian endured to relinquish control over their lands. Demonstrates that Indians remained on their lands and created a viable Natick community despite the unending influx and intrusion of settlers. Women were crucial to community continuity.

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  • Perdue, Theda. Cherokee Women: Gender and Culture Change, 1700–1835. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998.

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    Examines male and female roles among the Cherokee and between Cherokee and Euro-Americans. Cherokee viewed the roles of men and women as complementary, allowing them to live balanced lives. Focuses on Indian women and examines how the Cherokee constructed gender and how their desire for balance led to a symmetrical society. Contends that traditional definitions of gender remain, despite Euro-American influences.

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  • Shoemaker, Nancy. Negotiators of Change: Historical Perspectives on Native American Women. New York: Routledge, 1995.

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    Edited collection that spans a broad time frame, from encounter to the present, and shows that Indian women lived in a gender-complementary society. Examines women’s adaptive strategies when their societies began to change and government policies attempted to “civilize” Indians. Demonstrates that women blended new technologies with traditional practices to insure the persistence of their communities.

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  • Spector, Janet. What This Awl Means: Feminist Archaeology at a Wahpeton Dakota Village. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1993.

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    Analyzes a recovered awl from the Minnesota site of Inyan Ceyaka Atonwan, or Little Rapids, to examine how the objects discovered at the site reflected the work that Indian men and women performed in that community. Indian women’s agrarian work is explored through the awl handle located at the site and the thirty dots that decorate the surface of the awl.

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  • Thorne, Tanis C. The Many Hands of My Relations: French and Indians on the Lower Missouri. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1996.

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    Describes the relationships of French men from the St. Louis area and the unions they formed with several generations of Indian women in the Upper Missouri region. Many traders had legitimate wives and a number of “country wives.” By the mid-19th century, most Indians were removed and the remaining Indians were classed as “mixed bloods,” or Francophone Native Americans. Contends that a métis society did not emerge in the Midwest.

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2000–Present

Gender is the most basic way of organizing society, and yet gender analysis is a fairly recent tool for historians. Only in the 21st century has gender emerged as a category for understanding women in Indian society. Shoemaker 1995 (cited under 1990–2000) paved the way for gender studies, and the pathway was then followed by a number of historians who primarily relied on gender to understand women’s work and their position and authority in their communities. Perdue 2001 relies on biography to view Indian’s women strategies in a white world, while Sleeper-Smith 2001 analyzes Indian women’s roles in the fur trade through the lens of gender, building on Van Kirk 1983 and Brown 1980 (cited under 1975–1990) and Thorne 1996 (cited under 1990–2000). Murphy 2000 looks at lead mining among Indians and the Indian women who worked as lead miners. Social institutions and structures have also been examined through the lens of gender, and Plane 2000 examines Western conceptions of marriage to show how Indian women were marginalized by Puritan society. Gender has been increasingly used to examine how the roles of men and women were constructed within Indian communities; this approach has uncovered substantial new information, and four recent works are of particular note. Fur 2009 applies a gender lens to Delaware or Lenape communities, Marrero 2005 looks at Miami communities, Romero 2006 examines masculinity among the Indians of southern New England, and Barr 2007 (cited under Southwest) studies Indian communities along the Texas borderland.

  • Fur, Gunlög Maria. A Nation of Women: Gender and Colonial Encounters among the Delaware Indians. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009.

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    Explores gender roles in Lenape (Delaware) society in an understudied section of the Atlantic coast. Contends that women controlled the household and therefore governed relations with outsiders and decided what strangers became kinfolk. Uses the gendered language of diplomacy—the introduction is titled “We Are But a Women Nation”—to examine the various social, economic, and political implications of this self-description.

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  • Marrero, Karen. “‘She Is Capable of Doing a Good Deal of Mischief’: A Miami Woman’s Threat to Empire in the Eighteenth-Century Ohio Valley.” In Special Issue: Indigenous Women and Colonial Cultures. Edited by Pamela Scully. Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History 6.3 (2005).

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    Examines how Tacumwah, a prominent Miami woman who lived and traded along the Maumee River near Detroit, asserted control over the fur trade and the Maumee River portage. Demonstrates how she asserted both her own agency and the authority of her Miami community over French traders in the region, including her former husband. Available online by subscription.

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  • Murphy, Lucy Eldersveld. A Gathering of Rivers: Indians, Métis, and Mining in the Western Great Lakes, 1737–1832. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000.

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    Examines the multiethnic Fox–Wisconsin River region during three time frames to demonstrate that how the Indian and French followed pathways of accommodation and that removal and segregation were not inevitable. First, Murphy looks at the evolution of mixed-blood or creole communities during the fur trade era. Then she examines Indian women’s involvement in lead mining, and finally shows how Indian removal homogenized this ethnically diverse region.

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  • Perdue, Theda. Sifters: Native American Women’s Lives. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

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    Contains fourteen biographies that explore the broad and often devastating range of experiences that forced Native women to sift through their own indigenous upbringing to uncover the strength and strategies required to function as forceful figures in a white world. Some were celebrated public figures from early American history, like Pocahontas, Molly Brant, and Sacagawea, while others, like Gertrude Simmons Bonnin (Zitkala-Ša) and Ada Deer, became vocal spokeswomen for Native people in the 20th century. These women used their experience and knowledge of the non-Indian world to promote Indian persistence and often to win significant victories for the rights of Native people.

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  • Plane, Ann Marie. Colonial Intimacies: Indian Marriage in Early New England. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000.

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    Looks at Indian-European cultural interaction by examining marriage practices and contends that New England settlers viewed Indians as culturally different and thus consigned them to being both outsiders and part of an underclass.

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  • Romero, R. Todd. “‘Ranging Foresters’ and ’Women-Like Men’: Physical Accomplishment, Spiritual Power, and Indian Masculinity in Early-Seventeenth-Century New England.” Ethnohistory 53.2 (2006): 281–329.

    DOI: 10.1215/00141801-53-2-281Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the construction of masculinity among Algonquian-speaking Indians in southern New England. Religion played a primary role in defining manly ideals, and hunting, warfare, governance, and marriage served as avenues for insuring one’s masculinity.

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  • Sleeper-Smith, Susan. Indian Women and French Men: Rethinking Cultural Encounter in the Western Great Lakes. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001.

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    Examines the adaptive strategies that Indian women employed to deal with strangers during the fur trade era in the western Great Lakes. Intermarriage, the adoption of Catholicism to create kin networks that paralleled those of Indigenous communities, and engagement in the trade insured persistence rather than demise.

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Race

Racism and Indians began to surface as a scholarly issue late in the last decade of the 20th century. Nancy Shoemaker brought race to the scholarly agenda when she pointed out that “red” was not a derogatory term from the Cherokee perspective (Shoemaker 1997), in which it possessed symbolic value rather than biological meaning. But very quickly, when Oklahoma Indians rejected African Americans from membership in Indian nations, it was clear that race had acquired a biological dynamic. These issues are explored in the essay collection Miles and Holland 2006. But how and when that transition occurred has become open to debate. It was also evident from the scholarly work of the 1990s on southern communities that many Indians were also slaveholders. Thus, the 21st-century focus for Indian historians has become the origin and development of racism among Indians. For historians like Theda Perdue, racism reared its ugly head following removal (Perdue 2004), while for Claudio Saunt, there is no doubt that race-based slavery was accepted by the southern Indians before they were forcibly removed (Saunt, et al. 2006). There has also been interest in when Indians were racialized by mainstream American society and how that process occurred. Silver 2008 sees the origins of racism in the colonial literature of prerevolutionary America, while David Silverman suggested that it was in the 19th century that Indians faced racism on a daily basis (Silverman 2010). Behavioral change was no longer an issue; rather it was skin color, and Indians were viewed as uncivilized regardless of how much like Americans they behaved.

  • Miles, Tiya, and Sharon Patricia Holland, eds. Crossing Waters, Crossing Worlds: The African Diaspora in Indian Country. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006.

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    Series of essays examining the racial dynamic of Indian nations that often sought to exclude and/or remove African Americans from their citizenship and census rolls. These essays explore how an intertwined relationship emerged between African Americans and Indians and how identity became a contested issue.

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  • Perdue, Theda. “Race and Culture: Writing the Ethnohistory of the Early South.” Ethnohistory 51.4 (2004): 701–723.

    DOI: 10.1215/00141801-51-4-701Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the early history of intermarriage with whites and claims that offspring were fully accepted in Cherokee society. Indians failed to distinguish between mixed-blood and full-blood people. Claims that there was a dramatic shift following removal, when white Americans viewed cultural practices as racialized and believed that Indians could not change. A new racialized hierarchy emerged in which “mixed bloods” dominated “full bloods,” and Anglo-Saxons dominated those with less pure racial lineage.

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  • Saunt, Claudio, Barbara Krauthamer, Tiya Miles, Celia E. Naylor, and Circe Sturm. “Rethinking Race and Culture in the Early South.” Ethnohistory 53.2 (2006): 399–405.

    DOI: 10.1215/00141801-53-2-399Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Contests Theda Perdue’s conclusions that race failed to play a major role in Indian society until removal (Perdue 2004). Race is viewed as central to power and resistance following encounter. Shows how race was selectively incorporated and how those ideas were then incorporated into daily life. Indian communities were forced to come to terms with an expanding plantation economy as a race-based slavery surrounded them.

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  • Shoemaker, Nancy. “How Indians Got to Be Red.” American Historical Review 102.3 (1997): 625–644.

    DOI: 10.2307/2171504Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines how Cherokee and English encounter fostered ideas of difference and explores what “red” meant to the Cherokee. Indians drew on their own color symbolism to account for biological, cultural, and political differences between themselves and Englishmen.

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  • Silver, Peter. Our Savage Neighbors: How Indian War Transformed Early America. New York: W. W. Norton, 2008.

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    Examines how violence and Indians were intertwined in colonial writing, shaping Pennsylvania’s backcountry frontier. Indians became menacing figures, ready to massacre innocent colonists. This imagery and writing led to Indian hating, intensified by the inflammatory rhetoric of the Seven Years’ War, which racialized Indians as savages and justified their annihilation. This rhetoric of violence was applied to a variety of “others” and became the unifying rhetoric that justified the revolutionary war.

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  • Silverman, David J. Red Brethren: The Brothertown and Stockbridge Indians and the Problem of Race in Early America. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2010.

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    Although promised survival if they adopted Christianity and Euro-American behaviors, Indians faced a racialized landscape in which behavioral changes alone did not transform them into citizens. Red Brethren examines how race, rather than behavioral changes, became the defining issue and shows how the Brothertown Indians were racialized.

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Slavery

Gallay 2002 brought attention to how Indian slavery and slave raiding served as the financial underpinning for the southern plantation system. The purchase of African American slaves drew attention to the linkage between Indian and African American slavery, but Gallay’s ability to discuss the dynamics of slave raiding and slavery for Indians was quite limited. Often, the records did not exist to provide this type of detail. Increasingly, scholars have become focused on providing greater detail about the life of slaves, and recent scholarship has focused on how slavery and slave raiding spread these practices throughout the South. Scholars have also begun to link demographic turmoil to slave raiding. The social landscape of Indian communities changed dramatically following European encounter, going from centralized, highly hierarchical polities to smaller, politically decentralized villages—a change initially explained by disease. The essays in Ethridge and Shuck-Hall 2009 suggest that the issue of slavery and slave raiding introduced new ways to better understand this dramatic change in Indian societies. Slavery and racism have become intertwined in later accounts of Indian slavery, making especially evident the ways in which the Cherokee accepted and incorporated race-based slavery. Miles 2010 shows that Cherokee headmen James Vance, who owned more slaves than any other Cherokee plantation owner, advocated this type of system. Snyder 2010 confirms Tiya Miles’s contention that preremoval Cherokee adopted race-based slavery. Historians have also become interested in the origins and dynamics of slave holding among Indians in the north and particularly in the Great Lakes. Historians long understood that Indian slavery existed, but it was viewed as relatively benign, neither lifelong, inherited, nor triggered by biological features, nor was daily slave life considered harsh. Those perceptions were changed by Rushforth 2003, which describes slavery in the Great Lakes quite differently. Unlike racism, which possesses a literary dynamic and can be studied through written documents, the issue of Indian slavery is masked by a lack of documents. In the north, much of the documentation for slavery emerges from New France records, where slaves were recorded in government censuses for households. For many US historians, language remains a stumbling block, and thus Great Lakes slavery has attracted few scholars; much remains to be done to establish more accurate perceptions of Indian slavery and Indians.

  • Ethridge, Robbie, and Sheri M. Shuck-Hall, eds. Mapping the Mississippian Shatter Zone: The Colonial Indian Slave Trade and Regional Instability in the American South. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009.

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    Relies on the concept of a “shatter zone” to draw together this collection of essays in which different authors examine how the interconnections between disease, environmental factors, and economic and cultural disruptions led to the destruction of a precontact Mississippian world with a large agrarian population, walled towns, and centralized chiefdoms and the transition to a landscape of small villages and confederacies.

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  • Gallay, Alan. The Indian Slave Trade: The Rise of the English Empire in the American South, 1670–1717. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002.

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    Examines the role that the Indian slave trade played in the establishment and expansion of South Carolina’s plantation economy. From 1690 to 1710, the trade in human beings stretched from Charleston to the Choctaw towns of the Mississippi River valley. Slave raiding ended after the Yamasee War, when colonists recoiled from a practice that nearly destroyed their colony.

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  • Miles, Tiya. The House on Diamond Hill: A Cherokee Plantation Story. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010.

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    Reconstructs the history of the Diamond Hill plantation owned by the Cherokee James Vance and shows how he moved toward a type of racialized slavery that existed on nearby white-owned plantations. Vance rejected long-standing Cherokee cultural practices. He followed an increasing individualistic and entrepreneurial approach and disregarded the long-established traditions of female authority in Cherokee society.

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  • Rushforth, Brett. “‘A Little Flesh We Offer You’: The Origins of Indian Slavery in New France.” William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser., 60.4 (2003): 777–808.

    DOI: 10.2307/3491699Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the slave system that evolved in New France. Its origins are traced to slave raiding among western Indian nations and the transfer of those slaves to the market at Montreal, often through diplomatic alliances and treaty negotiations. New France legalized the slave trade in a 1709 ordinance and men, women, and children were primarily purchased as laborers. By 1725, one-half of all Montreal homeowners owned slaves.

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  • Snyder, Christina. Slavery in Indian Country: The Changing Face of Captivity in Early America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010.

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    Examines Americans and Indian attitudes about war, slavery, and race in the South. Shows how Indian captivity practices evolved from a kin-based to a race-based system. Indians bondage was neither transgenerational nor permanent until the rise of a racial consciousness during the nativist movement. During this transition to slavery, Indians and Euro-Americans traded and exchanged physical bodies, leading to shared ideas about culture and race.

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Warfare and Warriors

Warfare and warriors are one of the standard lenses through which much of early Indian history was refracted. These histories of warfare considered Indians nomadic and warlike. Following the social and political activism of the 1960s, scholars disdained old-fashioned narratives about warlike Indians, although many popular historians continued to stereotype Indians as violent and cruel. Explanatory narratives based on warfare lost credence with scholars, and ways of writing about warfare changed in the 1970s and 1980s. Social historians began to write about warfare from the perspective of everyday soldiers and focused on the social dynamics of warfare. This perspective then influenced the writing of Indian history, and one of the most influential works was written by the historian R. David Edmunds about the life of Tecumseh. Edmunds 2007 examines Tecumseh’s life through a social and political framework and found that his diplomatic skills proved far more important than his military prowess. Edmunds work was quickly followed by other historians who relied on similar frameworks to change how historians thought about Indians and warfare. Dowd 1992 suggested that the nativist movement associated with Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh should be viewed as a spiritual and religious revitalization. One of the richest sources for changing that direction came with increased focus on the Seven Years’ War, an event that has long been viewed as a crucial transition for Indian societies. The British triumph placed tremendous stress on many societies. What happened in the Atlantic world during the Seven Years’ War had important ramifications for Indian communities, and looking at warfare from a social perspective yields a new perspective about how these transitions in European power impacted Indian societies. Indians had an important role in the Seven Years’ War, and in Anderson 2000 they are often viewed as the central protagonists, even though this monograph focuses on the larger war. From an Indian perspective, what Anderson describes about Indians during this war has influenced the work of other historians, leading them to rethink the war from an Indian perspective. Dowd 2002, like Calloway 2006, follows this social framework, and both examine the social and political ramifications of the Seven Years’ War. Interestingly, warlike behaviors are now less associated with Indians, and ironically, Americans have now acquired that label. In looking at colonial warfare, Grenier 2005 claims that the presence of the frontier and the Indians transformed Americans into advocates of total warfare, a description once reserved for Indians.

  • Anderson, Fred. Crucible of War: The Seven Years’ War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754–1766. New York: Knopf, 2000.

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    This social and military analysis of the Seven Years’ War has a global scope that includes both North America and Europe, as well as places like India. This account shows the central role that Indians played in determining the outcome and details why the French, especially Montcalm, failed to win the support of western Indians. Iroquois support of the British was a crucial factor in the outcome.

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  • Calloway, Colin G. The Scratch of a Pen: 1763 and the Transformation of North America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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    Examines the dislocations and population shifts brought about by the ending of the Seven Years’ War. Although Indians were only one part of the larger demographic shifts that occurred when the war ended, it is Indians who often determined outcomes and who dominated the British imperial agenda in London in 1763. This book links Pontiac’s Rebellion directly to imperial policies.

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  • Dowd, Greg. A Spirited Resistance: The North American Indian Struggle for Unity, 1745–1815. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992.

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    Contends that the attempt to form intertribal movements during this time were basically part of spiritual movements. This book demonstrates that the Pan-Indian Confederacy had extended roots into the past and stretched across the entire woodlands region, from Great Lakes villages to southern Indian nations such as the Creek and Cherokee, and to the Delaware in the east.

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  • Dowd, Gregory Evans. War under Heaven: Pontiac, the Indian Nations, & the British Empire. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002.

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    Author criticizes the reasoning that traditionally explains this war and demonstrates that the war was linked to changes in the Atlantic world. War was fostered by imperialistic ambitions of British policy makers who chose to dominate the newly acquired Indian territory. Pontiac, inspired by growing nativist sentiment, demonstrated that the French had lost their lands but that Indians had not suffered defeat.

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  • Edmunds, R. David. Tecumseh and the Quest for Indian Leadership. 2d ed. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007.

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    Shows how Tecumseh’s diplomatic skills were far more crucial than his military skills in the creation of the Pan-Indian Confederacy. Examines the intertwined leadership of Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh and emphasizes the important role that Tenskwatawa’s spiritual leadership played in the evolution of the confederacy.

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  • Grenier, John. The First Way of War: American War Making on the Frontier, 1607–1814. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511817847Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that warfare in North America was profoundly different from that of Europe and that the settler colonists were committed to irregular and total warfare. Colonial methods of warfare emerged from frontier warfare against Indians. Colonists targeted food stores, villages, and noncombatant residents, and intensive violence became commonplace.

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