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The Native Ground

Indians and Colonists in the Heart of the Continent

By Kathleen DuVal

Publication Year: 2011

In The Native Ground, Kathleen DuVal argues that it was Indians rather than European would-be colonizers who were more often able to determine the form and content of the relations between the two groups. Along the banks of the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers, far from Paris, Madrid, and London, European colonialism met neither accommodation nor resistance but incorporation. Rather than being colonized, Indians drew European empires into local patterns of land and resource allocation, sustenance, goods exchange, gender relations, diplomacy, and warfare. Placing Indians at the center of the story, DuVal shows both their diversity and our contemporary tendency to exaggerate the influence of Europeans in places far from their centers of power. Europeans were often more dependent on Indians than Indians were on them.

Now the states of Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Colorado, this native ground was originally populated by indigenous peoples, became part of the French and Spanish empires, and in 1803 was bought by the United States in the Louisiana Purchase. Drawing on archaeology and oral history, as well as documents in English, French, and Spanish, DuVal chronicles the successive migrations of Indians and Europeans to the area from precolonial times through the 1820s. These myriad native groups—Mississippians, Quapaws, Osages, Chickasaws, Caddos, and Cherokees—and the waves of Europeans all competed with one another for control of the region.

Only in the nineteenth century did outsiders initiate a future in which one people would claim exclusive ownership of the mid-continent. After the War of 1812, these settlers came in numbers large enough to overwhelm the region's inhabitants and reject the early patterns of cross-cultural interdependence. As citizens of the United States, they persuaded the federal government to muster its resources on behalf of their dreams of landholding and citizenship.

With keen insight and broad vision, Kathleen DuVal retells the story of Indian and European contact in a more complex and, ultimately, more satisfactory way.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: Early American Studies

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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List of Illustrations

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pp. ix

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pp. 1-12

In the summer of 1673, a Quapaw Indian spotted two canoes full of Frenchmen descending the broad, brown waterway that Algonquian speakers named the Mississippi, the “Big River.”When the people of Kappa, the northernmost Quapaw town, heard the news, they prepared to welcome the newcomers. Several Quapaws paddled their own canoes into the river, and ...

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Chapter 1. A Bordered Land

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pp. 13-28

The Arkansas River begins in the West, high up in the Rocky Mountains. For hundreds of miles, it crosses dry plains and prairies, now the states of Kansas and north-central Oklahoma. In the central Arkansas Valley, the channel narrows to cut between the blue-green Boston Range of the Ozark Mountains and the rolling green Ouachita Mountains, now eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas. Finally, in the marshy lower Arkansas Valley, smaller creeks and ox-bow lakes ...

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Chapter 2. Hosting Strangers

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pp. 29-62

On a sunny morning in late June 1541, the town of Pacaha was bustling. In fields outside the town walls, women used their imported stone hoes to weed and break up the ground around the new corn and bean shoots, while other Pacahans collected the rabbits caught in the snares dispersed throughout the cornfields. A canal brought water from the nearby Mississippi River to the moat that surrounded Pacaha on three sides, 100 feet ...

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Chapter 3. Negotiators of a New Land

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pp. 63-102

In 1998, near the mouth of the Arkansas River, archaeologists found the remains of a multicultural society, probably the late seventeenth and eighteenth-century Quapaw town of Osotouy. They found evidence of the town’s ties to other peoples regionally and beyond the Atlantic. Pottery shards remain from vessels made locally by Quapaws, across the Mississippi in Natchez country, and in New Spain, France, Italy, and England. Mixed ...

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Chapter 4. An Empire in the West

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pp. 103-127

The Quapaws were not the only people living near the Mississippi River who maximized their own French trade at the expense of their enemies to the west. In 1719, the year of La Harpe’s only successful visit to the central Arkansas Valley, the Osage Indians enthusiastically welcomed trader Claude Charles Du Tisné and his interpreter into their towns on the Osage River, north of the Arkansas. As with the Quapaws, the Osages’ welcoming ...

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Chapter 5. New Alliances

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pp. 128-163

In 1773, Quapaw leaders told the Spanish commandant of the Arkansas Post that they remained “very irritated at the Osages, because they are not good nor will they ever be.” They pointed out that in the seven months since the Osage-Spanish peace agreement in St. Louis, the Osages had already robbed three hunting parties on the Arkansas River. The Quapaws had two problems. First, the Osages threatened to undermine Quapaw power. ...

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Chapter 6. Better at Making Peace Than War

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pp. 164-195

In 1790, a group of Delaware Indians arrived on foot at the French settlement of Ste. Geneviève, on the Mississippi River between St. Louis and the Arkansas Post. They carried their saddles, vividly demonstrating that an Osage band had stolen their horses.Many Indians and Europeans were suffering from Osage violence. The Delawares, Shawnees, Miamis, Illinois, Abenakis, Chickasaws, and Choctaws—beginning to hunt and settle in ...

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Chapter 7. A New Order

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pp. 196-226

Between the 1790s and 1820, some 5,000 settlers crossed the Mississippi to build farms and ranches along the Arkansas River between the Quapaw and Arkansas Osage towns and to hunt deer, bear, and buffalo for profit on Osage lands upriver. Beginning in the 1810s, these settlers engaged the Arkansas Osages in a bloody decade-long war, simultaneously waging a political battle to convince the United States government to view the Osages ...

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Chapter 8. The End of the Native Ground?

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pp. 227-244

Initially, Cherokees had little difficulty representing themselves as more “civilized” than their white neighbors. In contrast to Cherokee Chief Thomas Graves’s neatly tended domestic animals, white settlers practiced traditional backwoods husbandry, setting pigs out to range and hunting them like game. In 1805, John Treat reported to the secretary of war that some white families grew wheat to sell but did not bother to rotate crops or ...

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pp. 245-248

In Andrew Jackson’s annual message to Congress in 1830, the president reflected on the continent’s Mississippian past. According to Jackson, “in the monuments and fortresses of an unknown people, spread over the extensive regions of the West, we behold the memorials of a once powerful race, which was exterminated or has disappeared to make room for the existing savage tribes.” He concluded that, because the “savage tribes” of the ...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. 249


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pp. 251-305


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pp. 307-317

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pp. 319-320

I am grateful for helpful suggestions and encouragement all along the way. Alan Taylor and Daniel Richter read the manuscript more times than I had any right to ask. Colin Calloway, Steven Crum, John DuVal, Kay DuVal, Evan Haefli, Karen Halttunen, Bob Lockhart, Andr

E-ISBN-13: 9780812201826
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812219395

Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Early American Studies