- Enduring Nations: Native Americans in the Midwest
In spite of the numerous midwestern people, places, and events in Native American history, the indigenous past and present of the Midwest have not received the same measure of scholarly attention devoted to Indians in the American West. For many midwestern citizens and scholars alike, Native influence in the region seemed to vanish with the early-nineteenth-century erosion of what Richard White called the "middle ground," a transcultural network of fluid relationships between Algonquian Indians and European empires in the Great Lakes region, where neither Natives nor newcomers could impose their will upon the other. In the collective American memory, a nuanced understanding of this history has been largely supplanted by caricatures, and individuals such as Pontiac, Tecumseh, and Black Hawk are more familiar as place-names than as historical figures.
As R. David Edmunds explains in his introduction to Enduring Nations: Native Americans in the Midwest, notwithstanding the presence of nearly 250,000 Indians in the Midwest today, the residents of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan frequently cast Native peoples as inconsequential vestiges of a quaint past. "Most residents of Ohio, Indiana, or Illinois," Edmunds further asserts, "are unaware of the Indian people living in their midst or that these people and their forebears played a major role in the history of the region and the American nation" (1). The organizing principle of this much-needed volume is a desire to restore the Indians of the Midwest to a place of influence in regional history.
Although Donald L. Fixico's An Anthology of Western Great Lakes Indian [End Page 111] History (1987) and Helen Hornbeck Tanner's Atlas of Great Lakes Indian History (1987) have proven to be useful resources for scholars in the field, in the more than twenty years since their publication few works beyond White's The Middle Ground (1991) have attempted to clearly illuminate a distinctively midwestern Indian experience. To remedy this problem, Enduring Nations assembles the work of twelve scholars who have made significant contributions to the study of American Indian history in the western Great Lakes region. The resulting collection of essays provides an entry point into a wide and diverse field of study.
In the opening chapter Alan G. Shackelford discusses the ways in which numerous pre-Columbian societies in the American Bottom floodplain adapted to and manipulated their environment. While the settlement at Cahokia may not have been as populous as previously thought, Shackelford underscores its expansive influence in terms of trade networks. According to Shackelford, "ironically, the same factors of environment and geography that earlier had drawn Illinois tribespeople to the Confluence Region also made it attractive to French settlers" (30). As Lucy Eldersveld Murphy demonstrates in her essay, the same can be said of the British and American settlers drawn to the lead-mining regions of Illinois and Wisconsin where Sauk, Meskwaki, and Ho-Chunk women had been collecting and trading lead for thousands of years. Murphy shows that in an unusual twist Anglo male "lead rushers" took over the roles of Indian women in mining and farming.
Increasing Anglo immigration brought heightening tensions between Natives and lead rushers, which ultimately led to the forced removal of Indians from the Old Northwest. This displacement is usually overshadowed by the events connected with the Trail of Tears in the Southeast. Several essays in this collection redress this neglect. Thomas Burnell Colbert analyzes Keokuk's diplomatic and accommodationist response to Anglo encroachment upon the Sauk and Meskwaki, recovering a strong counterpoint to the better-known militaristic strategies of Black Hawk. Stephen Warren, Bradley J. Birzer, Susan Sleeper-Smith, and Gregory Evans Dowd assess the ways in which individuals and communities responded to removal attempts. Collectively, they conclude that rumor, accommodation with the federal government, alliance with Quaker missionaries, the adoption of yeoman agriculture, and the acquisition of private fee-simple lands as personal reservations all characterized the era of Indian removal in the Midwest.
While the editor has chosen to devote minimal attention to the...