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The Indians' New South Cultural Change in the Colonial Southeast ByJames AxteU Louisiana State University Press, 1997 119 pp. Cloth, $22.95; paper, $9.95 Reviewed by TIm Alan Garrison, assistant professor of history at Portland State University. The Indians' New South is a compUation ofJames AxteU's lectures for the Walter Lynwood Fleming series in southern history at Louisiana State University. Whüe AxteU does not consider himselfa southern historian, his essays on ethnohistory and his articles and monographs about the inteUectual and spiritual interaction between Native Americans and Europeans have certainly influenced the thinking of students of southeastern Indians and the colonial South. In this brief work, AxteU synthesizes the recent scholarship from several disciplines into a succinct and Uvely survey of the early relations between Europeans and Indians in the Southeast. He centers this history around die dieme ofnative cultural persistence. "I seek to show," he promises, "that whüe its native population shrank and its native cultures changed in many remarkable ways in the three hundred years between 1492 and 1792, both the natives themselves and the colonial Southeast remained unmistakably 'Indian' throughout." AxteU demonstrates that Native Americans tenaciously clung to their culture in the face of die European onslaught. Rather than simply rejecting European civiUzation out of hand though, southeastern people selected specific items and ideas from the foreign culture and refashioned diem to suit their own traditional needs. Some native groups in Florida, for example, transformed the maUeable Spanish süver reales into necklaces that were identical to the cult effigy pendants that they had previously constructed ofsheU. AxteU encourages historians ofNative America to direct their energy toward an exploration ofthe cultural continuities that these Indian revisionings oftechnology and knowledge represented. Although persistence is the overarching theme of AxteU's lectures, he recognizes that die predominant story ofthe European entrée was dramatic change for the Indian. Perhaps the greatest source of that change, beyond epidemic disease, was the development and maturation of the deerskin trade. AxteU writes, howReviews 89 ever, that "the trade's major impact on the Indians resulted not from the end of the trade—die goods themselves—but from the means used to acquire them." He points out that the fur trade introduced a new economic worldview to Indians that encouraged debt and material accumulation; rearranged intertribal diplomatic relations; and spawned a new class of bicultural Indians capable of serving as conduits between the European and Indian worlds. Rather than accept economic and poHtical subjugation, AxteU reminds his readers, Native Americans controUed their destinies by playing the European colonies and imperial governments off against each other. Some readers may conclude that AxteU teUs us more about Europeans than he does about Indians in this book. For instance, whüe the lectures examine the message and methods ofChristian evangeHsm, the southeastern Indians' spiritual world receives only minimal consideration. AxteU, however, does suggest diat the appearance of Europeans and Africans required the Indian worldview to "expand to incorporate and account for these strangers and the geographies and cultures from which they came." This "major adjustment" perhaps ended die Indians ' "ethnocentric sense ofuniqueness at the navel ofthe universe." "Ifit [did] not reduce their sense of superiority," he adds, "it certainly compHcate[d] it by introducing disturbing intimations of cultural relativism." Unfortunately, AxteU does not expand upon this intriguing point. Ifhe had, he might have added to our understanding of what changed and what remained constant in the Indian mind during the colonial period. The thesis and subordinate themes of AxteU's lectures are aU farnüiar to historians of the Native Southeast. The real accompHshment of this work is that AxteU has woven the scholarship of the last quarter-century into an engaging précis ofEuropean-Indian relations in the Southeast. The title ofthe work, for example, is a tribute toJames MerreU's The Indians' New World; and almost every page and footnote is a reminder ofthe many scholars who are fleshing out a relatively new territory in American historiography. In sum, speciaHsts in Native American history wiU not find anydiing new in The Indians'New South. Instructors ofcourses in southern history and culture, however, may find it a useful supplement to their...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 89-90
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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