Most scholars would agree that the frontier was a violent place. But only recently have academics begun to examine the extent to which frontier settlers used violence as a way to empower themselves and to protect their interests. Moreover, when historians do talk about violence, they typically frame it as the by-product of American nationalism and expansion. For them, violence is the logical result of the American nation state’s dispossessing American Indians of their lands. Perhaps one of the most striking representations of the violent transition from frontier to nation state is that of Indiana Territory’s contested spaces.
While many scholars see this violence as the logical conclusion to Anglo-American expansionist aims, I argue that marginalized French, Miamis, and even American communities created a frontier atmosphere conducive to violence (such as that at the Battle of Tippecanoe) as a means to empower their own agendas. Rather than a moment of defeat for the French and Miamis, the violence at Tippecanoe was in fact the culmination of years of manipulating regional diplomacy. The French and Miamis watched in horror as their borderland began collapsing in 1787 as American settlement ushered in a period of chaos and violence. Rather than simply abandon their ethnic interests and familial obligations, the French and Miamis chose to rework, shape, and use the violence that was becoming increasingly uncontrollable and endemic to the region.