- Native Americans in the Susquehanna River Valley, Past and Present ed. by David J. Minderhout, and: In the Shadow of Kinzua: The Seneca Nation of Indians since World War II by Laurence Marc Hauptman
The history of Native American presence within the northeastern section of the United States is both rich and troublesome. For while the tribes who have resided in this area played an integral role in the early years of this nation, most have encountered tremendous pressures as they faced a way of life not of their choosing. Yet, the Native American story in this region is one of resilience—from weathering internal factions to responding to external resistance. [End Page 381]
In the inaugural work of the Stories of the Susquehanna Valley series, editor David Minderhout employs the contributions of experts from a variety of disciplines to chronologically portray the fact that Native Americans have through perseverance continually remained a presence in Pennsylvania and, more specifically, on the Susquehanna River from prehistoric times through today. This approach is designed both to inform the general reader and to refute the erroneous claim, still found in books, that indigenous peoples no longer populated this state after the eighteenth century.
From the first chapter that discusses the prehistory of Native Americans in the Susquehanna River Valley through the afterword by Ann Dapice, herself both a scholar and member of the Lenape and Cherokee nations, this volume identifies and explains the external forces encountered by the Susquehannocks and Lenapes as they strove to maintain a presence on their native lands. One of the biggest factors that dictated the manner in which the Pennsylvania natives altered their lifestyles was the incursion upon their lands by colonists as well as the disruptive aftermath of the French and Indian War. Whether it was the fraudulent sale of lands to the Pennsylvania government, the lack of immunity to newly introduced diseases, the strength of the antinative sentiment, or the use of blood quantum, Minderhout expertly establishes that the native peoples of the Susquehanna River have constantly withstood difficulties created by outside forces by reinventing the manner in which they have subsisted.
Additionally, this volume demonstrates how the rise and fall of the Iroquois Confederacy harmed the long-term interests of the Susquehannocks and Lenapes. In fact, the Iroquois compelled the Susquehannocks to move farther south in Pennsylvania and Maryland, took the key diplomatic role in all negotiations with the government of Pennsylvania, and sold land that rightfully belonged to the Lenapes. However, in no short measure, the Lenapes were to a certain extent responsible for the difficulties that arose because of their early habit of retreating and compromising in the face of aggression. This naturally led the colonists to push farther west and the Iroquois to become more assertive in Pennsylvania Indian affairs. As a result, the Lenapes were continually adjusting to dictates given to them by both the Iroquois Confederacy and the Pennsylvania government.
Donald Repsher’s essay particularly demonstrates how their long-standing custom of hospitality and avoidance of warfare when conceivable rendered the Lenapes susceptible to assimilation as well as intermarriage. This intermingling of bloodlines from other tribes as well as white people permitted the Lenape to remain on their ancestral lands but with a less distinctive identity, [End Page 382] fueling oftentimes the intentional impression among prejudiced whites that Native Americans no longer existed in Pennsylvania.
Similar to Minderhout’s work, In the Shadow of Kinzua provides a history of a northeastern Native American tribe that has persevered in spite of all the issues it has encountered. Laurence Hauptman chooses to focus his attention on the Seneca Indians and their tribulations in post–World War II America instead of providing an overall history of the Seneca Nation. Rather convincingly, the author argues that the construction of...