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  • The Borderland of Fear: Vincennes, Prophetstown, and the Invasion of the Miami Homeland by Patrick Bottiger
  • Julie Richter (bio)
The Borderland of Fear: Vincennes, Prophetstown, and the Invasion of the Miami Homeland patrick bottiger Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2016 270 pp.

In his preface, Patrick Bottiger notes that his reading of a wide range of primary sources—personal letters, newspaper reports, treaties, and diplomatic correspondence—led to his decision to shift his project from a study of the diverse groups of Indians who lived at Prophetstown to a focus on the story of the Miami homeland in order to understand what it meant "for Prophetstown to exist in Miami country" (xiv). In addition, Bottiger argues that it is essential to focus on the words that the various peoples used because each of the groups in the western Ohio Valley manipulated words and spread rumors in hopes of gaining an advantage over its rivals.

Bottiger's methodology is multilayered. He asserts that the "fight for Prophetstown cannot be understood simply by looking at American expansion or Indian nativism. By looking east, this book brings together multiple historical narratives—Miami, imperial, national, community, nativist, and republican—to comprehend how various communities used violence to protect their sovereign interests" (xiv). Bottiger's decision to narrow his focus to the community level enables him to use microhistory to produce a nuanced, multilayered analysis of the contention in Miami territory, one that adds complexity to the narrative of life in this region in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The addition of borderlands analysis broadens Bottiger's scope to the "ways in which fear and violence reshaped the western Ohio Valley during the early 1800s" (6).

When Americans migrated to the land that became the Indiana territory in the early nineteenth century, these settlers entered a region that the Miami peoples had controlled for almost one hundred years. The Miami homeland, along the Wabash and Maumee Rivers, placed this tribe in an advantageous location. Miamis established Kekionga (present-day Fort Wayne), the key trading post along the portage between the Maumee and Wabash. In this position, the Miami came into contact with all trade missions from Detroit and Pennsylvania.

Traders sought to barter and exchange goods with this group of people. [End Page 620] The Miami concentrated on agricultural production, in particular corn, and gained an advantage over tribes that depended on the fur trade. Both friends and enemies needed food and this fact made it possible for the Miami to bolster their position in the region and to maintain their cultural practices. As the main producers of corn, Miami women had an influential role in trade and diplomacy.

The Miami were not the only people who wanted to control this land. By the 1740s, both the English and French hoped to expand throughout the Ohio River Valley, even though the Miami "demonstrated their regional autonomy and influence" (21). The Miami used their position to play the French and British against each other, a sign, in Bottiger's opinion, of "Miami identity and sovereignty" in the region (25). During the second half of the eighteenth century, increased militarization became part of the Miami identity as they used violence as a diplomatic tool.

After Americans won their independence from Great Britain, the westward migration of Americans pushed many Indian tribes from their home-lands and some of these peoples settled among the Miami in the hopes of receiving protection. Although the Miami incorporated displaced Indians, they did so to benefit their tribe. While the Miami became more vocal after the Revolution, Bottiger tells us that the Miamis rarely "operated as a singular political entity" and that they "fostered a regional atmosphere of fear and violence to protect their settlements, trade interests, and diplomatic reach" (5). US officials worried about the increased strength of the Miami as well as the greater amount of violence in the region.

The worry manifested itself in three campaigns against the Miami in the 1790s: the losses suffered by Joseph Harmer (1790) and Arthur St. Clair (1791), followed by the 1794 victory of Anthony Wayne in the Battle of Fallen Timbers. Bottiger notes that the Treaty of Greenville...


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pp. 620-624
Launched on MUSE
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