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  • The Native South: New Histories and Enduring Legacies ed. by Tim Alan Garrison and Greg O'Brien
  • Steven J. Peach (bio)
The Native South: New Histories and Enduring Legacies. Edited by Tim Alan Garrison and Greg O'Brien. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2017. Pp. xx, 279. $60.00 cloth; $30.00 paper; $60.00 e-book)

The Native South: New Histories and Enduring Legacies examines the state of southern Indian history and honors the two scholars who shaped it into a mature field of inquiry, Theda Perdue and her late husband, Michael D. Green. The volume includes original essays from thirteen of the former doctoral students of Perdue and Green, including the volume's editors, Tim Alan Garrison and Greg O'Brien. Moving forward in time from the early eighteenth century to today, Native South examines how southern Indians adapted to Euro-American invasion, diseases, and settlement. In addition to chronological breadth, the collection includes numerous themes. Some essays offer a fresh take on Indian removal, intertribal diplomacy, and European-Indian encounters. Others probe new topics altogether, including southern Indian feminism in the 1970s. No matter the focus, each piece bears the imprint of Perdue and Green. During an interview that O'Brien conducted with his retired advisors in 2012, Theda remarked that "Mike and I have had the great good fortune to see our legacy while we're still living" (p. 31). That [End Page 373] legacy is their students.

Taking their cue from Perdue and Green, the contributors to Native South employ the ethnohistorical method. It draws upon historical records, archaeological evidence, oral traditions, and indigenous language materials to study the cultures, worldviews, and concerns of indigenous people over time. Ethnohistory first emerged in the mid-1950s when Indians and their non-Indian allies sued the federal government to reclaim lands stolen by white Americans since the nineteenth century. By the 1970s, as Perdue indicated to O'Brien during the interview, the Civil Rights and Red Power Movements prompted white academics to replace "white man's history" with ethnohistory, which put Native people front and center (p. 13). Consequently, the essays in Native South examine the history of indigenous southerners and demonstrate that these peoples creatively blended elements of white American culture with those of traditional culture to address disease, war, land loss, and other factors resulting from Euro-American colonization.

Native South challenges popular assumptions about the southern Indians. David A. Nichols reminds us that Indians "had no more innate inclination for violence than their European contemporaries" (p. 33). Nevertheless, the Chickasaws used that stereotype to their advantage. According to Nichols, the eighteenth-century Chickasaws used their fearsome military power as a source of "capital" to secure trade goods from Europeans and preserve influence in the South (p. 37). In the same vein, Tim Alan Garrison uproots the popular notion that Cherokee removal was inevitable. Studying newspapers and legislative votes from southern states that overwhelmingly favored removal, such as Georgia, he excavates a forceful, if small, opposition to removal by white southern jurists and lawmakers. Unfortunately, white southern opposition to removal was "weak, unorganized, and poorly led" (p. 121).

Many contributors insert southern Indian women into the larger drama of nineteenth-century U.S. history. Rose Stremlau interprets the letters of Barbara Longknife, a Cherokee who migrated to California [End Page 374] with her immediate family in 1850. A participant in the Gold Rush, Longknife helped formed a "nascent Cherokee diaspora community" in California (p. 175). Like the white American men who left the Northeast to pan for gold in the Sacramento valley, Longknife seized new economic opportunities but struggled to accumulate wealth. Similar to Stremlau, Malinda Maynor Lowery demonstrates that Chickasaw women in the mid-to-late 1800s made American capitalism their own. To that end, they leveraged their position in the influential Colbert matrilineage to pave new avenues to wealth and, more broadly, to empower Chickasaw sovereignty.

In Indian Territory, which became the state of Oklahoma in 1907, women of the Cherokee Nation asserted their social and political influence. Focusing on Cherokee jurisprudence, Julie L. Reed argues that the Cherokee Nation balanced the U.S. legal principle of retributive justice with the...


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