Indigenous Prosperity and American Conquest
Indian Women of the Ohio River Valley, 1690-1792
Omonundro Institute and the UNC Press 2018
New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Gender StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Native American StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in the American WestNew Books Network July 26, 2018 Stephen Hausmann
Historians have gotten the story of the colonial Ohio River Valley all wrong, argues Susan Sleeper-Smith in Indigenous Prosperity and American Conquest: Indian Women of the Ohio River Valley, 1690-1792 (Omonundro Institute and the University of North Carolina Press, 2018). Sleeper-Smith, a Professor of History at Michigan State University and soon-to-be Interim Director of the D’arcy McNickle Center at the Newberry Library, reads colonial sources against the grain and uses material culture to demonstrate how the Great Lakes region was a prosperous multicultural zone characterized by trade and agriculture well into the eighteenth century. Moreover, women played a central (and heretofore under-appreciated) role in the fur trade and agricultural work that made the Ohio River Valley such a fertile and bountiful region. Indigenous societies such as the Miami, Wea, and Shawnee have often been characterized as living primarily off hunting and suffering through ever-increasing reliance on fur trading and geopolitical chaos wrought by adjacent colonial empires. Sleeper-Smith instead paints a picture of primarily agricultural towns defined by their stability up until the years of American conquest and displacement. Indigenous Prosperity and American Conquest is a much needed counterweight to narratives about the early American west which have for decades gone largely unquestioned.
Stephen Hausmann is a doctoral candidate at Temple University and Visiting Instructor of history at the University of Pittsburgh. He is currently writing his dissertation, a history of race and the environment in the Black Hills and surrounding northern plains region of South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana.