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Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early Americaby Daniel K. Richter
Synopses & Reviews
In the beginning, North America was Indian country. But only in the beginning. After the opening act of the great national drama, Native Americans yielded to the westward rush of European settlers.
Or so the story usually goes. Yet, for three centuries after Columbus, Native people controlled most of eastern North America and profoundly shaped its destiny. In Facing East from Indian Country, Daniel K. Richter keeps Native people center-stage throughout the story of the origins of the United States.
Viewed from Indian country, the sixteenth century was an era in which Native people discovered Europeans and struggled to make sense of a new world. Well into the seventeenth century, the most profound challenges to Indian life came less from the arrival of a relative handful of European colonists than from the biological, economic, and environmental forces the newcomers unleashed. Drawing upon their own traditions, Indian communities reinvented themselves and carved out a place in a world dominated by transatlantic European empires. In 1776, however, when some of Britain's colonists rebelled against that imperial world, they overturned the system that had made Euro-American and Native coexistence possible. Eastern North America only ceased to be an Indian country because the revolutionaries denied the continent's first peoples a place in the nation they were creating.
In rediscovering early America as Indian country, Richter employs the historian's craft to challenge cherished assumptions about times and places we thought we knew well, revealing Native American experiences at the core of the nation's birth and identity.
In the beginning, North America was Indian country. But only in the beginning. After the opening act of the great national drama, Native Americans yielded to the westward rush of European settlers. Or so the story usually goes. Yet, for three centuries after Columbus, Native people controlled most of eastern North America and profoundly shaped its destiny. In Facing East from Indian Country, Daniel K. Richter keeps Native people center-stage throughout the story of the origins of the United States.
In Frontier Seaport, Catherine Cangany looks at the economy, culture, and politics of colonial Detroit to better understand its coexistence in both the Atlantic world and the frontier. Although Detroitandrsquo;s frontier associations have been well documented, Cangany argues that Detroitandrsquo;s Atlantic connections were thoroughly established by the mid-eighteenth century andndash; despite the settlementandrsquo;s 650-mile separation from the east coast andndash; and rivaled those of more cosmopolitan spaces. Drawing on business records, customs and port papers, personal and commercial correspondence, visual images, and much else, Cangany demonstrates that Detroitandrsquo;s positioning as a successful yet remote fur-trading center in fact hastened its economic and cultural incorporation into the broader Atlantic world. Located at the heart of the Great Lakes, inhabited and fought over by three world powers, and within easy reach of furs and fur-suppliers, Detroit occupied a geographically desirable and financially profitable niche in the fur trade. This position in turn made it prone to regular influxes of eastern merchants and other transplants, who brought with them their transatlantic commercial networks and their desire for and access to popular culture and merchandise. By considering andldquo;frontierandrdquo; and andldquo;Atlanticandrdquo; together, and by parsing Detroitandrsquo;s political, commercial, and cultural ties to each, Canganyforces a reimagining of early America and its relationship with empire.
Detroitand#8217;s industrial health has long been crucial to the American economy. Todayand#8217;s troubles notwithstanding, Detroit has experienced multiple periods of prosperity, particularly in the second half of the eighteenth century, when the city was the center of the thriving fur trade. Its proximity to the West as well as its access to the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River positioned this new metropolis at the intersection of the fur-rich frontier and the Atlantic trade routes.
Inand#160;Frontier Seaport, Catherine Cangany details this seldom-discussed chapter of Detroitand#8217;s history. She argues that by the time of the American Revolution, Detroit functioned much like a coastal town as a result of the prosperous fur trade, serving as a critical link in a commercial chain that stretched all the way to Russia and Chinaand#151;thus opening Detroitand#8217;s shores for eastern merchants and other transplants. This influx of newcomers brought its own transatlantic networks and fed residentsand#8217; desires for popular culture and manufactured merchandise. Detroit began to be both a frontier town and seaport cityand#151;a mixed identity, Cangany argues, that hindered it from becoming a thoroughly and#147;Americanand#8221; metropolis.
Finalist, 2002 Pulitzer Prize for History
About the Author
Daniel K. Richter is Roy F. and Jeannette P. Nichols Professor of American History and the Richard S. Dunn Director of the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.
University of Pennsylvania
Table of Contents
Prologue: Early America as Indian Country
1. Imagining a Distant New World
Epilogue: Eulogy from Indian Country
A Technical Note
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History and Social Science » Native American » General Native American Studies