Rich Indians: Native People and the Problem of Wealth in American History

Synopsis

Long before lucrative tribal casinos sparked controversy, Native Americans amassed other wealth that provoked intense debate about the desirability, morality, and compatibility of Indian and non-Indian economic practices. Skillfully blending social, cultural, and economic history, Alexandra Harmon examines seven such instances of Indian affluence and the dilemmas they presented both for Native Americans and for Euro-Americans--dilemmas rooted in the colonial origins of the modern American economy. This wide-ranging book looks at controversies concerning Powhatan economic status and aims during the Virginia colony's first years, the ambitions of some bicultural eighteenth-century Creeks and Mohawks, prospering Indians of the Southeast in the early 1800s, inequality among removed tribes during the Gilded Age, the spending of oil-rich Osages in the Roaring Twenties, resurgent tribal communities from Alaska to Maine in the 1970s, and casinos that have drawn gamblers to Indian country across the United States since the 1990s. Harmon's study not only compels us to look beyond stereotypes of greedy whites and impoverished Indians, but also convincingly demonstrates that Indians deserve a prominent place in American economic history and in the history of American ideas through the twentieth century. Long before lucrative tribal casinos sparked controversy, Native Americans amassed other wealth that provoked intense debate about the desirability, morality, and compatibility of Indian and non-Indian economic practices. Skillfully blending social, cultural, and economic history, Alexandra Harmon examines seven such instances of Indian affluence and the dilemmas they presented both for Native Americans and for Euro-Americans--dilemmas rooted in the colonial origins of the modern American economy. This wide-ranging book looks at controversies concerning Powhatan economic status and aims during the Virginia colony's first years, the ambitions of some bicultural eighteenth-century Creeks and Mohawks, prospering Indians of the Southeast in the early 1800s, inequality among removed tribes during the Gilded Age, the spending of oil-rich Osages in the Roaring Twenties, resurgent tribal communities from Alaska to Maine in the 1970s, and casinos that have drawn gamblers to Indian country across the United States since the 1990s. Harmon's study not only compels us to look beyond stereotypes of greedy whites and impoverished Indians, but also convincingly demonstrates that Indians deserve a prominent place in American economic history and in the history of American ideas through the twentieth century.