La Harpe's Post: A Tale of French-Wichita Contact on the Eastern Plains

La Harpe's Post: A Tale of French-Wichita Contact on the Eastern Plains

La Harpe's Post: A Tale of French-Wichita Contact on the Eastern Plains

La Harpe's Post: A Tale of French-Wichita Contact on the Eastern Plains


"This contribution to contact period studies points to the Lasley Vore site in modern Oklahoma, 13 miles south of Tulsa along the Arkansas River, as the most likely first meeting place of Plains Indians and Europeans more than 300 years ago. Odell presents a full account of the presumed location of the Tawakoni village visited by Jean-Baptiste Benard, Sieur de la Harpe about 1718, as revealed through the analysis of excavated materials by nine specialist collaborators. In a well-written narrative report, employing careful study and innovative analysis supported by appendixes containing the excavation data, Odell combines documentary history and archaeological evidence to pinpoint the probable site of the first European contact with North American Plains Indians." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


This book contains two stories. The first is a tale of the earliest European, as far as we know, to set foot on the soil of eastern Oklahoma. Although much has been made of this event, the Europeans did not stay long, members of that party never returned, and the close relationships between peoples promised during those days never came to pass. In fact, the event is considerably more important for the information it imparted about the indigenous native inhabitants than for any lasting cultural contact.

The second story is a modern archaeological tale relating how stories like the first one are verified and embellished. It began through an archaeological salvage project, one of thousands conducted yearly in the United States to capture a modicum of information about our history before it is forever destroyed by road graders, backhoes, and belly loaders. It remained a salvage project through the fieldwork and initial inventory, but if it had retained this status subsequently, we would probably not be hearing about it now, because, by its very nature, salvage archaeology rarely involves in-depth analysis once an excavation is terminated. It took time and an academic institution for the analyses reported in this book to be completed—or even contemplated, for that matter.

If I just told the contact story, it would amount to a nice, clean narrative, but it would impart little about how we know what we know. So the reader would be unable to evaluate the narrative because he or she would not be sure what evidence it was based on, and I would remain unfulfilled because the process of figuring out the answers to historical questions defines why I do archaeology in the first place. In essence, the archaeological story enlightens the historical one, which explains why the two narratives will be interwoven in the pages that follow.

I will employ the investigation of one locale to elucidate the general history of the eastern Plains during the early eighteenth century, a story that I find extremely compelling. In telling this story I will be going beyond the scope of an ordinary site report, which any account based primarily on one limited geographic location must, by definition, be. I think this subject is of great interest not only to professional archaeologists and historians but . . .

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