American Indians in the Lower Mississippi Valley: Social and Economic Histories

American Indians in the Lower Mississippi Valley: Social and Economic Histories

American Indians in the Lower Mississippi Valley: Social and Economic Histories

American Indians in the Lower Mississippi Valley: Social and Economic Histories

Synopsis

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Native peoples inhabiting the Lower Mississippi Valley confronted increasing domination by colonial powers, disastrous reductions in population, and the threat of being marginalized by a new cotton economy. Their strategies of resistance and adaptation to these changes are brought to light in this perceptive study.

An introductory overview of the historiography of Native peoples in the early Southeast examines how the study of Native-colonial relations has changed over the last century. Daniel H. Usner Jr. reevaluates the Natchez Indians' ill-fated relations with the French and the cultural effects of Native population losses from disease and warfare during the eighteenth century. Usner next examines in detail the social and economic relations the Native peoples forged in the face of colonial domination and demographic decline, and he reveals how Natives adapted to the cotton economy, which displaced their familiar social and economic networks of interaction with outsiders. Finally, Usner offers an intriguing excursion into cultural criticism, assessing the effects of popular images of Natives from this region.

Excerpt

From the Natchez chiefdom and the emergent Choctaw confederacy to the “petite nations” of the Gulf Coast, the Indians of the Lower Mississippi Valley demonstrate a remarkable and not well understood diversity in social and economic organization, population, and political and military powerDaniel Usner’s theory of a “frontier exchange economy,” developed in an earlier book, works well for bringing some order to this history. Enmeshed in the French empire by the end of the seventeenth century, the Indians of present Mississippi and Louisiana created ways to profit from and defend against the imperial presence. Usner’s perspective, primarily social and economic, permits an examination of the coping strategies of southern Mississippi Valley Indians that emphasizes their attempts to preserve and maintain control, to influence their destinies, and to survive. Agency, an interpretive focus well adapted to an ethnohistorical methodology, thus becomes visible and conducive to scholarly explanation. Usner, well recognized as a leading student of Lower Mississippi Valley Native history, excels in analyzing the nuances of agency. This collection of essays both fills gaps and presents a coherent picture that extends to nineteenth-century New Orleans, explores the vitally important problems of regional demographic change, and vigorously addresses the problems of the historiography of southern Indian history. We are thus proud to present American Indians in the Lower Mississippi Valley: Social and Economic Histories as the most recent addition to the Indians of the Southeast series.

Theda Perdue

Michael D. Green . . .

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