The Bringing of Wonder: Trade and the Indians of the Southeast, 1700-1783

The Bringing of Wonder: Trade and the Indians of the Southeast, 1700-1783

The Bringing of Wonder: Trade and the Indians of the Southeast, 1700-1783

The Bringing of Wonder: Trade and the Indians of the Southeast, 1700-1783

Synopsis

In the relations between colonial European traders and the Indians of the southern backcountry, trade was a powerful manipulative tool used by both sides in their attempts to control each other. This anthropological and sociological study examines how European traders sought out native women as cultural instructors, translators, and sexual companions. The network of native women, fur traders, and colonial diplomats functioned as an invisible social, political, and economic web throughout the backcountry. Although this web was an integral part of the colonial struggle for the region, it is often overlooked or ignored in conventional histories.

Excerpt

The introduction of manufactured trade items into the southern backcountry altered every aspect of Native American life. in particular, the trade drastically changed the lives of native women, but such change is difficult to document because of the lack of written records. in Many Tender Ties, Sylvia Van Kirk was able to document a process of cultural adaption by women in the Northeast in response to the presence of trade and Euroamerican men. These women, through liaisons with frontier men, transmitted the cultural information vital to the success of the Indian traders and later Indian agents. While they taught tribal language and customs, women absorbed elements of Euroamerican culture such as private ownership, literacy, materialism and pastoral farming. Native women adopted these new ideas at a pace related to the success they brought in everyday living and dealing with foreign encroachment. Thus, metal utensils and weapons were easier to absorb than concepts of Western government and religion.

Van Kirk was quite fortunate in her research to draw upon the records of proselytizing religious orders operating in the Northeast as well as records of large trading companies like the Hudson Bay Company and the North West Company. Similar documentation in the Southeast is much scarcer. No large scale company operated within the backcountry; instead a small, nearly invisible army of private traders worked the area, supplied by both public and private trading firms. Further . . .

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