Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

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

Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

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

Article excerpt

American Indians in the Lower Mississippi Valley: Social and Economic Histories. By Daniel H. Usner, Jr. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998. Pp. xiv, 189. Introduction, preface, acknowledgments, illustrations, maps, notes, table, index. $45.00.)

Seven years ago Daniel H. Usner, Jr.'s first book, Indians, Settlers, and Slaves in a Frontier Exchange Economy: The Lower Mississippi Valley before 1783 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992), proposed a new concept for colonial and frontier America that he called "the frontier exchange economy." In his new book, Usner presents several essays on the subject of the frontier exchange economy as well as essays on the Natchez Indians, Indians in nineteenth-century New Orleans, lower Mississippi Valley population history, and images of Mississippi Valley Indians in the nineteenth century.

Usner's original article on frontier exchange, which first appeared in the William and Mary Quarterly in April 1987, is re-published here and presents a synopsis of the concept. In two other essays, Usner examines frontier exchange in the early nineteenth century in Mississippi and Louisiana. The frontier exchange economy was "a network of social and economic relations" established by the Indians of the lower Mississippi Valley, European settlers, and African slaves. Like the New Western historians, Usner defines the term "frontier" to denote a zone of cross-cultural interaction rather than as a border separating peoples. From this perspective, Usner looks at trade from a direction opposite to that of the world-systems approach. "Small-scale, face-to-face marketing in North American colonial regions must be taken as seriously as the more impersonal forces of transatlantic commerce if we are to understand how peoples of different cultures related to and influenced one another in daily life," Usner argues (p. 57).

Like many European colonies in North America, Louisiana had to depend on Indian foodstuffs to maintain itself. In fact, trading for food continued to sustain Arkansas Post into the nineteenth century. The trade in foodstuffs laid the foundation for the frontier exchange economy in the eighteenth century. Frontier exchange then expanded into deerskins with Indian hunters and processors and French middlemen and merchant-exporters. …

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