Indigenous Prosperity and American Conquest: Indian Women of the Ohio River Valley, 1690-1792, by Susan Sleeper-Smith, recovers the agrarian village world Indian women created in the lush lands of the Ohio Valley.
Algonquian-speaking Indians living in a crescent of towns along the Wabash tributary of the Ohio were able to evade and survive the Iroquois onslaught of the seventeenth century, to absorb French traders and Indigenous refugees, to export peltry, and to harvest riparian, wetland, and terrestrial resources of every description and breathtaking richness. These prosperous Native communities frustrated French and British imperial designs, controlled the Ohio Valley, and confederated when faced with the challenge of American invasion.
By the late eighteenth century, Montreal silversmiths were sending their best work to Wabash Indian villages, Ohio Indian women were setting the fashions for Indigenous clothing, and European visitors were marveling at the sturdy homes and generous hospitality of trading entrepôts such as Miamitown. Confederacy, agrarian abundance, and nascent urbanity were, however, both too much and not enough. Kentucky settlers and American leaders—like George Washington and Henry Knox—coveted Indian lands and targeted the Indian women who worked them. Americans took women and children hostage to coerce male warriors to come to the treaty table to cede their homelands. Appalachian squatters, aspiring land barons, and ambitious generals invaded this settled agrarian world, burned crops, looted towns, and erased evidence of Ohio Indian achievement. This book restores the Ohio River valley as Native space.
Susan Sleeper-Smith will be interviewed by Jesse Dukes, Audio Producer for WBEZ Chicago and author of the interactive website, Without Native Americans, Would We Have Chicago as We Know It?. Following their conversation, Sleeper-Smith will sign copies of her book, which will be available for purchase.
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Susan Sleeper-Smith is professor of history at Michigan State University. She is author of Indian Women and French Men: Rethinking Cultural Encounter in the Western Great Lakes and editor or co-editor of several essay volumes, including Rethinking the Fur Trade: Cultures of Exchange in an Atlantic World, Contesting Knowledge: Museums and Indigenous Perspectives, and New Faces of the Fur Trade.
Jesse Dukes is WBEZ Chicago’s Curious City Audio Producer. Curious City answers questions about Chicago, the region, and its people. He works with contributors as well as reporting stories for the project. Before WBEZ, Jesse was an independent writer and radio producer based in Virginia. He worked with the public radio program Backstory and occasionally led student trips to Tanzania for the University of Virginia as well as hiking, kayaking, and canoeing trips in Maine.