tv Native Americans and Europeans in the Great Lakes Region CSPAN August 28, 2016 9:42am-9:58am EDT
sleeper-smith at the annual meeting of the organization of american historians in providence, rhode island. this is nearly 15 minutes. host: when did europeans first migrate to the great lakes region? professor sleeper-smith: this come in 1640's, 1660's and at the same time indians are moving out of the ohio river valley in an attempt to access trade goods where european traders are coming in. that's generally green bay. >> which europeans are we talking about? professor sleeper-smith: primarily the french. the british will come later in the 18th century. host: this is about more than exploration. this is about business? professor sleeper-smith: yes, it's kind of a complex but interesting way to think about it.
if you think about the early landscape in the united states as being a landscape of not just a series of indian villages, but a series of indian villages often combined as con federal or even some indian nations becoming empires, all of the entire transcontinental united states is combined by trade networks. before europeans even arrive in the great lakes, european trade routes preceded them. they stretch from the west coast through the center of the nation, the southwest, the north are exchanging trade goods. european trade goods become incorporated in that existing network. host: how did the native american transcribes in the area respond to the arrival of the
french? professor sleeper-smith: very welcoming. most french traders began to come in the 1660's after radisson comes into the great lakes. basically most of the traders are french. they come from montréal and québec. they bring goods with tremendous high state us value and also have tremendous utilitarian value. initially, most of the trade is in iron goods, trade that are pots, vessels that women would primarily use, digging sticks that make cultivation of grain crops much easier. as many of those goods become saturated in the great lakes, what was initially the fur trade
turns into what becomes a cloth trade. and so most of the products that would come into the great lakes from the end of the 17th century to the end of the 18th century will be cloth. the indians become involved in almost a fur trade that is a clothing trade. it transforms into it by the 1720's, 1730's, really evolves almost into a silver trade. europe begins manufacturing goods for the indian trade, and that includes as the trade becomes more established, even becomes what you would call a luxury trade. so, you see incredible numbers of silversmiths moving into the great lakes, creating items for the indian trade. host: which indian tribes were
in this area? who are we talking about? professor sleeper-smith: in the ohio river valley, much of that center portion of the ohio river valley, much of that is miami land. but along the wabash and the miami rivers, you find a huge group of very diverse people. so, for instance -- originally a french post on the wabash, you can find several groups, kickapoo, you are going to find miami. as we move toward the center -- and these are fairly well-established towns. these are 5,000, 6,000 people. these are not scattered indian villages. they are united by the trade. you are going to find shawnee. you are going to find delaware.
they have moved from pennsylvania into the ohio river valley. you are going to find mohawk who have come down from iroquois land. you are going to find seneca people. you're going to find even people from virginia who have moved into the ohio river valley. host: did the european men marry into any of these indian tribes? professor sleeper-smith: yes. for most of the fur trade, it would be very difficult for them to trade. they had no understanding of indian languages. and initially women act as cultural mediators during the 17th century. by the 18th century, much of that becomes intermarriage. so you find frenchmen intermarrying into indian communities. they are not really removing those women from the indian communities. it would be useless.
indians trade based on kinship alliances. so, trade is not something we think of in 20th century terms. it is embedded in villages. it is embedded in kin networks. there, women become a very crucial component. they not only act on the trade. they are involved in the exchange process. bringing an indian trader into a household unit becomes very important. it brings prestige to the household unit. it brings them access to trade goods. simultaneously, it gives a trader access to a woman's kin network as trading partners. host: so were marriages more business arrangements than love matches? professor sleeper-smith: i don't think there were any love matches and the 17th and 18th century.
i think that romantic connotation of marriage was -- will take root primaries in an anglo society. it's not to say it is not romantic relationships between people, but to a great extent in indian communities, marriage had this companionate -- but it is often not romantic. if women, because they are the agriculturalists, they are the people who are responsible for a major portion of the diet. so frenchmen that marry in have in a sense can devote all of their efforts to trading. women become the agriculturists. they become involved in the trade. it gives women power and authority they did not have before. many of these marriages are long-lasting.
so, it is not just a trading process where everyone comes for the trade and i will be here for five years and then i'm going to disappear. yes, there were traders that do that and those are advantageous relationships to those communities. but we also find that many of these frenchmen actually never return to quebec or montreal, that many of these marriages go on 20, 30, 40 years. you can trace them back to the registers the jesuits kept in the great lakes. host: what happened to the children of these matches? did they become part of the tribes? professor sleeper-smith: yes and no. some children who are born to french traders and indian women become part of the french trading community that has indians living in that community. others simply disappear and become part of the indigenous society. it is difficult to trace them.
they often do not appear in baptismal registers. the ones that tend to become linguistically skilled become translators, being mediators, those become listed in baptismal registers. host: i understand george washington figures in the story. professor sleeper-smith: yes, he does. by the mid-18th century, the fur trade in the ohio river valley had become very prosperous. it was evident in indian dress. it also had an incredibly large population. so, you would have places with 5,000 or 6,000 people. you might have miami town with 7,000 or 8,000 people. you might have places near the river and you might have clusters of shawnee, delaware
villages there who have 3,000 or 4,000 people. what becomes incredibly apparent is when washington comes into power and you have a new constitution that payment of the debt -- in other words, hamilton creates the national debt -- to pay off the debt, you have to have access to indian lands. in order to obtain indian lands, you have to negotiate those lands in treaties. north of the ohio river valley, indians will not come to the treaty table. they do not have much intention of moving. they do not have much intention of giving away their lands or trading them for goods. so for washington during that first administration when the
nation has a very large debt, it is linked to land sales. if indians will not come to the treaty table, you have to do something about that. washington initially sends in one of the first generals in the u.s. army. he is defeated at miamitown by a very early northwestern panindian confederacy. that completely and periods that infuriates george washington that he orders the kentucky militia to lead a raid against agrarian villages in the wabash river valley and that raid results in the united states capturing initially about 50 women and children. a second raid of another 41
women and children. those women and children are then held at fort washington, which is today cincinnati until the indians will come to the treaty table to negotiate away their land. so there is violence and force that comes in and in many ways disrupts these communities. harmer that comes in with washington's express orders, charles scott who comes in with the kentucky militia, these people burn indian towns and you read those reports and they are describing those villages. people who "lived in a state of civilization," who live in log cabins, whose cornfields stretch for miles along the river. it's a very different view of indian society than we normally
have. host: one last question for you. was this essentially the end of the fur trade? professor sleeper-smith: no, the fur trade goes on. it allows the indians to persist in the ohio river valley until late into the 19th century. it transforms from what was originally a european-based fur trade to a fur trade that switches from the peltry of beaver and otter and these type of animals to a black raccoon trade. that is one reason why the miami remained and able to persist. there continued to be a market for furs. host: thank you very much. professor sleeper-smith: you're welcome. >> american history tv airs on
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oregon has so many special places, for example haystack rock, where my wife and i were married is a treasure to us. from the standpoint of parks, i mention crate lake national park. this is a real treasure and it's enjoyed by not just people from the united states but all over the world. it is 14 years older than the park service itself. and the water is absolutely incomparable. it's just surrounded by spectacular recreation and wilderness. other. a place lieke no the solitude, for example, is something that is treasured by all. in fact, a couple years ago there was an effort to fly helicopters over crater lake and