The Great Plains As A Middle Ground

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Kathleen DuVal, professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, contests long held beliefs about the historiography of native people and their place in America with her work, The Native Ground: Indians and Colonists in the Heart of the Continent. DuVal’s insightful book focuses on the Arkansas River Valley and the diverse group of both native groups and European powers that contented over the physical landscape, its resources, and the perception of control and power. The premise of Native is to show that native groups such as the Quapaws, Osage, and the Cherokee had the upper hand in almost every aspect from their economy, military might, and physical presence up until the 1800s. DuVal boldly begins in the introduction by calling into question the concept of the Great Plains as a “middle ground” proposed by historian Richard White. This concept treats the interactions of the Europeans and the natives as an amalgamation of different accommodations with no group gaining significant ground. More importantly the concept of a middle ground is predicated on the natives wanting to compromise or be assimilated into Western culture. DuVal’s book shows that this idea of the region is simply not true because of the heavy dominance of the natives. DuVal uses the term “native ground” in place of middle ground to emphasize the point that all groups roaming the Arkansas River Valley believed to be the true natives of the region. This narrative employed by the natives, and then later the Europeans, helped establish legitimacy and cement power among other groups. DuVal’s first subjects are the chiefdom tribes along the Mississippi River and the Spanish Empire. This section of the book really shows the swing the native t... ... middle of paper ... ...ts causing mayhem. Vu Dal surprise readers by show how Osage view other tribes as savage, a term normal used by Europeans. The strategic placement of the Osage as being most civilized of the regional tribe was a huge advantage among the Europeans who valued such things. Native Ground is a groundbreaking study that tries to establish a new framework to view colonial history. I feel that Du Vul does a wonderful job creating a successful argument of how the idea of a middle ground is just not valid when the Indians had such a large sphere of influence. In the end native groups would still fall to encroachment by Americans that did not understand or respect their way of life. Unfortunately, even with this new framework the outcome is still the same, the destruction of powerful culture and proud people by a group that know perceives itself a the native people.

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