In Wilderness Empire, Allen W. Eckert has given a sweeping and thorough look into the lives of key decision makers and the pivotal events leading up to and including the French and Indian War. Through Eckert’s educated insight, the reader is able to enjoy a look into a distant way of life made edifying through his portrayal of historical figures. Following the lives of William Johnson and his friend Tiyanoga, a powerful leader of The Six Nations, the reader is able to better understand a way of life that has long since been eradicated. Eckert provides portraits of the Ottawa warrior Pontiac and various French and English political leaders of this period. The reader recognizes and enjoys the appearance of a young George Washington and Ben Franklin.
Eckert records the early life of the characters William Johnson and Pontiac. Through this glimpse of such different and simple beginnings, the reader has a better understanding of the scale of change that took place during this time in history. Johnson, born a poor Irish Catholic, is given the opportunity to come to the colonies where he became a wealthy land owner and a successful businessman. Johnson, who was known among the Indian tribes as a man of clear sight and honesty, developed a deep relationship with Tiyanoga, a principal chief among the Mohawks. Through this bond with Tiyanoga, Johnson gained knowledge of native culture that gave him strong political influence with the Indian League of Nations, also called the Iroquois League or The Six Nations. As Pontiac grew to manhood in a culture that is foreign to most modern readers, he became a formidable leader among his people as the Ottawa war chief.
Wilderness Empire chronicles the relationship of the Iroquois League with the French and the English. As the tensions between the European powers grew, the Indians were courted by emissaries from both countries. The reader is provided with an astute portrayal of the corrupt political systems that were used to both influence and prejudice the Native Americans, even to the extent of conversion of the Indian tribes by the French to a bastardized version of the Catholic faith. With this perspective, readers are offered an understanding of the strength of the Native American people as a warring force in this conflict. The English and the French both knew that they would be defeated if their political opponents could win the support of the tribes.