An Infinity of Nations: How the Native New World Shaped Early North America

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Overview

An Infinity of Nations explores the formation and development of a Native New World in North America. Until the middle of the nineteenth century, indigenous peoples controlled the vast majority of the continent while European colonies of the Atlantic World were largely confined to the eastern seaboard. To be sure, Native North America experienced far-reaching and radical change following contact with the peoples, things, and ideas that flowed inland following the creation of European colonies on North American soil. Most of the continent's indigenous peoples, however, were not conquered, assimilated, or even socially incorporated into the settlements and political regimes of this Atlantic New World. Instead, Native peoples forged a New World of their own. This history, the evolution of a distinctly Native New World, is a foundational story that remains largely untold in histories of early America.

Through imaginative use of both Native language and European documents, historian Michael Witgen recreates the world of the indigenous peoples who ruled the western interior of North America. The Anishinaabe and Dakota peoples of the Great Lakes and Northern Great Plains dominated the politics and political economy of these interconnected regions, which were pivotal to the fur trade and the emergent world economy. Moving between cycles of alliance and competition, and between peace and violence, the Anishinaabeg and Dakota carved out a place for Native peoples in modern North America, ensuring not only that they would survive as independent and distinct Native peoples but also that they would be a part of the new community of nations who made the New World.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2012

"Witgen implores readers to reimagine native peoples as agents of their own destiny well into the nineteenth century. As such, An Infinity of Nations invites scholars to reconsider crucial tenets of early American history."—Journal of American History

"An important and original history, An Infinity of Nations should lead ethnohistorians to reinterrogate other North American regions for indigenous categories of social and political organization that may have been more important, and more fluid, than Europeans understood."—Ethnohistory

"An Infinity of Nations is a bold and altogether original examination of Indian-European relations, indigenous social formation, and European imperialism. Though centered on the western Great Lakes and northwestern interior in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, the book travels far and wide geographically, chronologically, and thematically—to Iroquoia in the East, Hudson Bay in the North, the prairie-plains in the West, and Ohio Country in the South. Witgen also reaches deep into the past to place the events of the late 1600s in a long historical context of evolving indigenous North America, and he takes the story into the early nineteenth century, showing how, as it expanded westward, the United States collided with a long-evolving and fully formed indigenous world. A sophisticated study of a different kind of colonial world where kinship ties, mediation, small gestures, and right words signified and brought power."—Pekka Hämäläinen, author of The Comanche Empire

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812243659
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press
  • Publication date: 12/13/2011
  • Series: Early American Studies Series
  • Pages: 456
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Witgen teaches history and American culture at the University of Michigan.

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Table of Contents

Prologue: The Long Invisibility of the Native New World

PART I. DISCOVERY
Chapter 1. Place and Belonging in Native North America
Chapter 2. The Rituals of Possession and the Problems of Nation

PART II. THE NEW WORLD
Chapter 3. The Rebirth of Native Power and Identity
Chapter 4. European Interlopers and the Politics of the Native New World

PART III. THE ILLUSION OF EMPIRE
Chapter 5. An Anishinaabe Warrior's World
Chapter 6. The Great Peace and Unraveling Alliances
PART IV. SOVEREIGNTY: THE MAKING OF NORTH AMERICA'S NEW NATIONS
Chapter 7. The Counterfactual History of Indian Assimilation
Epilogue: Louis Riel, Native Founding Father

Glossary of Native Terms
Notes
Index
Acknowledgments

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