Iroquois Diplomacy on the Early American Frontier: The Penguin Library of American Indian History

Overview

A vividly drawn portrait of the powerful Iroquois nation during colonial America

In the fourth title in The Penguin Library of American Indian History, Timothy J. Shannon tells the story of the most influential Native American confederacy of the colonial era. The Iroquois occupied a strategic region between Canada and New York and engaged in active trade and diplomacy with their colonial Dutch, French, and British neighbors. While they were famous as fierce warriors, it was ...

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Iroquois Diplomacy on the Early American Frontier

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Overview

A vividly drawn portrait of the powerful Iroquois nation during colonial America

In the fourth title in The Penguin Library of American Indian History, Timothy J. Shannon tells the story of the most influential Native American confederacy of the colonial era. The Iroquois occupied a strategic region between Canada and New York and engaged in active trade and diplomacy with their colonial Dutch, French, and British neighbors. While they were famous as fierce warriors, it was actually their intercultural diplomacy that accounted for the span and endurance of their power in early America.

By carefully maintaining their neutrality in the Anglo-French imperial wars in North America, they were able to claim an unrivaled influence in colonial America at a time when other Indian nations experienced dispossession and dispersal. Europeans who wanted to remain in the good graces of the Iroquois had to learn the ceremonies and the use of sacred objects that their diplomacy entailed. Shannon's portrayal contradicts the notion of the “noble savage,” showing just how politically savvy—and at times treacherous—the Iroquois Nation was in the face of colonialism.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In this scholarly examination of Iroquois diplomacy through the 17th and 18th centuries, historian Shannon rejects the depiction of the Iroquois as "noble savages" and "fierce warriors" during the colonization of North America. Instead, he posits, "They were flesh and blood participants in a scramble for dominion in North America, and diplomacy was their tool of choice." By maintaining official neutrality during the colonial wars, the Iroquois became key interlocutors in the New World-their diplomatic language and rituals became the lingua franca of New World multicultural deal making. Shannon credits the Iroquois strategy of diplomacy and "occasional subterfuge" with securing their survival as a political entity, pointing out, "Other Indians might have fought bravely against the European invaders, but only the Iroquois created a confederacy that was capable of withstanding the juggernaut of colonialization for so long." Shannon meticulously chronicles Iroquois political maneuvering, and although many readers will find the highly technical account tedious, true aficionados of Native American history will relish this serious and sympathetic account of the Iroquois' skilled, if ultimately doomed, diplomacy. (July)

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Library Journal

This fourth volume in "The Penguin Library of American Indian History" focuses on the Iroquois Confederacy, whose influence on the colonial frontier has often been credited to its military prowess. Shannon (history, Gettysburg Coll.; Indians and Colonists at the Crossroads of Empire: The Albany Congress of 1754) explores the confederacy's diplomatic history to demonstrate that much of the Iroquois's power derived from the ability of the confederacy member nations to deftly capitalize on the French and British colonial rivalry by means of negotiations with both parties that strengthened the confederacy militarily and economically. The defeat of France in the French and Indian War began the decline of the power wielded by the Iroquois, as they lost the ability to play the interests of one European country against those of the other. Their sovereignty was also adversely affected as they were suddenly dependent solely on the British to provide them with goods, which the Iroquois needed for both subsistence and trade. Written for the lay reader, this excellent monograph is highly recommended for public and undergraduate libraries.
—John Burch

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Timothy J. Shannon is an associate professor of history at Gettysburg College. He is the author of Indians and the Colonists at the Crossroads of Empire as well as numerous scholarly articles.

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Table of Contents

Prologue: Four Kings And A Queen 1

1 Peace in the Balance 11

2 Linking Arms 47

3 "The Method of Doing Business" 78

4 Paths and Chains 103

5 Partners in Empire 134

6 New Nations 170

Epilogue: John Norton's American Frontier 210

Acknowledgments 215

Abbreviations 217

Notes 219

Index 247

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