Los Angeles Times
The history engages us fully. . . . The remarkable texturing of the historic period and the description of responses by early Americans and their leaders . . . set Calloway's book apart.
Leslie Marmon Silko
Fascinating, comprehensive and passionate.
In placing the Shawnee "center stage," Calloway (editor of the Penguin Library of American Indian History and Dartmouth Native American studies chair) achieves a remarkably accessible distillation of Shawnee history. He guides the reader through a thicket of wandering as the Shawnees' forced movement scatters them from the Ohio Valley during the late 17th century, before they reassembled in Ohio in the mid-18th century, and then gathered again in Oklahoma in the 19th century. "The Shawnees stand out as hard liners when it came to defending Native lands, Native rights, and Native ways of life," says Calloway. Indeed, their history is a cycle of killings and revenge killings, battles and massacres by both sides, swallowing up those who made accommodations (Black Hoof and the model farm at Wapakoneta) as well as those who resisted (the legendary brothers, Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh). Daniel Boone, who "played a key role in destroying the Shawnees' world in Kentucky," is part of that history, as is General Amherst, who advocated using germ warfare. The treks and treaties are not always easy reading, but Calloway's text is enlivened with judicious first-person excerpts and his passion for his subject. His heart is with the Shawnees, but he writes with balance of the fateful "meeting of the cultures on the frontiers." (July)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
"We have always been the frontier," a Shawnee leader remarked three centuries ago. This survey shows just how true that statement was. Writes Calloway (History/Dartmouth; The Scratch of a Pen: 1763 and the Transformation of North America, 2006, etc.), the Shawnees proved to be the primary, and most substantial, obstacle to the settlement of Kentucky and the Ohio Valley, for which, following the Revolution, the American nation hungered. For a quarter-century after independence, the Americans faced an enemy with many advantages, logistical and strategic. "Never again would Indians face Americans on such nearly equal terms as they did here," Calloway observes. "Never again would Indians win victories of the magnitude they did here." The Shawnee people organized themselves politically to respond to tasks, with two of the five divisions devoting themselves to politics, the others to medicine, religion and warfare; this fluent, semi-autonomous governance made for swift action, coupled with the Shawnees' talent for forming alliances with other Indian peoples. So it was that in the early 1800s, Tecumseh and his brother Tenskwatawa forged a confederacy of very different partners, making a highly effective army from nearly 30 tribes pledged to fighting white expansion and resisting white ways. This armed struggle, Calloway notes, began under British rule, when the Shawnees were played against the French and their Indian allies in the Seven Years War; for the most part it ended with the British defeat in the War of 1812. In between came savage battles against Blue Jacket, Tenskwatawa, Tecumseh and other Shawnee leaders, most of which ended with grudging respect for the Indian enemy-especiallyTecumseh, whose "character, charisma and courage made him a heroic figure in Canada and Europe as well as the United States." Heroic leadership or no, the Shawnees were eventually broken, removed to reservations in Oklahoma and Kansas as their woodland dominion fell to ax and plow. An illuminating overview of Shawnee-white relations.