Colonial America stretched from Quebec to Buenos Aires and from the Atlantic littoral to the Pacific coast. Although European settlers laid claim to territories they called New Spain, New England, and New France, the reality of living in those spaces had little to do with European kingdoms. Instead, the New World's holdings took their form and shape from the Indian territories they inhabited. These contested spaces throughout the western hemisphere were not unclaimed lands waiting to be conquered and populated but a single vast space, occupied by native communities and defined by the meeting, mingling, and clashing of peoples, creating societies unlike any that the world had seen before.
Contested Spaces of Early America brings together some of the most distinguished historians in the field to view colonial America on the largest possible scale. Lavishly illustrated with maps, Native art, and color plates, the twelve chapters span the southern reaches of New Spain through Mexico and Navajo Country to the Dakotas and Upper Canada, and the early Indian civilizations to the ruins of the nineteenth-century West. At the heart of this volume is a search for a human geography of colonial relations: Contested Spaces of Early America aims to rid the historical landscape of imperial cores, frontier peripheries, and modern national borders to redefine the way scholars imagine colonial America.
Contributors: Matthew Babcock, Ned Blackhawk, Chantal Cramaussel, Brian DeLay, Elizabeth Fenn, Allan Greer, Pekka Hämäläinen, Raúl José Mandrini, Cynthia Radding, Birgit Brander Rasmussen, Alan Taylor, and Samuel Truett.
About the Author
Juliana Barr is Associate Professor of History at Duke University and author of Peace Came in the Form of a Woman: Indians and Spaniards in the Texas Borderlands. Edward Countryman is University Distinguished Professor at Southern Methodist University and author of several books, including The American Revolution, Americans: A Collision of Histories, and most recently Enjoy the Same Liberty: Black Americans and the Revolutionary Era.
Read an Excerpt
Maps and Spaces, Paths to Connect, and Lines to Divide
Juliana Barr and Edward Countryman
"In the last decades of the twentieth century," argued David J. Weber, "American historians discovered America." Scholars of New Spain, New France, and New England began to look toward other colonial regions for connections and comparisons. Ethnohistorians explored the commonalities and contrasts in histories of indigenous people from Peru to Greenland. We cannot speak of "early America" anymore with only the East Coast British colonies, the St. Lawrence River Valley, or Mexico and Peru in mind. The topic has grown vastly larger.
This volume suggests that we should think of "early" or "colonial" America on the largest possible scale. In its own historical time, our subject stretched from north of Quebec to south of Buenos Aires and from the Atlantic littoral to the Pacific coast. It needs to stretch just as far in modern understanding. This book brings together scholars and scholarly perspectives from the entirety of that zone around the organizing theme of contested spaces, places throughout the hemisphere where people who had been total strangers met, mingled, and clashed, creating colonial societies unlike any that the world had seen to that time. Our original intention was to honor David Weber's career and achievements upon his retirement, but his death in August 2010 turned this project into a memorial. The book thus has emerged both from Weber's lifework and from a larger turn in the study of early America to which he contributed mightily. David offered a bridge—in scholarship and among scholars—to link together the historic Americas and to see beyond borderlands, borders, and territorial crossings to imagine that history as a hemispheric project. The authors here are based at institutions not just across the United States but also in Canada, Mexico, Argentina, and Great Britain, and we hope that the essays will in some way embody the scope and breadth of David's vision to bring together the histories of early America.
In geographical terms, our writers deal largely but not exclusively with the areas that now compose the U.S. Southwest and the northern parts of Mexico. But their discussions also extend to what now forms Canada; the western, northern, and eastern United States; and Argentina. Our interest is with contestation over places that did not yet bear their modern names, not with any kind of precursor to the modern nation-states whose seemingly timeless boundaries are the main subject of conventional classroom and textbook political maps. For our purposes those nations and their internal divisions into states and provinces do not exist. Instead, a really good map of the colonial situation of the early western hemisphere would show a set of sometimes fluid, sometimes unbending fields of force, all of them dealing with the issue of space. We need not look for such an ideal map. Instead, we can turn to the maps that people who were caught up in colonial interactions generated as they tried to make sense of one another. The potential set of such maps is enormous, and no single map within that set is perfect. But taken together they bring out the theme of contested spaces that is our subject here.
Let's first look at the map that appears on the cover of this book and also in Figure I.1, drawn by the Portuguese adventurer-soldier Antonio Pereira half a century after the first voyage of Christopher Columbus in 1492. Pereira certainly saw America all of a piece, as did most cartographers of his age. His depiction of the western hemisphere as a single extensive landmass is part of an illuminated vellum map of the world in his time. What Pereira showed represented the sum of knowledge gained from Spanish and Portuguese explorers, primarily by sea, and from travel reports, notably regarding the Amazon River, and that information dates the map almost precisely to the year 1545. Scattered throughout North, South, and Meso-America appear three Portuguese flags, two flags sporting the French fleur-de-lis, and thirteen Spanish standards—all along the coastlines. To Pereira the vast interior remained unknown and apparently undeveloped, uncontrolled, or simply unpopulated. A caravel carries the Portuguese cross of Christ across to South America, another approaches the Strait of Magellan, and five Spanish ships navigate the Pacific Ocean. This is a space preeminently about Europeans in motion, transforming oceans from barriers into highways, while creating Portuguese and Spanish commercial empires built "literally on water."
Early modern European cartography reflected not just the advancement of knowledge but also the machinations of geopolitics. Geographic information (or sometimes the lack of it) determined the power and fate of nations. The flags and ships of Pereira's map proclaim America to be a world of competing European nations already divvying up rights within the hemisphere, and a blue banner unfurled across North America asserts possession by declaring the land there to be "Nova España." Early modern maps such as Pereira's thus created a landscape for colonialism, both anticipating the territory that vying European nations claimed in America and licensing plans to appropriate, conquer, and colonize. Visualizing a "breathless progression from 'I see' to 'I possess,'" colonial maps were expressions of desire, not reality. The names "New Spain," "New France," and "New England" appeared on maps long before the lands claimed became active zones of European invasion and settlement. European rulers legitimated colonial authority in America through cartography just as they had previously done with state systems in Europe; they used it primarily as a "political discourse concerned with the acquisition and maintenance of power" within national borders and across them. Maps were part and parcel of military intelligence, commercial activity, and territorial and proprietary rights and in America maps were "tools of imperialism as much as guns and warships."
In the hands of rulers, as scholars beginning with the late Brian Harley taught us to understand, such maps gave the illusion of control over distant lands and of powers claimed vis-à-vis other European nations; in the hands of colonizers, they promoted the lands to would-be settlers, proprietors, and investors. Such maps were not accurate, mirrorlike representations of objective reality. They were intensely political documents, boasts of power that were open to contestation and that could not be definitively enforced, despite all the might of the distant monarchs whose American dominions they purported to depict. Looked at carefully, they reveal tension and dispute, rather than settlement. One dimension of such dispute pitted European claimants against one another in a paper war of differently colored spaces and supposed borderlines. But other dimensions also are present, if we look. One such dimension involves all the Europeans, taken as a group despite their differences in language, religion, culture, and politics, vis-à-vis all Natives, also taken as a group, despite differences that dwarf the ones that separated Europeans. Another dimension takes those differences into account, showing how different sorts of Native people and different sorts of invaders cooperated in some situations and clashed in others.
A key quality in colonial-era European and later Euro-American maps of America was the attempted erasure of indigenous populations from the land and its history, viewing American space in purely European terms. Maps charted voyages of "discovery" in an "age of exploration" in which Europeans moved across spaces, and the land and sea became surfaces for European action. Such spatial narratives reduced Indian places, people, and cultures to "phenomena on this surface." They appeared as if always in one place, unbounded from one another yet simultaneously unconnected to one another. Their lands seemingly had no borders, and their towns and communities no names. They were not in movement—Europeans were—and, in that immobilization, Indians were denied their own trajectories, histories, and "potential for their own, perhaps different, futures."
The story of these cartographic landscapes is one of beginnings, the first acts in "the one and only narrative it is possible to tell." Just as in maps of Europe itself, political priorities imposed a silence on subject populations (or soon-to-be subject populations). Promotional visions flattened out the American landscapes that European readers and observers sought to possess into ones that were comfortably safe, familiar, and homogeneous. In its inventions of "New Spain," "New France," "New Netherlands," and "New England," and its "engulfing [of Indians] with blank spaces," cartography anachronistically rewrote historical spaces as "new" European creations while simultaneously denying the presence and the past of America's indigenous populations.
But none of the European maps could fully repress the large reality that Native people possessed the land, knowing it, using it, understanding it, and either ruling it or remembering how it had been entirely theirs. The British scholar G. Malcolm Lewis taught students of early American maps to recognize that much of what those maps depicted actually was Native knowledge that Europeans were appropriating, rather than the result of direct European exploration. Barbara Mundy demonstrates that both Nahua knowledge and Nahua spatial and cultural understanding underpinned the map of Tenochtitlan (published in Germany in 1524) that Hernán Cortés sent back to the King of Spain. John Smith showed on the first map that he drew of Virginia (1612) precisely where what Smith had seen gave way to what the people of the land they knew as Tsenacommacah had taught him. In 1673 Illinois Indians told the French Jesuit missionary Jacques Marquette, in effect, that if he ascended the Missouri and Platte rivers he could portage to the upper Colorado and descend it to the Pacific Ocean.
Giving the lie completely to European claims, Indians, too, charted their visions of America via the borders, experiences, and histories that gave meaning to the spaces they inhabited. Using written, carved, and narrative forms to represent the world as they saw it, Indians located themselves in celestial, cosmographic, and terrestrial terms. The landscape itself carried inscriptions of Indian history and identity. Indigenous maps and place-names give linguistic, cognitive, and visual testimony to the communities and cultures that created those sites through their material practices, claimed and developed them economically and politically, and defended them in diplomacy and war. Rock-art cartography found throughout North America provides carved and painted narratives of the pre-Columbian landscape. The oldest North American cartographic representation is found in southeastern Missouri. There, a Mississippian map at Commerce Quarry combines a meandering line representing the Mississippi River with interconnected dotted lines (thoroughfares) and dotted clusters and glyphs (towns and surrounding settlements). Other rock-art panels marked the extensive borders of the Cahokia polity, centered near the point where the Missouri River joins the Mississippi. For the people they served, such maps carried multiple functions. They provided guides to routes, signposts, trespass warnings, markers of conquest, and signs of territorial possession. For modern scholars, surviving Native maps present historical and political storyboards.
In contrast to European cartography that made Indians stationary in place and across time, Indian maps tell of old spaces, as deeply layered with history, movement, and meaning as any in Europe, spaces where empires and communities sat on the sites of previous ones. Native communities offer just as rich a story as the contemporaneous rise and fall of cultures, communities, and empires in Europe, Africa, and Asia. Some American landscapes were highly urbanized. The city-state of Tenochtitlan, so coveted and then conquered by Hernán Cortés, dwarfed Madrid and equaled Rome or Constantinople with its monumental sculpture and architecture, temples, palaces, marketplaces, suburbs, and roads radiating out in all directions. But prior to Tenochtitlan there had been Teotihuacan, and before Teotihuacan there had been other rich cultures and empires. With a total mileage of more than fourteen thousand miles, the Peruvian highway system offered eloquent testimony to "the scale and precision of Inca geographic conceptions" and the imperial control needed to "keep track of their wide-flung possessions." Distance markers, roadside shelters, and storehouses—all spaced at regular intervals along the roads—gave further evidence of the vision and authority behind the roads' operation.
In comparison to the more readily recognized Indian cities of South and Meso-America, metropolis building north of the Rio Grande until recently fell victim to a scholarly tendency to set "a glass ceiling on ancient Native American history." Consider the monumental earthen structures of the Mississippi and Ohio valleys. A "myth of the mound builders" long denied that Native American peoples had built them. Now, we understand that people north of the Rio Grande created many paramount chiefdoms that sometimes amounted to city-states. The largest and most notable was Cahokia, but it did not stand alone. It seems quite likely that Cahokia's power and influence lingered in the knowledge and memories of Indians some three hundred years after its fall; the site of Quivira to which El Turco sought to guide Francisco Vásquez de Coronado in all probability was Cahokia. Meanwhile, Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon—as well as the two subsequent ceremonial cities at Aztec Ruins and Paquimé that followed—operated as a capital where a ruling class of Chacoans built canonical and monumental structures to incorporate elite residence and governance (for and by rulers, bureaucrats, and palace functionaries exercising authority over the entire region), warehouses, craft workshops, public and private ritual sites, guardrooms, and barracks. Commercial, geographical, political, and imperial markers filled and defined pre-Columbian American space.
Indian mapping traditions did not stop when those spaces became contested by a new round of challenges, this time not among Native peoples but rather from Europeans. Indigenous people in post-Columbian America most often made maps in response to European land claims and disputes, creating images of their territory in order to substantiate their borders and the political and economic integrity those borders represented. Local Peruvian communities adapted "memory mapping" to Spanish boundary marking by walking the course of topographical features and man-made signposts that marked the boundaries of a pueblo de indios, creating cartographic art that visualized the routes and recorded Native place-names. From early in their encounters with French, Dutch, and English invaders, representatives of the powerful Iroquois Confederacy repeatedly met with colonizer officials to direct the drawing of maps with demarcations for their sovereign borders, first showing the land as they understood it and eventually using the cartographic methods of Europeans to protect their territories from incursive English settlers. Indian communities dealing with New England methods of land acquisition not only incorporated their own graphic and written representations into land deeds but also used them to define by their own traditions the rights granted their European neighbors within and across territorial boundaries. In these ways, Indians often adapted their own mapping images to European idioms in order to attain their political ambitions and secure their lands.
In some instances we can see European and Native views in direct conflict. By the early eighteenth century European cartographers such as the Frenchman Guillaume de L'Isle and the Englishman Henry Popple had enough information to create reasonably accurate maps of much of North America, bar the northwest quadrant, which (to Europeans at least) remained "unknown." Both cartographers used bold lines, large typefaces, and, in some iterations, splashes of color to indicate European claims of authority and possession across very large areas. But neither de L'Isle nor Popple could deny who really possessed most of the land: the names of many Native communities lie beneath the color washes on their maps.
Still, the fundamental project of both cartographers was to show imperial possession and boundaries in European terms. Native people had other ideas. In 1723 Chickasaw Indians presented to the newly arrived governor of South Carolina, Francis Nicholson, a map drawn on their terms and conceived on an equally large scale. Spatially, their map stretched from East Texas to westernmost New York. They, too, showed geographical features and many peoples, both European and Native. But rather than a mass of tiny names, so small they appear only like a gray wash, the Chickasaw cartographer used two characteristic Native mapping devices. One was representing separate Native communities as circles. The other was to use lines not to indicate boundaries in the European fashion but rather to show paths that connected Native and European peoples to one another in a huge web.
Many staked their claims within the spaces they now shared with Europeans, asserting co-ownership of the land and its communities. Representing the time both before and after European arrival, these images often aimed not so much at convincing European officials as retaining Native memory, inscribing ideology from the past and for the present and future. Perhaps the most famous colonial image from the New World—the 1524 map of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan that was published in Nuremberg to accompany the publication of Hernán Cortés's letters—reveals a Native hand at the center of its design. Ethnographic analysis shows the map to be far closer to an Aztec idea of the city as a "cosmic linchpin, a place where the human world brushed up against the divine" rather than to the European idealization of the conquered metropolis enriching Spanish coffers. Others, like the Peruvian Felipe Guamán Poma de Ayala, encoded their maps with protest. Guamán Poma de Ayala's 1613 mapa mundi of the Indies, drawn for King Philip III, conveyed a polemic for Native viewers against the imposition of Spanish rule, using the geometrical grid of the Andean universe to show the superior nobility of the Inca over the Spanish Crown.
Meanwhile, across Mexico, cartographic reports commissioned by the Spanish government circa 1580 produced maps from sixty-nine Native cities, villages, or provinces within the gobierno de Nueva España. The project had originated with the goal of combining the reports into a representational whole in visualizing the implementation of Spanish rule via new programs of land and resource use and constructing a national identity for New Spain, as one of the many separate kingdoms possessed by the Spanish Crown. Instead, the maps preserve cartographic histories of Nahua migrations, communal foundations, alliances, and conquests that had given them their corporate identity as the possessors and managers of specific territory. Indians in the North American Southeast similarly continued to draw maps to plot the social and political relationships among kin, allies, and trading partners on the ground, choosing between continuous or broken lines to register open relations or ones disrupted by war. One archaeologist even used the eighteenth-century maps of Guillaume de L'Isle to explore the origins of the Choctaw polity. In de L'Isle's efforts to map as closely as possible the Native political geography in order to serve French economic and diplomatic aspirations in the Louisiana Valley, he unknowingly imitated Native cartographic "sociograms" in conveying geographic data from Native informants and incorporated into his maps locations reflecting their historical migration legends.
Across a plurality of spaces, post-Columbian maps thereby tell of diverse trajectories of Native resistance, accommodation, and even the expansive power of Indian nations whose territorial power grew rather than diminished in response to a European presence. Independent groups like Iroquois, Apaches, and Comanches in North America and Araucanians and Pampas in South America commanded the attention of officials as they expanded their own boundaries and threatened European ones. Europeans who crossed the Atlantic to conquer, trade, and settle had little choice but to recognize the undeniably sovereign Indian presence. Give Pereira's map another look. At the same time that he proclaimed America was there for the taking, he highlighted the existence of Indian cities and populaces, prominently marking their placement across North America to convey Spanish expectations about Indians throughout America.
Pereira was far from the first or last European to incorporate Indian geographies into his maps. The cartographic knowledge represented by such maps came equally if not more often from Indian informants and guides as it did from European exploration. European narratives and relaciones reported that Indians regularly drew maps at the behest of their foreign visitors. The very oldest extant North American example of such indigenous cartography comes from an Indian known only as Miguel, who was taken captive by Juan de Oñate's expedition out of New Mexico onto the Southern Plains in 1601. He drew the map the following year during interrogations in Mexico City to show indigenous highways, rivers, water sources, and settlements (with power and population denoted by each town's size), and with travel time and distances noted across more than one hundred thousand square miles from Mexico City to the Plains. His Spanish interrogators sought not only geographic data but also information about the region's geopolitics and the economic relations among Indian nations there—knowledge that might serve their colonial designs.
Spanish and French visions of America always included Indians as their policies made Native populations intrinsic to their imperial projects and as knowledge of Indian locations, economies, and politics proved crucial to their colonial success. Samuel de Champlain's map of New France (1632) emphasized the locations of the Indian nations whose political and economic alliances aided the French fur trade and protected the French against the dominant Iroquois Confederacy. Colonial French officials throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries had little choice but to recognize "that the territory of New France was not a physical space so much as a set of relationships that bound the French to their various Indian allies." Indian power to defend their borders—be they geopolitical or socioeconomic—made such information essential to European survival across landscapes they could not claim. Moving through another's land necessitated knowing whose borders you were trespassing and when and where one became safe or endangered because it was an ally's or enemy's territory. For their part, Native people learned not only to keep Europeans out of their homelands, but also to deny the Europeans any real knowledge about such places.
In contrast to the French and Spanish, English maps increasingly became "declaration[s] of exclusion for the Indian occupation of the land," giving visual representation to English legal presumptions of vacuum domicilium that proclaimed forfeit any lands they deemed not properly occupied or "settled" to those who would attach themselves to it in a "civilized" manner. As early as 1616, John Smith expunged all Indian place-names from his map of New England, replacing them with English substitutes before any Englishman had set foot in the region. Following the 1637 Pequot massacre, English officials renamed their destroyed village "New London," redubbed the Pequot River the "Thames," and forbid the use of the older name by any surviving individuals. If and when English maps indicated an Indian presence on the land, they invariably put them beyond a so-called frontier or wilderness demarcation. It can be no coincidence that the English philosopher John Locke once famously wrote that "in the beginning all the world was America," meaning it was almost empty, undeveloped, waiting to be taken.
Accompanying this erasure, the reduction of bounded Indian polities and nations into a single "Indian Country" began to appear on English maps by 1700, along with the first reservations in North America. The same spirit of "dispossession by degrees" continued with the creation of the United States. Anglo-Americans "delineated both material and imagined borders for the nation, and they placed Indian people on the outside." Henry Popple's great map of the British Empire in America did show Native communities, but John Mitchell's 1755 map virtually ignored them and extended East Coast provincial boundary lines beyond the Mississippi River to boot. It would be only in the late nineteenth century that Indians made a significant reappearance on United States maps. At that point, cartography documented the spatial segregation achieved by U.S. colonialism—in the form of reservations that served as a "concentration camp for the containment of dangerous people" and a "reeducation camp" for the remaking of Indians into a subaltern class. Dispossession meant not simply the loss of lands for Indians but also "deplacialization: the systematic destruction of regional landscapes that served as the concrete settings for local culture."
The de L'Isle, Popple, Chickasaw, and Mitchell maps all were public statements, intended to be seen and to have an impact on the understanding of the people who saw them. The contrast between what the anonymous Chickasaw cartographer drew and the work of the other three points to one of the largest issues of spatial contestation in the colonial era. The Europeans were agents of and participants in the Westphalian system of nation-states that had effectively swept feudalism, the notion of a universal church, and the notion of universal empire off the European political map. The actual European colonies were outposts of that system, and the emergence of the United States began that system's full extension into the western hemisphere. But people like Chickasaws and Choctaws were outsiders to that system. They were caught up in the hemisphere-spanning colonial formation, not simply as victims but in many ways as active participants. But their terms of participation were not the same as those of their settler-colonist neighbors. The different Europeans contested with one another over American space within a general framework of understanding, ultimately expressed in law, a framework that they all understood and accepted. Europeans contested with indigenous people not just about land but about the entire framework of possession. The conventional distinction between "state" and "non-state" societies was yet another Euro-American attempt to draw differences. Beginning in the nineteenth century, then, nation-states like Mexico, Brazil, and the United States used mapping surveys and legislation to stamp out traditional Indian land uses and communal landholding whether they be deemed "domestic dependent nations" or peasant villagers within the modern body politic.
It is from Euro-American rather than American Indian cartographic images that there developed the terra cognita so familiar to us and to our students when we visualize the geography of colonial America in textbook and classroom maps: the waters and lands of the western hemisphere covered with the shaded hatch marks and sharply drawn lines of vying European border claims. These renamed, defined, and possessed regions are connected to the world across the Atlantic, from which were coming the people who, supposedly, were the sole makers of early American history. As such maps evolved over time, the lines increased and spread across the continent, and the maps describe how Europeans came to define, use, and control American spaces. We thus have clear origins for the progression from imperial visions of early modern states to the modern national borders of Peru, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, the United States and the many countries in between. We are also left with a specifically plural "Americas," divided into imperial zones that led inexorably to national ones.
The casting of early America as proto-nationalist spaces whose stories are the seedbed for modern nation-states has in turn led us down the garden path to a "hierarchy of geographical spaces"—with different colonial zones ranked as centers or peripheries when judged from European frames of reference across the Atlantic World. The frames make Indians superfluous because within them the historical narrative has only one skewed storyline—that of the processes by which supposedly pristine wilderness became productive space through colonial development and "civilization." We imply the "inevitability of the modern map" and modern states when we "succumb to the temptation to superimpose these lines on earlier historical periods, when they did not yet exist." To attempt to fit the history of America and its indigenous population into the smaller and shorter histories of modern nations is to be teleological, understanding colonial or early America not on its own terms but only in terms of what now has succeeded it. It is as if we were to try to understand the ancient Roman Empire in terms of the modern European Union. It is to let the modern tail wag the historical dog.
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In an effort to reclaim early America from such modern conceptions, the original essays collected here seek to bring together the parallel histories and historiographies of European and Indian spaces created throughout the hemisphere during the "colonial era." The hemispheric perspective of Pereira's that we have discussed is critical to ensuring that Indians "are at the starting point of any analysis of colonization." David J. Weber, to whom this volume is dedicated, was one in a long line of Latin American and Iberian historians calling for hemispheric history, and he made the most persuasive case yet that the Americas do have a common history. Joining Herbert E. Bolton, Silvio Zavala, J. H. Elliott, and others, Weber added a crucial modifier to the call, arguing most persuasively in his last book, Bárbaros, that the Indian population was the defining commonality to European experience, throughout all of colonial America, North, Central, and South, whatever Europeans those Indians encountered. European officialdom might place all Indians—even indios no sometidos ("Indians who had not submitted")—within their rule and polity, but that claim remained a mere boast in most places and cases. Policy flowed from Indian lands to the metropolis as Indian power and authority thwarted or bent imperial goals to their own ends. Rather than imposing firm lines, creoles and Indians created porous boundaries that they crossed regularly in order to trade, live, and marry. In comparisons of New Spain, New England, and New France, scholars "tend to attribute the differences they find primarily to the national characters of European kingdoms," yet "wherever we analyze colonial enterprise in the Americas, we must begin with the realization that Native American societies gave those efforts their essential shape." Put simply, in building new empires and nations on the sites of those that had come before, European societies took their form and shape from the Indian spaces they inhabited (and often shared with them).
Following that lead, we have consciously chosen to define early America as a single unified space defined by indigenous experiences with colonialism. At the heart of this book is a search for a human geography of colonial relations. Our first step is to redefine its space and borders, ridding the historical landscape of imperial cores, Native peripheries, and modern national borders that "obfuscat[e] the colonization and dispossession of Native peoples" as part of the "ideological work performed by national history in a settler state." We shift our gaze from the water and from coastal European perspectives in order to focus on Indian cores within America. This will not merely help us to understand early America equally from an Indian perspective; it also allows us to come to grips with the everyday realities of those long-ago worlds.
The history of American space is an old one, with narrative roots dating back long before European arrivals in the early modern period. Moving away from European cartographic visions frees us to reimagine space not as a surface to be crossed and conquered but rather as the product of interrelations, be they local or global, "a place where people came together to coexist as best they could." Interrelations are by definition plural, and space then is clearly coconstitutive—a "sphere in which distinct trajectories coexist" with "dynamic simultaneity." The space called early America is where we will find the meeting up of multiple stories and histories, brought together by contemporaneous European and Indian journeying, each with their own spaces and geographies.
Bringing our story of America literally down to earth helps us to see how European ventures in America far more often reflected locally driven systems negotiated with Indians rather than metropolitan designs. The reality of colonial spaces thus had little to do with imperial cores in Europe. It is not surprising that recent historiography has produced many geographical metaphors for colonial processes in early America—borderlands, middle grounds, Native grounds—but we can only trace the shifts and evolutions of those spaces once we have restored Indian landscapes, not as static places outside history but as developing within their own history, before and after contact. When we pay more attention to the perspectives of America's Indian inhabitants, it quickly becomes clear that many more borders and borderlands existed than current historiographical discussion allows for, and the borders and borderlands that scholars do recognize often arose as much from indigenous forms of territorial control as from European assertions of authority. Our histories must recognize the sovereignty of Indian nations and that "their claims to sovereignty rest on a simple fact: in one form or another, they were here before Columbus." Most fundamentally, that power was made manifest on the land and within unequivocal borders so that the effects of and responses to colonialism would be "rooted deeply in place."
Nor did colonialism (and the history of contested spaces) end with the creation of new Euro-American nation-states in the nineteenth century. If we are engaged in reversing an image of early America as protonationalist, we might also ask whether America has entered a postcolonial age. Nationalism finally succeeded in breaking apart "colonial America" in historical understanding, but, on the ground, independent Indians maintained sovereign polities (as do many today) and had controlled far more than half the landmass from Canada to Peru until well into the nineteenth century—much of it within the borders claimed by Euro-American nations. In some ways, the American hemisphere may be just as much a colonial space today as it was in 1700, considering as we might the Indian reservations still dotting the maps of Canada and the United States and the continued battles fought by independent Indians in Chiapas and Brazil. The legacy of early America remains with us, as several of the essays will attest, because a sense of place also represents a culling of experience, of "what has accrued—and never stops accruing."
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Part I of the book, "Spaces and Power," is large and conceptual. Its first two essays seek to contribute to a portrait of the colonial era hemisphere's "vernacular landscape." Pekka Hämäläinen poses the problem of how to integrate the overarching and the local, seeking to explore how different power dynamics emanated out from the indigenous interior and spread to the continent's edges where they gave shape and limits to European ambitions. Allan Greer, like Weber, ranges widely in both space and time while zooming in to a tight focus on one specific issue. This is how "Indian" land became "European" land in different colonial situations of French, Spanish, and English usurpation and, in particular, among English colonizers. He asks how their United States and Canadian successors transformed Native land into a marketplace commodity, as opposed to what Native people understood when they "sold" it. Reaching into both the Spanish and French zones, Greer (again like Weber) makes a strong argument against the "black legend" that has led to regarding Spanish practice as inherently more violent than that of the English.
In Part II, "Spaces and Landscapes," Elizabeth Fenn deals with a place that lay at the heart of the North American Native world. Writing about the Mandan villages at the Great Bend of the Missouri River, she poses questions about their long, vital survival amid the transformations that contact with Europeans set loose and about their sudden collapse in the middle of the nineteenth century. She shows that, to understand the tiny point that the Mandans occupied within the vast space of the continental interior, one must understand both their space and their time on a large scale. Cynthia Radding takes on the theme of "creating space" directly. Like Fenn, she examines the rhythm of advance and retreat of different groups' domains. But whereas Fenn tracks the expansion and retraction of Native populations and the spaces they inhabited as they responded to changing contours of the land's resources and the ravages of European disease, Radding explains how Indian communities maintained territorial and ethnic integrity even as the arrival of mines, missions, labor migrations, and Native enslavement led to overlapping Spanish and Indian societies. Writing from the perspective of residents of Buenos Aires and of the Pampas that sprawled to its south, Raúl José Mandrini continues the theme of overlapping societies, in this case based on people who enjoyed great mobility. In his essay the Pampas indigenes south of and surrounding Buenos Aires seem much like people of the Great Plains, except that wild cattle, rather than bison, figured in their lives. Like the people studied by Fenn, Radding, and Greer, they contested the understanding, control, possession, and use of space with invaders who would not go away.
Part III turns from long-lasting and relatively fluid contestation to "Space and Resettlements." Matthew Babcock's essay on Apache reservations under Spanish and Mexican dominion achieves two separate purposes. One is to break with received general notions of Apache people as simply warlike wanderers and hunters. On the contrary, like Mandans, they practiced agriculture, which required that they occupy settled spaces. The other is to complicate the very notion of an "Indian reservation." The Apache settlements that Babcock studies emerged from negotiation, not from imprisonment, and they were bases from which their people often ranged widely in pursuit of their own purposes.
Much farther south, but also reaching into the country that Radding and Babcock consider, Chantal Cramaussel faces directly a theme that runs through many of the other essays: forced labor and outright enslavement. Understanding of American Indian enslavement has increased enormously in recent scholarship. Colonizers practiced it one way or another throughout the hemisphere, parallel in geographical scale if not in outright numbers to the enslavement of Africans for American labor. Spaniards did so despite the supposed prohibition on enslaving Indians legislated as early as the New Laws of 1542. Like African enslavement, Indian bondage took many specific forms, but again like African enslavement, it came to form a pan-American pattern. In particular, Cramaussel brings out Greer's point that Spanish colonizers wanted labor rather than land. Alan Taylor concludes Part III with an examination of contestation among the colonizers, not on the level of imperial conflict but among the "pioneers" and "settlers" who rapidly extended the dominion of the United States westward after the era of independence. Their object was land. Unlike Greer's early colonial New Englanders, who used the discourse of law to dispossess Native people, Taylor's subjects contested with one another, both for land and for the power to define, delimit, and control that land for their own benefit.
The four essays that make up Part IV, "Spaces and Memory," address how contestation moved from "real" or "historical" affairs and events into the realm of memory, and how the memories linger on. Brian DeLay opens this part of the discussion by showing how both long-standing and recent memories persisted in folklore and custom during the nineteenth century in the newly conquered American Southwest. Those memories guided people who were facing the problem of how and when a conflict might "legitimately" become violent. The literary scholar Birgit Brander Rasmussen reaches in a different direction, exploring the artistic achievement and the consciousness of a late nineteenth-century Kiowa man. Many scholars have explored how "white" captivity stories can take their readers at least partly into the world of the Native captors. A fair number of those people "went Native" themselves, to the point that the image of a captive white person, usually a woman, has become familiar in American popular culture. Few have reversed the perspective, as Rasmussen does, exploring captivity from the viewpoint of a male Native.
Ned Blackhawk likewise deals with Native people expressing their own thoughts. Closely examining two enormous and relatively well-known hide paintings from the early eighteenth-century Southwest, he shows how they depicted violence that swept over the land, pitting Native people against Spaniards (in a battle that the Indians won) and also against one another. He also shows how the paintings address the problem of identity in a world of turmoil, both as experienced and as represented for others to see. Finally, Samuel Truett deals with the question of memory both during the age of conflicting empires and after the shooting finally stopped. Starting with efforts early in the colonial era to find an "ancient" American past written into the very landscape, he traces the theme of conflicting or complex memories about American space into the age of capitalist exploitation by an emergent tourism industry.
Taken together, these essays demonstrate that the geography of the western hemisphere's landscapes is covered by layer after layer of historical detritus, just as surely as any place in the so-called Old World. The notion of such "layered history" is beginning to find currency in writings on the American past, or pasts, developing Nobel Prize-winning novelist William Faulkner's famous dictum that "the past is never dead. It's not even past." The essays do not at all exhaust the topic. The hard, clearly drawn boundaries that appear on modern geopolitical maps of the western hemisphere suggest a permanent fixity that contrasts strikingly with the fluidity and uncertainty of the American landscapes that the writers here consider. Those older landscapes were as much a human creation as modern boundaries. The many sorts of people who inscribed those landscapes with their presence, their actions, their plans, their successes, and their failures were not precursors or pioneers of a future they could not foresee, a future of which they had not even dreamed. They were contestants in their own world. What they wrought and how they wrought it still lingers, and the contestation is not at all over.
Table of Contents
Introduction. Maps and Spaces, Paths to Connect, and Lines to Divide
—Juliana Barr and Edward Countryman
PART I. SPACES AND POWER
Chapter 1. The Shapes of Power: Indians, Europeans, and North American Worlds from the Seventeenth to the Nineteenth Century
Chapter 2. Dispossession in a Commercial Idiom: From Indian Deeds to Land Cession Treaties
PART II. SPACES AND LANDSCAPES
Chapter 3. The Mandans: Ecology, Population, and Adaptation on the Northern Plains
Chapter 4. Colonial Spaces in the Fragmented Communities of Northern New Spain
Chapter 5. Transformations: The Rio de la Plata During the Bourbon Era
—Raúl José Mandrini
PART III. SPACE AND RESETTLEMENTS
Chapter 6. Blurred Borders: North America's Forgotten Apache Reservations
Chapter 7. The Forced Transfer of Indians in Nueva Vizcaya and Sinaloa: A Hispanic Method of Colonization
Chapter 8. Remaking Americans: Louisiana, Upper Canada, and Texas
PART IV. SPACES AND MEMORY
Chapter 9. Blood Talk: Violence and Belonging in the Navajo-New Mexican Borderland
Chapter 10. Toward a New Literary History of the West: Etahdleuh Doanmoe's Captivity Narrative
—Birgit Brander Rasmussen
Chapter 11. Toward an Indigenous Art History of the West: The Segesser Hide Paintings
Chapter 12. The Borderlands and Lost Worlds of Early America
List of Contributors