Kathleen awareness from a European based view to

Kathleen DuVal’s The
Native Ground examines the relationships between Native American
Indians and Europeans in the Arkansas River Valley.  By shifting our awareness from a European
based view to a Native American Indians centered view, history as we know in
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is dramatically altered.  Her work shifts geographic focus from
European coastal outposts to “the heart of the continent.”  The Arkansas Valley was already an
established center of Native American Indian trade in North America.  The importance of the region for its Native American
Indian and European visitors was the distinct opportunity for natural
progression because of the existing diverse
communities and tribal relationships.  Modern history reflects the settlement of colonial North
America from various European viewpoints. 
However, she shows that the simplistic, mainstream version of American
history is riddled with historical biases.  Recognizing the Arkansas Valley as the center
of colonial North America is a more truthful representation of the evolvement
of the nation. 

DuVal points out that the
Arkansas Valley was a place where Native American Indians and Europeans from
the East and West met, providing a link between the two.  Due to the proximity of the eastern Arkansas
Valley to the Mississippi River Valley, the area was a natural trade route for
Native American Indians.  By proxy, it would
eventually be the same for Indian and European explorers, traders, and ultimately,
immigrants.  Not some European empire’s mission,
it was, indeed, “the heart of the continent.”  

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!


order now

It is important to understand that
when European scouting expeditions first came to the continent, no one
representing any European empires had any control over the Arkansas Valley.  Despite popular misconception, the Native
American Indians in the mid-continent were not untamed, wild savages waiting
for salvation from a more sophisticated group. 
They had established communities with forms of government, trade
agreements in place with other communities, and advanced agricultural and hunting
techniques, unique to their groups.  Because
of their ability to adapt to the conditions of the land, the initial survival
of European explorers was contingent, largely in part, on the natives.  The failure of sixteenth-century Spanish
explorers in the area to thrive was based largely on their unwillingness to
recognize the incorporations and hierarchies of those groups.  The Spanish were driven by greed, and refused
to participate in the politics of an already established political system.

DuVal argues that unlike Richard
White’s “Middle Ground,” where Native American Indians and Europeans were not
compatible, “the Arkansas Valley was home to a few large and relatively
cohesive tribes from the time the French arrived through the early nineteenth
century.”   The established Native American Indians during
this time were able to survive because of their ability to adapt to the influx
of European peoples and because they recognized their own power.    The situation in the seventeenth century was
very different.  The Quapaws, who were
recent migrants from the Ohio Valley, possibly with depleted numbers to escape the
Iroquois, were meeting resistance from the established populations of the
area.  They realized that by forming an
alliance with the French that they were able to bolster their political authority,
as other Native American Indian groups in the area were aligned with the Dutch
and English.

The relationship that the Quapaws
and French developed, while mutually beneficial, was still more favorable to
the native tribe. The Quapaws still dominated almost every aspect of the
relationship and were resistant to any change that the French might offer, but
the French  realized their own need for local
support and accepted unification with the Quapaws.  Despite their modest population and their
inability to dominate by force, the Quapaws used their new connection with the French
to find their place in the local diplomatic section as valued negotiators
between established tribes and the early European settlers. The French began to
play a vital role in Quapaw politics, by recognizing leaders, and in some cases
altering leadership roles. The Quapaw and French relationship played a vital
role in the settlement of the Louisiana “colony,” although it was understood that
the term was in name only.  The French
recognized that they did not truly control the middle continent, and so did
other European factions.

In the early eighteenth century, the
Osages presented with large numbers and  a reputation of  having one of the largest trading systems in
North America.  Unlike the Quapaw
however, they quickly garnered a reputation for violence.  Because of their threat to other Native
American Indians and Europeans, they established a large, dominant empire by
the late eighteenth century.  While they
were shunned by many neighboring Native American Indian tribes, they cultivated
European connections.  General discord
between other Native American groups furthered the power of the Osages, as the
groups could not unify to defeat them. 
Like the Quapaws, the Osages and French formed alliances, but the French
did not influence the political climate of the Osages, as they did with the
Quapaws.  The French used the Osages to
protect the colony of Lousiana against the British, and in exchange the Osage
gained guns and ammunition.  When the
British won the Seven Year’s War, the climate, although subtly began to change,
as France ceded the Western half of Lousiana to Spain.  Spain realized that they would need make the
Osage allies in order to protect them from the British, but they were under the
impression that the French had controlled the Osage and had ruled
Louisiana.  The reality was that the
Quapaw, and later the  Osage had allowed
the French Presence in the Loiusiana Colony in trade for the power that the
alliegance had provided, and the French, and subsequently Spanish, were only
able to maintain their land claims by appeasing the Osages.

Neither the British triumph over France, the U.S. triumph over Great
Britain, nor the U.S. purchase of Louisiana directly challenged Indian control
over the Arkansas Valley. Indirectly, however, the U.S. acquisition of the
region put into motion a series of events that did change the power relations
dramatically. Jefferson’s vision of the Arkansas Valley as a receptacle for
eastern Indians provided the first wave of eastern immigration that would shift
the power away from Indians. This first wave, however, consisted not of whites but
of Cherokees. Like the white immigrants who followed them from the east,
Cherokee power came in part from their continual migration and resulting
demographic power. Their influence in the region, however, was short-lived, as
the whites who followed in their wake insisted that the United States recognize
their legitimacy, based on their claims to be the true “native”
Americans in the region, despite sophisticated Quapaw and Cherokee legal and
cultural arguments to the contrary.