Great Lakes Creoles A French-Indian Community on the Northern Borderlands, Prairie du Chien, 1750-1860 by Lucy Eldersveld Murphy (review)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States, Women on 2016-06-08 22:55Z by Steven

Great Lakes Creoles A French-Indian Community on the Northern Borderlands, Prairie du Chien, 1750-1860 by Lucy Eldersveld Murphy (review)

Ohio Valley History
Volume 16, Number 1, Spring 2016
pages 81-83

Margo Lambert, Assistant Professor of History
Blue Ash College, University of Cinicinnati

Lucy Eldersveld Murphy. Great Lakes Creoles: A French-Indian Community on the Northern Borderlands, Prairie du Chien, 1750-1860. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. 326 pp. 25 b/w illus. 6 maps. 7 tables. ISBN: 9781107052864 (cloth), $94.99; 9781107674745 (paper), $34.99

Lucy Murphy adroitly focuses her lens on the complex tale of Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, a community peopled by Native Americans, French-Canadian fur traders, British soldiers, and eventually Americans (and even a few African Americans) after the American Revolution. Europeans first entered the native world slowly, inter-marrying and establishing a multi-ethnic Creole community only to face further change when Anglo-Americans took control and eventually became the community’s majority. For Native American historians (and others) looking for a deeper glimpse into this world, Murphy’s probing analysis of the mixed multitudes of one small fur-trading community delivers. And, if that were not enough, Murphy adds another layer to her study: she compares this borderland to that of the American Southwest after the Mexican-American War—where the community’s pioneers became the political minority—and to that of the Métis culture that developed on the western Canadian border in the late nineteenth-century—there probing why that culture developed a clear indigenous ancestry, whereas south of the border in the Great Lakes area a similar culture never arose.

Murphy begins in the 1750s, tracing the community’s transition from Native American Meskwaki village to fur-trade enclave. By the early nineteenth-century the Meskwakis had relocated, although some remained behind, having intertwined their lives with European-descended fur traders and borne them children. With the establishment of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 and the final showdown of the War of 1812, the United States government began to assert its control of the town. Government officials courted the Creole community they found there, recognizing Creole support would only aid United States’ control, legitimizing America’s domination and opening of the West to Anglo-American settlers. The most vital point, Murphy argues here, was that this courtship prompted the United States government to identify the Creole community as white.

Next, Murphy assesses the shifting political structure as Prairie du Chien came under United States’ control. Because of the region’s multi-ethnicity, U.S. officials—as a minority—had to tread carefully, identifying Creoles as white, evidenced by their voting and serving on juries. Native Americans were deliberately left out of this process, but even Creoles with Metis status and Metis wives still fell into the white political categorization. Murphy shows that Creoles exerted much agency politically in the early days, defending themselves against what they deemed inappropriate newcomer behaviors that did not mesh with their established ways. As American control solidified and relegated Creoles to minority status, the town’s Creoles managed to hold some strength within the new legal system, despite their mixed-race realities. However, the rising Anglo tide reduced Creole influence considerably by the 1830s. But Creoles’ “white status” labelled them to identify culturally rather than racially: as French, rather than Métis. Here was why most mixed Native American groups south of the border diverged from their northwestern neighbors in Canada.

Perhaps one of Murphy’s most striking contributions to Native American studies is her work on gender. The chapter “Public Mothers” describes a different gender world denied to Anglo women but open to the town’s Creoles. Many of the town’s Creole women managed to position themselves as cultural mediators, explaining Creole and Native ways to incoming Euro-Americans, especially via marriage, adoption, and traditional gender roles in areas of charity, hospitality, midwifery, and the like. Whereas Creole men were increasingly denied a political voice as American numbers rose, Creole women managed to meet on a middle ground with American women. They served as public mothers, Murphy asserts, mediating between the various ethnic groups and succeeding in connecting Creoles, Native Americans, African Americans, and Euro-Americans by shared women’s activities that aided both private and public spheres, the latter sought by traditional “female” activities noted above. Their mediation, Murphy argues, further solidified Creoles as “whites” in the…

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Great Lakes Creoles: A French-Indian Community on the Northern Borderlands, Prairie du Chien, 1750–1860

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, United States, Women on 2016-06-08 15:17Z by Steven

Great Lakes Creoles: A French-Indian Community on the Northern Borderlands, Prairie du Chien, 1750–1860

Cambridge University Press
September 2014
326 pages
25 b/w illus. 6 maps 7 tables
236 x 157 x 22 mm
Hardback ISBN: 9781107052864
Paperback ISBN: 9781107674745
eBook ISBN: 9781139990660

Lucy Eldersveld Murphy, Professor of History
Ohio State University, Newark

A case study of one of America’s many multi-ethnic border communities, Great Lakes Creoles builds upon recent research on gender, race, ethnicity, and politics as it examines the ways that the old fur trade families experienced and responded to the colonialism of United States expansion. Lucy Murphy examines Indian history with attention to the pluralistic nature of American communities and the ways that power, gender, race, and ethnicity were contested and negotiated in them. She explores the role of women as mediators shaping key social, economic, and political systems, as well as the creation of civil political institutions and the ways that men of many backgrounds participated in and influenced them. Ultimately, The Great Lakes Creoles takes a careful look at Native people and their complex families as active members of an American community in the Great Lakes region.

  • Builds upon recent research in gender, race, ethnicity, and politics
  • Connects American Indian history with major historical themes
  • Examines Native people and their complex families as active members of an American community in the Great Lakes region

Table of Contents

  • List of Tables
  • List of Figures
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • 1. ‘The rightful owners of the soil’: colonization and land
  • 2. ‘To intermeddle in political affairs’: new institutions, elections, and lawmaking
  • 3. ‘Damned yankee court and jury’: more new institutions, keeping order and peace
  • 4. Public mothers: women, networks, and changing gender roles
  • 5. ‘A humble type of people’: economic adaptations
  • 6. Blanket claims and family clusters: autonomy, land, migration, and persistence
  • Conclusion
  • Epilogue
  • Index
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Public Mothers: Native American and MĂ©tis Women as Creole Mediators in the Nineteenth-Century Midwest

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2012-01-02 06:03Z by Steven

Public Mothers: Native American and MĂ©tis Women as Creole Mediators in the Nineteenth-Century Midwest

Journal of Women’s History
Volume 14, Number 4, Winter 2003
Special Issue: Revising the Experiences of Colonized Women: Beyond Binaries

Lucy Eldersveld Murphy, Professor of History
Ohio State University, Newark

During the early nineteenth century, the largely Francophone, mixed ancestry residents of the western Great Lakes region were faced with massive immigration of Anglophone whites who colonized the region, imposing a new U.S. government, economy, and legal system on the old Creole communities. Many of these immigrants from different cultural backgrounds in the eastern United States brought their prejudices and fears with them, attitudes that had the power to alienate and marginalize the old residents. This article explores the ways in which some women of color found techniques to mediate between cultural groups, using hospitality, charity, and health care to negotiate overlapping ideals of womanhood common to both Anglos and Native-descended people. In so doing, they won praise from both new and old neighbors, as they used Creole patterns of network-building to smooth community relations.

Read the entire article here.

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A Gathering of Rivers: Indians, MĂ©tis, and Mining in the Western Great Lakes, 1737-1832

Posted in Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation on 2011-06-30 01:53Z by Steven

A Gathering of Rivers: Indians, MĂ©tis, and Mining in the Western Great Lakes, 1737-1832

University of Nebraska Press
2000
233 pages
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8032-8293-3

Lucy Eldersveld Murphy, Professor of History
Ohio State University, Newark

In A Gathering of Rivers, Lucy Eldersveld Murphy traces the histories of Indian, multiracial, and mining communities in the western Great Lakes region during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. For a century the Winnebagos (Ho-Chunks), Mesquakies (Fox), and Sauks successfully confronted waves of French and British immigration by diversifying their economies and commercializing lead mining.

Focusing on personal stories and detailed community histories, Murphy charts the changed economic forces at work in the region, connecting them to shifts in gender roles and intercultural relationships. She argues that French, British, and Native peoples forged cooperative social and economic bonds expressed partly by mixed-race marriages and the emergence of multiethnic communities at Green Bay and Prairie du Chien. Significantly, Native peoples in the western Great Lakes region were able to adapt successfully to the new frontier market economy until their lead mining operations became the envy of outsiders in the 1820s.

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