Warrior Nations: The United States and Indian Peoples.
In this study, the author examines eight well-known conflicts that erupted between Native American societies and the United States during the first century of the latter's existence. In his attempt to find a common theme amongst the origins of these so-called Indian Wars, Roger L. Nichols concludes that Americans held most of the blame, not the indigenous peoples whom they often depicted as uncivilized savages. Despite the fact that history all too often recorded the start of each event with a native attack, Americans' fervent expansion across North America, in order to fulfill their self-proclaimed "manifest destiny," pushed Native Americans to violence against their new neighbors. These Native American refusals to acculturate to Western mores conflicted with and promoted fear amongst white settlers, whose local concerns often outweighed any allegiance to the federal union.
Nichols presents his analysis in eight chronological chapters. From the Ohio Valley in the 1790s to the Nez Perce War following the American Civil War, he tries to show the similarities among the origins of each conflict while recognizing the inherent uniqueness of each native society involved. As Nichols aptly demonstrates, wars between the United States and the Indian peoples of North America happened as a result of "Indian initiatives" undertaken as a response to "local pioneer actions" (8). The author teases out the underlying factors that reveal native violence in these instances as a last-ditch attempt to stave off fundamental change to their cultures and societies. In fact, the violence visited upon their new white neighbors often resulted from frustration at the strife their presence had created among native communities. As native leaders competed to fit their new American neighbors into their world, they often came into conflict with each other. Eventually, the frustration would spill over to include the American newcomers in the violence, whose own militaristic society would respond in kind, resulting in the so-called Indian Wars of the nineteenth-century American West.
The author's conclusions will not surprise specialists, and he could have done more to show the divided nature of American society during this century, thereby providing equal analysis concerning the social, cultural, and political underpinnings of his two opposing cultural groups. Although Nichols makes an important point in recognizing the role individual states played in the eventual removal of the southeastern tribes, he misses a real opportunity to delve into how the federal-state dynamic influenced this process. These minor complaints aside, Nichols has presented a complex topic in an easily digestible format. His attempt to reach a broad audience combined with his willingness to acknowledge the contradictions and ambiguities between the causes of these wars is commendable, especially given the brevity of the book. Warrior Nations deserves consideration for use in any undergraduate survey of Native American history or nineteenth-century expansion. Further, budding historians should consider this collection of case studies as a worthy jumping-off point from which to embark on a career in US-Indian and frontier relations.
Lake Ridge, Virginia
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|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2016|
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