Patricia Riles Wickman offers a new paradigm for the interpretation of southeastern Native American and Spanish colonial history and a new way to view the development of the United States.
In her compelling and controversial arguments, Wickman rejects the myths that erase Native Americans from Florida through the agency of Spaniards and diseases and make the area an empty frontier awaiting American expansion. Through research on both sides of the Atlantic and extensive oral history interviews among the Seminoles of Florida and Oklahoma, Wickman shatters current theories about the origins of the people encountered by the Spaniards and presents, for the first time ever, the Native American perspective. She describes the genesis of the groups known today as Creek, Seminole, and Miccosukee—the Maskoki peoples—and traces their common Mississippian heritage, affirming their claims to continuous habitation of the Southeast and Florida. Her work exposes the rhetoric of conquest and replaces it with the rhetoric of survival.
An important cross-disciplinary work, The Tree That Bends reveals the flexibility of the Maskoki people and the sociocultural mechanisms that allowed them to survive the pressures introduced at contact. Their world was capable of incorporating the New without destroying the Old, and their descendants not only survive today but also succeed as a discrete culture as a result.