This wide-ranging book is the first to offer---in one volume---detailed
results of many of the investigations of French colonial sites made in
the mid-continent during the last decade. It includes work done at Fort
St. Louis, Fort de Chartres, Fort Massac, French Peoria, Cahokia, Prairie
du Pont, Prairie du Rocher, and other locations controlled by the French
during a time when their dominance in North America was more than twice
that of Britain and Spain combined.
Five of the book's fifteen chapters summarize major excavations at colonial
fortifications, four of which are public monuments that currently attract
thousands of visitors each year. Another five chapters deal with French
colonial villages, and the remainder of the book is devoted to diet, trade,
the role of historic documents in the reconstruction of life on the French
colonial frontier, and other topics.
A center of the lucrative fur trade throughout the colonial period, the Great Lakes region was an important site of cultural as well as economic exchange between native and European peoples. In this well-researched study, Susan Sleeper-Smith focuses on an often overlooked aspect of these interactions—the role played by Indian women who married French traders.Drawing on a broad range of primary and secondary sources, she shows how these women used a variety of means to negotiate a middle ground between two disparate cultures. Many were converts to Catholicism who constructed elaborate mixed-blood kinship networks that paralleled those of native society, thus facilitating the integration of Indian and French values. By the mid-eighteenth century, native women had extended these kin linkages to fur trade communities throughout the Great Lakes, not only enhancing access to the region's highly prized pelts but also ensuring safe transport for other goods. Indian Women and French Men depicts the encounter of Old World and New as an extended process of indigenous adaptation and change rather than one of conflict and inevitable demise. By serving as brokers between those two worlds, Indian women who married French men helped connect the Great Lakes to a larger, expanding transatlantic economy while securing the survival of their own native culture. As such, Sleeper-Smith points out, their experiences illuminate those of other traditional cultures forced to adapt to market-motivated Europeans.
Indians of the Western Great Lakes, 1615–1760 is an ethnographic study of five tribes of the region: Huron, Miami, Ottawa, Potawatomi, and Chippewa. Author W. Vernon Kinietz based this study on a survey of contact-era accounts from archives in Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec, Chicago, Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Washington, DC.