Title Reviewed:
A Country Between: The Upper Ohio Valley and Its Peoples, 1724–1774

Author Reviewed:
Michael N. McConnell

Stewart Rafert


Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 89, Issue 3, pp 271-272

Article Type:
Book Review

Download Source:

A Country Between: The Upper Ohio Valley and Its Peoples, 1724–1774. By Michael N. McConnell. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992. Pp. xii, 357. Maps, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. $40.00.)

The "country between" of Michael N. McConnell's book is Pennsylvania west of the Appalachians and Ohio east of the Scioto River. Emptied of native inhabitants during seventeenth-century warfare, the area was entered by Delaware, Shawnee, and Seneca tribespeople in the early eighteenth century. According to McConnell they made a new life as "Indian pioneers," adopting features of European American material culture and some beliefs while fashioning an independent response to English imperial and colonial expectations of subserviency. McConnell deftly outlines how the upper Ohio Indians also established their independence from the Iroquois Confederacy beginning in the 1750s, reacting to local needs and competing challenges from Pennsylvania and Virginia. Out of this clearly articulated independence the Ohio Senecas, Delawares., and Shawnees shaped Indian nations that have persisted to this day in Ontario, Kansas, and Oklahoma.

McConnell's book is a carefully researched study of the Ohio Indian world looked at from an eastern perspective and based almost entirely on English sources. It follows closely Richard White's The Middle Ground (1991), which views the Ohio country from the west and is based on both French and English sources. While the French were out to missionize, trade, and intermarry with Indians, the English of the eighteenth century were intent on commercial opportunities and land speculation. Everyday Indian life, which is so much a part of French documents, is mostly lacking in English sources. As a result McConnell's book, while trying to incorporate an Indian outlook into an account of this complex period, focuses more on policy issues, and Indian leaders often sound like their European American counterparts.

After the defeat of France in North America, British and colonial authorities had to come to terms with a much larger Ohio country, which extended to the Wabash and beyond. While Mc-Connell is right that Dunmore's War in 1774 ended accommodation between Indians and Americans on the upper Ohio, he is wrong to assert in his conclusion that "the Indians were given no role in the new American empire in the west" (p. 281). Native resistance to inept American treaties in the 1780s led directly to American accommodation that has shaped federal Indian policy to this day. Article III of the Northwest Ordinance, the Indian Trade and Intercourse Act of 1790, and John Marshall's Supreme Court decisions of the 1820s and 1830s were all results of tribal insistence on land rights and sovereignty.

McConnell's book should inspire more research on Indian-white relations in the upper Ohio region, a story that can be continued to the present among remnants of tribes which remained in the area. In his most readable chapter McConnell makes good use of archaeological evidence to show changes in the everyday life of native peoples. Otherwise, the book will be of most interest to the specialist.

STEWART RAFERT is a student of Miami social and political history in the post-removal era. He is currently writing a history of the Indiana Miami tribe.

Published by the Indiana University Department of History.