Ohio History Journal

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Book Reviews

Book Reviews



Historic Contact: Indian People and Colonists in Today's Northeastern United

States in the Sixteen Through Eighteenth Centuries, By Robert S. Grumet.

(Norman & London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995. xxx + 514p.; illus-

trations, maps, appendix, conspectus, bibliography, index. $47.50 cloth.)


The process of cultural contact between Europeans and North America's native

peoples has become the focus of a growing body of recent historical and anthropo-

logical scholarship.  The publication of studies including Margaret Connell

Szasz's Between Indian and White Worlds: The Cultural Broker; Colin Calloway's

Dawnland Encounters: Indians and Europeans in Northern New England; and the

republication of Emma Helen Blair's The Indian Tribes of the Upper Mississippi

Valley and Region of the Great Lakes, first issued in 1911 and 1912, all attest to

increased interest in this topic among historians of the northeastern United States

and Great Lakes regions. In Historic Contact: Indian People and Colonists in

Today's Northeastern United States in the Sixteenth  Through Eighteenth

Centuries, Dr. Robert Grumet, an archaeologist in the National Register Program,

Mid-Atlantic Region of the National Park Service, has provided an overview of

historic contact from the Atlantic Coast between Maine and Virginia westward to

the Upper Ohio Valley.

Making sense of the complex dynamics of contact is central to our under-

standing of both early-historic and subsequent Indian-white relationships.  "We

all need strangers," claims Grumet, for "they furnish what family and friends alone

may not provide. Basic human institutions such as trade, diplomacy and war . . .

trace their origins to the common human need to deal with strangers. Although

different people handle the problem in different ways, all people try to get what

they want while avoiding whatever is thought or felt to be dangerous or undesir-

able" (p. 7).

Grumet has based Historic Contact upon a National Historic Landmark theme

study on historic contact carried out by the National Park Service between 1989

and 1993. Theme studies are used by the History Division of the park service to

compile and evaluate information on thematically related properties. The studies

are then utilized to provide a framework for evaluating the national significance of

these properties. Grumet's study examines thirty-four separate "Indian Countries"

contained within three sub-regions found within an area roughly defined by

Volume 15 (Northeast) of the Handbook of North American Indians. The book is

divided into three parts, one for each sub-region.  Each part opens with an

overview of the zone under discussion and concludes with a reflection on the

course and consequences of European-Indian contact within the area. The book

also includes a discussion of every National Historic Landmark associated with

historic contact relations within the region and draws its information from a di-

verse interdisciplinary perspective, successfully integrating documentary, archae-

ological, and ethnographical data gleaned from a variety of sources.

Historians of Ohio will perhaps be most interested in Part 3, "The Trans-

Appalachian Region," which includes a discussion of the Mohawk, Oneida,

Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, Upper Susquehanna, and Upper Ohio Indian Countries

and the Niagara-Erie Frontier, and Part 2, "The Middle Atlantic Region" which ex-

amines the Munsee and Delaware Countries. But specialist and general reader alike