In the spring of 1832, when the Indian warrior Black Hawk and a thousand followers marched into Illinois to reoccupy lands earlier ceded to American settlers, the U.S. Army turned to rival tribes for military support. Elements of the Menominee, Dakota, Potawatomi, and Ho Chunk tribes willingly allied themselves with the United States government against their fellow Native Americans in an uncommon defense of their diverse interests. As the Black Hawk War came only two years after the passage of the Indian Removal Act and is widely viewed as a land grab by ravenous settlers, the military participation of these tribes seems bizarre. What explains this alliance?
In order to grasp Indian motives, John Hall explores their alliances in earlier wars with colonial powers as well as in intertribal antagonisms and conflicts. In the crisis of 1832, Indians acted as they had traditionally, leveraging their relationship with a powerful ally to strike tribal enemies, fulfill important male warrior expectations, and pursue political advantage and material gain. However, times had changed and, although the Indians achieved short-term objectives, they helped create conditions that permanently changed their world.
Providing a rare view of Indian attitudes and strategies in war and peace, Hall deepens our understanding of Native Americans and the complex roles they played in the nation’s history. More broadly, he demonstrates the risks and lessons of small wars that entail an “uncommon defense” by unlikely allies in pursuit of diverse, even conflicting, goals.
This exceptionally well-researched and elegantly written book is a must-read for those who want to understand better the history of the American frontier and the complexity of wars fought amongst indigenous peoples.... John Hall's compelling analysis of the U.S.-Indian diplomacy during the Black Hawk War is instructive as the United States and its allies confront tribal societies in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan while endeavoring to defeat transnational enemies and shape the course of local conflicts that predated our involvement there and are almost certain to continue long after we are gone.
Uncommon Defense shows that the conflict between Black Hawk and the United States was also an 'Indian war' in which Menominees, Dakotas, Ho Chunks, and Potawatomis sided with the Americans against the Sauks, and different tribes had their own agendas, strategies, and experiences. A refreshing look at a story we thought we knew well.
John Hall's splendid book is a balanced and comprehensive account of the complex interrelations of the Indian tribes, Army, and settlers in the era of the Black Hawk War. Particularly significant is Hall's analysis of the reasons why the other tribes allied with the Army rather than Black Hawk.
Far from the standard account, this sophisticated analysis of the Black Hawk War illustrates that the conflict was a many-sided affair with tribal people pursuing their own agendas. Well researched - engagingly written.
The Black Hawk War of 1832 was a three-month conflict that resulted in the expulsion of the Sauk nation from Illinois. The war has often been viewed as a decisive victory by U.S. military forces, resulting in the seizure of Native American lands for white settlers. Hall revises that view by examining the military's native allies in the conflict, namely, the Dakota, Ho Chunk, Menominee, and Potawatomi, who saw the conflict as an opportunity to inflict harm on their traditional enemy, the Sauk. Thus, they allied themselves to the United States, using diplomatic protocols that dated to the arrival of the French and English in the Great Lakes region of North America. While the native warriors were looking to the past for established methods of accommodation to shape their relationship with the U.S. military, they unwittingly aided the United States in securing a future for Illinois that excluded all native peoples...[A] highly recommended work.
- 384 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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