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Slavery in Indian Country

Slavery in Indian Country

The Changing Face of Captivity in Early America

Christina Snyder

ISBN 9780674064232

Publication date: 04/02/2012

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Slavery existed in North America long before the first Africans arrived at Jamestown in 1619. For centuries, from the pre-Columbian era through the 1840s, Native Americans took prisoners of war and killed, adopted, or enslaved them. Christina Snyder's pathbreaking book takes a familiar setting for bondage, the American South, and places Native Americans at the center of her engrossing story.

Indian warriors captured a wide range of enemies, including Africans, Europeans, and other Indians. Yet until the late eighteenth century, age and gender more than race affected the fate of captives. As economic and political crises mounted, however, Indians began to racialize slavery and target African Americans. Native people struggling to secure a separate space for themselves in America developed a shared language of race with white settlers. Although the Indians' captivity practices remained fluid long after their neighbors hardened racial lines, the Second Seminole War ultimately tore apart the inclusive communities that Native people had created through centuries of captivity.

Snyder's rich and sweeping history of Indian slavery connects figures like Andrew Jackson and Cherokee chief Dragging Canoe with little-known captives like Antonia Bonnelli, a white teenager from Spanish Florida, and David George, a black runaway from Virginia. Placing the experiences of these individuals within a complex system of captivity and Indians' relations with other peoples, Snyder demonstrates the profound role of Native American history in the American past.


  • Until Christina Snyder, no historian has told the story of the constantly evolving Native American tradition of enslavement that long pre-dated the arrival of Europeans and of Africans. Compellingly written and deeply researched, Slavery in Indian Country is a model of how foregrounding Native experiences can transform our understanding of American history. The "Slave South" will never look quite the same again.

    —Daniel K. Richter, McNeil Center for Early American Studies, University of Pennsylvania


  • 2010, Winner of the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians First Book Prize
  • 2010, Winner of the SHEAR Book Prizes
  • 2012, Winner of the John C. Ewers Award


  • Christina Snyder is Assistant Professor of American Studies and History at Indiana University.

Book Details

  • 344 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press