Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

History

First Advisor

Ralph Mann

Second Advisor

Virginia DeJohn Anderson

Third Advisor

Lee Chambers

Abstract

Under the U.S. government's nineteenth century Indian removal policies, more than ten thousand Eastern Indians, mostly Algonquians from the Great Lakes region, relocated in the 1830s and 1840s beyond the western border of Missouri to what today is the state of Kansas. With them went a number of mixed-race people - the métis, who were born of the fur trade and the interracial unions that it spawned. This dissertation focuses on métis among one emigrant group, the Potawatomi, who removed to a reservation in Kansas that sat directly in the path of the great overland migration to Oregon and California. Utilizing entrepreneurial skills learned in the fur trade, the French-Potawatomi Louis Vieux located his home on the banks of the Red Vermillion, built a bridge, charged overland travelers to cross, and did a side business by offering meals. The métis Louis Ogee established a ferry over the Kansas River, and Madore Beaubien opened a store. Acculturating full-bloods, meanwhile, cut the prairie sod, fenced their fields, domesticated livestock, lived in log cabins, and embraced the Christian faith. Their spatial and temporal location placed these Indians and métis people in the center of momentous historical forces taking place as America moved west, and toward war, in the 1840s and 1850s, while their actions, I suggest, made them "pioneers" no less than the Euro-Americans who followed when Kansas was opened to non-Indian settlement in 1854. By placing the métis on center stage, this study, borrowing a phrase from historian Philip Deloria, has found Indians in an "unexpected place" - in the very pioneer saga of the American West. In 1850s Kansas, Indians and métis faced choices: Would they break up the reservation, take an allotment, become an American citizen and attempt to coexist with Anglo settlers, or would they hold fast to traditional ways? So diverse and wide was the gap in how members of the Potawatomi viewed themselves that these questions came to a head in Kansas. In 1861, the tribe split in two over the allotment question, a crisis, I suggest, that centered on culture and the changing face of the Indian Country.

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