Domesticating the Country: Indigenous Power and Colonialism in the Black Swamp of the Old Northwest
thesisposted on 01.08.2020, 00:00 by Eliot Henry Fackler
This dissertation examines the history of Indigenous communities living in and around the Black Swamp, a vast wetland between the Maumee and Sandusky rivers in the southwestern Lake Erie basin. For millennia diverse groups constructed niches in this fertile landscape. During the second half of the eighteenth century, France, Great Britain, and, later, the United States sought to exert territorial control over the Ohio Country. The Black Swamp, however, provided refuge and abundant food and furs for the Odawa, Wyandot, Miami, and other communities that called the region home. Utilizing the abundance of the region, Native peoples asserted their political autonomy and territorial control over the region between the 1750s and 1790s. By the mid-1790s, the United States conquered most of the Ohio Country. Yet, even after the 1795 Treaty of Greenville the Black Swamp remained a multispecies refuge and Indigenous homeland. Relying on geological and archaeological evidence and written sources, “Domesticating the Country” argues that Native peoples in this contested region successfully resisted colonial conquest throughout the eighteenth century. Ultimately, I conclude that the occupation of the region by soldiers and citizens of the United States during the first third of the nineteenth century was not chiefly the result of the military “conquest” that facilitated the Treaty of Greenville and subsequent negotiations between Indigenous communities and the United States. Rather, this study argues that American conquest was inaugurated by the rapid attenuation of Indigenous subsistence practices, community viability, and forms of political power. The decline of game populations, the razing of villages and burning of fields, the application of European law to Indigenous social systems, and the insistence of legal property transfers by British and American military leaders and diplomats as a condition of battlefield defeats and treaty negotiations steadily created the conditions of possibility that slowly led to the subjugation and colonial occupation of the Black Swamp and its peoples.