The Rise and Fall of Indian Country, 1825-1855
William E. Unrau
The Indian Trade and Intercourse Act of 1834 represented what many considered the ongoing benevolence of the United States toward Native Americans, establishing a congressionally designated refuge for displaced Indians to protect them from exploitation by white men. Others came to see it as a legally sanctioned way to swindle them out of their land.
This first book-length study of "Indian country" focuses on Section 1 of the 1834 Act—which established its boundaries—to show that this legislation was ineffectual from the beginning. William Unrau challenges conventional views that the act was a continuation of the government's benevolence toward Indians, revealing it instead as little more than a deceptive stopgap that facilitated white settlement and development of the trans-Missouri West.
“Unrau provides a very detailed description of who lost what, to whom, and why, in a necessary corrective to scanty existing histories.”
“A well-researched, thoughtful study that deserves the attention of scholars of the American West, American Indians, and Kansas.”
—American Historical ReviewSee all reviews...
“This well-documented and well-written study ably synthesizes the major personalities and their actions, which proved so ruinous to Native Americans in the nineteenth century. Furthermore, it helps modern readers better understand present-day Indian indictments of the workings of the federal government and the ongoing jurisdictional conflicts.”
—Pacific Historical Review
“The book presents a fresh look at the factors that combined to destroy or forever change some tribal societies in the eastern Plains. Based on careful research and a thoughtful discussion of the central issues, it shows clearly how conflicting and contradictory national objectives undermined any real chance for a permanent Indian Country.”
—Great Plains Quarterly
“Effectively synthesizes the sources to produce a study that is instructive for specialists and lay readers alike.”
“Unrau tells an important story and tells it well.”
—Western Historical Quarterly
“Unrau’s command of the primary and secondary documents is unparalleled, and he offers insight into the formulation and execution of federal policy.”
—Journal of American History
“A well-written and solid piece of scholarship. Recommended.”
“A useful contribution to our understanding of the federal government’s feeble attempt to create a geographic location called Indian Country. . . . Historians and lay readers alike should read Unrau’s work for insight into what Indian Country meant in the nineteenth century.”
“Superbly written, Unrau’s study speaks to the unique creation of Indian Country and how external forces like federal legislation, treaties, and bureaucrats shaped it.”
—Donald L. Fixico, author of The Invasion of Indian Country in Twentieth-Century America: American Capitalism and Tribal Natural Resources
“Offers compelling insights into how federal Indian policies were influenced by the rapid expansion of white settlement across the Mississippi and onto the eastern segments of the Great Plains.”
—R. David Edmunds, author of American Indian Leaders
“An important and illuminating work that vividly reveals the true nature of the U.S. government’s policy toward the Indians.”
—Joseph B. Herring, author of Kenekuk, the Kickapoo ProphetSee fewer reviews...
Encompassing more than half of the Louisiana Purchase and stretching from the Red River to the headwaters of the Missouri, Indian country was designated as a place for Native survival and improvement. Unrau shows that, although many consider that the territory merely fell victim to Manifest Destiny, the concept of Indian country was flawed from the start by such factors as distorted perceptions of the region's economic potential, tribal land compressions, government complicity in overland travel and commerce, and blatant disregard for federal regulations.
Chronicling the encroachments of land-hungry whites, which met with little resistance from negligent if not complicit lawmakers and bureaucrats, he tells how the protection of Indian country lasted only until the needs of westward expansion outweighed those associated with the presumed solution to the "Indian problem" and how subsequent legislation negated the supposed permanence of Indian lands.
When thousands of settlers began entering Kansas Territory in 1854, the government appeared powerless to protect Indians—even though it had been responsible for carving Kansas out of Indian country in the first place. Unrau's work shows that there has been a general misunderstanding of Indian country both then and now-that it was never more or less than what the white man said it was, not what the Indians were told or believed—and represents a significant chapter in the shameful history of America's treatment of Indians.