People of the Ecotone
Environment and Indigenous Power at the Center of Early America
- PUBLISHED: November 2022
- SUBJECT LISTING: History / Environmental History, Native American and Indigenous Studies
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 294 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 20 b&w illus., 5 maps
- SERIES: Weyerhaeuser Environmental Books
- ISBN: 9780295750880
- Publisher: University of Washington Press
In People of the Ecotone, Robert Morrissey weaves together a history of Native peoples with a history of an ecotone to tell a new story about the roots of the Fox Wars, among the most transformative and misunderstood events of early American history. To do this, he also offers the first comprehensive environmental history of some of North America’s most radically transformed landscapes—the former tallgrass prairies—in the period before they became the monocultural “corn belt” we know today.
Morrissey situates the complex rise and fall of the Illinois, Meskwaki, and Myaamia peoples from roughly the collapse of Cahokia (thirteenth to fourteenth century CE) to the mid-eighteenth century in the context of millennia-long environmental shifts, as changes to the climate shifted bison geographies and tribes adapted their cultures to become pedestrian bison hunters. Tracing dynamic chains of causation from microscopic viruses to massive forces of climate, from the deep time of evolution to the specific events of human lifetimes, from local Illinois village economies to market forces an ocean away, People of the Ecotone offers new insight on Indigenous power and Indigenous logics.
Authors & Contributors
Robert Michael Morrissey is associate professor of history at the University of Illinois. He is author of Empire by Collaboration: Indians, Colonists, and Governments in Colonial Illinois Country.
Morrissey clearly conveys the benefits that a new materialist perspective can give to his audience. Perhaps Morrissey's book will encourage further collaboration between theoretical philosophy and history. With this refreshing environment-history-philosophy hybrid approach, readers can reflect on how much autonomy human communities have had, or have not had, throughout history when actors like bison, climate, plants, and other non-human entities were in play.- World History Encyclopedia
A compelling book...People of the Ecotone shines as an example of how focusing on “the place where they lived” enables new histories about Indigenous peoples before, during, and after colonial encounters. It is a must read for historians of the colonial Mississippi valley and definitely a should read for other environmental historians, early Americanists, and Indigenous studies scholars.- H-Environment
By placing the reader in the grand village of Kaskaskia, the stronghold of the Illini people, Robert Morrissey offers a new way to understand the history of the interior plains and its many peoples. Blending Indigenous, environmental, and colonial history, People of the Ecotone is a significant contribution to the history of North America.- Pekka Hämäläinen, author of Lakota America: A New History of Indigenous Power
Morrissey brings a superb level of knowledge about the Indigenous past that few scholars can rival, and he successfully integrates it with his unique, innovative environmental research.- Susan Sleeper-Smith, author of Indigenous Prosperity and American Conquest: Indian Women of the Ohio River Valley, 1690-1792
People of the Ecotone is a triumph of continental history, narrating early American history from within the Indigenous heartland of North America, and revealing a Native World created by the intertwining of human and other-than-human life.- Michael Witgen (Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe), author of Seeing Red: Indigenous Land, American Expansion, and the Political Economy of Plunder in North America
Combining the best of environmental history with cutting edge Native American and Indigenous Studies approaches, Morrissey crafts a compelling narrative that forces readers to rethink the histories of the tallgrass prairies and their peoples. This is groundbreaking new work.- Elizabeth Ellis (Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma), author of The Great Power of Small Nations Indigenous Diplomacy in the Gulf South