With the courage and resilience embodied by their legendary leader Tecumseh, the Shawnees waged a war of territorial and cultural resistance for half a century. Noted historian Colin G. Calloway details the political and legal battles and the bloody fighting on both sides for possession of the Shawnees? land, while imbuing historical figures such as warrior chief Tecumseh, Daniel Boone, and Andrew Jackson with all their ambiguity and complexity. More than defending their territory, the Shawnees went to war to preserve a way of life and their own deeply held vision of what their nation should be.
In placing the Shawnee center stage, Calloway (editor of the Penguin Library of American Indian History and Dartmouth Native American studies chair) achieves a remarkably accessible distillation of Shawnee history. He guides the reader through a thicket of wandering as the Shawnees' forced movement scatters them from the Ohio Valley during the late 17th century, before they reassembled in Ohio in the mid-18th century, and then gathered again in Oklahoma in the 19th century. The Shawnees stand out as hard liners when it came to defending Native lands, Native rights, and Native ways of life, says Calloway. Indeed, their history is a cycle of killings and revenge killings, battles and massacres by both sides, swallowing up those who made accommodations (Black Hoof and the model farm at Wapakoneta) as well as those who resisted (the legendary brothers, Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh). Daniel Boone, who played a key role in destroying the Shawnees' world in Kentucky, is part of that history, as is General Amherst, who advocated using germ warfare. The treks and treaties are not always easy reading, but Calloway's text is enlivened with judicious first-person excerpts and his passion for his subject. His heart is with the Shawnees, but he writes with balance of the fateful meeting of the cultures on the frontiers.