Kathleen DuVal’s The
Native Ground focuses on the relationships between Native American
Indians and Europeans in the Arkansas River Valley. By shifting our perceptions from a European
based view to a Native American Indians centered view, history as we know in
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is dramatically altered. Her work shifts geographic focus from
European coastal outposts to “the heart of the continent.” The Arkansas Valley was already an
established center of Native American Indian trade in North America. The importance of the region for its Native American
Indian and European players was the distinct opportunity for natural
progression because of the existing diverse
communities and tribal relationships. Modern history reflects the settlement of colonial North
America from the European viewpoint or another.
However, she shows that the simplistic, mainstream version of American
history is riddled with historical biases. Recognizing the Arkansas Valley as the center
of colonial North America is a more truthful representation of the evolvement
of the nation.
DuVal points out that the
Arkansas Valley was a place where Native American Indians and Europeans from
the East and West met, providing a link between the two. Due to the proximity of the eastern Arkansas
Valley to the Mississippi River Valley, the area was a natural trade route for
Native Americans Indians. By proxy, it would
eventually be the same for Indian and European explorers, traders, and ultimately,
immigrants. Not some European empire’s mission,
it was, indeed, “the heart of the continent.”
It’s important to understand that
when European scouting expeditions first came to the continent, no one
representing any European empires had any control over the Arkansas Valley. Despite popular misconception, the Native
American Indians in the mid-continent were not untamed, wild savages waiting
for salvation from a more sophisticated group.
They had established communities with forms of government, trade
agreements in place with other communities, and advanced agricultural and hunting
techniques, unique to their groups.
Because of their ability to adapt to the conditions of the land, the
initial survival of European explorers was contingent, largely in part, on