Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




"Ambiguous Alliances" examines the revolutionary era in the Ohio Valley from a Native American perspective. Rather than simply considering them as British pawns or troublesome mischief-makers, this account describes how Wyandots, Shawnees, Ottawas, Delawares, Miamis, and their native neighbors made decisions about war and peace, established alliances with Europeans, Americans, and distant Indian nations, and charted specific strategies for their political and cultural survival. They also suffered devastating personal and property loss and encountered significant disruption to their societal routines. Yet much about their daily lives remained unchanged, and their communities continued to foster a strong Indian identity.;This dissertation explores native objectives for the period 1768--1795, specifically looking at what the various nations were hoping to accomplish in their relationships with the British and the Americans. While preserving land and sovereignty were the Indians' clearest aims, this study also emphasizes that the underlying goal of protecting their rights and property was to retain their cultural distinctiveness. Furthermore, these twin objectives were inextricably linked. The Indians' ability to remain viable diplomatic partners with the Europeans depended on the maintenance of their landed independence.;Along with analyzing native objectives, this dissertation discusses Indian strategies to attain these goals and looks at how the Revolution assisted or hampered their execution. Some tribes actively recruited British or American allies; some attempted to remain neutral; others endeavored to form a united Indian front; and still others alternately extended their allegiance to both parties in an effort to secure both autonomy and protection.;Despite its heavy emphasis on native alliances and military maneuvers, this work also examines the Revolution's challenges to the rhythms of daily life. In addition to physical destruction, wartime agendas altered native.economic patterns and sometimes even invaded cultural practices, threatening to constrict gender roles for women or to prevent nations from adopting captives to replace their deceased relatives. Although the era's disruptions brought emotional distress, physical displacement, and political ambiguity, the tribes persisted in sustaining both their daily existence and their national identities.



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