Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




James Axtell


Between the founding of the French post of Detroit in 1701 and the end of Pontiac's War in 1766, several native American peoples settled in distinct clusters around the French (and later British post) near current-day Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario. Focusing on the interactions among these communities, this dissertation makes two interrelated arguments. It first argues that, although these peoples had been challenged and changed by the forces of colonialism during the seventeenth century, they nonetheless emerged from that century as discrete ethnic, social, and political entities, rather than shattered or disintegrated refugees. A set of interconnected, mutually constituting, and consistent relationships between these separate and autonomous peoples, secondly, shaped affairs in the region just as much as the relationship between Europeans and native peoples. That colonial relationship, in fact, was embedded within and reciprocally tied to the web of relationships between native peoples. Only by understanding both exchanges between French and native peoples as well as modes of interaction between different indigenous peoples can scholars make sense of events at Detroit.;To demonstrate both the survival of these native groups as discrete peoples and the consequences of that survival, each of the first four chapters explores one of the salient relationships between native peoples at Detroit, while the final charts how these relationships shaped one event, Pontiac's War. The first chapter charts the way in which the Huron man, Cheanonvouzon, sought to compensate for his peoples' weakness by forming a "southern alliance" with two powerful groups in the region, the Miamis and Five Nations, or Iroquois. The second chapter investigates how the closely related Anishinaabe peoples---the Ottawas, Ojibwas, and Potawatomis---cooperated to meet the challenge posed by the southern alliance. The emergence of these two rival blocs led to conflict between the Hurons and Ottawas in 1738, and the third chapter places that violence within a longer pattern of competition between these peoples. Chapter Four uses a controversy among the Hurons in the 1740s and 1750s to understand the bonds which held that community together. Finally, the fifth chapter demonstrates how all of these patterns shaped one event, the Anglo-Indian conflict frequently called Pontiac's War, and situates that conflict within a local context. as scholars investigate how these relationships mutually constituted not only one another but also the colonial relationship, intercultural relations at Detroit, as well as the rest of the New World, become at once more complicated and more comprehensible.



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