Native Resistance in the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes: An Eight-Part Course with Benjamin Rubin - Context Travel

Native Resistance in the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes: An Eight-Part Course with Benjamin Rubin


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In this course, we will examine nearly a century of American Indian efforts to resist encroachment by settlers in the midwest, with a particular emphasis on the leaders who led their valiant but ultimately doomed attempts to save ancestral land. In this series, we will focus on the area north of the Ohio River, south of the Great Lakes, East of the Mississippi, and West of the Appalachian Mountains.

For nearly 100 years this region was contested, and although ultimately native peoples would lose control of the region to the inexorable expansion of the British and later American empires, their resistance during the period was both brave and determined. Many of the greatest native political and military leaders in American history arose in this region and era, including Pontiac, Cornstalk, Little Turtle, Blue Jacket, Tecumseh, and Black Hawk, each of whom will be given time here.

Led by an expert on early American History, this course will enlighten participants on the dramatic saga of American Indian efforts to preserve one particular piece of the land they once held. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased understanding of the conflict that defined the Old Northwest.

Photo credit: Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Joseph Harrison, Jr.

Lecture 1: Prologue: The Tribes of the Old Northwest

We begin by looking at the history (and pre-history) of the major tribes that made up the region, including the Shawnee, Miami, Iroquois, Lenape, Wyandot, Huron, Chippewa, Potawotomi, and others. We will follow these groups from the earliest information we know about them, into the mid-eighteenth century, where our main story will begin.

Lecture 2: The French and Indian War in the Ohio Country

In 1754, a small territorial disagreement in the Ohio Valley ignited a world war between the globe’s two most powerful empires. The tribes reluctantly dragged into the fray found themselves fighting for survival, with little to gain, but everything to lose.

Lecture 3: Pontiac Unites the Tribes

In the wake of the disruption caused by the end of the French and Indian War, the Great Lakes tribes united for the first time, behind a remarkably charismatic leader who promised to drive white settlers from the region. Even more improbably, they almost succeeded.

Lecture 4: The American Revolution in Indian Country

A decade after the end of Pontiac's Confederacy, the Ohio country once again found itself embroiled in a conflict started by white rivals, this time the British crown and its rebellious colonies. Again, the tribes would be forced to fight in someone else's war, and again, they would pay the severest penalties of losing.

Lecture 5 Little Turtle Fights to Save Ohio

Following in Pontiac's footsteps, Little Turtle united the Ohio tribes and fought 3 battles against the brand new United States to protect his homeland. The first two he won. But ultimately, the Americans' insatiable need for land would see native peoples pushed westward yet again.

Lecture 6 The Dream of Tecumseh

The last and greatest of the Ohio country confederations Tecumseh decided to dream bigger than his predecessors. Through his brilliance, charisma, and will he spent a decade knitting together not just the tribes of the region but a large part of the entire continent. If Indians were to ever have a hope of reclaiming their homeland they would need to set old enmities aside and band together to resist the greater threat.

Lecture 7: The Dream Shattered

The tragic unraveling of Tecumseh's vision for pan-Indian unity, brought about in equal parts by betrayal and pure bad luck. With it went the last serious hopes that the Great Lakes tribes could hold onto lands of their ancestors.

Lecture 8: Epilogue: Black Hawk Leads the Last Resistance East of the Mississippi

If Tecumseh's Confederacy was the high watermark of resistance in the Old Northwest, Black Hawk's was its last stand. Thirty years after Tecumseh's defeat, the last remnants of the once-great eastern tribes refused to admit defeat. No less valiant for its hopelessness, Black Hawk's war marked the end of native resistance east of the Mississippi.

Ben Rubin holds a bachelor's degree from Hanover College, a Master's from Western Carolina University, and is completing his Ph.D. at Drew University. He is also a graduate of the Cornell School of Criticism and Theory at Cornell University. His work has been published in the Journal of Backcountry Studies and in Southern Campaigns of the American Revolution. In addition to academic experience, Ben worked as a docent at the Biltmore House in Asheville, and as a whitewater raft guide on the Nantahala River.

How does it work?

This is an eight-part series held weekly and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule for the specific dates and times for each lecture.

Is there a reading list in advance?

Though the course is open to participants with no background on this topic, there are suggested readings for further investigation. You will receive this soon after course registration.

How long are the lectures?

Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time for Q&A.

How much is the course?

The course is $280 for eight lectures.

Is a recording available?

Yes. If you need to miss a lecture, you will be sent a recording after the event.

This course is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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