February 21, 2008

Book Review - Rise and Fall of Indian Country, 1825-1855

The Rise and Fall of Indian Country, 1825-1855
William E. Unrau
E 93 .U9985 2007

Unrau takes an historical look at the concept of Indian country, a place designated for Native American life and improvement. Beginning with the Indian Trade and Intercourse Act of 1834 which sets out the boundaries of Indian country, Unrau shows that this concept was little more than a benevolent-sounding deception that facilitated white settlements west of the Missouri River. Although nearly half of the territory of the Louisiana Purchase was included in the land defined as Indian country, Unrau believes that there were many problems with this idea from the outset. Perhaps most well known, all of the tribes who were settled in Indian country had their territories compressed. Those tribes who were able to remain on lands of historical significance to them often had to share those lands. As a whole, Indian country's economic potential was most likely overvalued, particularly if the preferred way of life of the Native Americans was considered. Finally, federal involvement in Indian country is discussed, both in its involvement in railroads and other initiatives involving transportation and commercial traffic through Indian lands, as well as lack of Federal involvement in Indian affairs when laws and regulations were blatantly disregarded. This history illustrates the tenuous position that Native Americans had in the conceptualization and legal construction of the American west.