Kathleen and tribal relationships. Modern history reflects the

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.”  

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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 them.  The failure of sixteenth-century Spanish
explorers in the area to thrive was based largely on their unwillingness to
recognize the incorporations and hierarchies of those groups.

DuVal argues that unlike Richard
White’s “Middle Ground,” where Native American Indians and Europeans were not
compatible, “the Arkansas Valley was home to a few large and relatively
cohesive tribes from the time the French arrived through the early nineteenth
century.”   They were able to maintain their power through
the colonial period because they were able to maintain their self-governing characteristics
and adapted quickly to integrate newcomers. The situation in the seventeenth
century was very different.  The Quapaws,
who had recently migrated to Arkansas from the Ohio Valley to escape the
Iroquois, were meeting resistance from the established populations of the region
and saw a political opportunity with the French.  

The Quapaws recognized that the
French had the numbers that they did not have and were in need of assistance to
acclimate to their new surroundings.  The
French quickly realized their own need for local support and accepted unification
with the Quapaws.  Despite their modest
population and their inability to dominate by force, the Quapaws used their new
connection with the French to find their place in the local diplomatic section
as valued negotiators between established tribes and the early European
settlers.  During the early eighteenth
century, the Osage, also recently migrated from Ohio Valley, emerged as a
regional power, but used drastically different measures to exert their

Osage presented with larger numbers and quickly garnered a reputation for
violence.  Because of their threat to
other Native American Indians and Europeans, they established a large, dominant
empire by the late eighteenth century. Through these strategies, according to
DuVal, they established an empire by the late eighteenth century. At this time,
although Europeans were attempting to establish sovereignty in the area, the
understanding was that Native American Indians still held power.  During that era, the Quapaws and Osage held
complete political and military control over the area.  


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