Long before the indigenous people of southeastern North America first encountered Europeans and Africans, they established communities with clear social and political hierarchies and rich cultural traditions. Award-winning historian Gregory D. Smithers brings this world to life in Native Southerners, a sweeping narrative of American Indian history in the Southeast from the time before European colonialism to the Trail of Tears and beyond.
In the Native South, as in much of North America, storytelling is key to an understanding of origins and tradition—and the stories of the indigenous people of the Southeast are central to Native Southerners. Spanning territory reaching from modern-day Louisiana and Arkansas to the Atlantic coast, and from present-day Tennessee and Kentucky through Florida, this book gives voice to the lived history of such well-known polities as the Cherokees, Creeks, Seminoles, Chickasaws, and Choctaws, as well as smaller Native communities like the Nottoway, Occaneechi, Haliwa-Saponi, Catawba, Biloxi-Chitimacha, Natchez, Caddo, and many others. From the oral and cultural traditions of these Native peoples, as well as the written archives of European colonists and their Native counterparts, Smithers constructs a vibrant history of the societies, cultures, and peoples that made and remade the Native South in the centuries before the American Civil War. What emerges is a complex picture of how Native Southerners understood themselves and their world—a portrayal linking community and politics, warfare and kinship, migration, adaptation, and ecological stewardship—and how this worldview shaped and was shaped by their experience both before and after the arrival of Europeans.
As nuanced in detail as it is sweeping in scope, the narrative Smithers constructs is a testament to the storytelling and the living history that have informed the identities of Native Southerners to our day.
“Native Southerners tries to rectify prejudices and limitations by focusing on the histories of Indian tribes in the South with an emphasis upon their own stories. Gregory D. Smithers’s use of oral histories is a highlight of his work, and he also covers the ongoing reality of climate change in the development of southern tribes. Many themes emerge, but one—the endless effort to maintain communal identity in the face of colonization, disease, and displacement—is most powerful.” —Tim Kaine, U.S. Senator from Virginia
“Native Southerners is a journey through centuries of southern Native American history. This thoughtful and sensitive narrative offers a compelling perspective on the clashes between Natives and Europeans, which forever changed the lives of the southern Native population.” —Lynette Allston, Chief of the Nottoway Indian Tribe of Virginia
“Ranging from Virginia to Indian Territory and covering the era of paramount chiefdoms to the post-Removal years, Native Southerners will be the go-to book for teachers and researchers for many years to come. An indispensable work for all scholars of southern Indians.” —Angela Pulley Hudson, author of Creek Paths and Federal Roads: Indians, Settlers, and Slaves and the Making of the American South
“Indigenous actors and voices are front and center in this graceful narrative of the Native South, testifying to their survival and adaptability even as waves of aggressive settlers sought their removal and extinction. Native Southerners is well suited for the classroom and a handy reference for specialists.” —Andrew K. Frank, author of Before the Pioneers: Indians, Settlers, Slaves, and the Founding of Miami
“Employing the voluminous amount of secondary works dealing with southern Native Americans that have been published in the last two decades, Gregory D. Smithers has written a short and accessible overview of the southern Indian experience up to 1840 that will have great value for college students and professors alike.”— Southwestern Historical Quarterly