THE AMBIGUOUS IROQUOIS EMPIRE: The Covenant Chain Confederation of Indian Tribes with the English Colonies from its Beginnings to the Lancaster Treaty of 1744 by Francis Jennings
Kirkus Star

THE AMBIGUOUS IROQUOIS EMPIRE: The Covenant Chain Confederation of Indian Tribes with the English Colonies from its Beginnings to the Lancaster Treaty of 1744

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

The sequel to Jennings' acclaimed study of The Invasion of America: Indians, Colonialism, and the Cant of Conquest (1975)--and every bit as meticulous, shrewd, and feisty. His subject this time is the little-known alliance negotiated in 1677 between the Five Nations of the Iroquois and the northern British colonies, led by New York: little known, but as Jennings convincingly demonstrates, vital to the growth and prosperity of white settlements because it brought nearly a century of peace to the frontier. That is only part of the story, however. For as Jennings also demonstrates, accompanied by often striking reinterpretations of the available sources, the parties to this ""Covenant Chain,"" as the agreement was called, had wildly divergent ideas of what they had accomplished: to the British, it meant sovereignty over a vast Iroquois ""Empire"" and in the end title to its extensive conquests; to the Iroquois it meant British recognition of, and support for, an ""Empire"" based not on tribute and territorial aggrandizement, but on the peaceful coexistence and cooperation of native peoples under Iroquois leadership. Thus the ""ambiguous"" nature of that empire--always something a little more or less than what everybody wanted to believe. Thus, too, all the stories about the ""savage"" and ""warlike"" Five Nations: stories initially concocted by British imperial propagandists to fatten the dominions of their Iroquois allies; then, when those allies had been engulfed in turn, kept alive by such authorites as Francis Parkman, Lewis Henry Morgan, and Daniel Boorstin, all of whom ought to have known better. Indeed, as in his earlier book, Jennings is at his best when administering these long-overdue bare-knuckled thrashings of respectable opinion--full of passionate indignation but disciplined by years of hard work in the sources. (Jennings is the former director of the Center of the American Indian at the Newberry Library.) It is a formidable combination.

Pub Date: Jan. 23rd, 1983
Publisher: Norton