At the beginning of the eighteenth century, over twenty different American Indian tribal groups inhabited present-day Mississippi. Today, Mississippi is home to only one tribe, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. In Mississippi's American Indians, author James F. Barnett Jr. explores the historical forces and processes that led to this sweeping change in the diversity of the state's native peoples. The book begins with a chapter on Mississippi's approximately 12,000-year prehistory, from early hunter-gatherer societies through the powerful mound building civilizations encountered by the first European expeditions. With the coming of the Spanish, French, and English to the New World, native societies in the Mississippi region connected with the Atlantic market economy, a source for guns, blankets, and many other trade items. Europeans offered these trade materials in exchange for Indian slaves and deerskins, currencies that radically altered the relationships between tribal groups. Smallpox and other diseases followed along the trading paths. Colonial competition between the French and English helped to spark the Natchez rebellion, the Chickasaw-French wars, the Choctaw civil war, and a half-century of client warfare between the Choctaws and Chickasaws. The Treaty of Paris in 1763 forced Mississippi's pro-French tribes to move west of the Mississippi River. The Diaspora included the Tunicas, Houmas, Pascagoulas, Biloxis, and a portion of the Choctaw confederacy. In the early nineteenth century, Mississippi's remaining Choctaws and Chickasaws faced a series of treaties with the United States government that ended in destitution and removal. Despite the intense pressures of European invasion, the Mississippi tribes survived by adapting and contributing to their rapidly evolving world.
This is a beautiful book, extensively researched and very well written. Barnett has an enviable ability to bring together information from a wide variety of sources without losing the engaging narrative style that makes this volume highly readable. It is doubtful whether anyone could have done a better job of constructing a cohesive historical narrative from the many disparate players, places, and events that crowded the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries in the American Southeast. A book of this kind focusing on the Magnolia State is a welcome addition to the corpus of work available to scholars, teachers, and the general public. --Evan Peacock, author of Mississippi Archaeology Q & A