Iroquois Diplomacy on the Early American Frontier

Nov 15th, 2009 | By | Category: 21-2: K-12 Education, Winter 2009, Media Reviews

By Timothy J. Shannon Viking Penguin, New York (2008)

Review by Bradley Shreve

Iroquois Diplomacy on the Early American FrontierIn his book, Iroquois Diplomacy on the Early American Frontier, Timothy Shannon traces the history of the Six Nations’ foreign policy from their initial dealings with European invaders up through the aftermath of the American Revolution. He also illuminates how the Iroquois rose to become important brokers in the developing colonial world, successfully broadening their power by pitting competing European and Indian nations against one another.

While Shannon’s book on the Six Nations is largely sympathetic, he makes no effort to glorify their history. The author steadfastly refutes what he calls the “Iroquois Influence Thesis,” arguing that the political structure of the Iroquois confederacy had no impact on the formation of the U.S. government.

He also chronicles how the Iroquois often kidnapped and then systematically tortured their captives to death and maintains that while men conducted negotiations, women only played advisory roles behind the scenes. Perhaps most disturbing, Shannon asserts that the Six Nations, for their own short-term benefit, bargained away the lands of other tribes.

Shannon’s book is the most recent installment of the Penguin Library of American Indian History. Like other volumes in this series, Shannon’s book is relatively concise and well-written – even though some readers may find it somewhat troubling to read in parts.

Bradley Shreve is chair of the Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Diné College.

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