Tuesday, January 19, 2021

In the Middle of Everything:
The Power of Indigenous Illinois in Early America

Speaker: Robert M. Morrissey, PhD

Sunday, January 31, 2021 • 3:30pm • Zoom!

Dr. Robert Morrissey, Associate Professor of History at University of Illinois (Champaign), will be presenting on indigenous settlement history in Illinois on a Zoom Sunday, January 31 beginning at 3:30pm.  Members wishing to check in early (especially for our annual elections) are invited to do so starting at 3:15pm.

The Native people of Illinois are not often regarded as key actors in early American history. In traditional tellings, they are frequently cast as desperate victims, beleaguered peoples whose challenges in the face of colonization were so great as to reduce them quickly to a status of dependency.

Historian Bob Morrissey will tell a new and different story about the Illinois Indians in the colonial period. He will explain how they followed a long-term trajectory of pragmatism and innovation, exploiting special opportunities made possible by their location to build power and exercise enormous agency not just in their region, but throughout the Great Lakes and Plains and even in the European power centers of Quebec, Louisiana, and Charleston.

Map credit: Native American tribal boundaries, 1700-1769. Map by James S. Oliver, IL St Mus. After: Helen H. Tanner. 1987. Atlas of Great Lakes Indian history. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman. (edited)

By foregrounding Native peoples’ agency and decisions, this presentation will complicate our understanding of the early history of the state and region, challenging tired stereotypes. More importantly, it will examine why the Illinois Country – and particularly the tallgrass prairie environment that the Illinois occupied in the colonial period – was such an important place in early America. 

This presentation will make a case that the Illinois Country and its occupants belong at the center of our understanding of several key themes in early American history. As we celebrate the Bicentennial of the State of Illinois, we ought to revisit the Native American past of our region, as well as the often-ignored significance of the Illinois people in the pre-colonial and colonial eras.

Dr. Morrissey did his undergraduate work at Carleton College and earned 2 masters and PhD (with distinction) in history at Yale University.  He specializes in the history of early America and the Atlantic world, American frontier and borderlands history, ethnohistory, and environmental history.  His first book tells the story of French colonists and Native peoples of the Mississippi Valley and Great Lakes in the 17th and 18th centuries.  The book is entitled Empire by Collaboration: Indians, Colonists, and Governments in the Colonial Illinois Country, and it appears in the Early American Studies Series from University of Pennsylvania Press.  His next project is entitled The Illinois and the Edge Effect: People, Environment, and Power in the Tallgrass Prairie Borderlands.  It is a study of the relationship between people and non-human nature in one of North America’s most distinctive ecological and social frontiers from 1200 to 1850.  It is supported by fellowships by the Illinois Center for Advanced Study and from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Other new writings are forthcoming in the Cambridge History of the American Revolution, Oxford History of the Midwest, and a volume on early St. Louis co-edited with Peter Kastor and Jay Gitlin from University of Nebraska Press. 

Bob has recently been the Mellon Faculty Fellow in Environmental Humanities at the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities, where he led an interdisciplinary team in programming, research, and curriculum development. Among many other honors and accolades, Bob also helps to organize the Society of Colonial Wars’ Colonial America Lecture Series at the Newberry Library in Chicago. 

Join us at 3:30pm CST or earlier for a social period (and Election - members only) at 3:15pm CST!

Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 916 7983 7916
Passcode: 532955
One tap mobile
+13126266799,,91679837916#,,,,*532955# US (Chicago)
+13017158592,,91679837916#,,,,*532955# US (Washington D.C)
Dial by your location
        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
        +1 301 715 8592 US (Washington D.C)
        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)
        +1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
        +1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)
        +1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
Meeting ID: 916 7983 7916
Passcode: 532955
Find your local number: https://zoom.us/u/adJptS4Idi

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Mike Ruggeri Reports

Keeping an Eye On Archaeology News & Events

New Ancient Americas Archaeological Discoveries and the Critiques

    Recently, I posted the news of an amazing discovery of ancient rock art found in the Colombian Amazon. You can see the post here: <http://michaelruggeriancientamericas.tumblr.com>.

    And as soon as I posted the story, the critiques came pouring in. The critiques were centered on these observations:
    1) It is impossible to date rock art so the 10,500 BCE date cannot be correct.
    2) The Peruvian team were not the first researchers to see this rock art; indigenous people had already seen it.
    3) The rock art site was seen by researchers decades ago.
    4) The site is not as long as the new researchers say since there are gaps in the paintings.
    5) There are much newer rock art depictions at the site which bring us right up to post-colonial times.

    New and striking archaeological discoveries need critiques to point out possible errors in the description of the discovery and even the scientific basis behind the claims made by researchers. As an example, when the first scientifically verified Pre-Clovis site was found at the site of Monte Verde in Chile, critiques from the archaeological community flooded the archaeological world. The Clovis First community would not accept that their theories of the First Americans could be challenged. Others pointed out discrepancies in the proofs made by the research team led by Tom Dillahey. It took 20 years to verify the discovery after many international teams went to visit the site over many years to try to disprove the Pre-Clovis dates at Monte Verde, and finally, the Clovis First idea was proven wrong.
    In the article, it states that the research team dated the paintings by finding the remains of human meals at the site which included the remains of extinct animals dating back to 10,500 BCE. So those stating you cannot date rock art did not read the article that closely.
    Of course indigenous peoples in the Americas saw these paintings first, just as they saw all the pyramids first, later found by modern researchers. The team did not say that indigenous people were unaware of these paintings.
    Yes, researchers saw these paintings decades ago but no research papers were published as a result. This team are the first to do so.
    Yes, there are gaps in the paintings. The researchers did not say there were not.
    Yes, there are much newer rock art paintings contained in these murals. And again, the researchers did not say there were not.
    But the new research found the remains of human consumed meals dating back to 10,500 BCE, and they pointed out that some of the paintings are so high, humans could not reach them without some device. And they found these wooden tower murals which explain how these ancient peoples reached those heights for their paintings. This is ground-breaking.

    So often modern critiques are based on a misreading of the reports and biased assumptions that needlessly criticize new findings with critiques that are simply not valid.

    The real critiques will come from the professional community when the team publishes their research. And those critiques will be made and answered, which is important in the scientific method.