Kathleen was the distinct opportunity for natural progression

Kathleen DuVal’s The
Native Ground examines the relationships between Native American
Indians and Europeans in the Arkansas River Valley.  By shifting our awareness from a European
based view to a Native American Indians centered view, history as we know in
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries is dramatically altered.  Her work shifts geographic focus from
European coastal outposts to “the heart of the continent.”  The Arkansas Valley was already an
established center of Native American Indian trade in North America.  The importance of the region for its Native American
Indian and European visitors was the distinct opportunity for natural
progression because of the existing diverse
communities and tribal relationships.  Modern history reflects the settlement of colonial North
America from various European viewpoints. 
However, she shows that the simplistic, mainstream version of American
history is riddled with historical biases.  Recognizing the Arkansas Valley as the center
of colonial North America is a more truthful representation of the evolvement
of the nation. 

DuVal points out that the
Arkansas Valley was a place where Native American Indians and Europeans from
the East and West met, providing a link between the two.  Due to the proximity of the eastern Arkansas
Valley to the Mississippi River Valley, the area was a natural trade route for
Native Americans Indians.  By proxy, it would
eventually be the same for Indian and European explorers, traders, and ultimately,
immigrants.  Not some European empire’s mission,
it was, indeed, “the heart of the continent.”  

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It’s important to understand that
when European scouting expeditions first came to the continent, no one
representing any European empires had any control over the Arkansas Valley.  Despite popular misconception, the Native
American Indians in the mid-continent were not untamed, wild savages waiting
for salvation from a more sophisticated group. 
They had established communities with forms of government, trade
agreements in place with other communities, and advanced agricultural and hunting
techniques, unique to their groups.  Because
of their ability to adapt to the conditions of the land, the initial survival
of European explorers was contingent, largely in part, on them.  The failure of sixteenth-century Spanish
explorers in the area to thrive was based largely on their unwillingness to
recognize the incorporations and hierarchies of those groups.  The Spanish were driven by greed, and refused
to participate in the politics of an already established political system.

DuVal argues that unlike Richard
White’s “Middle Ground,” where Native American Indians and Europeans were not
compatible, “the Arkansas Valley was home to a few large and relatively
cohesive tribes from the time the French arrived through the early nineteenth
century.”   The established Native American Indians during
this time were able to survive because of their ability to adapt to the influx
of European peoples, and because they recognized their own power.    The situation in the seventeenth century was
very different.  The Quapaws, who were
recent migrants from the Ohio Valley, possibly with depleted numbers to escape the
Iroquois, were meeting resistance from the established populations of the
area.  They realized that by forming an
alliance with the French that they were able to bolster their political authority,
as other Native American Indian groups in the area were aligned with the Dutch
and English.

The relationship that the Quapaw
and French developed, while mutually beneficial, was still more favorable to
the Quapaw. The Quapaw still dominated almost every aspect of relationship, and
were resistant to any change that the French might offer, but the French  realized their own need for local support and
accepted unification with the Quapaws.  Despite
their modest population and their inability to dominate by force, the Quapaws
used their new connection with the French to find their place in the local diplomatic
section as valued negotiators between established tribes and the early European



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