Assault on a Culture – Summary

Assault on a Culture is a chronicle of Native American presence in North America since first entry to North America approximately 12,000 years before the present to the late 19th century. The provenance of those first Americans, the proto-Anishinaabeg, and the pathways they took to get to the area of the Great Lakes is traced through an exposition of archaeology and genetics. During the first ten millennia of their residence on the continent, cultural evolution was driven mainly by the environment and natural- and anthropogenic-driven changes to the environment. Following first contact with European explorers and missionaries, European-Indian social and economic interactions, i.e. intermarriage, exposure to alien worldviews, and adoption of European trade goods (guns in particular)became dominant forces in Anishinaabe (Chippewa, Ottawa, and Potawatomi) culture change. The first foreign entity to exert a strong influence over the Anishinaabeg was the Wemitigoozhi (French). They never sought to dominate the Indians but were content to co-exist with them, adopting many Indian cultural practices as their own. Wemitigoozhi dominance prevailed for over two hundred years but eventually was replaced by the Zagonaash (British) who attempted, with harsh methods but only limited success, to subjugate the Anishinaabeg. The Zagonaash preeminence was short-lived. After only two decades of control, they were supplanted by British separatists, the Gitchi-Mookomaan, now Americans, who fought a war for independence near the end of the 18th century. The British reluctantly retired from the contested area to what is now Canada but continued a robust association with their former Indian collaborators. The American image of the continent was of a country extending from “Sea to shining sea”. Manifest destiny, as the American vision has been characterized, required that the Indians be divested of their extensive land holdings. And land was a defining measure of Anishinaabeg culture. A series of military conflicts between Indian forces, augmented by their British friends, and the Americans, a long sequence of one-sided treaties that favored American interests, and a failed effort to civilize the Indians, i.e. make farmers of them, led to the creation of an Indian population with little or no land to call their own and minimal talents that would be needed to survive without the land. The treaties between the United States and the Anishinaabeg in 1821 (Chicago), 1836 (Washington), and 1855 (Detroit) effectively rendered the Anishinaabeg landless and, in so doing, put their culture in extreme crisis. The land wrested from them in those treaties would represent more than half of the area of the future State of Michigan, which was admitted to the Union in 1837.
The Anishinaabeg existed in a landless and loosely structured social limbo for five decades at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. In 1934 the United States government enacted the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA). The IRA, among other things, validated the communal holding of land by organized tribes. For recognized bands and tribes, it also facilitated a return to local self-government and the concomitant management of physical assets that would allow them to create a sound economic foundation for tribal members who long had been deprived of any of the rights that had been explicitly guaranteed by treaty. Notwithstanding the imposed barriers to advancement, enterprising Anishinaabeg leaders would use the IRA to establish viable and productive tribal organizations that would flourish in the late 20th century.

The following critique was offered by a reader: "The book was well written,authoritative, and well documented.  For any student of Native American history, its a must read."

The book is available in digital, paper back, and hard cover formats from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and this site.


Charles E. Adams, Jr.

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