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Dissertation Defense – Jessica Yann, To “Avail Ourselves of those Extensive Channels of Trade”: An Examination of Trade Practices and Political Dynamics within the Great Lakes Region
March 19, 2019 @ 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
To “Avail Ourselves of those Extensive Channels of Trade”: An Examination of Trade Practices and Political Dynamics within the Great Lakes Region
The trade and exchange that was created by the influx of Europeans into North America as a means of harvesting the available resources grew to encompass many, if not all, of the Native American groups living there. Participation in this vast network during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (1760-1830) was regulated by various colonial political entities, however the tumultuous political scenario during this time created a situation in which Native Americans could use this economic network to their benefit. Using archaeological and archival information available for Native American villages and Euro-American traders that existed throughout the southern Great Lakes during this time period, this dissertation examines the specific nature of the economic relationships created, maintained, and expanded upon during this time period from a resource dependence perspective. Resource dependency theory was originally conceived of within business and organizational studies as a means of examining power between entities based on material transactions between the two. A resource dependency theory framework was applied to the archaeological data to determine the degree of economic dependence between Native American village organizations and the Euro-American traders who supplied them. These results were examined within the local historical context, where it was found that the traders were more dependent on the Native American groups than the Native Americans were on them. It was also observed that these economic relationships were related to the political alliances created during this time, as resource dependency theory suggested they may be, though on a very localized level. By further examining these relationships from a regional perspective, it is suggested that the very economic network created by Europeans for resource extraction from the ‘new world’ allowed the Native groups they were trying to repress a means of alleviating the power differential and negotiating the situation to their benefit. Later Americans were only able to remove Native American groups from their land when they were no longer reliant on the resource extraction based economic system that was in place using previously developed methods. This research demonstrates the applicability of a resource dependence perspective in providing a new focus and means of examining the relationship between the economic networks present and the political situation during the latter half of the eighteenth century and beginning of the nineteenth century in the southern Great Lakes region.