Natchez Country
Indians, Colonists, and the Landscapes of Race in French Louisiana

George E. Milne

The Natchez, the French, and the development of racial consciousness among native peoples


“Milne’s Natchez Country expertly elucidates the tangled relationships between the self-described red men whose country was ruled by the sun and the incomers who were subjects of the Sun King.”
—Karen Ordahl Kupperman, author of The Atlantic in World History

"George Milne's book offers not only an ambitiously researched and vigorously argued reinterpretation of Natchez-French relations in colonial Louisiana but also plenty of guidance and insight for scholars working on other regions of conflict and exchange in early American history."
—Daniel H. Usner Jr., author of Indians, Settlers, and Slaves in a Frontier Exchange Economy: The Lower Mississippi Valley before 1783

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At the dawn of the 1700s the Natchez viewed the first Francophones in the Lower Mississippi Valley as potential inductees to their chiefdom. This mistaken perception lulled them into permitting these outsiders to settle among them. Within two decades conditions in Natchez Country had taken a turn for the worse. The trickle of wayfarers had given way to a torrent of colonists (and their enslaved Africans) who refused to recognize the Natchez’s hierarchy. These newcomers threatened to seize key authority-generating features of Natchez Country: mounds, a plaza, and a temple. This threat inspired these Indians to turn to a recent import—racial categories—to reestablish social order. They began to call themselves “red men” to reunite their polity and to distance themselves from the “blacks” and “whites” into which their neighbors divided themselves. After refashioning their identity, they launched an attack that destroyed the nearby colonial settlements. Their 1729 assault began a two-year war that resulted in the death or enslavement of most of the Natchez people.

In Natchez Country, George Edward Milne provides the most comprehensive history of the Lower Mississippi Valley and the Natchez to date. From La Salle’s first encounter with what would become Louisiana to the ultimate dispersal of the Natchez by the close of the 1730s, Milne also analyzes the ways in which French attitudes about race and slavery influenced native North American Indians in the vicinity of French colonial settlements on the Mississippi River and how Native Americans in turn adopted and resisted colonial ideology.

Early American Places

Page count: 312
Trim size: 6 x 9


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George Edward Milne is associate professor of early American history at Oakland University.