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Cartes et cartographies dans le monde anglophone aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles

Interpreting Native Trans-Appalachia, 1670-1770

Or, How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Read Fanni Mingo’s Map
Kristofer Ray


En 1723, Fanni Mingo, surnommé « le roi des écureuils », membre de la tribu des Chicasas (Chickasaw) du bas du Mississippi, livre aux Britanniques de la Caroline du Sud une carte en cuir de cerf. Celle-ci indique des routes commerciales ainsi que des systèmes hydrographiques (principalement celle du Mississippi-Ohio-Tennessee-Wabash). Elle indique également où se situent, approximativement, de nombreux campements qui parsèment la frontière appalachienne. Cette carte nous permet de reconstruire les réalités complexes et changeantes de la vie le long de cette frontière au cours du xviiie siècle. La carte de Fanni Mingo est un point de départ pour reconstruire une histoire autochtone entre 1700 et 1750. Ce que « le roi des écureuils » nous révèle, c’est que la réalité autochtone ne reflète pas l’image véhiculée par les envahisseurs européens d’une population passive, sédentaire, et ancrée en place. Au contraire, comme cet article le démontre, il s’agit d’un monde autochtone évoluant, caractérisé par une résistance face aux envahisseurs et où les Européens peinent à trouver une solution à la discorde entre leurs prétentions de pouvoir colonial et la réalité du contrôle autochtone.

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Sincere thanks to Robert Englebert, Joseph Gagné, G. Matt Adkins, and Jonathan Schiff for their help with translation matters.


  • 1 The original 1723 map has been lost to historyit (most likely) is lurking somewhere in the British (...)

1In 1723 a Lower Chickasaw man known as Fanni Mingo (also Fanimingo, loosely translated as “Squirrel King”) delivered a deerskin map to British officials in South Carolina.1 The British subsequently labelled it “A map describing the situation of the several Nations of Indians between South Carolina and the Mississippi River,” but it does far more than that. It designates major overland routes such as South Carolina’s paths to/through Cherokee and Creek Countries, not to mention the “Caskaskia,” “Cahokia” and Anishnaabeg routes through the pays des Illinois with which Carolina had only minimal contact. It lays out the Mississippi, Ohio, Wabash, and Tennessee River systems. Perhaps most crucially, it identifies a large number of Native settlements across the eastern and central portions of the continent.

2Unlike contemporary European cartography, Fanni Mingo’s map is unconcerned with geospatial order and scale. Instead, it focuses on relationships—between Native Southern polities, Native Southerners and Indigenous populations elsewhere in trans-Appalachia, and between Native Southerners and British Carolina. Particularly notable are four large circles that a Charles Town clerk labelled Cherokees, Creeks, Chickasaws, and Choctaws. Seemingly in fixed locations, their size and placement suggest centrality and power. The European presence, by contrast, is strikingly limited. Carolina rates a mention on the right edge of the map, but the Spanish (at Pensacola and St. Augustine) and the French (at Mobile and New Orleans) do not. Nor do the various French outposts in the Mississippi Valley, Wabash Valley, or pays des Illinois (Waselkov 435-502).

Fig. 1. A map describing the situation of the several Nations of Indians between South Carolina and the Mississippi River

Fig. 1. A map describing the situation of the several Nations of Indians between South Carolina and the Mississippi River


Printed by permission of the British National Archives.

  • 2  One can see similar manipulation in the so-called “Catawba Map” drawn at roughly the same moment, (...)

3That European references are mostly absent reveals how adept were Native polities at manipulating newcomer visions of continental empire. Chickasaw Country, after all, sits near the Mississippi Valley to the South of modern Memphis, Tennessee. As a Chickasaw with the political ability to maintain trade and alliances, Squirrel King would have been well aware of the various French and Spanish outposts dotting trans-Appalachia (Ethridge, From Chicaza to Chickasaw 227-29). The fact that he leaves them out suggests he was inflating his British audience’s sense of self-importance.2 Put another way, Fanni Mingo reminds us that 18th century Europeans were less in control than they and their descendants sometimes have liked to assume. Other elements of the map reinforce the point. When the British applied names to the four major circles, for example, they imposed a stilted geopolitical order that few Indigenous polities would have accepted. For one thing, Creeks did not call themselves by that moniker, nor did the Cherokees, Choctaws or Chickasaws. For another, identity developed according to complex circumstances ranging from kinship links to sodalities connecting towns and regions rather than a singular nation. So, for example, Creeks are more accurately Mvskokies and Okfuskees or Cowetas; Cherokees are better described as Ani-Kituwah (or Ani yun wiya) and Keowees, Tellicos or Chotans; and Choctaws (Chahtas) are reliably associated with towns in three different regions of their Country (Urban 172-96; Hahn; Piker 2004; Boulware; Ray, “Cherokees, Empire, and the Tennessee Corridor” 33-67; Ethridge, From Chicaza to Chickasaw; Galloway, Choctaw Genesis; O’Brien).

  • 3 The seven Cherokee clans are: Blue or Panther; Long Hair or Wind; Bird; Paint; Deer; Wild Potato or (...)

4Moreover, in 1723 Native polities were coalescing (a process not unlike their Euro-American neighbors to the East), and the consequence was that political identities and diplomatic decision-making were anything but unified. Generically labelling a circle “Cherokee” belies the reality that a British relationship with the Lower Ani-Kituwah Towns did not naturally secure connections to the Valley, Overhill, or other two regional Town clusters. To 18th century European observers it made Ani Kituwah behavior schizophrenic and even duplicitous. It is more accurate, however, to understand that for most of the century Cherokees simply rejected such simplified definitions of nationhood.3 Similar dynamics explained interactions between Europeans and ‘upper’ and ‘lower’ Mvskokie (Creek) Towns or the three Choctaw regions. In short, no Native polity in 1725 would have recognized the blanket assertions of singular nationhood written onto the map. (In much the same way that the Spanish had hardly come to grips with a singular ‘nation’ circa 1500.) By adding them British Carolinians overlaid an imagined political world on the one described by Fanni Mingo.

  • 4 Contemporary Britons labeled the following “Westward” Indians: Piankeshaws, Mascoutens, Twightwees (...)
  • 5 Fanni Mingo personifies this mobility – he was Chickasaw, a polity primarily located in modern Miss (...)

5One other general observation: By identifying so many Native settlements alongside trade paths and riparian systems Fanni Mingo’s map gives insight into the complex and fast-paced mobility at the core of the Native trans-Appalachian world. And central elements of this world were the interconnected Tennessee-Ohio-Wabash Rivers. Contemporary Europeans marvelled at the freneticism of this “corridor,” describing both how Native Southerners travelled it and how “Westward” and “Northward” people came south from American Bottom, Illinois, the Great Lakes, the Wabash Valley, and the upper Ohio Valley.4 The pace of political, economic, and diplomatic activity was breathtaking, crossing boundaries, regions, and even mountain chains, upending European desires for sovereignty, order, and stability.5

6A careful observer can glean representations of most of this on Fanni Mingo’s map. This article uses the map as a launching point to consider a Native narrative of 18th Century trans-Appalachia. So far from living in permanent locations awaiting an inexorable non-Native invasion from the East, Squirrel King sheds light upon an evolving Indigenous-centered world wherein Europeans struggled to overcome a dissonance between their assertions of power and the reality of Native control.

European Imagination, Demographic Realities

7Fanni Mingo’s map fascinated South Carolina officials because of long standing interest in trans-Appalachia broadly and the pays des Illinois/lower Ohio Valley specifically. As early as 1672 William Talbot had proclaimed to the Carolina Lords Proprietors that the “Apalatean Mountains stoop to your lordships Dominions, and lay open a Prospect into unlimited Empires” (Talbot). Talbot’s contemporary John Lederer observed that the various river systems later mapped by Fanni Mingo could offer deep access into the west and facilitate what was then nearly a century-long English quest for gold, silver, and copper (Lederer 16). Thomas Ash reinforced Lederer’s observation in 1682, proclaiming that “it’s supposed and generally believed, that the Apalatean mountains which lie far up within the Land, yields Ore both of Gold and Silver, that the Spaniards in their running searches of this Country saw it, but had not time to open them” (Ash 79-80). In 1700 ex-coureur de bois Jean Couture proposed a scheme through which Carolina’s government would fund a dig along the modern Cumberland River, where he claimed to have discovered a silver mine of considerable value (Higginbotham 54). Forty years later fortune seekers Cornelius Docherty (or Doharty) and James Maxwell went over the heads of Carolina’s government, appealing directly to the Crown for license to exploit alleged silver mines in the Cherokee Valley Town region (Correspondence, The National Archives, Kew, 1744/06/27-1744/06/27).

8Precious metals were only one reason why trans-Appalachia fell under the Carolinian gaze after 1670, however. Far more (potentially) lucrative were the animal skins and Indian slave trades, the evolutions of which were enormously consequential both for Europeans and Natives. They effectively catalyzed what anthropologist Robbie Ethridge has described as a “Mississippian shatter zone.” Before 1539, Ethridge reminds us, chiefdoms drawing from Mississippian culture (which at its zenith spread from Cahokia in modern Illinois to modern Georgia, and from parts of the Ohio Valley to areas west of the Mississippi) lived in a “heterogeneous world composed of dozens of polities, albeit with many cultural, social, and economic traits in common.” These polities rose and fell based on warfare, ecological circumstances, and resource alteration, among other reasons. Archaeologists call it a process of “cycling,” and it created an overall stability in Mississippian North America that began to break down after Hernando de Soto’s arrival (Ethridge, “Introduction” 1-3; Ray, “Cherokees, Empire, and the Tennessee Corridor” 35-64).

9The shatter zone phenomenon went into overdrive after 1670 when Charles Town traders began systematically to offer commodities to the Native South, in payment for which they would take deerskins and Indigenous slaves. By the outbreak of the Yamasee War in 1715 everyone from Charles Town merchants to traveling English traders to Native Southerners were affected by the Atlantic-wide markets for these two commodities. They brought profit to a few (merchants) but encouraged significant adaptation in Indigenous hunting styles and lifeways. They made credit and debt both more inflexible and an increasingly necessary aspect of day-to-day Native-newcomer encounters. And as a result, they generally heightened inter-Indigenous tensions across trans-Appalachia while imperilling relationships between the Native South and Carolina (Ramsey; Bossy 96-131).

10Devastating enough on their own, the two “skin” trades also provided vectors necessary to catalyze disease epidemics. Estimates indicate that as much as half of Native Southern population decline between 1685 and 1715 resulted from the slave trade, with the other half coming from the diseases it projected (Ethridge, “Introduction” 14; Kelton, Epidemics and Enslavement; Wood 35-103; Gallay). Ethridge provides another way to quantify the impact: approximately 1,700 Mississippians a year were taken by English-connected slavers in an era when a simple chiefdom maintained populations between 2,000 and 5,000 (From Chicaza to Chickasaw 15). As the deerskin and slave trades took hold they “shattered” chiefdoms of all sizes, leading remnant populations to begin coalescing into new polities.

11Scholars long have articulated that shatter zone forces compelled Native people to become ever more dependent upon Europeans for essential commodities. (More extensive observations on this idea is below.) A concomitant narrative is that Native polities increasingly were made to play European powers off one another to secure some level of diminishing autonomy. Said narratives have a glaring limitation in that they assume that Natives could only react to European provocations. Fanni Mingo’s map suggests a more proactive reality, however, and perhaps a more peripheral narrative location for Europeans. Not only were trans-Appalachian affairs overwhelmingly Native driven and Native-focused, coalescing polities proved more than capable of setting the parameters of European encounters. Merely two early Carolina examples: In 1674 trader Henry Woodward was persuaded by Westo slavers that areas west of the Savannah River were inhabited by “the Cowatoe and Chorakae Indians with whom [the Westo] are at continual warrs.” A group of “Savanas” (Shawnees), meanwhile, claiming friendship with Westos, warned him “that the Cussetaws, Checsaws and Chiokees intended to come downe and fight the Westoes.” No such action occurred, which indicates Westos and Savannahs actively manipulated English alliance building efforts for their own ends. (Incidentally, rumors of inter-Indigenous warfare would drive Europeans into spirals of paranoia for the next century.) Certainly they shaped Woodward’s understanding of polities like “Cherokees”—they were hostile to Westo interests, and thus by proxy to the English. That same year Abraham Wood provided a completely different glimpse into Cherokee affairs, however, when he pointed out that the Lower Towns seemed welcoming to Carolinians. He, too, gives evidence of Native manipulation while also providing a fleeting 17th century glimpse of the mobile world eventually illuminated by Fanni Mingo. Further down the Tennessee River, he was told, were “many nations of Indians […] which [the Cherokee] are at warre withe” (Shelley 133-34; Williams 27-28; Ray, “Cherokees, Empire, and the Tennessee Corridor” 35-64). War? Possibly. Extensive interaction about which Europeans knew little? Absolutely. More on that point to come.

12Historian Kathleen DuVal describes these conversations as illustrative of a “native ground.” Focusing upon the relationship between the French, Osages, and Quawpaws in the Arkansas River Valley, her observations are relevant to trans-Appalachian experiences. She notes that as the French arrived along the Arkansas River in the 1670s and 1680s they were recruited and manipulated by Quawpaws. What developed was a process of interaction wherein Native people “were more often able to determine the form and content of inter-cultural relations than were their European ‘colonizers’” (DuVal 4). Early Southern Carolina’s alliance building efforts were on similarly shaky ground. It meant that coalescent polities such as the four large circles at the center of Fanni Mingo’s map determined more of the English Southern narrative than Carolinians and their descendants have sometimes assumed. Their remarkable mobility, meanwhile, made them crucial facilitators of any imperial vision tenuously stretching into trans-Appalachia from the scattered European settlements along the coastlines (or St. Lawrence River Valley).

Mobility and Fanni Mingo’s Map

Fig. 2. A map describing the situation of the several Nations of Indians between South Carolina and the Mississippi River

Fig. 2. A map describing the situation of the several Nations of Indians between South Carolina and the Mississippi River


Printed by permission of the British National Archives.

13Another consequence of the deerskin and Native slave trades was that they encouraged already mobile polities to raid and hunt further afield from their areas of coalescence. And that in turn tapped directly into a broader trans-Appalachian mobility that pre-dated European arrivals but were chronicled increasingly clearly between 1650 and 1750. This mobility provides the key to reading and understanding Fanni Mingo’s map. At the same time men such as Lederer, Talbot, or Woodward imagined future western riches, people archaeologists call “Fort Ancients” departed the lower/mid-Ohio Valley in five directions, from the upper Valley to the Cumberland River to the Savannah River on the edge of Southern Carolina (Warren, Migration and Violence in the Ohio Valley). At roughly that same moment Quawpaws left the Ohio Valley to settle into the lower Mississippi region along the Arkansas River (DuVal). In response to increasing Haudenosaunee pressures Illinois-based “Twightwees” (Miamis) and Mascoutens began in the late 17th century to re-settle in western Ohio and the Wabash Valley (Trubowitz 243, 246). As those polities’ presence diminished Kickapoos and Piankeshaws moved into Illinois, while Anishnaabeg and Wendats (Hurons) traveled south from the Great Lakes to reinforce links to the region. After the 1720s, meanwhile, Lenapes (Delawares) and Senecas began moving from Pennsylvania and New York (among other areas) into the upper Ohio Valley, as did the Shawnees after a four-decade diaspora (Warren and Noe 163-87; Drooker 115-34). Finally, beginning in the late 17th century Cherokees, Chickasaws, and other Native Southerners began to assert their presence in the Ohio Valley (Ray, The Worlds the Shawnees Made 33-67). Fanni Mingo’s map offers a snapshot of large swaths of this movement.

14Slaving (and deerskin) pressures certainly helped shaped this mobility, whether in the form of Illiniwek and Chickasaw raids west of the Mississippi or Cherokee expeditions into the pays des Illinois (Morrisey; Rushforth; Ethridge, From Chicaza to Chickasaw). The Ani yun wiya, in fact, provide excellent insight into trans-Appalachian freneticism through their regular forays into the Wabash-Ohio-Tennessee corridor. In 1716 a Lower Town headman known as The Conjuror informed Carolina Colonel George Chicken that an expedition of fifty Cherokees were “about 4 day jorney down” the Tennessee River in search of Cahokias. Chicken subsequently reported that this party engaged “Conowes” and Cahokias, along with a delegation of “16 frinch men,” ultimately taking Native “women and cheldern slaves” (Chicken 331). Contemporary French sources also reported that raid, while a 1717 account further identified a group of Cherokee men from Quanasee (Valley Town) and Tellico (Overhill Town) along the Wabash in search of “Nottoways, Senecas, and Caskaskias” (Anderson and Lewis 51, 55). Sightings and encounters occurred with enough frequency that in 1721 Pierre de Charlevoix believed France needed to fortify the Wabash “to keep the Indians in awe, especially the Cherokees” (Williams 86). Agreed Jean Baptiste LeMoyne, Sieur de Bienville four years later, neither New France nor Louisiana were doing enough to deter the Cherokee raids which regularly came “by way of the Ohio, Cumberland, and Tennessee Rivers” (Phillips 317). When in 1726/7 Carolina officials encouraged Overhill men to slave raid amongst Lower Creek towns, The Long Warrior of Tanasee instead indicated his desire to “go against the French Indians” (Charles Town Council Chamber, 25 January 1725/26). Not surprisingly, many of his targets were in Illinois.

Fig. 3. Cherokee Towns in the 18th Century

Fig. 3. Cherokee Towns in the 18th Century

GIS Mapping by David Britton on behalf of the author.

15Cherokee excursions palpably challenged the Indigenous polities settling in (or near) locations Fanni Mingo placed upon his map. These inter-Indigenous encounters confused and scared British, French, and Spanish observers. The aforementioned 1717 raid, for example, produced rampant paranoia in Carolina that a counter-plot against Cherokees had been formed “by the Notawaugees, Senecas, and Cahokies, and several other Nations combined.” Officials believed the attack would occur early in 1718 and feared it would undermine the stability of their colony only a year or two after the nearly catastrophic Yamasee War seemed to have concluded (McDowell, Journals of the Commissioners of the Indian Trade 215). French expressions of paranoia reveal similar fears. By 1715 the French understood quite well that the Tennessee River was a location from “which the Cherokee descend when they go to war in the Illinois” Country (Memoires et Documents, Amerique, MD Amerique/1: 1712-1725.) A major reason for their interest in fortifying the Wabash Valley was to protect trade and communication lines from potential Native Southern attack. These fortifications were slow to develop, but as previously mentioned, what the French did manage to accomplish is notably missing from Fanni Mingo’s map.

16A report by New France Governor Charles de la Boische, Marquis de Beauharnois provides even more tantalizing, if fleeting, insight into the Indigenous realities of trans-Appalachia. In 1738 he expressed frustration that Overhill Cherokees and Wendats had agreed a diplomatic arrangement within the so-called boundaries of New France but without French input, and about which the French knew little. Much to his puzzlement the agreement led the Anishnaabeg to send a group of fighters towards the Wabash and Ohio Valleys to confront departing Cherokees (McDonnell 124). The situation produced still more befuddlement when French observers reported that Wendats were aware of Anishnaabeg efforts and got to the Cherokees first, in the process helping to coordinate a joint counterattack (Bartholomew 151-52). Beauharnois feared such actions and counter-actions negatively affected continental stability but could do little to stop them.

17A major byproduct of these inter-Indigenous encounters was that the French were sometimes caught in the middle—as happened in the aforementioned 1716 and 1717 Cherokee expeditions. In 1738 a party of “Cherake savages” took French prisoners from the Ohio Valley to Overhill Country, as did a similar raid a year later (Williams 154). In 1741, meanwhile, voyageur Antoine Bonnefoy described an ambush by nearly eighty “Cherakis” on a convoy near the mouth of the Wabash. He expressed displeasure that they unloaded most of the vessels before sending the convoy to “the River of the Cherakis [the Tennessee], which leads up to” the Overhill Towns (Williams 149-51). More than one observer suggested that such violence was not because of the French themselves. A diarist known as “Canelle,” for example, was convinced that Overhills wanted peace but attacked French interests “because the French Indians are hostile” (Anderson and Lewis 59-60). From that perspective, relief seemed to emerge in 1742 with news that Cherokees had agreed to a “peace treaty with most Canadian nations.” And yet the diplomatic path proved nowhere near clear of obstacles. That same year French observers reported that the Anishnaabeg were preparing to launch an expedition into the Native South when Catawbas “ambushed” them, perhaps with Wendat support. At that same moment Cherokees and Catawbas were negotiating with the Haudenosaunee regarding a cessation of hostilities between the three polities—without major input from European diplomats. Still other contemporary reports suggested that the Overhills were on the point of attacking an Algonquian-speaking polity called Ouiatanons in the Wabash Valley.

18The French could neither understand nor predict inter-Indigenous encounters such as these, as Louisiana Commisary General Edmé Gatien Salmon conceded in 1742. His colony would face serious trouble, he wrote Ministre de la Marine Jean-Frédéric Phélypeaux, First Comte de Maurepas, if in addition to everything else that year Cherokee negotiators won over “the Choctaws or constrain them by force to enter into an alliance with them and leave our side.” Such skills of persuasion, observed Louisiana Governor Pierre Francois de Rigaud Vaudreuil, meant that interactions “between [emphasis mine] Indian nations must be considered when planning for the welfare” of Louisiana (Galloway et al. 194; Anderson and Lewis 60).

19The French were hardly alone in feeling at the mercy of trans-Appalachian complexities. At the same moment Wendats and Overhill Cherokees seemed to the French to operate beyond their control South Carolina Governor William Bull grew convinced of exactly the opposite, warning the British Board of Trade that a Franco-Indigenous army of 205 had left Montreal to attack “some Indians Scituated near a branch of the Missisipi River in Amity with His Majestys Subjects” (Bull to the Board of Trade, CDFA). He believed that the Chickasaws were this army’s primary target but believed that greater danger lay in Overhill Cherokee Country, where the “French have for a long time wanted an opportunity to get an Interest” (Bull to Board of Trade, 20 March 1740, CDFA). No armies ever materialized, but persistent rumors of French-directed Native attacks heightened Carolina’s paranoia to the point that its leadership feared existential threats from Fanni Mingo’s world. Explained trader Ludovic Grant in 1755, “if the Enemy gets Possession of the Overhill Indians all the others will quickly submit to have their Lives, the Consequence of which would not only be expensive but fatal, at least, to [our] Settlements” (McDowell, Colonial Records of South Carolina vol. 2, 54). Charles Pinckney more expansively elaborated in a 1754 letter to the Board of Trade. Should the French “enfort themselves” in Overhill Country, he feared, they would turn Chickasaws, upper and lower Creeks, and other Cherokee regions against the British. In so doing they would cut off “our trade and intercourse with all” of trans-Appalachia and place Augusta, Savannah, and Charles Town within easy striking distance. For Pinckney, such a situation would be disastrous: out settlements would be destroyed, “Negro Slaves encouraged to rise in rebellion against us, and our Planters shut up in the Towns on the Sea Coast.” From there it would take only a nudge to push South Carolina “into the Sea” (Hamer 305-6).

20Although their records (and maps) suggest otherwise, in short, inter-Indigenous encounters in trans-Appalachia drove Europeans into spirals of paranoia and conspiracy theory that were compounded by imperial confrontations in the broader Atlantic World. Self-preservation demanded greater attention to Native affairs, fundamentally framing imperial North American decision-making from the War of the League of Augsburg through the American Revolution. So far from Native polities playing Europeans off one another to secure diminishing autonomies, Fanni Mingo’s map suggests that Europeans needed to (attempt to) “play off” Native polities to lay claim to imagined continental empires.

21It is important to note that slaving, deerskins, diplomacy, and warfare were only a few reasons for the mobility revealed by Fanni Mingo’s map. The bison and hunter pictographs reflect yet another. The two images allude to the large bison herds inhabiting the pays des Illinois in the 17th and 18th centuries, along with the associated bison product trade at places like Ouiatenon and Vincennes along the Wabash River. Said trade was part of a broader phenomenon that few contemporary Europeans understood, with the consequence that modern scholars tend not to see it, either: while they certainly could (and did) arrive via formal British, French, or Spanish networks, informal inter-Indigenous markets for European commodities also developed. To meticulous observers, evidence of regional inter-Indigenous economies abound.

Fig. 4. A section of “A map describing the situation of the several Nations of Indians between South Carolina and the Mississippi River”

Fig. 4. A section of “A map describing the situation of the several Nations of Indians between South Carolina and the Mississippi River”


Printed by permission of the British National Archives.

22Upon encountering Peorias for the first time in 1673, Jacques Marquette observed that they “use guns, which they buy from our savage allies who trade with our French” (Gold Thwaites vol. 59, 25-26). Only a few decades later Antoine Denis Raudot observed that trans-Mississippi people were not as “warlike” as the Illinois, but that “having need of their trade to get axes, knives, awls, and other objects, the Illinois buy these things from us to resell to them” (Kinietz 404).

23Pierre de Liette offers further insight into trade opportunities in the pays des Illinois. In his 1721 journal he chronicles an abundant variety of game animals, edible and medicinal flora, lead mines, and other exploitable natural resources. Those things in-and-of themselves would have been sufficient to bring Native polities into the region, regardless of imperial prompting. Yet Liette also describes a striking number of guns, horses, and European commodities—along with brief explanations for how they arrived in the pays des Illinois and Wabash River Valley. Like Marquette and Raudot before him, he observes that Illinois polities received horses and Spanish goods from the Panis, Osage, and others to the west (Liette). Meanwhile, they received French commodities through the Jesuits, voyageurs, and Anishnaabeg travelling into the region, which, as per Raudot, they in turn traded in multiple directions. Scholars can add that over the course of the 18th century British supplies entered the region via the Ohio Valley and Carolina. And that hardly begins to explain the curious emergence of horse theft and markets observed by Carolinians, Georgians, Virginians, the French, and the Spanish.

24Trade in the Ohio Valley was more than enough to justify Native Southern projection and for Illinois polities to respond in kind along the Tennessee River. By the 1720s trade goods had become relatively easy for Cherokees or Chickasaws to acquire via alternatives to “officially sanctioned” trade paths (Hatley 45-46). Hubris notwithstanding, Europeans seemed only indirectly necessary for the growth and sophistication of commodities markets. Which returns us to Fanni Mingo’s map. It is a powerful reminder that European invasion produced forces of tremendous consequence in Indigenous America, but their limited actual reach kept them on the periphery as trans-Appalachian people shaped and re-shaped their lives. In their world Europeans would need to negotiate carefully to ensure any level of “success” in transforming imagined western empires into something tangible.


25Standard historiographical narratives and cartographies, in short, cede too much power to Western ideas of empire, jurisdictional control, and Indigenous nationhood. By focusing on Native trans-Appalachia Fanni Mingo’s map reminds us that American Indian lives primarily were rooted in inter-Indigenous interactions and practices, and that they exerted as much or more pressure on European America than vice-versa. Europeans misinterpreted political and diplomatic cues in an attempt to overcome the limited practical reach of their imagined empires, and North American historical/cartographical representations have suffered as a result. Properly framed and interpreted, Fanni Mingo’s map offers a powerful tool by which to re-think the centrality of Indigenous polities to the early modern evolution of the continent.

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1 The original 1723 map has been lost to historyit (most likely) is lurking somewhere in the British National Archives but has not been seen for a century or two. Fortunately, a Charles Town clerk made an exact replica in 1725albeit with the labels and minor additions.

2  One can see similar manipulation in the so-called “Catawba Map” drawn at roughly the same moment, except in that case it indicates manipulation of intra-British colonial interests. Presented to South Carolinians, it makes their colony seem far more important than Virginia. Conversations with Virginia officials would have suggested the other way around.

3 The seven Cherokee clans are: Blue or Panther; Long Hair or Wind; Bird; Paint; Deer; Wild Potato or Bear (or Raccoon or Blind Savannah); and Wolf. Reed, Seven Clans of the Cherokee Society (Cherokee, NC: Cherokee Publications, 1993). Regarding inter-regional similarities: it is certainly true to say that the post-contact Ani-Kituwah were matrilineal, spoke different dialects of the same Iroquoian language, and were intimately connected by sinews of clan (of which there are seven). They also maintained similar religious and cultural beliefs across their five settlement regions. Spiritual, material, and cultural connections, however, are not the same as political and diplomatic, even if contemporary Europeans showed a maddening willingness to conflate them.

4 Contemporary Britons labeled the following “Westward” Indians: Piankeshaws, Mascoutens, Twightwees (Miamis), Peorias, Caskaskias, Shawnees, Lenapes (Delawares), and Anishnaabeg (Odawa, Ojibwe, Potawatami). In 1750 South Carolina Governor James Glen defined “northward Indians” as falling under the “general Name of Nottaweegas, & they are sometimes called Senecas . . . Besides the Five Nations, there are . . . the Susquehannah and Virginia Indians.” Glen to Clinton, 7 July 1750, Clinton Papers, Clements Library.

5 Fanni Mingo personifies this mobility – he was Chickasaw, a polity primarily located in modern Mississippi, but was part of a smaller group that for a time settled near Fort Moore in modern South Carolina (Cashin xvi).

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1. A map describing the situation of the several Nations of Indians between South Carolina and the Mississippi River
Crédits Printed by permission of the British National Archives.
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,6M
Titre Fig. 2. A map describing the situation of the several Nations of Indians between South Carolina and the Mississippi River
Crédits Printed by permission of the British National Archives.
Fichier image/jpeg, 111k
Titre Fig. 3. Cherokee Towns in the 18th Century
Crédits GIS Mapping by David Britton on behalf of the author.
Fichier image/jpeg, 386k
Titre Fig. 4. A section of “A map describing the situation of the several Nations of Indians between South Carolina and the Mississippi River”
Crédits Printed by permission of the British National Archives.
Fichier image/jpeg, 155k
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Kristofer Ray, « Interpreting Native Trans-Appalachia, 1670-1770 »XVII-XVIII [En ligne], 78 | 2021, mis en ligne le 31 décembre 2021, consulté le 28 novembre 2022. URL : ; DOI :

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Kristofer Ray

Kristofer Ray is an Honorary Fellow at the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation (University of Hull). He is a student of the early modern American Indian experience broadly, Native-European interaction in trans-Appalachia specifically, and the European construction of Indigenous slave law. In addition to several book chapters, edited volumes, and journal articles he is the author of Cherokees, Europeans, and Empire in the Trans-Appalachian West, 1670-1774 (under contract) and Middle Tennessee, 1775-1825: Progress and Popular Democracy on the Southwestern Frontier (2007).

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