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Book Reviews

From Chicaza to Chickasaw:  The European Invasion and the Transformation of the Mississippian World, 1540-1715. 

By: Robbie Ethridge

From “UM anthropologist’s latest book focuses on transformation of Chickasaw Indians, Thursday-Friday, December 23-24, 2010.”  By Edwin Smith, University Communications

The evolution of an early Native American tribe following European settlement is the subject of a new critically acclaimed book by a University of Mississippi anthropologist.

Robby Ethridge’s “From Chicaza to Chickasaw: The European Invasion and the Transformation of the Mississippian World, 1540-1715” (University of North Carolina Press, 2010) traces the metamorphosis of the Native South from Hernando De Soto’s first contact to the dawn of the 18th century.  Although thousands of Indians died or were enslaved and virtually all native polities were radically altered in these years, the collapse of this complex prehistoric Mississippian world did not extinguish them, but rather transformed them, said Etheridge, professor of anthropology.

“While the book is very specialized, I’m hoping it will appeal to the general public because of the mostly unknown history of Native Americans that it reveals,” Ethridge said.  “For example, few people know that prior to European contact Southern Indian tribes such as the Creeks, Cherokees and Choctaws did not exist.  These groups formed as the survivors of the upheaval at contact and began to regroup and restructure their lives.”

Ethridge, who has established herself as a leader in the field of indigenous American history, uses a new interpretive frame-work that she calls the “Mississippian shatter zone” to closely follow the story of the Chickasaws throughout this period.  Using archaeological and documentary evidence, Ethridge illuminates the Native South in its earliest colonial context and sheds new light on the profound upheaval and cultural transformation experienced by the region’s first peoples.

Part of the reason for this upheaval was the commercial trade in Indian slaves that Europeans brought to the New World.

“Just as African groups in later years began to conquer one another to provide slaves to the European slave trade, Southern Indian Tribes did the same,” Ethridge said.  “In efforts to escape being enslaved, native groups fled slave raiders and the survivors often migrated all over the region.”

The book received high praises before its Dec. 15 release.

“Robbie Ethridge’s latest book is a logical step in a long-range research program aimed at exploring the transition from prehistory to history in the American South,” said Jay Johnson, UM professor of sociology and anthropology.  “It is an important book that will become essential reading for anyone trying to understand the early Colonial period, irrespective of whether they are an archaeologist or historian.”

Robbie Ethridge’s innovative, imaginative work of scholarship provides the only modern, comprehensive survey of all the Southeastern Indians during the protohistoric period,” wrote University of Alabama professor Gregory Waselkov.