In 1738, the Hurons and Odawas living at the French post of Détroit clashed violently. This episode testifies to the two neighbors' complicated relationship, which had long vacillated between close alliance and cooperation, on one hand, and entrenched resentment and competition on the other. Ultimately, the relationship and the conflict it caused in 1738 tell us much about the Great Lakes Region and about colonialism more generally. Although the pressures of colonialism had battered the natives, they had not shattered them. Instead, the Hurons, Odawas, and their native neighbors survived as discrete political and cultural communities. The interactions between these distinct communities in turn shaped the Great Lakes Region as much as they did the relationship between natives and European newcomers. Thus this essay imagines the colonial encounter not as a binary relationship between Europeans and natives but as a multifaceted conversation involving a number of indigenous and European actors. At Détroit—as at other sites of colonial interaction—colonialism was negotiated among a large cast of indigenous and foreign characters.

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