In the period circa 1765–1820, a time of imperial competition in central North America, Ioway Indians lived at a village site known today as Iowaville and interacted with colonial officials and traders representing Spain, Britain, and the United States. Ethnohistorians situate and contrast contemporary Indian-European relations in central and eastern North America as either a “middle ground” or a “native ground.” Yet these constructs reproduce the very narratives they were intended to challenge. By framing Indian responses to colonialism as a binary of assimilation or resistance, they reduce cultural production to an expression of underlying power structures, recalling simplistic acculturation models that link cultural continuity with relative strength and cultural change with relative weakness. Instead, we approach Iowaville and its social landscape via dialectical models that reconceptualize power as a product of cultural practice rather than a structure of cultural production. Material cultural practices were less reflections of power structures than strategies to generate potentially powerful positions in relation to and relations with other indigenous and colonial interests.

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