In Masters of the Middle Waters, Jacob Lee traces the entangled histories of Indigenous peoples and colonial intruders along the Middle Mississippi River from the fall of Cahokia to the consolidation of US hegemony. The highly ambitious book brings together several key strands of recent historiography. Most importantly, it continues the ongoing reconceptualization of empires as fragile “familial, economic, and diplomatic networks” (3) and pushes forward the analysis of the many shapes of Indigenous power.

Lee’s approach to empires and Indigenous power foregrounds geography and kinship. Following Michael Witgen, Juliana Barr, and others who have reenvisioned North American history from the vantage point of the interior, he casts the Middle Mississippi as the dynamic center of the continent, “a point of convergence” (8) where diverse Native and colonial peoples met with far-reaching consequences. This meeting place, Lee argues, was dominated by...

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