River of Gray Gold: Cultural and Material Changes in the Land of Ores, Country of Minerals, 1719 - 1839
Chambers, Mark Milton
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This dissertation uncovers a narrative about Indians, Europeans, and Americans who created a mining amalgam. Long before the technological exchange that extended across the Atlantic to the United States, Native American and European miners engaged in complicated interactions regarding their environmental knowledge and their respective prospecting, extracting, and smelting methods. In effect, between 1719 and 1839 miners interacted to create a cross-cultural dialogue that involved a hybrid of mining techniques that shaped their attitudes about each other during multiple encounters on the mining frontier. This study also shows that Native Americans, despite the limitations of their technologies, engaged in yet another form of environmental manipulation as opposed to positing a pre-colonial past of ecological harmony. The examination of the convergence of Indian and European mining practices highlights Native American knowledge and technological experiences that are most often ignored. Without Native American influence European style mining development would have unrolled far more slowly. By the early nineteenth-century, guided by technological advancement, travelers, geologists, and miners had made their way west to survey the Missouri lead mines, and to promote the region's resource potential. American miners believed the mining frontier-borderland to be incomplete and only expected it to become complete by introducing more advanced mechanical interventions. Assumptions about material advantage in modernization caused Euro-Americans and Europeans' to question the knowledge and expertise of Native Americans and French settlers whose practices enabled them to ensue America's "civilizing" project. American miners viewed technology as a means to replace the "primitive" methods with European practices, thereby embarking on a program to civilize the mining frontier and ultimately erase any remnant of Indian traditions.