Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in History (PhD)

Degree Level





Beth Barton Schweieger

Committee Member

Helene Aji

Second Committee Member

Morris Arnold

Third Committee Member

Eliane Elmaleh

Fourth Committee Member

James Gigantino II

Fifth Committee Member

Elliott West


Social sciences, Arkansas history, Colonial Mississippi Valley, European Indian encounter, French Louisiana, Native Americans, Sex and intermarriage


Historians have agreed that the French were more successful than their competitors in developing cordial relations with Native Americans during the conquest of North America. French diplomatic savoir faire and their skill at trading with Indians are usually cited to explain this success, but the Spaniards relied upon similar policies of trade and gift giving, while enjoying considerably less success with the Indians. Intimate Frontiers proposes an alternative model to understand the relative success of French Colonization in North America. Intimate Frontiers, an ethno-historical examination of the colonial encounters in the Lower French Louisiana, focuses on the Social relations between Europeans, Indians and African in colonial Mississippi Valley. It examines the importance of the intimate bonds forged between settlers and natives in maintaining diplomatic alliances in the region even after the French left Louisiana in 1763. My work brings sexuality and intimacy into the political arena, challenging the prevailing view that power was defined solely by political and military alliances.

There are three key components to my study. The first part shows how the French and Quapaws forged Social ties in early Arkansas through adoption and sexual unions, allowing them to face their common enemies, the Chickasaws, as brothers. The second section examines the mutual commercial interests and intimate relations between the Osage Indians and the Chouteau family of St. Louis. Given his kinship connections with the Osage and his economic power in the region, Pierre Chouteau became the first U.S. Indian Agent for the Osage. The final section demonstrates that Africans (both free and runaway slaves) and Indians created economic and intimate ties that allowed them to negotiate life among Europeans. African men and Choctaw women entered into sexual unions, allowing their progenitors, the girfs, to claim their freedom, following the status of their Indian mothers.