Laura Keenan Spero

  • Fellowship year:2009-2010
  • University: University of Pennsylvania
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: United States
  • Dissertation Title: ‘Stout, Bold, Cunning, and the Greatest Travellers in America’: The Colonial Shawnee Diaspora
  • This dissertation argues that as refugees scattered by inter-native wars in the mid-seventeenth century, Shawnees adapted to dispersal by creating distinct but interconnected communities throughout eastern North America. Even as Shawnees enmeshed themselves in various local contexts, however, they remained on the move, traveling as individuals, families, and villages between Shawnee communities in the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes regions. Through the creation of a unique diaspora, Shawnees not only remained connected to each other, but came to link a vast swathe of Native America. Their extensive kin and other social ties among Native peoples east of the Mississippi gave them unprecedented access and their diverse experiences of colonialism – rarely good, whatever the specific context – led many to participate in pan-Native efforts to protect Native political and territorial sovereignty.

    Shawnees made Native enemies as well as friends, and these fraught relationships demonstrate how carefully Shawnees had to negotiate their varied worlds and illustrate the limits of inter-Native connectivity. However, Shawnees had emerged as inter-Native diplomats and had seen the potential of inter-Native anti-imperial activism.