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Fall 2023 Edition
Alumni & Friends Magazine

Contextualizing the Past

A nuanced story about the people and dynamics that reshaped this region and determined who would control it

Laura M. André | October 2, 2023


The Ohio River Valley contains some of the most resource-rich terrain in the world. Its settlement by humans, from the Indigenous mound builders to Johnny Appleseed, has been consequential not only for shaping the geographic and cultural landscape of the region, but also for forming the United States and the future of world history. 

Settling Ohio: First Peoples and Beyond is a collection of essays edited by two Ohio University professors, Timothy G. Anderson (geography) and Brian Schoen (history). It also includes a foreword by former Ohio University president M. Duane Nellis and an afterword by Chief Glenna Wallace of the Eastern Shawnee tribe. 

Cover of Settling Ohio book

The book begins with an overview of the first people to inhabit the region, who built civilizations that moved massive amounts of earth and left an archaeological record that drew the interest of subsequent settlers and continues to intrigue scholars. It highlights how, in the 18th century, Native Americans who migrated from the east and north interacted with Europeans to develop impressive trading networks. Furthermore, the book shows how Native peoples managed wars and sought to preserve their existence in the face of violent attempts to remove them from their lands.

Many people are familiar with the story of Ohio settlement that focuses on the Northwest Ordinance, the dealings of the Ohio Company of Associates and early transportation networks. Settling Ohio weaves these historical milestones into a far richer story of contested spaces, competing visions of nationhood and complicated relations with Native peoples.

The book’s contributors show how chaotic and contingent early national politics and frontier development truly were. Chapters highlighting the role of apple-growing culture, education, African American settlers and the diverse migration flows into Ohio from the east and Europe further demonstrate the complex, multiethnic composition of Ohio’s early settlements and the tensions that resulted.

Settling Ohio recovers the often-forgotten history of non-white peoples displaced by the processes of settler colonialism that has been, until recently, undervalued in both the teaching and study of the past.

Laura M. André is the publicity and metadata manager at the Ohio University Press.