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Theodore Randolph Catton
University of Montana (Missoula, MT 59801-4494)
Fur Trade Society and Cultural Identity in the U.S./Canada Borderlands, 1790-1823

Interest in fur trade history has enjoyed a resurgence as scholars have started to examine Indian participation in cross-cultural construction of "fur trade society." My study combines techniques of biography, micro-history, and the multiple-person narrative mode sometimes used in works of fiction to create an intimate portrait of fur trade society in the U.S./Canada borderlands west of Lake Superior in the early nineteenth century. The book I propose to write centers on the enigmatic figure of American-born John Tanner, who was taken captive by Indians at age nine and lived the better part of his life with the Western Ojibwa before returning to white civilization in the early 1820s. I examine the intersecting lives of Major Stephen H. Long, Dr. John McLoughlin, and the "white Indian" John Tanner--the explorer, the trader, and the hunter, three archetypes of the fur trade--untangling the complicated story of Tanner's cultural identity and what it tells us about fur trade society.

Project fields:
U.S. History

Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars

Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
1/1/2011 – 12/31/2011