Dowd, Gregory Evans 1956-

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DOWD, Gregory Evans 1956-


Born 1956. Education: University of Connecticut, Storrs, B.A.; Princeton University, M.A., Ph.D.


Office—Dept. of History, University of Michigan, 435 South State St., Ann Arbor, MI 48109. E-mail—[email protected].


Historian and educator. University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN, Department of History, associate dean for undergraduate studies; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, professor of history and American culture and director of Native American studies. Visiting professor at University of Connecticut, Storrs.


Smithsonian fellow, 1990-91; Gustavus Myers Center Award, 1993, for A Spirited Resistance: The North American Indian Struggle for Unity, 1745-1815; Fulbright scholar, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, 1994; Arrell M. Gibson Award, Western History Association, 1997; Notre Dame teaching award, 1999; Lloyd-Lewis/National Endowment for the Humanities fellow, 1999-2000.


(With Peter T. Bartis and David S. Cohen) Folklife Resources in New Jersey, American Folklife Center (Washington, DC), 1985.

The Indians of New Jersey ("New Jersey History" series), New Jersey Historical Commission (Trenton, NJ), 1992.

A Spirited Resistance: The North American Indian Struggle for Unity, 1745-1815 ("Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science" series), Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 1992.

War under Heaven: Pontiac, the Indian Nationals, and the British Empire, Johns Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, MD), 2002.

Work represented in books, including Contact Points: American Frontiers from the Mohawk Valley to the Mississippi, 1750-1830, edited by Fredrika Teute and Andrew R. L. Cayton, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 1998; A Companion to American Indian History, edited by Philip J. Deloria and Neal Salisbury, Blackwell (Malden, MA), 2002; and Handbook of the North American Indians: Southeast, edited by William Sturtevant, Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC).


Historian Gregory Evans Dowd's research interests are reflected in his books, including A Spirited Resistance: The North American Indian Struggle for Unity, 1745-1815. In this volume Dowd examines the quest for unity of four tribes from different geographical regions—the Delaware, Shawnee, Cherokee, and Creek—in resisting Anglo expansion.

Dowd's observations of the native population from the colonial period until the end of the War of 1812 focus on some of the most well-known figures in the history of the conflict, including Pontiac, Tenskwatawa, Tecumseh, Osceola, and the Creek prophets and followers known as Red Sticks. Eric Hinderaker wrote in American Indian Quarterly that "while much of the ground Dowd covers has been plowed before in biographies, military narratives, and histories defined by tribal or territorial units, no one has attempted where Dowd succeeds: He discovers a unifying pattern that helps us make better and more comprehensive sense of the period."

Dowd argues that the political and prophetic movements of the period cannot be separated. Hinderaker noted that "historians have artificially separated movements for political autonomy from those seeking spiritual renewal. Religious prophets, in Dowd's view, gave shape and meaning to the political struggles of the period."

Historians have, for the most part, held that intertribal Native unity was impossible and one of the reasons Natives were unable to protect themselves from European conquest. Dowd argues that they could and did recognize their common goals, drawing on both religious and political ideals. Historian's Robert A. Trennert felt that "this solid study is based on an overwhelming research effort. Dowd has gone over old territory with a fine-tooth comb, tracing down every possible confirmation of his thesis."

War under Heaven: Pontiac, the Indian Nations, and the British Empire was called an "elegantly written ethnohistorical study" by Library Journal's John Burch. It is Dowd's study of the period of bloody wars following the 1763 Treaty of Paris and France's relinquishing of most of the lands east of the Mississippi River to the British. The Great Lakes Indians and the French had maintained an alliance of convenience, but when the British replaced the French, they did so in a spirit of superiority. They refused to offer tokens to the tribes or in any way maintain the spirit of coexistence the Indians had enjoyed with the French. The resulting conflicts arose not out of any issues over land or trade, but out of British arrogance and lack of respect for Native sovereignty.

Ottawa chief Pontiac was a prominent leader in the bloody wars waged on the British from 1763 to 1767. The first assault was on the post of Detroit, and conflict soon spread to all Indian lands east of the Mississippi River, west of the Appalachian Mountains, and north of the Ohio River. The wars also held a clue to the future of the country as the prize of the Revolutionary War.

Dowd explores the roles religion and culture played on both sides of the conflict, including how the British military's attitudes toward the Indians were formed. The Delaware prophet Neolin announced that he had a vision from the Master of Life, in which he was told that if his people followed tribal ceremony and led moral lives, the oppressors would be overcome. Pontiac and other leaders were inspired by this vision, and so began what was, in part, a holy war.

Washington Times reviewer Elliott West wrote that Dowd "is especially original in his analysis of the war's legacy. Its prime lesson, its ambiguity, was part of a larger crisis of empire. As with the conflict with the colonies that followed immediately, England simply was unable to establish a mastery it felt was its due, and the result was a muddy, confused contradictory policy toward both Indians and colonists—the approach toward the western tribes treating them now as independent actors, now as dependent children. After the Revolution, Mr. Dowd says, the republic inherited this muddled and conflicted Indian policy." West concluded by calling War under Heaven a "tightly written and engaging history."



American Indian Quarterly, summer, 1993, Eric Hinderaker, review of A Spirited Resistance: The North American Indian Struggle for Unity, 1745-1815, p. 436.

Choice, September, 1992, R. L. Haan, review of A Spirited Resistance, pp. 204-205.

Historian, spring, 1993, Robert A. Trennert, review of A Spirited Resistance, p. 575.

Journal of American History, September, 1993, R. David Edmunds, review of A Spirited Resistance, p. 641.

Library Journal, November 1, 2002, John Burch, review of War under Heaven: Pontiac, the Indian Nations, and the British Empire, p. 104.

Michigan Historical Review, spring, 2003, Robert M. Owens, review of War under Heaven, p. 139.

Washington Times, December 1, 2002, Elliott West, review of War under Heaven. *

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Dowd, Gregory Evans 1956-

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