Born of Lakes and Plains follows five mixed-descent families whose lives intertwined major events: imperial battles over the fur trade; the first extensions of American authority west of the Appalachians; the ravages of imported disease; the violence of Indian removal; encroaching American settlement; and, following the Civil War, the disasters of Indian war, reservations policy, and allotment.
Anne F. Hyde examines family life in the borderlands; her carefully wrought portrait of five families reveals the peculiar challenges faced by these quintessential people of the border ... The Europeans at first were treated like another tribe ... Hyde provides illuminating detail on the family networks the outsider men married into and the benefits and costs to the various parties ... Hyde’s research is impressive throughout; it is hard to imagine a pertinent document that has escaped her scrutiny. Yet her characters often remain elusive. It is in the nature of social history that the subjects leave few traces for the historian to work with. In some cases they never wrote anything down, lacking literacy or incentive. In other cases, what was written down was subsequently lost. As a result we often observe Hyde’s subjects from a distance. At times she is compelled to extrapolate ... Yet Hyde makes good use of one woman who did create a written record—an elegantly poetic one ... This fine book will help ensure that that history isn’t lost.
Hyde tries to corral her unwieldy narrative into the stories of five white men and their extended families ranging across North America from colonial times into the 20th century ... Unfortunately, as Hyde jumps from one large extended family to another, it's impossible to keep the names straight, let alone discern what makes any of them tick. In the effort to convey the wide variety of fates encountered by mixed-descent people, she has offered a huge, and hugely confusing, cast of characters. Family tree charts would have been a help.
Hyde doesn’t gloss over suffering. But in her immersive and humane new book she draws attention to the relationships between white and Indigenous people that made 'strangers into kin,' long before such unions were decried and, in some states, outlawed ... The history she recounts is both sweeping and intimate, allowing her to trace larger developments while also showing how families responded differently to changing circumstances ... The proliferating narratives can make it hard to keep track of all the threads — a number of Georges and Johns and Williams within and across families means that a set of family trees would have been a welcome and clarifying addition to Hyde’s book. But the profusion of stories is part of her point, as she shows how the same events could affect people in disparate ways, with some adapting or even flourishing while others escaped or resisted or got crushed ... Hyde wants us to see how some families found ways to endure, but there’s an irreducible grief that wends its way through this book.