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University of Iowa News Release


Sept. 1, 2009

New University of Iowa Press book documents the 'Frontier Forts of Iowa'

History and archeology are combined in "Frontier Forts of Iowa: Indians, Traders, and Soldiers, 1682-1862," edited by William E. Whitacker. The latest addition to the Bur Oak Books series of the University of Iowa Press, the volume became available on Sept. 1, 2009.

The book is available at bookstores or directly from the UI Press, by phone at 800-621-2736 or online at Customers in the United Kingdom, Europe, the Middle East or Africa may order from the Eurospan Group online at

At least 56 frontier forts once stood in, or within view of, what is now the state of Iowa. The earliest date to the 1680s, while the latest date to the Dakota uprising of 1862.

Some were vast compounds housing hundreds of soldiers; others consisted of a few sheds built by a trader along a riverbank. Regardless of their size and function -- Whittaker and his contributors include any compound that was historically called a fort -- all sought to control and manipulate Indians to the advantage of European and American traders, governments and settlers.

Frontier "Forts of Iowa" draws extensively upon the archaeological and historical records to document this era of transformation from the 17th-century fur trade until almost all Indians had been removed from the region.

The earliest European-constructed forts along the Mississippi, Des Moines and Missouri rivers fostered a complex relationship between Indians and early traders. After the Louisiana Purchase of 1804, American military forts emerged in the Upper Midwest, defending the newly claimed territories from foreign armies, foreign traders and foreign-supported Indians.

After the War of 1812, new forts were built to control Indians until they could be moved out of the way of American settlers: Forts of this period, which made extensive use of roads and trails, teamed a military presence with an Indian agent who negotiated treaties and regulated trade.

The final phase of fort construction in Iowa occurred in response to the Spirit Lake massacre and the Dakota uprising; the complete removal of the Dakota in 1863 marked the end of frontier forts in a state now almost completely settled by Euro-Americans.

R. Douglas Hurt of Purdue University wrote, "This smooth blend of history and archaeology provides an important reference and guide to trading posts and military fortifications in present-day Iowa from the 1680s with the arrival of the French to 1863 and the removal of the Sioux. An excellent reference and a good read. Anyone interested in the history of the frontier, Indian-white relations, and military activities will find this book informative and engaging."

Whittaker is a staff archaeologist at the Office of the State Archaeologist in Iowa City.

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Allison Means, UI Press,; Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073,