Writing takes time. It is ironic that this historian has a troubling sense of personal time, but that is what it is. I have to work hard to write. Like many other writers, I am also doubtful of my craft. The time spent writing and researching over the last decade stretched into months in libraries, hours in archives, and in the home office. I found myself thinking about research on the long road trips, traveling to conferences, sitting in the office, and even while I am teaching. Once into writing, it permeates like a root of ivy, showing up when you don’t expect it in ways you didn’t realize it could grow.
My research has focused on the intersections of business and Native America in 19th century Oklahoma, or the Indian Territory as it was referred. As I have worked through and around these intersections, I have realized the intricate ways in which Native people took emergent capitalistic ideas for their own purposes. I thought I was looking for the ways railroads dominated the West as I started out on my research journey. Time and again I encountered an incomplete puzzle with an “Oklahoma” shaped hole in the middle. The people of the Indian Territory managed the railroads in ways the railroads did not understand. When rail was built in the region, it was in cooperation with Native Americans, not in resistance to them.
Rail companies quickly understood the potential value of coal beds in the Indian Territory. It is with this understanding that Native Americans used the tools of capitalism, including taxes, leases, liens, and usage rights to manage railroad access and expansion within the region.
But I digress. My first forays into academia focused on Nebraska territorial settlement. Recently my master’s thesis became the inspiration for a chapter in Just Plains Folks: Studies of the People of the Great Plains published by the University of Nebraska – Kearney Press, 2016.
Emergent Capitalism can be found in 19th century Indian Territory. This is the focus of my work.