Jon Parmenter is an associate professor in Cornell’s department of History. I am a historian of early North America specializing in the history of Indigenous peoples of what is now the northeastern United States and eastern Canada. My research interests center on the relationships of Indigenous nations to their spatial environments, the subject of my first monograph The Edge of the Woods: Iroquoia, 1534-1701 (2010). I have published article-length studies in Diplomatic History, William and Mary Quarterly, and the Journal of Early American History. Most recently I have published a peer-reviewed essay on “Indigenous Nations and US Foreign Policy” for the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History. Since September 2021 I have also been active in preparing reports and providing expert testimony in several Canadian court cases pertaining to Indigenous nations’ treaty rights and land claims.
A Speculative Vision: Cornell University’s Origins in Indian Country
Cornell University, as New York State’s designated federal land-grant university, received approximately one million acres (ten percent of the acreage allocated nationally) by the Morrill Act of 1862. By 1900, nearly one-third of the total Morrill Act land-grant revenues generated by all the states had accrued to Cornell University. Relying on the University’s extensive archival records, this book will demonstrate how Ezra Cornell (and institutional successors) wrung incredible profits from lands and natural resources initially taken by the federal government in nine prior treaty surrenders secured from five different tribal nations located in what are now the states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Kansas. Carrying the story forward to the present day, the book will assess the comparative outcomes of the dispossession for the Indigenous nations in question vis-à-vis the benefits that flowed to the University. The book also seeks to address the question of Cornell University’s contemporary obligations as a land-grant institution to the key original stakeholders in its founding: the Indigenous nations whose appropriated birthright provided the economic fuel that transformed Cornell University from a sleepy, one-building college to an internationally-known center of higher education with the third-largest endowment of any American university by the turn of the twentieth century.
The Edge of the Woods: Iroquoia, 1534-1701. Michigan State University Press, 2010; paperback edition, University of Manitoba Press, 2014.
Recognition and Honors
Honorable Mention, 2010 PROSE Award for Professional and Scholarly Excellence, Association of American Publishers.
"The Meaning of Kaswentha and the Two Row Wampum Belt in Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) History: Can Indigenous Oral Tradition be Reconciled with the Documentary Record?" Journal of Early American History 3 (2013): 82-109.
"The Perils and Possibilities of Wartime Neutrality on the Edges of Empires: Iroquois and Acadians between the British and French in North America, 1744-60." (coauthored with Mark P. Robison) Diplomatic History 31 (2007): 167-206.
"After the Mourning Wars: The Iroquois as Allies in Colonial North American Campaigns, 1676-1760." William and Mary Quarterly 64 (2007): 39-82.
"'L'Arbre de Paix': Eighteenth Century Franco-Iroquois Relations." French Colonial History 4 (2003): 63-80.
"Rethinking Penn's Treaty With the Indians: Benjamin West and the Legacy of Native-Settler Relations in Colonial Pennsylvania," Proteus: A Journal of Ideas 19 (Spring 2002): 38-44.
"Neutralité active des Iroquois durant la guerre de la Succession d'Austriche, 1744-1748 [The Active Neutrality of the Iroquois during the War of the Austrian Succession, 1744-1748]," trans. Michel Lavoie, Recherches Amérindiennes au Québec 32 (2002): 29-37.
"La politique du deuil: le factionalisme des Onontagués et la mort de Canasatego [The Politics of Mourning: Onondaga Factionalism and the Death of Canasatego]," trans. Françoise Neillon and Jean-Paul Salaün, Recherches Amérindiennes au Québec 29 (1999): 23-35.
"Pontiac's War: Forging New Links in the Anglo-Iroquois Covenant Chain, 1758-1766." Ethnohistory 44 (1997): 617-54.
"Treason in the London District during the War of 1812." London and Middlesex Historian [Ontario] 20 (Autumn 1993): 5-26.
BOOK CHAPTERS AND INVITED ESSAYS
"Separate Vessels: Hudson, the Dutch, and the Iroquois." In Jaap Jacobs and Louis Roper, eds., The Worlds of the Seventeenth Century Hudson Valley (Albany: SUNY Press, 2014), 103-33.
"In the Wake of Cartier: The Indigenous Context of Champlain's Activities in the St. Lawrence Valley and Upper Great Lakes, 1550-1635." In Nancy Nahra, ed., When the French Were Here…And They're Still Here: Proceedings of the 2009 Champlain Quadricentennial Conference (Burlington, VT: Champlain College, 2010), 87-115.
"'Onenwahatirighsi Sa Gentho Skaghnughtudigh': Reassessing Iroquois Relations with the Albany Commissioners of Indian Affairs, 1723-1755." In Nancy Rhoden, ed., English Atlantics Revisited: Essays Honouring Professor Ian K. Steele (Montréal, QC, and Kingston, ON: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2007), 235-83.
"The Significance of the 'Illegal Fur Trade' to the Eighteenth Century Iroquois." In Louise Johnston, ed., Aboriginal People and the Fur Trade: Proceedings of the 8th North America Fur Trade Conference, Akwesasne (Ottawa, ON, 2001), 40-47.
"The Iroquois and the Native American Struggle for the Ohio Valley, 1754-1794." In David C. Skaggs and Larry L. Nelson, eds. The Sixty Years' War for the Great Lakes, 1754-1814 (East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 2001), 105-24.
"Dragging Canoe (Tsi'yu-gûnsi'ni): Chickamauga Cherokee Patriot." In Ian K. Steele and Nancy Rhoden, eds. The Human Tradition in Revolutionary America (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources Press, 2000), 117-37.
"Madame Montour: Cultural Broker on the Eighteenth-Century Frontiers of New York and Pennsylvania." In Ian K. Steele and Nancy Rhoden, eds. The Human Tradition in Colonial America (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources Press, 1999), 141-59.
ENCYCLOPEDIA ENTRIES AND SHORT ESSAYS
"Native Americans," in Mark G. Spencer, ed., Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of the American Enlightenment (2 vols., New York: Bloomsbury, 2015), 2: 740-43.
"The Beaver Wars," in Antonio Thomson and Christos Frentzos, eds., The Routledge Handbook of U.S. Diplomatic and Military History: Colonial Period to 1877 (New York: Routledge, 2014), 33-41.
"Agriculture." In John Demos, ed.,American Centuries: The Ideas, Issues, and Trends that Made U.S. History, Volume 2, The Seventeenth Century (New York: MTM Publishing, 2011), 17-23.
"Native American Warfare"; "Pontiac"; "Little Turtle"; "Black Hawk"; "Indian Removal Policy." Entries in Richard Sisson, Christian Zacher, and Andrew Cayton, eds. The Midwest: An Interpretive Encyclopedia (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006), 1735-41, 1749, 1761-64.
"American Indians: British Policies," in Paul Finkelman, ed., Encyclopedia of the New American Nation: The Emergence of the United States, 1754-1829 (3 vols., Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2006), 1: 118-21.
"The Fur Trade." Entry in Peter Eisenstadt et al, eds., The Encyclopedia of New York State (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2005), 614-15.
Contribution to "A Discussion of Scholarly Responsibilities to Indigenous Communities," ed. Joyce Ann Kievit, American Indian Quarterly 27 (2003): 41-45.
"Pontiac, Chief"; "Quebec Act." Entries in Peter Knight, ed., Conspiracy Theories in American History (2 vols., Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO Press, 2003), 2: 587-89, 605-6.
"Warfare, Indian"; "Wars with Indian Nations, Colonial Era to 1783." Entries in Dictionary of American History (NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2002), vol. 8: 390-94, 395-99.
"Conrad Weiser Letters Shed Important New Light on Eighteenth Century Indian Diplomacy." The Quarto: William L. Clements Library Associates Bulletin 1.6
(September 1996): 8-9.