In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Britain and France competed for power in the Atlantic World. In North America, however, the reality was that most of the continent remained under the control of powerful Native American peoples. Realizing this, the French adapted to those circumstances, and built an empire throughout the Great Lakes and Mississippi Valley not by coercion, but by alliances. Recognizing their own importance to French colonial goals, Indians forced the French onto a “middle ground,” where their own interests and expectations were accommodated in diplomacy and politics. As the eighteenth century progressed, Indians of the Great Lakes and Mississippi Valley preserved their power by playing the French and British rivals off against one another and adopting a policy of neutrality. In this complex environment, imperial power was negotiated, and the outcome of the contest for empire in North America never seemed straightforward or inevitable.