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Town Destroyer in Paradise: How George Washington Ended up Just Outside Handsome Lake’s Heaven

Town Destroyer in Paradise: How George Washington Ended up Just Outside Handsome Lake’s Heaven

I recently read Colin Calloway’s book on The Indian World of George Washington, and that got me thinking about two very different depictions of our nation’s first President.  I write about the Senecas, with whom these particular depictions originate, in Native America. In the late 1790s, the great Seneca prophet Handsome Lake experienced a series of visions that became the basis of the Gaiwiio, the good news of peace and power, the “old time” religion still practiced by many Haudenosaunee…

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What You Need to Read, September 2018

What You Need to Read, September 2018

Here it is, your quarterly guide to the vast literature in Native American Studies.  If I missed something that you found particularly valuable, please let me know and I will be happy to revise this list accordingly.   Allard, Seth.  Guided by the Spirits: The Meanings of Life, Death, and Youth Suicide in an Ojibwa Community, (New York: Routledge, 2018). Allison, I. R. “Beyond It All: Surveying the Intersections of Modern American Indian, Environmental, and Western Histories,” History Compass, 16…

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“Civilization Or Death To All American Savages”: On the “Commemoration” of Sullivan-Clinton, 1779

“Civilization Or Death To All American Savages”: On the “Commemoration” of Sullivan-Clinton, 1779

“Civilization or Death to all American savages!”  That was one of a number of toasts offered by the officers who accompanied James Sullivan’s invasion of Iroquoia during the American Revolutionary War.  Planned and plotted by George Washington himself, the “Sullivan Campaign” burned dozens of Haudenosaunee towns, destroyed crops, orchards and fields, and forced the Iroquois to flee from their homelands toward the British post at Niagara.  There they suffered and died in large numbers during one of the worst winters…

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Etzanoa

Etzanoa

Donald Blakeslee, an archaeologist at Wichita State University, may have found with his students the site of Etzanoa, where perhaps 20,000 people lived along the Walnut and Arkansas Rivers in Kansas between 1450 and 1700.  Both Francisco Coronado in 1541, and Juan de Oñate sixty years later, passed through this part of what is now Kansas.  I discuss both the Coronado and Oñate expeditions into the Great West in Native America, and I look forward to sharing Blakeslee’s work with…

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What the Public Knows about Native Americans is a Convoluted Mess

What the Public Knows about Native Americans is a Convoluted Mess

I have spent some time reading through the research recently published by the Reclaiming Native Truth Project.  You can read a version of their report for native peoples in native communities, another version for allies, and a third with analysis and conclusions based on the data its researchers collected. Five questions guided Native Truth’s research:  1. What are the dominant stories about Native peoples in North America? 2. Who holds these views? 3. How do these views affect public policy,…

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Easy A

Easy A

Over the break, while sitting in the airport in Las Vegas, I took a few minutes to read Gary Landerman’s essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Why I’m Easy: On Giving Lots of A’s.” Landerman correctly notes that many of our students experience enormous amounts of stress in college.  Grades, he correctly argues, wield enormous influence in determining the sorts of opportunities a graduate will enjoy.  Part of Landerman’s plan, then, “is to try to show love and empathy…

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Why Historians Don’t Embrace “American Exceptionalism”

Why Historians Don’t Embrace “American Exceptionalism”

At the “Days of ’47” rodeo in Salt Lake City late last month, an event that commemorates the arrival of the first Mormon settlers in Utah, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke declared that “Utah understands that religious freedom is the cornerstone of American exceptionalism.” It’s a concept–American Exceptionalism–that is expressed frequently in American political discourse by those on the right.  America is unique, the argument goes, in its commitment to liberty and individual freedom, including religion, principles upon which the nation…

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We Need To Get Woody Guthrie Right, Now More Than Ever

We Need To Get Woody Guthrie Right, Now More Than Ever

Every couple of months I read on Twitter another denunciation from someone in the Native American/Indigenous Studies community of Woody Guthrie’s famous song, “This Land is Your Land.” It’s a “obvs hella-colonial” song, the critique goes, because Guthrie’s claim that the entire continent “from California, to the New York Island” belonged to you and me ignored the original Native American owners of North America.  As such, Guthrie erased the reality of Native Americans’ antecedent claims to the continent and, in…

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The Liberal Arts in Trying Times

The Liberal Arts in Trying Times

Those of us who teach the liberal arts at times feel under siege. Too often we reply to those who challenge our enterprise with arguments that students who major in the liberal arts do well after they graduate, that they have skills that are indeed employable, and that they will make as much money as students in other academic fields.  I agree with all these points, but I believe that in a way, they concede too much to those who…

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The Onondagas and the Movies, Part III

The Onondagas and the Movies, Part III

In the 1992 movie “The Last of the Mohicans,” filmmaker Michael Mann found inspiration in the famous but dreadful novel by James Fenimore Cooper.  As did the folks who made “The Iroquois Trail,” forty years before, Mann and his crew took what they wanted from the source material in an effort to construct an adventurous story that spoke to a large white audience.  The film one one hand sheds some light on the broad cultural influence of the Onondaga Nation…

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