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So Elizabeth Warren has Native American DNA…

So Elizabeth Warren has Native American DNA…

Elizabeth Warren has released a report indicating that, yes, contrary to the claims of Donald Trump, she does indeed possess Native American DNA.  I have followed this story on my Twitter Machine, and her supporters are crowing:  Elizabeth Warren is Winning, they say. Not so fast. DNA does not mean that Warren is Native American, at least in a completely meaningful way. Nor does her possessing older markers of Indian identity, like a certain “blood-quantum.”  Warren may be anywhere from…

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I Read Donald Trump’s Proclamation Commemorating Columbus Day So You Don’t Have To

I Read Donald Trump’s Proclamation Commemorating Columbus Day So You Don’t Have To

When it comes to native peoples, the President has become the Ignoramus-in-Chief, a bigot who issues statement after statement intended to rub salt in the wounds left by a long and traumatic history.  First, there was his reversal of the Obama Administration’s tepid opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline.  Then there is his continuous and mocking derision of Elizabeth Warren, one of his likely opponents in 2020, who he insists on calling “Pocahontas.” And now, his proclamation honoring Columbus Day,…

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A Death in the Family

A Death in the Family

On October 7, 1968, Billy Van Tassel died in the Long An Province of South Vietnam.  His unit operated near Tan Tru, an area characterized by hard fighting and heavy casualties. He was from Scarsdale, New York, and was two months shy of his twenty-first birthday.  He was my second cousin, though I never knew him.  He died fifty years ago today. Because I am a historian, I tend to think a lot about the past. It’s an obvious statement,…

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A Note to Students, on the Confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh

A Note to Students, on the Confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh

I write these words early on a Saturday morning.  Sometime later today, I expect that the Senate will vote to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court.  Republican leadership in the Senate corrupted the nation’s institutions to force through a justice who stands credibly accused of sexual assault, and who appears to have perjured himself in his testimony before the Senate.  Democratic Senators never managed to view all the documents on Kavanaugh’s career, including his time in…

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The Indian Child Welfare Act Under Attack Again

The Indian Child Welfare Act Under Attack Again

Over at Turtle Talk, you can read the federal court decision coming out of the northern district of Texas in the case of Brackeen v. Zinke.  Judge Reed O’Connor has held that the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 is unconstitutional because it grants to Native American children special treatment on the basis of their race. The Brackeen’s provided foster care for a Native American child, but they were prohibited from adoption because of the ICWA.  You can read Judge…

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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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