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- Writing Against the Frontier : Contested Memory and Indigenous Counternarratives in the Nineteenth Century
- Luedtke, Aaron
- Electronic Theses & Dissertations
This dissertation explores the effects of settler colonialism on Great Lakes Indigenous peoples throughout the nineteenth century. It argues that as settler societies dispossessed Indigenous peoples from their lands in order to gain access to natural resources, they engaged in a process of narrative erasure of those Indigenous peoples in order to justify the violence of dispossession. This narrative tool of settler colonists was also employed in assertions of what I call “frontier nationalism...
Show moreThis dissertation explores the effects of settler colonialism on Great Lakes Indigenous peoples throughout the nineteenth century. It argues that as settler societies dispossessed Indigenous peoples from their lands in order to gain access to natural resources, they engaged in a process of narrative erasure of those Indigenous peoples in order to justify the violence of dispossession. This narrative tool of settler colonists was also employed in assertions of what I call “frontier nationalism” to argue for the prominence of frontier societies in the public arena of print culture in an age when citizens of both the young United States and Canada were debating the characteristics of national identity. From territorial and colonial administrators like Lewis Cass and Sir Francis Bond Head to frontier novelists like Juliette Kinzie in Chicago and Major John Richardson in Upper Canada to antiquarian historians who wrote local and regional histories of the Great Lakes region, and ultimately to professional historians like Frederick Jackson Turner, Great Lakes authors constructed a narrative that celebrated the growth and progress of life on the frontier in a manner that mythologized the region’s Indigenous peoples out of existence. In the meantime, Great Lakes Indians evolved numerous strategies of resistance to both thwart dispossession and removal, and to disprove myths penned by settler society of Indigenous inferiority, incompatibility with progress and modernization, and the inevitability of Indian disappearance. Beginning with the Mohawk siblings, Molly and Joseph Brant, Great Lakes Indians developed understandings of various aspects of western culture that they adapted within their own cultural frameworks to battle the effects of settler colonialism throughout the nineteenth century. The Brants used their understanding of British legal tradition, private property rights, western plough agriculture, Christianity, literacy, and ultimately narrative construction and the public print culture to constantly prove to first British and later Americans that they were capable of adhering to western standards of “civilization.” Learning from the legacy passed on by the Brants, adopted Mohawk war chief John Norton, Mississauga chief Peter Jones, and Potawatomi chief Leopold Pokagon all used their own understandings of western expectations for Indigenous peoples to prove they were deserving of governmental exceptions to policies of Indian removal. Throughout the nineteenth century, Great Lakes Indians responded to the settler colonial violence of narrative construction and Indigenous erasure by turning to the world of print. John Norton wrote a history of the Haudenosaunee just after the War of 1812 that he intended for publication though it wound up on a shelf for over a century. Peter Jones also wrote a manuscript on the history of the Ojibwe people that he intended to publish, but because of his early death, it was later published by his wife. Leopold Pokagon’s son Simon earned the most acclaim in his lifetime, publishing numerous works including his novel, Queen of the Woods, and his Red Man’s Rebuke, which he printed on birchbark paper and distributed at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. This dissertation argues that these writings all serve as evidence of the survivance of Great Lakes Indians in the midst of a settler colonial impulse to eradicate Indigenous peoples from the landscape and historical memory.