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January 2, 2002
Collected Notes
Books &Working Papers

Collated by Howard Hobbs, Ph.D.

    YOSEMITE -- The following list of books, abstracts and related notes, some of which refer to the Amerindian experience, were presented at the 1998 meeting of the Atlantic History Seminar, Harvard College on the theme "Cultural Encounters in Atlantic Societies, 1500-1800":

    Claudio Saunt, "The Power of Writing: Literacy and the Colonization of Southeastern Indians" -- Historians have long debated the degree to which American Indians were awed by alphabetic writing, but well after it had lost its power to amaze and astonish, writing disrupted American Indian communities and shaped cultural encounters in the Atlantic world. Oral communication, and especially storytelling, diffused tensions within Indian groups and helped them maintain cohesive identities.
   Because their colonial neighbors privileged writing over speech, however, Indians began devaluing spoken words. At the same time, some Native Americans appropriated writing to secure their leadership. Among the Creek Indians of the Deep South, writing undermined the loose alliance that defined these people and ultimately facilitated the consolidation of political power. [Harvard Working Paper # 98]
    John Pollack, "Colonial Missionaries and Indian Languages in North America, 1600-1700" Discussion -- Texts that show English and French missionaries struggling to learn and to represent Indian speech and Indian languages are not simple linguistic records, but instead markers of debates within colonies and between colonists and Native populations.
     New French Jesuits and Ursulines sought to master Indian languages as a means of including Native tribes within the French colonial orbit, while New England Puritans initiated a massive effort to print in an "Indian language" for separate Native Christian communities.
    Comprehending the languages of Native America proved to be an unexpected challenge, however, one to which missionaries ultimately responded by drawing newly rigid distinctions between "civilized" and "savage." [HWP# 98016]
Michael Witgen, "'They Have for Neighbors and Friends the Sioux': The Migration, Adaptation, and Transformation of the Western Ojibwas in the Dakota-Ojibwa Alliance."
     Confronted by the chaos and changes brought by an encroaching Atlantic world in colonial North America, the Western Ojibwas employed cultural adaptation as a survival strategy; and with their success, they transformed themselves, the Dakotas, and the French empire in Canada.
     At the close of the seventeenth century the Western Ojibwas forged an alliance with the Dakotas by creating social ties that bound these different ethnic groups together. The shared risk of their association and their connection to French Canada gained by cooperating in the fur trade made allies out of former enemies.
     This pattern of creating social bonds through joint land use reflected a process of peace making and social integration by which the Ojibwa defined themselves. They brought order to a changing environment by constructing social relationships that facilitated migration, adaptation, and rebirth within a transformed physical and social space. H[WP# 98021]


Ida Altman, Transatlantic Ties in the Spanish Empire: Brihuega, Spain & Puebla, Mexico, 1560-1620 (Stanford University Press, 2000).

David Armitage, The Ideological Origins of the British Empire (Cambridge University Press, 2000).

Jeremy Baskes, Indians, Merchants, and Markets: A Reinterpretation of the Repartimiento and Spanish-Indian Economic Relations in Colonial Oaxaca, 1750-1821 (Stanford University Press, 2000).

Richard W. Cogley, John Eliotís Mission to the Indians before King Philipís War (Harvard Press 1990).

Karen Ordahl Kupperman, Indians & English: Facing Off in Early America (Cornell University
Press, 2000).

Ned C. Landsman, From Colonials to Provincials: American Thought and Culture, 1680-1760 (Cornell University Press, 2000) [new in pb].

John McCusker, Essays in the Economic History of the Atlantic World (Routledge, 1997).

Peter Mancall and James Merrell, eds., American Encounters: Natives and Newcomers from European Contact to Indian Removal, 1500-1850 (Routledge, 1999).

James H. Merrell, Into the American Woods: Negotiators on the Pennsylvania Frontier (Norton, 2000).

David Murray, Indian Giving : Economies of Power in Early Indian-White Exchanges (University of Massachusetts Press, 2000).

Claudio Saunt, A New Order of Things: Property, Power, and the Transformation of the Creek Indian, 1733-1816 (Cambridge University Press, 1999)..

Nicholas Canny, "Writing Atlantic History; or, Reconfiguring the History of Colonial British America, Journal of American History 86, no. 3 (Dec. 1999): 1093-1114.

Seth Cotlar, "Radical Conceptions of Property Rights and Economic Equality in the Early American Republic: The Trans-Atlantic Dimension," Explorations in Early American Culture 4 (2000): 191-219.

Patricia Seed, "American Pentimento: The Invention of Indians and the Pursuit of Riches." Discussion -- Americans like to see themselves as far removed from their European ancestors' corrupt morals, imperial arrogance, and exploitation of native resources.
     Yet, as Patricia Seed argues in American Pentimento, this is far from the truth. The modern regulations and pervading attitudes that control native rights in the Americas may appear unrelated to colonial rule, but traces of the colonizers' cultural, religious, and economic agendas nonetheless remain.
     Seed likens this situation to a pentimento-a painting in which traces of older compositions or alterations become visible over time-and shows how the exploitation begun centuries ago continues today.
     In her analysis, Seed examines how European countries, primarily England, Spain, and Portugal, differed in their colonization of the Americas. She details how the English appropriated land, while the Spanish and Portuguese attempted to eliminate "barbarous" religious behavior and used indigenous labor to take mineral resources.
     Ultimately, each approach denied native people distinct aspects of their heritage. Seed argues that their differing effects persist, with natives in former English colonies fighting for land rights, while those in former Spanish and Portuguese colonies fight for human dignity.
     Seed also demonstrates how these antiquated cultural and legal vocabularies are embedded in our languages, popular cultures, and legal systems, and how they are responsible for current representations and treatment of Native Americans.
     We cannot, she asserts, simply attribute the exploitation of natives' resources to distant, avaricious colonists but must accept the more disturbing conclusion that it stemmed from convictions that are still endemic in our culture.
     Wide-ranging and essential to future discussions of the legacies of colonialism, American Pentimento presents a radical new approach to history, one which uses paradigms from anthropology and literary criticism to emphasize language as the basis of law and culture.


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