The relationship between American Indians and Europeans on America's frontiers is typically characterized as a series of cultural conflicts and misunderstandings based on a vast gulf of difference. Nancy Shoemaker turns this notion on its head, showing that Indians and Europeans shared common beliefs about their most fundamental realities--land as national territory, government, record-keeping, international alliances, gender, and the human body. Before they even met, Europeans and Indians shared perceptions of a landscape ...
The relationship between American Indians and Europeans on America's frontiers is typically characterized as a series of cultural conflicts and misunderstandings based on a vast gulf of difference. Nancy Shoemaker turns this notion on its head, showing that Indians and Europeans shared common beliefs about their most fundamental realities--land as national territory, government, record-keeping, international alliances, gender, and the human body. Before they even met, Europeans and Indians shared perceptions of a landscape marked by mountains and rivers, a physical world in which the sun rose and set every day, and a human body with its own distinctive shape. They also shared in their ability to make sense of it all and to invent new, abstract ideas based on the tangible and visible experiences of daily life. Focusing on eastern North America up through the end of the Seven Years War, Shoemaker closely reads incidents, letters, and recorded speeches from the Iroquois and Creek confederacies, the Cherokee Nation, and other Native groups alongside British and French sources, paying particular attention to the language used in cross-cultural conversation. Paradoxically, the more American Indians and Europeans came to know each other, the more they came to see each other as different. By the end of the 18th century, Shoemaker argues, they abandoned an initial willingness to recognize in each other a common humanity and instead developed new ideas rooted in the conviction that, by custom and perhaps even by nature, Native Americans and Europeans were peoples fundamentally at odds. In her analysis, Shoemaker reveals the 18th century roots of enduring stereotypes Indians developed about Europeans, as well as stereotypes Europeans created about Indians. This powerful and eloquent interpretation questions long-standing assumptions, revealing the strange likenesses among the inhabitants of colonial North America.
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Shoemaker, Nancy, 2004, A Strange Likeness. Becoming Red and White in Eighteen-century North
America: NY, Oxford Univ. Press, 211 p., illus.
Readers are forewarned that this excellent non-fiction book is written at the college graduate level. Being a concise 143 pages of actual text, it is crammed with bits of information concerning two principal groups of North American Indians of the 18th century, namely those from the Iroquois Confederacy of the north, and the Cherokee Nation of the south. This American history period here is mainly 1700 to late 1760s, that is pre-Revolutionary War when most of the country was under English rule.
This book is well-organized into six short chapters and moreover contains a valuable collection of seven pictures of Indians, these pictures being in sharp contrast to the "mannerist" illustrations published in Frankfurt in 1590 by Theodore de Bry and carried on in 1992 by American author Gloria Gilda Deak, among many others.
Shoemaker points out the vast cultural differences of the illiterate North American Indians who were overrun by opportunistic, mostly somewhat schooled, migrants from northern Europe. First and foremost was the language problem, not only among the various Indian tribes, but between the hordes of English, and lesser groups of French, Germans, and others of north Europe origin. The natives never understood English written legal agreements nor printed copies of maps.
In second place was the relatively loose government structure of the various Indian groups. The many diverse natives mostly had tribal war leaders as well as community leaders; the two often were at odds as to how to deal with neighbors. By contrast, Europeans, notably English and French, had kings.
A third primary difference involved the use of land. Incoming waves of migrants were geared to the possession of fixed land plots and thus at odds with the natives who had vast hunting grounds and small collective garden plots. Boundaries of Indian hunting grounds depended upon the collective strength of the tribal warriors.
The American natives apparently had neither horses, wagons, nor armor before contact with Europeans. Their clothing was the most primitive type. Primary division of labor among natives was of the crudest type and involved hunting and fighting for the men and cooking and gardening for the women. Manufacturing was mainly limited to the making bows and arrows and some pottery.
By the time Thomas Jefferson agreed to the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, an idea was generated to move natives westward, beyond the Mississippi. This was accomplished piecemeal with the main, forced movement in the late 1830s. Shoemaker notes that Chief Justice John Marshall ruled on several decisions related to this complicated process.
[Reviewer's supporting comments:
The best attempt to count the Cherokees is a 1721 manuscript map by John Barnwell. He notes 51 Cherokee villages with about 11,200 people, or 220 per village. Roughly 4,000 of these were fighters. Likely these numbers remained more or less static through the 18th century.
According to the North Carolina Colonial Records series, in 1765 adult white males in North Carolina were 15,319 or a 19.8% increase over the previous ten year period.
In the 1790 official U.S. Census, North Carolina counted 393,731 persons of which 25.5% were Black, nearly all slaves; by that time adult white males numbered 64,988.
English King George II ruled from 1714 to 1727, while his son "Mad" King George III reigned from 1727 to 1820. Both kings took a rather low interest in their American colonies.]
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