Sunday, December 18, 2011

"the Indians" and "the colonists" in 1750s N. America

Discussion of interaction between colonists in North America and the native peoples, as written in Fur and Fortune: in Part III (after the French and Indian wars of 1750s-60s) the narrator (of the audio book version) refers to "The Indians." And yet this catch-all phrase sweeps together groups big and small, ones friendly and hostile to "The Europeans" or to "The English Speakers." Elsewhere there are some smaller categories such as Five Nations or Algonkian tribes. But it would probably be more true to experience of those on the ground at the time to refer to themselves not as categories of some abstract Nation (which is the label we organize citizens by today) but according to their location, local leader or some other term of limited scale. For the author perhaps the analytical goal of grouping anonymous souls into competing interests is useful, but probably this corresponds little to the local experience that motivated and guided the people being so labeled. Forever there is a tension between analytical abstraction and anonymity on the one hand and names and faces of individual lives and significance on the other hand.

[reference, Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America]


No comments: