Materials and Methods in Native American and Indigenous Studies
Materials and Methods in Native American and Indigenous Studies: Completing the Turn
By Alyssa Mt. Pleasant, Caroline Wigginton, and Kelly Wisecup
Nearly two centuries ago, Native scholars and activists published calls for histories of their people that emphasized their humanity and agency and engaged Indigenous intellectual traditions. Renewing and extending their calls, this William and Mary Quarterly and Early American Literature joint Forum challenges early American studies to embrace the materials and methods of Native American and Indigenous Studies (NAIS). In the Forum introduction, we note that in more recent decades the New Indian History and early Native literary studies rearticulated calls for this turn; however, our assessment of the field demonstrates that we have yet to realize fully its potential. Foregrounding Native people as enduring agents, rather than representations, and centering Native peoples’ and nations’ intellectual, literary, and material histories requires sustained structural shifts in our field. Scholars working to complete early American studies’ turn to NAIS, including the seven authors featured in this Forum, are generating new approaches to the field’s established archives, periodizations, and geographic boundaries, along with expanded understandings of evidence and genre. We conclude by anticipating consequent institutional changes, from innovations in graduate training to exchanges with NAIS scholars and a reevaluation of terms central to our field, from colonial to history and literature.
The Good Written Word of Life: The Native Hawaiian Appropriation of Textuality
By David A. Chang
Native Hawaiians vigorously embraced the written word: Hawaiian was placed into a standardized written form by American missionaries working with Hawaiian converts in the 1820s, and a few decades later Hawai‘i was one of the most literate nations in the world. Why did Native Hawaiians show such enthusiasm for written language? The Hawaiian commitment to texts did not begin with the arrival of missionaries among them; in fact, Hawaiians’ appreciation of the uses of textuality gave them incentive to welcome American missionaries as teachers. Chiefs quickly seized upon written language in their attempts to control the encounter with foreigners, to favor their interests and those of their lineages, to express their understanding of the world, and to shape that world to their ends. A close study of early texts in Hawai‘i demonstrates that it is essential for scholars of the Hawaiian past to work with Hawaiian-language sources. Furthermore, working with early texts signals how revealing it is to treat Hawaiian-language documents and the Hawaiian language itself as important subjects of historical study in their own right, rather than just as avenues to information.
Awikhigawôgan ta Pildowi Ôjmowôgan: Mapping a New History
By Lisa Brooks
This article illuminates the process of researching and creating digital maps for Our Beloved Kin: A New History of King Philip’s War, including reframing of Indigenous places and colonial stories, such as Mary Rowlandson’s captivity narrative. A first-person, reflective narrative highlights and reveals Indigenous studies methodologies, including recovering and interpreting place-names and concepts drawn from Indigenous languages; tracking the routes and rivers traveled by captors, converts, and leaders; and working in multiple archives to locate documents that reveal contexts obscured by the conventional histories of King Philip’s War. Drawing on multiple languages and disciplines, the article both raises questions about how we (that is, literary and historical scholars) frame “history” and “literature” and enhances our understanding of writing/mapping (awikhigawôgan) and history-making (ôjmowôgan) as activities in which we engage. As it highlights engagement with contemporary places and communities as well as with historical documents and narrative texts, the article, in both framework and methods, connects to and emerges from scholarship at the intersection of the discipline of history and the interdisciplinary network of Native American and Indigenous studies that seeks “new” modes of making history and literature.
Defying Indian Slavery: Apalachee Voices and Spanish Sources in the Eighteenth-Century Southeast
By Alejandra Dubcovsky
Apalachee Indians endured some of the most devastating slave raids in the eighteenth century. Their enslavement is a central feature of the story of southeastern Indian slavery. Although scholars have noted the many ways Native peoples negotiated the slave trade, Apalachees appear in these discussions mostly as casualties of an inexorable colonial force. This article employs NAIS methodologies to reframe Apalachee history during Indian slavery. Using a single document, a letter written on June 10, 1704, by Deputy Manuel Solana to Florida’s governor, José de Zúñiga y Cerda, it forges a narrative with and about Apalachee voices and repositions Apalachees in the story of Indian slavery in ways that are neither teleological nor rooted in decline. A NAIS approach also opens up a larger question: How can historians write about moments of horrific loss without allowing the loss to define the totality of the experience or end the story? How can we write about damage without writing “damage narratives”? Privileging Apalachee epistemologies, futures, and contingencies within an article focused on an archival and colonial source allows for the exploration of both the materials available and the methods required to write ethical indigenous histories.
Surveying the Present, Projecting the Future: Reevaluating Colonial French Plans of Kanesatake
By Christian Ayne Crouch
Historians are unable to reconstruct or recover Indigenous maps from every Native community in the early modern era. NAIS methods offer techniques that allow scholars to tease out Indigenous presences in documents that appear to be exclusively European in manufacture and in meaning. Comparing two eighteenth-century French plans of Kanesatake offers insight into French conceptualizations of empire and, equally important, illuminates the negotiation between French imperial aspirations and Indigenous sovereignty. Moving beyond the illustrative use of visual material to take documents such as these plans as serious sources in their own right, this article recovers the dialogic processes between Indians and Europeans that produced such records. By bringing multiple renderings of a single place into conversation with one another, it also invites reflection on the threads connecting the works themselves with the repositories that house them and probes whether certain colonial fictions continue to be upheld because such images are still seen as the property of European states that claim to have produced them. Only by taking visual sources on their own terms and paying attention to their Indigenous presence can early Americanists begin to confront and address such historical inaccuracies.
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