Writing the Empire: Scribblings from Below
An international & interdisciplinary conference
Phillipe de Vigors, ‘Convicts letter writing at Cockatoo Island, New South Wales, 1849’
Reproduced by kind permission of the State Library of New South Wales, Sydney
Event Dates: 25 June 2010
Claudia Haake (La Trobe University)
Writing Against Colonialism. Native American Political Activism against Land Loss in the Age of Removal
The paper will explore Native American political opposition to loss of land as a consequence of tribal removal in the 19th century. In the United States of America, the nineteenth century, or more specifically the period from the 1820s to the 1880s, was a time of mass displacements and land losses for indigenous people. Removal took place over and in spite of massive Native opposition. However, the writings of Native Americans in opposition to removal and land loss have so far received only scant attention, with the possible exception of the Cherokees. This research draws on the letters written by Native Americans to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Secretary of the Interior, and the President in order to focus on a broad range of Native Americans as political actors and by taking the analysis beyond that of just one tribe. Contrary to what much existing research seems to suggest, not all letters were composed by chiefs and leaders and thus this paper will extend beyond what chiefs and Native intellectuals have had to say to include the opinions of the ‘common man’ which are so difficult to access but which could differ considerably from those held by chiefs. Regardless of who wrote the letters and of how Native American conveyed their arguments about why they needed and wanted to retain their lands and stay in place, tribal representations centred around a number of common themes. Legal arguments, ideas about civilization levels reached as well as need-based argumentations and those centring on attachment to land are foremost among these and will form the basis of the proposed paper.
This paper is part of a larger project focussing on five tribes – the Cherokees, Iroquois, Navajos, Delawares, and Sioux – affected by land losses in the age of removal and will draw on examples from the research done so far (primarily Cherokee, Delaware, Iroquois).
Claudia Haake, La Trobe University, email
Claudia Haake is Lecturer in History at La Trobe University, Melbourne. Her primary research interest is Native American History from the 19th century onward. She is especially interested in North American Natives from Mexico and the US. Her major areas of interest in Native American Studies are ethnicity, identity and culture. Her work for her first book has focused on identity issues in a transnational comparative framework, investigating the cases of the Mexican Yaquis and the United States Delawares. She also has compared state policies towards indigenous peoples in Mexico and the US. Rights, especially land and treaty rights are among her other foci in research and teaching and she is currently working on a study about indigenous land loss in the United States in the 19th century. She also maintains an interest in minorities in the United States as well as in the history of 20th century Guatemala.