Memory and Erasure in Native Histories

Thursday, April 2, 2020, 2:30 PM - 4:00 PM

Type: Paper Session

Tags: Intellectual; Native Americans and Indigenous Peoples; Public History and Memory; Race; Social and Cultural

Papers Presented

Early Native-Colonial Conflicts in Native American Literary Tradition

The relations between English colonists and native inhabitants of New England in the 17th century were rife with tension. While both sides generally tried to avoid open conflicts, out of self-preservation if nothing else, the cultural differences were overwhelming, and the colonial expansion was a constant source of conflicts. On two occasions tensions rose into all-out war. The Pequot War and King Philip’s War had in many ways shaped early New England history and had a profound effect on New England colonies’ economy, politics and, perhaps most importantly, world view. Colonial-era writers and preachers examined in meticulous detail both the history of the wars and their implications for native-colonial relations and colonial world view. Colonial intellectuals, such as Cotton Mather and William Hubbard, were the first to explore those conflicts, but not the last—both wars still draw attention from historians and are still analyzed, reexamined and reevaluated. The question of how the colonists perceived the conflicts was answered numerous times (sometimes in contradictory ways). The native point of view of early native-colonial conflicts, however, remains underexplored. Reconstructing the native perceptions of the conflicts based largely on European-written sources is an important aspect in a number of studies, the place that those early confrontations have in the collective memory of native peoples is less known. Native Americans created throughout the 18th and 19th centuries a number of texts almost unknown to the general public, and even to anthropologists and historians. While a key part of Native American culture is, of course, its oral history tradition, it is worth noting that there exists as well a literary tradition, one created by the authors who have successfully navigated the dominant Euro-American culture while firmly maintaining their Native American identity. This paper examines the perception, the role, and the place of the Pequot War and King Philip’s War in 18th- and 19th-century Native American literary tradition.

Presented By
Gleb Aleksandrov, International Center of Anthropology, National Research University Higher School of Economics

Where is the Bonga Family in Immigration History? Recovering an African, Swedish, and Ojibwe Genealogy, 1820s–1860s

Jacob Fahlstrom is widely cited as the first Swede to live in Minnesota. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, he worked first for the Hudson’s Bay Company and then the American Fur Company and later became a Methodist preacher. In 1823 Fahlstrom married Margaret Bonga, an African Ojibwe woman from a prominent fur trade family. In countless narratives depicting Fahlstrom’s immigration first from Stockholm to Canada, and then from Canada into the region known today as Minnesota, the life of Fahlstrom’s wife has been astonishingly obscured in the shadows. Margaret Bonga Fahlstrom, who was married to Fahlstrom for over 35 years, has a fascinating story of her own that provides meaningful insight into regional and global history. In St. Paul–the capital of Minnesota–are public monuments memorializing Jacob Fahlstrom, signaling public remembrance of him. But how has his wife’s role and identity been remembered? What is the significance of publicly forgetting her? Margaret Bonga’s role in the narratives of local regional history is largely ignored while focus has been steadfastly maintained on Jacob. Without Margaret, however, it is unlikely that he would have secured the work or achieved the social positions that have drawn the attention of historians, scholars, and the general public. This paper looks at how settler colonial narratives shaped the historiography to marginalize Margaret Bonga’s story and to erase her as a woman of African ancestry. Using this couple as a focus point, I consider the intersections of the fields of early immigration history, Native American history, and public history and memory.

Presented By
Mattie Harper DeCarlo, Minnesota Historical Society

“Restoration, Reclaiming, Remembrance”: Asserting Native Voice at the Whitman Mission National Historic Site

In 1847 tensions erupted at a Presbyterian mission built on Cayuse homelands. After several years of fraught relations between missionaries Marcus and Narcissa Whitman and local native communities, a group of five Cayuse men confronted the settlers one last time, killing both Marcus and Narcissa along with eleven others. The Whitmans’ deaths led many of their fellow settlers to retaliate against the Cayuse in an eight-year war and to celebrate the Whitmans as martyrs for the next century and a half. In 1940 the National Park Service established the Whitman Mission National Historic Site in Walla Walla, Washington, to promote and celebrate the memory of the Whitmans as pioneers and martyrs. For decades, native voices at the site were demonized and erased. But as local native communities, particularly the Cayuse and the larger Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, grew in economic and political power in the region, the narrative promoted at the site became much more complicated—one that openly challenged rather than endorsed the settler colonial narratives that led to the site’s establishment. This paper traces these important shifts and reflects on the continued difficulty of decolonizing a space in which settler narratives of the pioneer spirit and missionary martyrdom are so deeply entrenched. While the Whitman site attempts to build a more complex understanding of the past, it must also face the remnants of the pioneer mythologies that continue to mark the space.

Presented By
Annie Reiva, University of Oregon

Session Participants

Chair and Commentator: Michael J. Witgen, University of Michigan

Presenter: Gleb Aleksandrov, International Center of Anthropology, National Research University Higher School of Economics
Dr. Gleb Aleksandrov is a historian, specializing in Early Colonial New England, primarily the Native-Colonial relations and ideological developments in the colonies. Currently holds the positions of Research Fellow at the International Center of Anthropology at National Research University Higher School of Economics, and at the Institute for US and Canadian Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Specialist education program:
2006-2012, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Faculty of History, Department of modern and contemporary history of European and American countries

Ph.D. in history:
2013-2017, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Faculty of History, Department of modern and contemporary history of European and American countries.
Dissertation title: The Evolution of the Relations Between the English Colonists and the Indigenous Peoples of New England in 1620-1676.
Advisor: Irina Y. Khruleva
Defense date: 12.04.17

Research Experience
1. Alexandrov G. The Pequot War and the Transformation of Native-Colonial Relations in New England (1620-1638) // «Per aspera»: Collected Works of the Winners of the Student’s Research Competition, Faculty of History, Lomonosov Moscow State University. Vol. 4. Moscow, 2012. Pp. 108-118.
2. Alexandrov G., Khruleva I. Territorial and spiritual expansion of puritan New England and the Pequot War of 1636-38 // History Studies. 2014. № 1. Pp. 61-77.
3. Alexandrov G. The Problem of Integration of Indigenous People Into the Colonial Society in XVIIth Century New England. // Moscow University Bulletin. Series 8. History. 2015. № 3. Pp. 31-48.
4. Alexandrov G. John Eliot’s “Praying Towns” as a Model for an Administration Reform // Moscow University Bulletin. Series 21. Public Administration. 2016. № 2. Pp. 88-103.
5. Alexandrov G. The Indians, the Dutch and the English: European Colonial Expansion in Early XVIIth Century New England and the Causes of the Pequot War // Moscow University Bulletin. Series 21. Public Administration. 2016. № 4. Pp. 105-136.
6. Alexandrov G. The New England Confederation as an early Attempt at Unification and Independent Policy-making in the British olonies in the New World // The British World: An Experience in Political, Social and Cultural Development. The Materials of the International Conference in Saint-Petersburg, March, 24-25, 2016. Moscow: Institute of World History, Russian Academy of Sciences, 2016. Pp. 4-5.
7. Alexandrov G. Current Trends in US Demographics // Public Administration. E-Journal. 2018. № 4.

Publications accepted:
8. Native Relations in Early British North America and the Emergence of Imperial Ideas // Social Evolution and History (to be published in late 2019)
9. Native Allies in the XVIIth Century New England Colonial Narrative // History Studies. Journal of the History Faculty, Lomonosov Moscow State University (2019)

Conferences attended:
1. XL Russian Society of American Cultural Studies International Conference «American Culture: From Making a Nation to Transnationalism», December 5-12, 2014, Moscow.
2. XLI Russian Society of American Cultural Studies International Conference «Imagining and building Peace in American Culture», December 4-11, 2015, Moscow.
3. The British World: An Experience in Political, Social and Cultural Development. March 25-26, 2016, Saint Petersburg.
4. XLIII Russian Society of American Cultural Studies International Conference «American Humour and Satire: Functions and Forms», December 7-11, 2017, Moscow.
5. The British World: Social, Political and Cultural Development, March 22-23, 2018, Saint Petersburg.
6. The Historic Narrative: the Past, the Present and the Future, September 20-22, 2018, Moscow.
7. 1618-1918. Three Centuries of Conflict in Europe: From «power balance» to «collective security»?, October 4-5, 2018, Moscow.
8. The Foreigner's Eye: Diplomats, Journalists and Explorers Between the East and the West in XVIII-XX centuries, October 16-17, 2018, Moscow.
9. VIII American Studies Symposium. A Fusion of Two Worlds: History, Mobility and Status of New World Peoples Before and After Columbus, December 3-4, 2018, Saint-Petersburg.
10. Russian Society of American Cultural Studies International Conference «America and Europe: Forms of Cultural Interaction», December 6-8, 2018, Moscow.

Presentation proposals accepted:
12. Warfare, Environment, Social Inequality, and Pro-Sociability Biennial Conference. May 23-25, 2019, Seville, Spain.

- "Saints" and "savages": Native and colonial influences in XVIIth century New England. A presentation at the International Center of Anthropology Monthly Seminar, National Research University Higher School of Economics (January 24, 2019).

Presenter: Mattie Harper DeCarlo, Minnesota Historical Society
Dr. Mattie Harper is a historian of the Great Lakes region of North America, U.S. settler colonialism, and Native American women and gender. Currently the Senior Historian at the Minnesota Historical Society, she received her PhD from the Ethnic Studies Department at the University of California, Berkeley, with a designated emphasis in Women, Gender and Sexuality. Prior to her position at the Historical Society she was an Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, San Diego. Her current project examines four generations of a family of mixed African-Ojibwe ancestry in the Western Great Lakes region. Her main interests include: Ojibwe history, the intersecting lives of Native Americans and African Americans, settler colonial studies, slavery in the fur trade, racial intermarriage and the construction of race, and 20th century Native American intellectuals.

Presenter: Annie Reiva, University of Oregon