From “Noble Savage” to “Vanishing Indian”: Euro-American Perceptions of Native Americans English 441 Dr. Roggenkamp Edited by Mrs. Burk
Native-American Literature is a Post-Colonial Literature Literature by a COLONIZING culture (e.g. people of European descent) usually distorts the experience and realities of the colonized people—creates a picture of innate inferiority in terms of the colonized people
Literature by the COLONIZED culture (e.g. Native Americans) attempts to regain the power to speak for themselves, rather than be spoken ABOUT by the colonizers
What is the difference between a colonized culture and a colonizing culture?
Native-American Literature Characteristics This literature articulates group identity, reclaims the past, writes their version of history—but also recognizes the influence of the colonizer
Colonizing countries often appropriate the languages, images, scenes, traditions, etc. of the colonized land—and vice versa
Your Turn What are the four characteristics of Native American literature?
How does the colonizing culture change the literature of the colonized culture?
Colonial New England conceptions Native Americans View 1: Native Americans lost tribes of Israel, waiting for conversion View 2: Native Americans as children of Satan – descendents of fallen angels Either way, justification to eradicate people and culture
Image: The Death of Jane McCrea , John Vanderlyn, 1804
What was the colonist’s view of Native Americans?
Southern colonial conceptions of indigenous peoples “ Savage” meaning “uncivilized” “ Noble” meaning innocent, pure, wise, childlike, connected to nature, spiritual—but uncultured Merely inferior rather than the intrinsically evil Open to European guidance and deliverance Totally romanticized view
Image: Baptism of Pocahontas , John G. Chapman, Capitol Rotunda, Washington D.C.
“ Noble Savage”
“ The Vanishing Indian” Pre-contact indigenous population of North America: est. 10-15 million (about 2 million today) From 1840s : Native Americans are “vanishing race” Vanishing in face of “superior” Euro-American advance Justifies advance of non-Native population and eradication of Native American cultures
Image: Last of Their Race , John Mix Stanley, 1857
Indian Removal Act of 1830 Force Native American removal from East Guise of protecting and preserving Indian cultures Move west or give up all tribal rights
Removal as only way to “civilize” the “vanishing Indian”
Your Turn Why did President Andrew Jackson remove the Native Americans from the East?
If the Native Americans did not move West, what would they have to do?
The “Trail of Tears”
Explain how you would feel if you were a Native American then and now.