The Six Nations, or Iroquois, have been praised and abused more than any other Indians in North America. Cadwallader Colden praised them for their manly virtues: their courage, patriotism, and love of liberty. Conrad Weiser praised them for their honesty and democratic simplicity. Both men admired them for their statesmanship. The English colonies valued them highly as allies.Read more »
Whenever Indians and Europeans met, the process of discovery was usually reciprocal. In hindsight, these first encounters were asymmetrically momentous events, presaging catastrophic consequences for the native peoples of North America. Europeans wrote accounts of these meetings; Indians did not. Nevertheless, memories of such meetings passed from generation to generation within the tribes. Some traditions recalled dreams, premonitions, and prophecies that foretold the coming of powerful strangers, stories no doubt retold with increasing bitterness as Europeans kept coming.Read more »
AFTER CENTURIES OF CONFLICT OVER THEIR RIGHTS AND POWERS, Indian tribes now increasingly make and enforce their own laws, often answerable to no one in the United States government. Is this the rebirth of their ancient independence or a new kind of legalized segregation?
MICKI’S CAFE IS, IN ITS MODEST WAY, A bulwark against the encroachment of modern history and a symbol, amid the declining fortunes of prairie America, of the kind of gritty (and perhaps foolhardy) determination that in more self-confident times used to be called the frontier spirit.Read more »
The synthetic colors of the motel in Albuquerque, all orange, purple, and blatant red, shouting the triumph of American civilization over the surrounding harshness, quickly fade from mind as we head out for Santa Fe. The great desert is upon us, like nothing you have seen elsewhere, something “other,” the floor of the world from the first day of creation. Only an occasional crag sprouting from the cracked surface distracts you from the overpowering emptiness as the perfect highway snakes its way on and on this early in the morning.Read more »
Did the Indians have a special, almost noble, affinity with the American environment—or were they despoilers of it? Two historians of the environment explain the profound clash of cultures between Indians and whites that has made each group almost incomprehensible to the other.
When the historian Richard White wrote his first scholarly article about Indian environmental history in the mid-1970s, he knew he was taking a new approach to an old field, but he did not realize just how new it was. “I sent it to a historical journal,” he reports, “and I never realized the U.S. mail could move so fast. It was back in three days. The editor told me it wasn’t history.”Read more »
Across most of America nowadays the term Creole when applied to food variably conjures up images of charred, blackened fish and meat, overbearing, fiery seasonings, and a ubiquitous red sauce not unlike the kind you buy in a can. As a seventh-generation native of south Louisiana, and as a food writer, I join other locals in feeling a twinge of horror at what has befallen my native cuisine since it became the food fad of the eighties.Read more »
How precise is the educated American’s understanding of the history of our country? I don’t mean exact knowledge of minor dates, or small details about the terms of laws, or questions like “Who was secretary of war in 1851?” ( Answer: Charles M. Conrad.) But just how well does the average person remember the important facts—the laws, treaties, people, and events that should be familiar to everyone? Read more »
The building shown below may look like a low-rise adobe condominium, and in a sense, that is what it is today—someone’s house. But it was once something more: the quartermaster and commissary storehouse for Fort Lowell, Arizona Territory, one of a string of army posts scattered about the Southwest in the 1870’s and 1880’s as bastions against the raids of cunning, resourceful, diligent—and often nearly invisible—Apache Indians.Read more »