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Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 214
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Representations of Indian economic life have played an integral role in discourses about poverty, social policy, and cultural difference but have received surprisingly little attention. Daniel Usner dismantles ideological characterizations of Indian livelihood to reveal the intricacy of economic adaptations in American Indian history.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-05474-5
    Subjects: History, Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: The Pursuit of Livelihood and the Production of Language
    (pp. 1-17)

    “In respect of us they are a people poore,” Thomas Harriot wrote about American Indians whom he met on Roanoke Island in 1585, “and for want of skill and judgement in the knowledge and use of our things, doe esteeme our trifles before things of greater value.” “Notwithstanding,” this English promoter of colonization had to admit, “in their proper maner (considering the want of such meanes as we have), they seeme very ingenious. For although they have no such tooles, nor any such crafts, Sciences and Artes as wee, yet in those things they doe, they shew excellence of wit.”...

  5. 1 INVENTING THE HUNTER STATE: Iroquois Livelihood in Jeffersonian America
    (pp. 18-41)

    In a letter addressed to Handsome Lake on November 3, 1802, President Thomas Jefferson defended recent cessions of some Onondaga, Cayuga, and Oneida land by invoking the authority of natural law. For a society “going into a state of agriculture,” the Virginia sage informed the Seneca prophet, it might be advantageous, “as it is to an individual, who has more land than he can improve, to sell a part, and lay out the money in stocks and implements of agriculture, for the better improvement of the residue.” Congratulating Handsome Lake for “the great reformation you have undertaken” and offering “the...

  6. 2 NARRATIVES OF DECLINE AND DISAPPEARANCE: The Changing Presence of American Indians in Early Natchez
    (pp. 42-68)

    The strategies of economic adaptation pursued by Iroquois men and women in western New York during the Jeffersonian era were not unique by any means. Their response to accelerating pressure on homelands and intensifying intrusion into daily life resembled that of many other eastern woodlands peoples over the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. And the effort to blend familiar subsistence practices with new market and wage opportunities, in the hostile or patronizing gaze of whites, would be replicated among western Indians in later times. Frontier towns of various kinds, from Syracuse, New York, to Taos, New Mexico, were desirable...

  7. 3 THE DISCOURSE OVER POVERTY: Indian Treaty Rights and Welfare Policy
    (pp. 69-92)

    In December 2005 it was revealed that a syndicated columnist affiliated with the Cato Institute and writing for the Copley News Service had been receiving payment from the notorious lobbyist Jack Abramoff for writing columns supporting his clients’ interests. Abramoff was already known to have taken tens of millions of dollars from American Indian nations to advocate for their casino rights, while expressing racial contempt toward these same clients and even working for their opponents. In one column favoring Abramoff’s lobbying efforts, Doug Bandow featured the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians in June 1997. Clients of Abramoff’s firm at the...

  8. 4 PERCEPTIONS OF AUTHENTICITY AND PASSIVITY: Indian Basket Making in Post–Civil War Louisiana
    (pp. 93-116)

    Choctaw families living near Pearlington, Mississippi, were visited in November 1890 by a special artist working for the New OrleansDaily Picayune.In the December 21 issue of the newspaper, he wrote an article about this community accompanied by some illustrations. One passage in this report is devoted to a particular kind of work performed by the women:

    It makes one ashamed to see these dusky daughters of the forest toiling so hard, working till 10 o’clock at night by the light of blazing pine knots, and at it again at sunrise, deftly weaving their pliable palmetto into really beautiful...

  9. 5 PRIMITIVISM AND TOURISM: Indian Livelihood in D. H. Lawrence’s New Mexico
    (pp. 117-140)

    Among the many writers and artists who visited northern New Mexico during the early twentieth century, the English novelist D. H. Lawrence is seldom considered a reliable or representative source for views about the region’s Native American inhabitants. Lawrence tended to isolate himself from other literary tourists, whom he criticized for being so eager to report on Indian life and culture. The peculiar language that he deployed in his own writings about Indians has also contributed to a marginalization of his perspective. Shortly before his death in 1930, Lawrence tried to explain how the religion of New Mexico’s “Red Indians”...

    (pp. 141-146)

    Imagine two Englishmen, John Locke and D. H. Lawrence, engaging in a conversation across the centuries. Each advocates the importance of his own Indian work. The seventeenth-century writer, who never traveled to America, argues that the American Indian as hunter sheds valuable light on economic law. The act of hunting transforms the wild animals that Indians kill into their property, but the lifestyle of hunting disqualifies them from property rights to the land they inhabit. The twentieth-century writer, who did travel to America and even employed Indians on his New Mexico ranch, dismisses the issue of land ownership altogether. Instead,...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 149-188)
    (pp. 189-192)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 193-202)