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Native Tongues

Native Tongues: Colonialism and Race from Encounter to the Reservation

Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 330
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  • Book Info
    Native Tongues
    Book Description:

    Exploring the morally entangled territory of language and race in 18th- and 19th-century America, Sean Harvey shows that whites’ theories of an “Indian mind” inexorably shaped by Indian languages played a crucial role in the subjugation of Native peoples and informed the U.S. government’s efforts to extinguish Native languages for years to come.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-73579-8
    Subjects: History, Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[x])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    Language was a crucial line of difference in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and it played an important role in colonialism. Some heard race itself in the words and ways of speech of others. After hearing Eastern Abenaki while traveling through what he called Maine, Henry David Thoreau remarked, “There can be no more startling evidence of their being a distinct and comparatively aboriginal race, than to hear this unaltered Indian language, which the white man cannot speak nor understand.” He was attentive to the physical features of Native speakers, who included Joe Aitteon and Tahmunt Swasen, and he collected...

  4. 1 Language Encounters and the “Mind of Man, while in the Savage State”
    (pp. 19-48)

    Encounters between Indians and Europeans were frequently language encounters. Some Native people thought the languages of the newcomers sounded more bestial than human. To Mi’kmaqs, the Frenchmen’s tendency to interrupt and speak over one another sounded like nothing so much as “ducks and geese, which cry out . . . all together.” The Iroquois scorned the way Europeans (and Algonquians) formed sounds likebandp.Reasonably enough, they thought it was “ridiculous that they must shut their Lips to speak.” Native people were also sensitive to the different ways the strangers pronounced words, and what Europeans recognized as merely...

  5. 2 Descent and Relations
    (pp. 49-79)

    In 1809–1810, John Norton (Teyoninhokarawen, or “The Open Door”) journeyed from upper Canada to Cherokee country, noting that Indians and Euro-Americans had intermingled and intermarried in the borderlands of their habitations, coming to share a common “complexion” and ways of life, which combined with histories of trade and captivity to make discerning a person’s background difficult. Norton, an adopted Mohawk who claimed Cherokee in addition to Scot descent, even found his own identity questioned after uttering some broken Cherokee, overhearing companions say, “Yeawiyoukeklisko(I think he is a native).” As imperfect an indicator as it was—after all, the...

  6. 3 Much More Fertile Than Commonly Supposed
    (pp. 80-112)

    John Heckewelder learned the Lenni Lenape (Delaware) language and culture as a Moravian missionary. In station after station, from Greenland to the Caribbean to Asia and Africa, the Unitas Fratrum sought to preach the gospel and restore human unity by creating a global community of faith. Repairing the damage of Babel depended upon learning Native languages and using them successfully in evangelization, but, for a time, the Brethren’s linguistic knowledge was controversial. Nativists who called for purification of white influences and for racial separation distrusted the missionaries, as did white settlers, for whom Moravians’ relationships with Native people converged with...

  7. 4 Four Clicks, Two Gutturals, and a Nasal
    (pp. 113-144)

    In his short life, David Brown (A-wih) labored tirelessly to produce Cherokee texts in multiple writing systems that would provide the means for his countrymen to be “translated from the dominions of darkness unto the glorious kingdom of Christ.” While at Brainerd, a school in the Cherokee nation that the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) operated with federal “civilization” funds, he worked with Daniel S. Butrick to create the first Cherokee spelling book in 1819. Supporters, such as the Baptist missionary Evan Jones, found it “simple and natural,” while critics, such as John Heckewelder, were “altogether at...

  8. 5 The Unchangeable Character of the “Indian Mind”
    (pp. 145-181)

    Henry R. Schoolcraft began an extensive study of Ojibwe (or, as it was commonly known, Chippewa) when he became U.S. Indian agent at Sault Ste. Marie in 1822. His superintendent, Lewis Cass, had pushed the task upon him, hoping to obtain material to combat the supposedly elevated ideas of Indian speech and thought that John Heckewelder’s and Peter S. Du Ponceau’s publications had produced, but Schoolcraft also hoped to cultivate “the best understanding of this powerful and hitherto hostile tribe.” He arrived at the Sault at a tumultuous moment, as the fur trade had begun to decline and as pressure...

  9. 6 Of Blood and Language
    (pp. 182-219)

    In March 1864, the Smithsonian Institution invited William Dwight Whitney to deliver a series of lectures on “The Principles of Linguistic Science.” For most of these lectures, the relatively young but already respected Sanskrit scholar explained how philologists studied language and what they had learned in the previous decades, devoting particular attention to English and the Indo-European family. They had begun as monosyllabic languages, he argued, but ongoing “processes” of combining old words into new ones and allowing old ones to pass into disuse had created “our modern speech.” While Europeans at the forefront of what was becoming increasingly known...

  10. Epilogue
    (pp. 220-226)

    In 1893 the Anthropological Society of Washington published the paper “Polysynthesis in the Languages of the American Indians” in its journalThe American Anthropologist, which targeted the theory that had dominated study of Native languages for most of the nineteenth century. In it, J. N. B. Hewitt, a scholar at the Bureau of Ethnology, dismissed Peter S. Du Ponceau’s “cursory” work and “imperfect” materials, but he also went on to challenge Daniel G. Brinton and several other philologists who had adapted Du Ponceau’s theory to evolutionary assumptions about “savage tribes” and “languages . . .at the bottom of the scale.”...

  11. Abbreviations
    (pp. 227-234)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 235-318)
  13. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 319-320)
  14. Index
    (pp. 321-338)