Thursday, May 27, 2010

Eloquence is Power: Book Acknowledges Hendrick Aupaumut's Role

Not having written communication opened the way for tribes to develop oral communication into what might be called a powerful art form. The skill of oratory, I would imagine, was even more developed among the Mohicans, who first brokered interactions between the Iroquois and other Algonkians and later worked as cultural brokers between Indians and white settlers.

As I've mentioned in earlier posts, Captain Hendrick Aupaumut worked as a diplomat in George Washington's Administration, where he brokered an uneasy peace with the Delawares and other "western" Indian nations. (Captain Hendrick was the first non-white to hold such a position with the federal government.)

A book by Sandra M. Gustafson (University of North Carolina Press, 2000), Eloquence Is Power: Oratory and Performance in Early America has something to say about one of our heroes:

A Revolutionary war veteran, Christian Indian, dedicated leader of his Mahican community, and preserver of Mahican traditions, Aupaumut envisioned his role as ambassador to the northwest Indian nations as an extension of ancient Mahican traditions of diplomacy. Negotiating on behalf of the "15 sachems of the United States," Aupaumut employed both written text and the oral forms of the treaty council with authority.

And here's a sample of a part of a June 20, 1791 speech that was later written down:

I feel thankful that by the goodness of the Great Spirit above we have again brought our pipes together; that we may speak together in friendship. I feel glad that the father of the United States has appointed you to kindle this council fire for peace. - I have something to say to you which for a good while has lain with weight upon my mind.
Brother, Attend!
I will remind you that I, my nation have always been the true friends of the Americans. Even from the first day they entered into a covenant of friendship. I, my nation have never been unfaithful nor broken any part of the chain of friendship.
You can view that speech fragment online as part of the Papers of the War Department project. The curious thing about it is they call it a "Speech of Hendrick to Stockbridge Indian Chief," while Captain Hendrick was himself a Stockbridge Chief and his words were clearly meant for the ears of United States officials.

Friday, May 7, 2010

People of Nama'o

You already know that the Menominees are 'the people of the wild rice' (although there are some Wisconsin Indians who disagree). But according to a new book published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press, the Menominees are also the "People of Nama'o." Nama'o means "sturgeon" in the Menominee language and "People of Nama'o" is chapter 6 of the new book, People of the Sturgeon:Wisconsin's Love Affair with an Ancient Fish. Mostly, it is a book about the modern-day white people who stand on the ice of Lake Winnebago with spears, waiting for a huge sturgeon to swim by.

For information about this photo, please see the Fish Geek blog.

But the prehistoric fish has been important to Menominee culture since prehistoric times.

According to page 176, the Menominees' "Fish Dance" mimics "the movements of the sturgeon as they travel up the river to spawn." (Pictured is David Grignon, the Menominee tribal historic preservation officer.)