Warpaths: Invasions of North America

Warpaths: Invasions of North America

Warpaths: Invasions of North America

Warpaths: Invasions of North America

Synopsis

The relationship between American Indians and European colonialists has come under increasing scrutiny as the myth of America as virgin land has been shattered. Steele continues this reassessment and argues that recent research in ethnohistory, sociology of contact and military history invites a complete overhaul of North American military history.

Excerpt

This is an invitation to rethink a major aspect of early North American history by bringing together two scholarly fields that do not usually interact. One is the fashionable, if sometimes shrill and sanctimonious, field of ethnohistory, which is developing so quickly that any attempt at accessible synthesis is bound to be premature and incomplete. Ethnohistory has rightly restored the Amerindian to North American history and "discovered" the invasions of the continent. The other field is the less fashionable, sometimes case-hardened and myopic, study of "the colonial wars." Military history can measure the capacity to gather and use allies, warriors, food, weapons, and ideologies in conflicts that make some essential comparisons horribly obvious; cultural relativity offers no comfort to those defeated in battle. Drawing on both military and ethnohistorical perspectives, this brief study tries to reach beyond the racism evident in many accounts about victims, criminals, or heroes--accounts that are either myopic or antidotal.

Warfare, between states or between peoples, deserves to be neither celebrated nor forgotten. Colonial North American history was not created in peace and interrupted by war; wars, rumors of war, and costs of war affected every generation of Amerindians and colonists. It is disturbing to recognize that modern North America was established amid such violence, but this sobering realization is better than accepting sanitized myths that make modern levels of violence seem like moral degeneration from some peaceful colonial or pre-colonial Arcadia. It is a small comfort to notice that neither Amerindians nor Europeans were ever racist enough before 1765 to put aside pre-existing enmities and unite against the strangers.

The boundaries of a story are one clue to its purpose. Beginning in 1513 seems obvious, though less common than the Anglocentric 1585 or 1607, or the attempt to bypass almost all the inter-racial violence of "discovery and settlement" by pretending that the "colonial wars" began in 1689 and ended in 1760. Part I describes and compares five diverse centers of interaction between Amerindians and Europeans in . . .

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