Academic journal article American Studies

REMEMBERING THE MODOC WAR: Redemptive Violence and the Making of American Innocence

Academic journal article American Studies

REMEMBERING THE MODOC WAR: Redemptive Violence and the Making of American Innocence

Article excerpt

REMEMBERING THE MODOC WAR: Redemptive Violence and the Making of American Innocence. By Boyd Cothran. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. 2014.

There has been much written lately about past Indian wars, massacres, mass executions, and vigilante justice-from Sand Creek to Camp Grant to the Mankato hangings to the lynching of Louie Sam in the Pacific Northwest. Indeed, it is about time we sought a more critical understanding of these injustices on our landscapes of violence, and how these past events have been distilled through collective memory and the rewritings of Native and settler history. To this body of recent work-con-ducted in the shadow of 9/11, our own national trauma-we now add Boyd Cothran's examination of the Modoc War of 1872-73 in the volcanic-contoured terrain of the Klamath Basin.

The author's objective, in large part, is to dissect a violent episode in Indian-White relations and "interrogate the nature of innocence and its uses as well as its persistence and prevalence in American history" (7). Grounded in Judeo-Christian symbolism, and manifested early in the Puritan City on the Hill, innocence has been repeatedly invoked in nationalistic narratives and claims to destiny, exceptionalism, and the need for aggressive militancy. When Captain Jack and his Modoc followers resisted containment on a reservation and subsequently engaged U.S. troops, killing General Edward Canby during peace negotiations, he and three other Native men were captured and executed, initiating a century-long process of historical knowledge production about the war in "marketplaces of remembering." The author analyzes these marketplaces-newspapers, dramatic Indian show performances, books, reenactments, museums, local resource economies, petitions, tourism-as sites in which historical remembrances are made and remade, circulating in networks of exchange and commodification, "part of the commercialization of everyday life" (14). …

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