Academic journal article American Studies

RED INK: Native Americans Picking Up the Pen in the Colonial Period

Academic journal article American Studies

RED INK: Native Americans Picking Up the Pen in the Colonial Period

Article excerpt

RED INK: Native Americans Picking up the Pen in the Colonial Period. By Drew Lopenzina. Albany: State University of New York Press. 2012.

The title of Lopenzina's book-Red Ink- invokes an era of under-appreciated literary production by Native Americans, while punning on two crucial features of that production: its enduring vulnerability to revision and erasure by hegemonic cultural "editors," and the blood-spattered historical context in which it took place. This is an impressively thorough and often compelling study; it highlights the processes of assimilation and the strategies of resistance visible in a range of colonial texts composed by indigenous authors while extending the bounds and enriching our understanding of Native American literary history.

Lopenzina's introduction anatomizes Euro-American cultural presumptions about Native literary presences, and surveys the efforts of Native authors in the colonial period to negotiate agency within print culture and reconcile (however precariously) indigenous and Western beliefs. As Lopenzina argues, "While Natives who entered into the realm of print discourse in the colonial period were not always, in their views and stances, in lock step with another or necessarily representative of all indigenous culture at the time, they nevertheless contributed to an emerging body of Native intellectual tradition that dynamically engaged the settler culture and stamped their own presence upon a period that, in response, has collaborated to deny their historical relevance" (9). The book's chapters move through a consideration of the dynamics of "contact" and attempts by the European colonizers to deny or "unwitness" forms of Native American literacy and wider cultural achievement; the fate of Native Americans who studied at Harvard's Indian College and helped administer New England's first printing press; the Wampanoag's textual efforts to defend and preserve their culture in the context of King Philip's War; Samson Occom's articulation of Mohegan survivance within the hegemonic conventions and disciplinary controls of eighteenth-century print culture; and finally the achievement of the Mohicans of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, who creatively managed their own literacy in order to secure a greater measure of control over their colonial destiny. …

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