Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The New World: It's More Complicated Than 'Pocahontas'

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The New World: It's More Complicated Than 'Pocahontas'

Article excerpt

New World for All: Indians, Europeans, and the Remaking of Early America

By Colin G. Calloway

The Johns Hopkins University Press 216 pp., $24.95 The scholarly treatment of native Americans has gone through distinctive cycles. Before the middle of this century, historians focused more on the Anglo-Europeans who settled in North America than the Indians they displaced. Native Americans were either ignored altogether or dismissed as "godless" obstacles to progress fit only for removal. During the 1960s, the idealism spawned by the civil rights movement led many among a new generation of historians to adopt a different point of view. To these scholars, the native Americans were tragic victims of exploitative capitalism and white racism. They portrayed the European colonization of America as placing two different cultures in mortal conflict. More recently, scholars known as ethno-historians have combined the disciplines of anthropology, sociology, and history to produce a more sophisticated - and less ideological - understanding of human interaction during the Colonial period. In the process, they have dismantled many prevailing stereotypes about the Indians. Ethno-historians have demonstrated that the cultural encounters during the Colonial period involved a complex exchange of folkways and social practices that transformed both Indians and Europeans. In "New Worlds for All: Indians, Europeans, and the Remaking of Early America," Colin Calloway, a professor of history at Dartmouth College, weaves together his own extensive research with the findings of many other ethno-historians to produce an engaging synthesis of the cultural encounters and exchanges during the Colonial and Revolutionary eras. His impressionistic essays on an array of fascinating topics reveal the considerable influences that Indians and Anglo-Europeans exerted on one another during their 300 years of contact before 1800. The result is a more nuanced appreciation for the complexity of cultural relationships in Colonial America. The mixing and mingling of peoples produced a unique multiethnic society. Calloway employs lucid prose and captivating examples to remind us that neither Indians nor Colonists were a monolithic group. There were hundreds of tribes and thousands of different societies in North America. They spoke different languages, practiced different customs and economies, and often fought with one another over land and hunting rights. The European settlers were equally diverse. They came from many different countries, regions, and social classes, and they brought with them quite different motives. Yet for all of their diversity and prejudices, the peoples of the Old and New Worlds were in daily contact throughout the Colonial era and exercised a profound effect on one another. …

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