THE VIEW FROM RED CLOUD’S GRAVE
THE PRECEDING CHAPTERS have argued that books and writing played constitutive roles in eighteenth- and nineteenth- century tribal communities. From the northeastern woodlands to the Great Plains, alphabetic literacy and printed books became integral elements in emergent, transitional cultural formations for indigenous nations threatened by European imperialism. From the 1660s, when John Eliot successfully petitioned the English government to support a Native- language literacy enterprise in New England, through the development of modern publishing practices such as stereotype printing, proprietary authorship, and reprinting, Native peoples approached the coming of books as both opportunity and threat, engaging them in countless different ways.
I have arrived at this conclusion by applying interpretive techniques drawn from American Indian literary nationalist criticism and book studies to the manuscript and print practices of tribal communities across Indian Country during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. From the perspective of the history of the book, the book practices I have uncovered reaffirm that Native textuality “cannot be understood except as a phenomenal event.” Although books were material objects in the imperial nexus, they entailed a “set of events, a point in time (or a moment in space) where certain communicative interchanges [were] being practiced.”1 Such events are understandable only within the context of the Native communities where they were produced and consumed and thus where they gained meaning. However much the subscribers to missionary journals like the Panoplist wished to believe in the ideology of book conquest, Native peoples clearly had other ideas. Thus my study of the production of alphabetic literacy and book objects in Indian Country has