Indigenous Nations and Modern States: The Political Emergence of Nations Challenging State Power

By Rudolph C. Rÿser | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

The conduct of international relations is one of the oldest of social arts. It demands of individuals who will practice the disciplines of tact, discretion, poise, and finesse a special commitment and understanding of one’s own culture and the cultures of other peoples. Other than holding a doctorate in international relations, my true foundation for this work is in my family heritage. I am a descendent of a long chain of Fourth World diplomats—a chain that extends to the 17th century when the monarchies of France and the United Kingdom first set out to claim trade routes and wealth in the Three Rivers region where the Algonquin, Abenaki, Five Nations Confederacy of Haudenosaunee and the Missasaqua nations had long lived. Important branches of my ancestors became cross-cultural diplomats mediating the often differing economic, social, cultural and political interests of the kingdoms, their business colonies and the interests of nations who at first believed the small numbers of merchants, fur traders, slaves, and indentured servants to be a benefit to them. My father’s family of farmers follows a single strand to one location in Bergdorf, Switzerland extending well before the existence of the Swiss Confederation of the 13th century. My mother’s family is rooted in North America, and the Orkadian Islands off the northern coast of Scotland. It is this family branch that contains more than 350 years of diplomatic history helping to define the relationship between nations in North America and the French and English and eventually Canada and the United States. This history begins with my 17th-century grandmother Isabell Montour.

Isabell Montour (1667–1752) had a French father from Cognac by the name of Pierre Couc and her mother was from Weskirini or Montagnais (Algonquin people). She is the first of the extraordinary diplomats in my family. She and her family were involved in fur trading during the early 1700s to Fort Mackinac and Detroit (then a trading post) and Albany (also a trading post). Her brother Louis Montour (the source of their last name remains a mystery) served as a trade interpreter and negotiator between the French and various Indian nations. When the French governor discovered that Louis Montour had been negotiating agreements beneficial to the English (in Albany) he directed that a gunman assassinate Louis. Like her brother Louis, Isabell was employed first by the

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