Ethnohistory: An Historian's Viewpoint
WILLIAM BLAKE ONCE SAID THAT "TO GENERALIZE IS TO BE AN idiot." Having generalized so freely in the following essay about two such multifarious groups as historians and anthropologists, I can identify with his sentiment. But at the time the need for such a statement seemed (to me at least) pressing, and none of my historical colleagues stepped forward to write it. So I wrote it for presentation at the annual meeting of the American Society for Ethnohistory in October 1977. Knowing that journals thrive on controversy, I was not particularly surprised that Ethnohistory, the society's house organ, quickly accepted it for publication. But I was totally unprepared for the favorable reception it received from both commentators and audience, most of whom were anthropologists. I still think my characterizations of anthropologists tend toward the actual while those of historians lean toward the ideal.
But my intentions were not to be controversial or chauvinistic. I had two other purposes in mind. The first was to explain to myself and to some of my more skeptical colleagues why a research and teaching interest in ethnohistory need not be a faddish product of the American Indian Movement's takeover of Wounded Knee or Vine Deloria's books, but rather a bona fide historical enterprise demanded by the stubborn "colonial fact" of Indian-European contact in North America and a valuable