Nineteenth-century Pequot minister William Apess has appeared to many readers over the years as a Native American figure who fully assimilated into the expectations of the dominant culture, his role as Christian minister placing an insuperable distance between him and the traditions of his people. More recently, critics have come to find in Apess a radical voice latching on to the power of the pulpit and the rhetoric of the abolitionist movement to argue for Native rights. In either case, Apess seems to have risen up from a kind of intellectual vacuum with no way of accounting for his inspired activism. Lopenzina seeks to relocate Apess within the intellectual traditions of the Native northeast. If Apess appears as an isolated figure, having achieved a measure of success in spite of his inauspicious origins, this may have something to do with the oral methodologies of Native peoples in the nineteenth century and the archival absences imposed by a settler culture determined to make Natives “vanish” from the colonial scene. When we make the attempt to regard Apess's narrative from “Native space,” weighing the loose materials of his life as he recorded them against a deeper understanding of indigenous tradition and practice, we begin to see Apess as an active participant in a network of Native community and belief. Eulogy on King Philip shows Apess connecting with Native methodologies in heretofore unnoticed ways, drawing on traditional Native diplomacy and the “tragic wisdom” of his people to carve out a message of interracial peace.
What to the American Indian Is the Fourth of July? Moving beyond Abolitionist Rhetoric in William Apess's Eulogy on King Philip
Drew Lopenzina; What to the American Indian Is the Fourth of July? Moving beyond Abolitionist Rhetoric in William Apess's Eulogy on King Philip. American Literature 1 December 2010; 82 (4): 673–699. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-2010-041
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