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New Americanists

Indian Nation: Native American Literature and Nineteenth-Century Nationalisms

By
Cheryl Walker
Cheryl Walker

Cheryl Walker is Richard Armour Professor of Modern Languages and Director of the Humanities Institute at Scripps College. She is the author of The Nightingale’s Burden: Women Poets and American Culture Before 1900.

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Duke University Press
ISBN electronic:
978-0-8223-9700-7
Publication date:
1997

Indian Nation documents the contributions of Native Americans to the notion of American nationhood and to concepts of American identity at a crucial, defining time in U.S. history. Departing from previous scholarship, Cheryl Walker turns the "usual" questions on their heads, asking not how whites experienced indigenous peoples, but how Native Americans envisioned the United States as a nation. This project unfolds a narrative of participatory resistance in which Indians themselves sought to transform the discourse of nationhood.

Walker examines the rhetoric and writings of nineteenth-century Native Americans, including William Apess, Black Hawk, George Copway, John Rollin Ridge, and Sarah Winnemucca. Demonstrating with unique detail how these authors worked to transform venerable myths and icons of American identity, Indian Nation chronicles Native American participation in the forming of an American nationalism in both published texts and speeches that were delivered throughout the United States. Pottawattomie Chief Simon Pokagon’s "The Red Man’s Rebuke," an important document of Indian oratory, is published here in its entirety for the first time since 1893.

By looking at this writing through the lens of the best theoretical work on nationality, postcoloniality, and the subaltern, Walker creates a new and encompassing picture of the relationship between Native Americans and whites. She shows that, contrary to previous studies, America in the nineteenth century was intercultural in significant ways.

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