Mark Rifkin is Director of the Women's and Gender Studies Program and Professor of English at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro and the author of several books, including
The Silence of Ely S. Parker
This chapter takes the mute representation of Ely S. Parker in the movie Lincoln (2012) as an occasion for considering the marginalization of Native peoples and processes of settler occupation in conventional narratives of national history. The focus on the Civil War as a signal event within national time gains meaning against the presumption of the necessary persistence of the settler-state, normalizing settler sovereignty as a condition for narrating and experiencing U.S. history. In contrast, the Dakota War of 1862 and Parker’s career in Indian affairs highlight how the national union continually reemerges through its violent imposition over top of existing peoples, territorialities, sovereignties, and temporalities. Turning to the writings of Charles Alexander Eastman, the chapter also addresses how the violence of the Indian Wars and of the treaty-system become part of the self-understanding of the next generation.