Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version

9-2016

Publication Source

Early American Studies

Volume

14

Issue

4

Start Page

712

Last Page

748

DOI

10.1353/eam.2016.0026

Abstract

The Pequot author William Apess is regarded as having almost miraculously transcended poverty, racism, and injustice to become an eloquent orator. Modern scholars have imagined the place of his birth as a primitive camp in the hills. Yet Colrain, in the early 1800s, was a bustling, religiously diverse, transcultural town where white (mostly Scots- Irish), Native American, and African American people routinely crossed paths, and where the Apess family routinely crossed color lines. Over time, Apess drew on his experiences among tribal, racial, and religious groups in multiple locales (Colchester, Colrain, Ledyard, Mashpee, Tyendinega, and elsewhere) to construct a compellingly romanticized (and colonized) version of indigenous identity. Onstage and in print, he was an iconic “poor Indian” and “son of the forest”; in person, he was a well-educated, cosmopolitan performer who loved the limelight and feared the wilderness. He evoked a precolonial ideal of a pristine Native life, while delivering trenchant critiques of white settler abuses; yet he advocated for religious conformity more than for indigenous survivance. Thus, to better contextualize Apess’ life and works, we need to critically and carefully consider nineteenth-century modes of identity formation, national affiliation, cultural performance, and racial tropes, including those articulated by Apess himself.

Copyright/Permission Statement

All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations used for purposes of scholarly citation, none of this work may be reproduced in any form by any means without written permission from the publisher. For information address the University of Pennsylvania Press, 3905 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104-4112.

Included in

Anthropology Commons

Share

COinS
 

Date Posted: 23 December 2016

This document has been peer reviewed.