Sunday, November 19, 2017

Booknotes: The Civil War and the Subversion of American Indian Sovereignty

New Arrival:
The Civil War and the Subversion of American Indian Sovereignty by Joseph Connole (McFarland, 2017).

The very brief publisher's description for Joseph Connole's The Civil War and the Subversion of American Indian Sovereignty draws a pretty broad picture of what the book might have to say. "The U.S. government's Indian Policy evolved during the 19th century, culminating in the expulsion of the American Indians from their ancestral homelands. Much has been written about Andrew Jackson and the removal of the Five Nations from the American Southeast to present-day Oklahoma. Yet little attention has been paid to the policies of the Lincoln administration and their consequences. The Civil War was catastrophic for the natives of the Indian Territory. More battles were waged in the Indian Territory than in any other theater of the war, and the Five Nations' betrayal by the U.S. government ultimately lead to the destruction of their homes, their sovereignty and their identity."

In the preface, the author notes that his research focuses on the relationship between the American Indian and the U.S. government. He describes the end stage of the evolution of the latter's policy as "a deliberate plan to strip the American Indian of his sovereignty." (pg. 8). Realizing that readers might draw comparisons between his book and Mary Jane Warde's recent well-received study, Connole categorizes Warde's work as primarily cultural history while his own is "military/political."

A quick skim through the contents of Connole's book does indicate a focus on the many raids, battles, and campaigns fought in Indian Territory during 1861-65, with the final chapter discussing the postwar treaties forged between the tribes and the government. The author admits in the preface that his book is one-sided and that it's by design. The choice stems from his belief that "the United States government alone is responsible for the fate of the American Indian. Anything the American Indians did was in response to the government's own actions. As such, I wanted to develop this perspective without the confusion of adding in the American Indian perspective." (pg. 9). Those kinds of assumptions are certainly open to question. I do plan on reading and reviewing the title.

4 comments:

  1. John FoskettNovember 20, 2017

    Drew: This looks interesting. Regarding Lincoln, the sad fact is that, in contrast to policies regarding enslaved blacks, he and his administration were no more enlightened than any others in the 19th century on these issues - I will cut Grant a slight (emphasis on "slight") break. For example, other than sparing many (but not all) of the accused in the 1862 Dakota uprising, I'm not sure what Lincoln did to meaningfully eliminate the criminal corruption which caused the uprising. It's a bit similar to Roosevelt's treatment of Nisei. (Of course, FDR wasn't all that enlightened on the segregation front either). These facts just illustrate the differences between simplistic popular history and the messy truth.

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    1. Overall on the loss of sovereignty issue, it would seem to me that more "blame" should rest on the Lincoln successors, who used the Civil War as a means to wipe away prior treaties and replace them with much more draconian ones (with little or no consideration of which side the tribe aligned with during the war). There was a fascinating chapter in "The Civil War and Reconstruction in Indian Territory" that showed that the tribes that fought the government at their own game of employing the best lawyers and congressional lobbyists got the best deals in the post-Civil War realignment. According to the essay writer, the Confederate Chocktaws and Chickasaws used this tactic most successfully.

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    2. John FoskettNovember 21, 2017

      Good points. I do think that there was a great deal of erosion of treaty rights between 1812 and 1860, albeit not necessarily explicit or formal. There also is real question as to how much true "negotiation" took place in arriving at those treaties. Removal/establishment of reservations was occurring before Lincoln took office. I think it's fair to say that NA rights were well down the pole for an administration fighting a Civil War and at the same time promoting western homesteading and a transcontinental railroad. It was under Lincoln that devastating campaigns took place against the Apaches and the Navajo.

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  2. "the United States government alone is responsible for the fate of the American Indian. Anything the American Indians did was in response to the government's own actions. As such, I wanted to develop this perspective without the confusion of adding in the American Indian perspective."

    You're right, these are strange assumptions and open to question. U.S. Indian policy of course grew at least partly out of the actions of Indians themselves. But I suppose we should give the author the benefit of the doubt until your review. McFarland titles vary wildly in quality and they seem to have fired their copy editors about 10-15 years ago. I generally stick to their edited primary source collections in my own research.

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