Morally Obfuscating the Middle Ground

Friday, January 6, 2017: 8:50 AM
Mile High Ballroom 2B (Colorado Convention Center)
Jordan Lee Craddick, University of Washington
In the aftermath of Richard White’s seminal The Middle Ground (1991) prominent scholars of Native American history continue to replicate his thesis by creating “middle ground” scenarios in their own research; doing so primarily as a means to explain complex interactions with varied indigenous groups. Removed from the very specific context that White created, this methodology is of dubious validity as its scholarly adherents have gone on to overstate indigenous agency in order to create a sense of parity. While this approach undoubtedly adds (at times artificial) complexity to indigenous groups previously portrayed in one dimensional terms, it also results in narratives of declension in which the responsibility for decline is shifted away from Euro-Americans onto Native Americans. In considering the ethics of history this essay will examine Elliott West’s The Contested Plains, Pekka Hämäläinen’s The Comanche Empire, and Ned Blackhawk’s Violence over the Land, to consider how these scholars portrayed the intentions and consequences of indigenous agency to create narratives that essentially blame Native Americans for their own decline.  I argue that these interpretations (whether intentional or not) undermine scholarship that addresses ongoing settler colonial processes.
See more of: Doing Indigenous History
See more of: AHA Sessions
<< Previous Presentation | Next Presentation