Tuesday, November 17, 2009


The "lower class" as Indians (and vice versa)

In "Indians at home – Indians in Cornwall, Indians in Wales, Indians in Ireland," I wrote about how one member of the Anglo-America elite equated the indigenous people of North America and the indigenous Celtic peoples of Great Britain and how tools of Anglo-American colonialism were first tested in Europe.

In an 1897 article Myron Eels compared Indians to the "lower class of whites." He wrote:
I should say of the greatest part of those under forty-five years of age, that if they had white skins, talked the English language,--and if a part of them had abandoned their belief in their medicine men,--as some have not done,--if they travelled in boats instead of canoes, if their women wore hats or bonnets on their heads, if they were neater, they would be called civilized, at least as much so as the lower class of whites.
I got this quote from Indians in the Making: Ethnic Relations and Indian Identities around Puget Sound by Alexandra Harmon (Univ. of California Press, 1998) pp. 122-3. For Harmon, this illustrates how much "Indians remained aliens" and, certainly, that is so but I can't help but notice, too, just how little, to Eels' mind, separates Indians from the "the lower class of whites." One wonders about the gulf that separates them from upper class Whites like Eels.

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