College of Liberal Arts & Sciences
BA (Bachelor of Arts)
Session and Year of Graduation
Honors Major Advisor
Dr. Marie Kruger
Dr. Phillip Round
The second half of the 19th century was a time of dramatic change for both Native Americans and white settlers in Iowa. Although federal land cessions forced most indigenous peoples out of Iowa, unassimilated, “non-violent” bands remained and regularly contacted settlers through the early 20th century. These interactions emerged from the enforcement of land cessions via military forts along with fundamental differences between each group’s cultural traditions and understanding of land ownership. During an interview on her hundredth birthday in 1980, my great-grandmother Josephine Kelly recalled childhood visits from Native Americans on her family’s farm near Fort Dodge. This interview became the foundation of my thesis.
The group of Native Americans Josephine encountered was almost certainly the Meskwaki band of Chief Che-Neuse (called “Johnny Green” by settlers), who felt the need to improve his clan due to the encroachment of settler colonialism. In addition to Josephine’s tape, I employ sources from living Native and Anglo-American researchers, archival U.S. maps depicting land cession “treaties”, archival newspaper sources, and a settler account from a woman who, like Josephine, recounts childhood interactions with Che-Neuse’s band.
Surprisingly, such interactions reveal nuanced similarities in material culture beyond elucidating the established gender roles of each group, cultural prejudices of the settlers, and differences in material culture. I refer to Marie Louise Pratt’s notion of transculturation, a concept appreciating reciprocity and limited agency in subjugated native peoples as settler populations and colonialism force the adoption of their material culture. By applying the concept of transculturation and recognizing its limits in my project, I demonstrate that both Meskwaki exiles like Chief Che-Neuse and settlers like Josephine exchanged and modified objects of material culture in ways unique to not only material trends of exchange in Iowa between white settlers and the Tama Meskwaki but also typical colonialist dynamics of exchange historically. Along with surveying artifacts involved in these interactions, I analyze examples of Meskwaki storytelling to appreciate native oral traditions, the psychology of Che-Neuse’s band encountering white settlers and colonialist power structures, and way in which settlers and natives used certain objects of material culture and understood their personal past. Beyond identifying patterns of material exchange, I connect Josephine’s memories with those of Meskwaki individuals to identify a shared humanity in how both groups employ storytelling as a natural human response to stress and danger to locate, explain, and prioritize experiences along with the artifacts involved in them.
Copyright © 2017 Keegan Gormally