The Indians Giving a Talk to Colonel Bouquet (1766)1 2019-06-14T18:07:05-07:00 Will Fenton 82bf9011a953584cd702d069a30cbdb6ef90650a 7200 1 The Indians giving a talk to Colonel Bouquet in a conference at a council fire. 2019-06-14T18:07:05-07:00 London, reprinted for T. Jefferies, geographer to his Majesty, at Charing Cross., M DCC LXVI.  West, Benjamin, 1730-1813. Library Company of Philadelphia, *Am 1766 Smith 17360.Q (McNeil). Contained in "An historical account of the expedition against the Ohio Indians, in the year MDCCLXIV. : Under the command of Henry Bouquet, Esq. colonel of foot, and now brigadier general in America. Including his transactions with the Indians, relative to the delivery of their prisoners, and the preliminaries of peace. With an introductory account of the preceding campaign, and battle at Bushy-Run. To which are annexed military papers, containing reflections on the war with the savages; a method of forming frontier settlements; some account of the Indian country; with a list of nations, fighting men, towns, distances, and different routs. The whole illustrated with a map and copper-plates. / Published, from authentic documents, by a lover of his country" (p.14). "An Historical Account" is attributed to William Smith; sometimes also attributed to Thomas Hutchins. Two plates signed: B. West invt. Grignioni sculp. Reference: ESTC T138304; Howes, W. U.S.iana (2nd ed.), S693; Sabin 84617; and Lib. Company. Annual report, 1963, p. 33-35. "The Indians Giving a Talk" is attributed to Benjamin West. The Colonel sits at left on a stool inside a hut, three of his men and a scribe taking notes beside him, while the chief addresses them, standing over the fire with his right arm raised, holding a wampum belt in his left hand; the council listen attentively at right, one member in the right foreground smoking a pipe. Engraving. 1 1 Will Fenton 82bf9011a953584cd702d069a30cbdb6ef90650a
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Digital Paxton features five keyword essays that provide conceptual and interdisciplinary approaches to the Paxton corpus. At present, we have two essays from literary scholars, two from historians, and one essay that explores visual culture (authored by an historian).
Our approach modeled upon the work of Bruce Burgett and Glenn Hendler’s Keywords for American Cultural Studies.
Similar to an historical overview essay, each keyword is edited to ensure that it’s accessible to students, yet retains the research of a traditional journal article. In fact, all five of the essays develop or extend arguments that authors originally pursued in books or journal articles. The key difference is that each essay historicizes or theorizes a concept central to the Paxton print debate.
Judith Ridner (Associate Professor of History, Mississippi State University) examines how pamphleteers use the objects of eighteenth-century consumer culture to attack opponents in her keyword essay, “Material Culture.” Close reading both pamphlets and political cartoons, she finds Scots-Irish associated with tomahawks, Germans with blindfolds, and duplicitous Quakers subjected to the scrutiny of magnifying glasses.
James P. Myers, Jr. (Emeritus Professor of English, Gettysburg College) takes close-reading a step further in his essay on “Anonymity.” Using the anonymously published Conduct of the Paxton Men as a case study, Myers finds evidence of Thomas Barton’s hand by evaluating its form, style, and rhetorical duplications. His attention to textual features—such as figures of speech and synecdoche—make his piece an excellent entry point for English students and teachers.
Myers’s essay raises an important fact about the Paxton archive: many of these pamphlets were published anonymously or under pseudonyms. Much like today’s Twitter trolls, pamphleteers wrote under handles, didn’t always know who assailed them, and commonly misattributed writings.
In “Condolence,” Nicole Eustace (Professor of History, New York University) explores the role of condolence rituals in diplomacy. Eustace shows how Euro-Americans and Native Americans diverged in their conceptions of condolence ceremonies: Whereas Native Americans sought to use shared grief as a way to promote harmony prior to negotiations, Euro-Americans regarded these rituals as displays of dominance, as a performance rather than shared experience.
Scott Paul Gordon (Professor of English, Lehigh University) has served as one of the project’s earliest and most generous contributors. His keyword historicizes the term “Elites.” While modern readers might assume the Paxtons railed against Philadelphia elites for greater political power, Gordon shows how the frontiersman used violence to compel local authorities to protect settlements. The Paxton Boys were willing to accept an unequal social order as long as that deference secured them protection, loans, and access to opportunities for work and social advancement.
In addition to his keyword, Gordon has also provided several shorter, Wiki-style explanatory tags related to Christian Indians, Moravians, and Edward Shippen.
Next, Ben Bankhurst (Assistant Professor of History, Shepherd University) has contributed an ambitious essay on “Anti-Presbyterianism.” This piece ought to prove valuable for anyone who wants to understand the origins of anti-Presbyterian sentiment, which Bankhurst traces to post-Restoration Britain and Ireland.
Finally, and most recently, Angel Luke-O'Donnell (Liberal Arts Early Career Fellow of History at King’s College London) supplies a special, multi-page keyword dedicated to the role of "Paratexts" in printed materials. O'Donnell traces how backmatter in the form of errata, advertisements, supplementary material, and postscripts encouraged readers to revisit and reinterpret texts, which he posits opens up new ways of reading printed materials from the Paxton pamphlet war.
We welcome new submissions at any time. You can always connect with the editor using the Contact page.
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Early Encounters: Treaty Protocols and the Significance of Wampum
Like all histories, the story of the early colonial era in Eastern North America is complex. This lesson will complicate students' understandings of the power dynamics between native groups, settler colonists and European empires during the colonial period.
- Students will explain wampum, treaty protocol, and their respective significance.
- Students will interpret and think critically about historical images.
- Students will use examples from a visual source to support ideas and understandings.
- What was the significance of wampum in early colonial North America?
- What was the significance of treaty protocols in early colonial North America?
- Whose cultural values were centered in this process?
- How did various groups attempt to exercise agency and power through treaty meetings?
Ongoing Questions (if used in a unit):
- How did Native Americans and colonial representatives incorporate each other into their respective worldviews?
- When, how, and why did the power dynamics between native groups, settlers, and European empires change?
Grade Level: Grades 9-12
- Standard - 8.1.9.A: Compare patterns of continuity and change over time, applying context of events.
- Standard - 8.3.9.D: Interpret how conflict and cooperation among groups and organizations have impacted the growth and development of the U.S.
Excerpts from: Daniel Richter, Facing East From Indian Country: A Native History of Early America. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003. pp. 135, 137.
At the height of its development, the treaty protocol ideally consisted of nine stages. First came a formal invitation to attend a meeting at a recognized or "prefixed" place or "council fire." This invitation, accompanied by strings or belts of wampum (Dutch colonists called the beads zewant), established a right for the hosts to set the agenda and speak first; it also obliged them to provide ritual and material hospitality for the visitors. Second was a ceremonial procession, by foot or canoe, by which the visitors arrived at the site of the council. Third was the ''At the Wood's Edge" rite, in which the hosts offered rest and comfort to visitors presumed to be tired from a long journey. Each side offered the other the "Three Bare Words" of condolence, to clear their eyes, ears, and throats of the grief-inspired rage that prevented clear communication-the rage that, if unchecked, provoked mourning wars and spiraled into endless retaliatory feuds. After at least one night's rest, the council itself began with, fourth, the seating of the delegations and, fifth, an extensive Condolence ceremony, in which tearful eyes were again ritually dried, minds and hearts cleansed of the 'bile of revenge," blood wiped "from the defiled house," graves of the dead "covered" to keep grief and revenge out of sight, clouds dispelled to allow the sun to shine, and fire kindled to further illuminate the proceedings. Sixth came a "recitation of the law ways," a rehearsal of the history of two peoples' relationships with each other, the basis of their peaceful interactions, and the way in which their forebears had taught them to behave. Almost universally, the connection was described in terms of fictive kinship; two peoples were "Uncle" and "Nephew," or "Father" and "Child," or "Brother" and "Brother," and addressed each other with the authority or deference appropriate to the power relationship inherent in such terms. The recitation of the law ways articulated ideals rather than grubby realities. Kinship terms and other names by which relationships were described served an educative function to remind participants of what their attitudes toward each other ought to be.
Only in the seventh stage, after the ritual requirements for establishing a peaceful environment had been fulfilled, could what Europeans considered the business of a treaty council--the offering of specific "propositions"--take place. To be considered valid, each "word" had to be accompanied by an appropriate gift, usually of wampum strings ("fathoms") or belts prepared specially for the occasion. "Presents among these peoples despatch all the affairs of the country," explained a French missionary who understood the process much better than Livingston. "They dry up tears; they appease anger; they open the doors of foreign countries; they deliver prisoners; they bring the dead back to life; one hardly ever speaks or answers, except by presents." Wampum gifts in particular confirmed the validity of a speaker's words in several interrelated ways. As a sacred substance, wampum underscored the importance of what was being said. As a valuable commodity, it demonstrated that the speaker was not talking only for himself or on the spur of the moment, but that he had the considered support of the kin and followers who had banded together to collect the treasured shells and have them strung. And, as carefully woven patterns of white and black beads, wampum also became a mnemonic device, allowing belts or strings to be "read" accurately both by a speaker delivering a message as instructed and by a recipient recalling promises made years before.
While propositions and wampum were offered by the hosts, visitors were to listen politely but not respond substantively until at least the next day. Hasty replies were not only disrespectful but indicated that the negotiator had not conferred with his colleagues and therefore could not be speaking with their approbation or with properly prepared wampum. Only when each of the hosts' propositions had been answered could the visitors introduce new points. The same expectations of polite listening and postponed responses applied throughout a treaty conference. Thus, as at Albany in 1679, the whole affair could last for weeks. Once the substantive dialogue finally ended, the eighth step was the affixing of marks to any documents Europeans might insist upon. The ninth step consisted of a feast and the presentation of final gifts from the hosts. Unlike symbolic wampum, these tended to be of more material value: food, cloth, tools, weapons, and, too often, liquor-all of which leaders would redistribute to their followers.
- Benjamin West, "The Indians giving a Talk to Colonel Bouquet in a Conference at a Council fire, near his Camp on the Banks of the Muskingum in North America in Octr. 1764." William Smith, An Historical Account of the Expedition Against the Ohio Indians in the year MDCCLXIV (Philadelphia, 1766).
- "The belt of wampum delivered by the Indians to William Penn at the ‘Great Treaty' under the Elm Tree at Shackamoxon in 1682" (Penn Wampum Belt).
- "Hiawatha Belt" (National Belt of the Haudenosaunee). Onondaga Nation.
- "George Washington Belt" (1794 Canandaigua Treaty Belt). Onondaga Nation.
Prior to this unit, students should already be familiar with major cultural patterns among Eastern Native American groups (daily life, work cycles, political organization, concepts kinship and reciprocity, etc.), as well as the basic events surrounding the arrival of European groups to Eastern North America.
Warm up Activity (10 minutes)
In groups of 2-3, students examine a copy of the engraving The Indians giving a Talk to Colonel Bouquet and discuss their impressions of the image. The teacher posts the following questions and asks students to pick one or two to discuss.
- What is happening in this image?
- Who do we see in this picture and what actions are taking place?
- What objects do we see in this image?
- What title would you give this image?
- Who do you think made this image and why?
- What questions do you have about this image?
Share and discuss responses as a class. Make note of comments or questions that can be returned to later. The teacher tells students that in today's class, they will dive into treaty protocol, and wampum, both of which are central in this painting.
Mini Lecture: Wampum (10 minutes)
a) Zoom in on the wampum in The Indians giving a Talk to Colonel Bouquet. Tell students that they will learn about the significance of wampum and the role it played in Eastern North America at this time.
b) Project or distribute printouts of wampum images (e.g. Penn Wampum Belt). Ideally, the teacher might share quahog shells or physical replicas of wampum with which students could interact.
c) Explain wampum and its significance for native peoples at the time/currently and that it played a role in the spiritual and political life of peoples in colonial America.
Information on this topic paraphrased from a lecture by Daniel Richter (McNeil Center of Early American Studies, August 31, 2019):
- Early European visitors thought that wampum was "money," and while it was very valuable, that wasn't quite the case.
- Wampum was a spiritually charged item, and possessing it and exchanging it showed ones' connection to spiritual power (similar to earlier Cahokian medallions, and other specialty items traded in that time).
- Wampum was also used to communicate and commemorate messages for diplomatic purposes, and giving wampum reinforced alliances and connections.
- Wampum didn't just communicate a message as a text--it was a gift that strengthened and upheld the idea of reciprocity between exchanging parties.
- As such, wampum played a crucial role in treaty talks.
- Indigenous and European groups had to decide ahead of time what they would be saying in treaty meetings, and then embedded the message in wampum strings or belts, which were made by native women.
- The native speakers in diplomatic meetings were highly trained specialists, who read the belts in a formal dialogue.
- Importantly, the wampum beads themselves carried the messages--the belt spoke, and spoke with the authority of the people and place it was from. These belts can't be read today because the messages are connected to the time and place they were from.
- Europeans also had to produce wampum belts as part of diplomatic processes.
d) Show images of various wampum belts: Penn Wampum Belt, George Washington Belt, and the Hiawatha Belt. Discuss the messages these belts may have strengthened or reinforced.
Treaty Protocol in Action (15 minutes)
a) Explain that there was a certain protocol – have a student define or look up this word for the class – when indigenous and colonial leaders met. The teacher may quote from this excerpt of Daniel Richter's Facing East from Indian Country:
Originating in the internal political practices of the Iroquois League, the protocol spread in the mid-seventeenth century to other Native groups and to the French, English and Spanish officials throughout the northeast, the Great Lakes, and the southeast, accreting along the way a variety of non-Iroquois Indian and European customs. By the early eighteenth century, treaty conferences throughout eastern North America conformed to very similar ceremonial patterns (134).
b) Tell students that they will learn about the protocol by drawing out the steps on the whiteboards or posters around the room. If you haven't already, establish norms about drawings (e.g. all drawings should respect the humanity of all people.)
If your room is equipped with whiteboards, divide them into distinct spaces and label each with a description of that step. Ideally, the teacher would do this before class or as students enter the classroom. If you don't have whiteboards, you may use large post-its or other poster paper.
Treaty Protocol Steps, as outlined in Facing East (135-137).
- Formal invitation to attend a meeting: invitation is accompanied by strings or belts of wampum.
- Ceremonial procession by foot or canoe to the site of the council.
- "A the Wood's Edge" rite: hosts offer hospitality to visitors, who are tired from their journey. Both sides give each other the "Three Bare Words" of condolence, to clear their eyes, throats and ears of unproductive emotions (rage, grief, etc.).
- Seating of the delegations.
- A Condolence ceremony: "eyes were again ritually dried, minds are cleared of the ‘bile of revenge,' blood wiped ‘from the defiled house,' graves of the dead ‘covered' to keep grief and revenge out of sight, clouds dispelled to allow the sun to shine, and fire kindled to further illuminate the proceedings."
- Recitation of "law ways:" the history of the relationship between the groups, and rationale for peaceful interactions- described as kinship and becoming family.
- Specific propositions offered and each should be accompanied by a gift, usually wampum strings or belts. Replies from each group had to wait until the next day.
- Signing documents.
- Feast and final presentation of gifts.
c) In small groups, give students 3-4 minutes to draw their step.
d) After students return to their seats, briefly walk students through each of the steps and add details as necessary. For example: For indigenous peoples, treaties were primarily ceremonies that ratified and demonstrated alliance and connection – "polishing the chain" that connected groups. The process and ritual was the most important part. It was conducted in public and many members of the community would be present to witness it.
Discussion (5 minutes)
a. In small groups, have students discuss:
- What connections can you make to your prior knowledge of Eastern North American culture and history?
- Is anything about this diplomatic process that you find surprising?
- Who has power in this process?
- Whose cultural norms are centered?
- What does this say about the dynamics between settler colonists and native peoples at this particular time?
b. If time permits, have students report out to the larger group.
Assessment and Extensions: Students will be assessed on the day's objectives through individual writing in their journals. This could be completed at the end of class, or for homework.
Prompt: Write a journal entry reflecting on today's class. It should be at least two paragraphs.
- In the first paragraph, refer back to the engraving that we saw at the beginning of class. Drawing upon your new understanding of wampum and treaty protocol, describe what may be happening in this image.
- In the second paragraph, write your personal reflections from today's class. For example, has your understanding of the engraving changed since the beginning of class? What stood out to you or surprised you? What questions do you have moving forward?
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When Philadelphia government officials condemned the actions of the Paxton settlers who murdered Christian Indians at Conestoga in late December of 1763, representatives of the rioters answered their critics with an official letter of explanation addressed to Governor John Penn. This essay, delivered in February 1764, in part justified the vigilantism of the Paxton settlers by complaining that the governor had paid “exorbitant presents and great servility” to Indians during treaty negotiations at the expense of defending the lives and interests of settler colonists. They charged that “at the last treaty, not only was the Blood of our many murdered Brethren tamely covered, but our poor unhappy captivated Friends abandoned to Slavery.”
This point of dissatisfaction was reiterated in another essay, “The Apology of the Paxton Volunteers,” which claimed that Indians “insolently boasted of the horrid Murders they had committed, when they saw that our Blood was tamely covered at the last treaty and themselves loaded with presents.” The repeated claim that settler blood had been “tamely covered” referred to a ceremonial practice with deep, but divergent, cultural and political significance for colonists and Indians in early Pennsylvania: the condolence ceremony.
A degree of truth lay beneath the Paxton Boy’s charges that elite leaders had neglected the rituals of grief. In one of his first acts as the new governor of Pennsylvania, in early December 1763, John Penn had convened a treaty conference with representatives of the Delaware nation that disregarded the conventions of condolence by neither expressing nor soliciting grief. Official government minutes recording December 1763 treaty transactions between Governor John Penn and Papounan, a “Mohickon” allied with the Delawares and Nanticokes, reveal the accuracy of the Paxtonites’ assertions concerning the governor’s lack of ceremony. The governor neither demanded nor received any expressions of condolence from the assembled Native Americans. Instead, he explained to the assembly that he would take the dead bodies of the slain settlers and “by this string…bury them and cover them out of sight” (Penn 85). As far as the Paxton settlers were concerned, the governor’s breach of traditional decorum demonstrated his disregard for his subjects.
From early on, European colonists who wished to negotiate with native peoples learned that, in order to do so, they would have to participate in Indian diplomatic traditions. As Daniel Richter has described at length, among these ceremonies, rituals tied to grief for the dead were among the most important and widespread. Although grief rituals had originated with Haudenosaunee (Iroquoian) groups, they had become common among many native peoples in the Pennsylvania region by the latter half of the eighteenth century. Attempting to comprehend the meaning of Indian expressions of grief in the context of diplomacy, Euro-Americans had long labeled these Indian practices “condolence ceremonies.” But this very term should alert us to the culturally incommensurate understandings of mourning that Euro-American and Native Americans brought to rituals of grief.
Euro-Americans regarded the expression of condolences as a ritual mark of respect that paid homage to high-ranking people. Records of treaty negotiations held in Pennsylvania frequently noted that “compliments of condolence for the deaths of persons of distinction [were] exchanged” (Members of the Pennsylvania Council 274). This now-obsolete phrase, the “compliments of condolence,” indicates the role such expressions of shared sorrow played in the Euro-American context (“Condolence”). First, only persons of high rank deserved to be honored with the “compliment of condolence.” Second, the mere expression of shared sorrow did not signify that the person offering condolences was experiencing any inner feelings of grief or sadness, merely that they were paying respect by offering an “outward expression of sympathy with the grief of others.” Euro-Americans made public declarations of grief only when they wished to confer a mark of status on a person of public importance. Whatever private inner experience of sorrow the death of a subordinate member of Euro-American society might generate among family or friends, only leading men were regarded as acceptable candidates for public expressions of mourning. Likewise, showing public deference at the death of a noteworthy man did not necessitate inner emotional sorrow; it simply required an outward tribute.
For the settler colonists at Paxton, the idea that deaths among their members had been quickly covered over during diplomatic meetings, rather than made an occasion for ceremonial mourning, was insulting in the extreme. Their letter complained that “exorbitant presents and great Servility…paid to Indians, have long been oppressive Grievances we have groaned under.” From the Paxton perspective, all Euro-Americans should be regarded as superior to all Native Americans and thus deserving of the “compliments of condolence” from Indians. When Governor Penn “tamely covered” the settlers’ dead without demanding condolences from Indians, he as much as said that he did not regard frontier settlers as worthy of such honorary tribute.
Borderlands colonists assumed that Indians too intended to send a signal of disrespect by not expressing grief. As one pro-Paxton pamphlet writer demanded, “Did we hear any of those Lamentations that are now so plentifully poured forth for the Conestogoe Indians?— O my dear Friends! Must I answer No? The Dutch and the Irish are murdered without Pity.” Backcountry settlers repeatedly complained that colonial leaders’ emotional comportment conveyed more respect for Indians than for their fellow Europeans. They believed that the governor’s omission of the expression of grief at the deaths of their countrymen amounted to an insult to the dignity and value of their lives.
In reality, the native peoples of Pennsylvania brought a very different set of social expectations and cultural understandings to the ceremonies of grief that they made central to their diplomatic practices. Native American diplomatic protocol relied on many opening ceremonies that were designed to bring participants at treaty conferences into a harmonious state of mind before negotiations began. For Indians, the shared experience of grief was a way to create a community of feeling that could unite former enemies. Indians expressed grief at the deaths of all people, regardless of the rank of the deceased. The point of mingling tears and then wiping them away was to merge disparate peoples together as a unified whole.
Expressions of mutuality were a key element of Native American condolence rituals. As a Native American leader known as, “The Belt,” said in 1756, “kind Expressions of condolence” indicated that Indians and English had “experienced a common Loss [that] affected you as well as us, thereby signifying that we were one people and our Cause the same” (Old Belt 1). For Euro-Americans, subjective feelings of sadness were far less important than statements of tribute that demonstrated the respect in which the deceased was held; the very definition of condolence specified that it involved the ceremonial outward expression of sympathy on the occasion of a death rather than any great inward experience of sorrow. By contrast, Indian grief rituals were supposed to create a deep inner communion between peoples. For more on condolence ceremonies, reference White, Shannon, Gustafson, and Sayre).
Fundamentally, then, the Euro-American term “condolence ceremony” redirected and misrepresented the Indian tradition. First, Euro-Americans were interested in ceremonial performance, not emotional experience. Secondly, whereas Euro-Americans regarded a successful demand for condolences as an effective display of dominance, native peoples regarded a genuine sharing of grief as a means of sweeping away divisions among peoples, a key element in the resumption of peaceful relations.
When Governor John Penn “tamely covered” the settler dead at the December treaty conference, he did so with the primary goal of smoothing over frontier tensions and returning the colony to peace and stability. Far from seeking to melt away distinctions between Indians and Europeans in a flood of shared tears, Penn wanted to strengthen and secure his colony’s boundaries. But neither did he hesitate to skip the Indian custom of grieving for all deceased people. In the aftermath of the Seven Years War, Penn was much less concerned with affirming the lives and fortunes of the colony’s frontier inhabitants, than with moving past lingering Indian issues and on to pressing domestic policy concerns. Of course, such a statement made sense in diplomatic terms; if statements of grief constituted calls for action, then the decision to omit demands for condolences underscored the governor’s desire to dampen the spread of Indian conflicts in favor of a quick and uncomplicated peace.
The tragedy of the truncated condolence ceremony in December of 1763 is that the assembled Indians likely intended to follow Penn’s lead and to relinquish grief in favor of peace, not to further provoke the colony by conveying disrespect for the settler dead. Yet, in part because condolences were not asked or offered, backcountry settlers exacted revenge on their Christian Indian neighbors, undercutting the very peace that the Indians had sought to ensure. Their action did little to force respect from Governor Penn, much less from the Indians. Yet, by the following July, it did result in a new official policy allowing “that there shall be paid…to all and every person…premiums and Bounties for the prisoners and Scalps of Enemy Indians that shall be taken or killed within the Bounds of this Province.”
This essay draws upon research from two chapters of Nicole Eustace's book, Passion is the Gale: Emotion, Power, and the Coming of the American Revolution (UNC Press 2011). To learn more about Nicole Eustace, visit the Creators page.
- “Condolence, n.” definition 2 a, Oxford English Dictionary Online, Oxford University Press 2016.
- Sandra M. Gustafson, Eloquence Is Power: Oratory and Performance in Early America (Chapel Hill: UNC Press 2000).
- Members of the Pennsylvania Council, “On Considering the Several Matters Set forth in the Minutes of Council… Dec. 24, 1754,” in Minutes of the Provincial Council of Pennsylvania, from the Organization to the Termination of the Proprietary Government, Volume VI (Harrisburg, PA: Theo. Fenn & Co., 1851), 274.
- Jane Merritt, At the Crossroads: Indians and Empires on a Mid-Atlantic Frontier, 1700-1763 (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2003).
- Old Belt, speech as reported by Governor James Hamilton, “At a Council held at Carlisle, Thursday the 15th January, 1756,” PA Provincial Council Minutes, V. VII, 1.
- John Penn, as quoted in notes taken “At a Council held at Philadelphia on Saturday the 10th December, 1763,” Pennsylvania Provincial Council Minutes, V. IX, 85.
- Daniel Richter, The Ordeal of the Longhouse: The Peoples of the Iroquois League in the Ear of European Colonization (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1992).
- Gordon M. Sayre, Les Sauvages Américains: Representations of Native Americans in French and English Colonial Literature (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1997).
- Timothy J. Shannon, Indians and Colonists at the Crossroads of Empire: The Albany Congress of 1754 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000).
- Richard White, The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983).
The Ghosts of Wampum
Ernestine Heldring, Will Fenton
Students will compare and contrast the representation of wampum in different types of historical sources to analyze the gap in understanding of reciprocity between the settler colonists and the Conestoga people from different historical perspectives.
Although wampum has often been portrayed as a form of Native American decoration, it played an integral role in colonial diplomacy. Wampum signified "the importance or the authority of the message associated with it. As such, treaties and other such agreements would have a large amount of wampum that had been loomed into a ‘belt' for them" (Ganondagan).
The 1763 Paxton massacres occurred in the context of rising tensions between those who sought accommodation, associated with the exchange of wampum belts, and those who sought ethnic cleansing, articulated in printed materials that conflated wampum with disregard for settler colonists in the borderlands.
- Students will evaluate visual primary and secondary sources, including a contemporary graphic novel and an eighteenth-century political cartoon.
- Students will learn how contemporary historians are working to integrate previously underrepresented voices and stories.
- Students will use their background knowledge to evaluate sources and create an argument about the symbolism of wampum.
- Students will compare and contrast arguments using a structured academic controversy.
- Students will revise arguments and select appropriate evidence.
- Students will reinterpret the Paxton massacre and learn about settler colonialism.
- What role does reciprocity play in relationships between different peoples?
- How and why do relationships between groups of people change over time?
- How do symbols embody change or continuity in relationships?
- What did Native peoples in colonial Pennsylvania expect from their relationships with the settler colonists? How do we know?
- What did the settler colonists expect from their relationships with the Native peoples? How do we know?
Grade Level: Grade 11
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.WH.6-8.1: Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant, accurate data and evidence that demonstrate an understanding of the topic or text, using credible sources.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.2: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.8: Evaluate an author's premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.9: Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.
- Historians use a wide range of artifacts, including wampum belts, to explore Native American history (which has limited, extant written primary source records).
- Native peoples' understanding of reciprocity was enacted through the exchange of wampum.
- Wampum belts are connected and represent a relationship, whereas individual wampum beads are a form of currency. For example, the Treaty of Shackamaxon wampum belt given to William Penn in 1682 (featured in Ghost River), which is on exhibit at the Philadelphia History Museum, "was said to be given to William Penn by the Lenape tribe at the time of the 1682 treaty. The belt, donated in 1857 to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania by a great-grandson of Penn, is made of white wampum with darker accent beads and depicts two figures holding hands, often interpreted as a sign of friendship and peace."
- The tension between the settler colonists (and their increasing desire to move away from accommodation to thorough occupation of the land) and London's continued desire for reciprocity and accommodation was reflected in the pamphlet war, both during and after the Paxton massacre.
- Excerpts from Daniel Richter, Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 203. pp. 201-206.
- Excerpts from Lee Francis, Weshoyot Alvitre, and Will Fenton, Ghost River: The Fall and Rise of the Conestoga. Albuquerque: Red Planet Books and Comics, 2019.
- James Claypoole, An Indian Squaw King Wampum Spies.
- Penn Wampum Belt (1682 Shackamaxon treaty).
- Guiding questions (printed or projected on smartboard)
- Lee Francis, Weshoyot Alvitre, and Will Fenton, Ghost River: The Fall and Rise of the Conestoga. Albuquerque: Red Planet Books and Comics, 2019.
- Digital Paxton
- Author, Artist, and Editor bios
Pre-work: Have students read the homework packet on wampum and the Paxton massacres.
Classroom Activities (75 minutes)
1. Play this excerpt from the musical Chicago as students come in:
Ask any of the chickies in my pen
They'll tell you I'm the biggest mother hen
I love them all and all of them love me -
Because the system works;
the system called reciprocity!
Got a little motto
Always sees me through
When you're good to Mama
Mama's good to you!
2. Ask students to free write on "reciprocate." Students may write a list, letter, scene, poem, or draw a sketch that they associate with the word.
3. Students talk in pairs: what did you write or draw, and why?
4. As a class, generate a working definition for "reciprocate" and write it on the board.
5. Class or small-group discussion: why is it important to reciprocate in relationships? Segue to thinking about ways of symbolizing reciprocity in relationships. How do I communicate my relationships with people or organizations? (e.g. a wedding ring shows marital status).
6. Homework recap/ mini lecture on reciprocity, accommodation and wampum in the 1600s and 1700s. Ask students to retrieve/recall how wampum represented based on what they read for homework (ex. to Native people wampum belts represented reciprocity in treaties with the British. Wampum was not money or decoration).
7. Split students into two groups to examine the Reading Packet:
- Group One examines Ghost River excerpts with Penn Wampum Belt.
- Group Two examines Ghost River excerpts with Indian Squaw King.
8. Both groups address their respective guiding questions and draft a thesis statement about what wampum meant to the settler colonists and Conestoga people.
9. As a class, compare both groups' thesis statements.
10. Finish by examining the full cartoon (Indian Squaw King) and explaining the role of pamphlets in the aftermath of the Conestoga Massacres. Stress to the students that Native people were still engaging in centuries-old ideals of reciprocity, whereas the settler colonists were increasingly intent on acquiring more land. Settler colonists were also frustrated that the metropolis (Parliament in London) did not unconditionally support them.
(Judith Ridner, Passion, Politics, and Portrayal in the Paxton Debates)
The Paxton crisis, as Thomas Penn predicted, was a war of words and images fought by Paxton critics and defenders who debated Pennsylvania's future by inflaming the passions and misleading the judgement of many in the colony. Yet, in a war sparked by violence against Indians, it is surprising how absent or misrepresented the Conestogas were in these discussions. Few texts acknowledged the Paxton murders. Instead, most works, including political cartoons, either denied the Conestogas' agency by portraying them as helpless dependents of the colony and its Quaker merchants, or by stereotyping them as either cunning, half-naked savages or hatchet-wielding warriors, images popularized during the Seven Years' War. With no native voices to argue on behalf of the Conestogas, the Paxton debates document the colonial narrative of the crisis. They also capture a turning point in the history of the Pennsylvanian colony, away from acknowledgement and negotiation and towards the whole scale displacement and dispossession of indigenous peoples
Assessment and Extensions:
Assessment: Write a thesis statement that addresses one or more of these questions. State what two pieces of evidence best support your thesis.
- What did Native peoples in colonial Pennsylvania expect from their relationships with the settler colonists? How do we know?
- What did the settler colonists expect from their relationships with the Native peoples? How do we know?
Extension: What additional resources would you need to better understand the significance of wampum to different groups of people? What else do you know, need to know, or want to learn?
Homework: Read and annotate Ghost River. Select one page you want to close-read and discuss in class.
This lesson was created during the 2019 Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History Teacher Seminar, "Native Peoples, Settlers, and European Empires in North America, 1600-1840" (July 28-August 3, 2019). You may also download a printable version of this lesson.