Defending treaty traditions, appealing against removal: Claudia B. Haake, ‘Appeals to Civilization and Customary “Forest Diplomacy”: Arguments against Removal in Letters Written by the Iroquois, 1830–1857’, Wicazo Sa Review, 30, 2, 2015, pp. 100-128
Abstract: In this essay I argue that in order to persuade the U.S. government that it was unnecessary to remove them, members of the Iroquois Confederacy had to engage with the discourse of progress toward civilization the government used to justify the removal policy. In their appeals to remain within their ancestral homelands, the Iroquois referred to their own progress toward civilization by writing about agricultural advances and the existence of settlements, as well as by drawing attention to their progress in religion, morality, and educational achievements. Yet Haudenosaunees also drew on some of their own traditions to reject their proposed removal. A number of their written appeals followed in the tradition of wampum, strings of shell beads that had formerly been an essential element of diplomacy. Haudenosaunee representatives also used kinship terms of address reminiscent of those in use during the heyday of “forest diplomacy” in which the Iroquois had been known to Europeans as masterful diplomats. While at times the use of such customary elements from “forest diplomacy” were probably due to the way their appeals were composed, at other times they constituted Haudenosaunee efforts to renew proper diplomatic relations with the U.S. government and to find compromises between their respective positions, as they had been able to do during the colonial era and into the early republic.
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