Native American History: 2019 National Book Festival

Native American History: 2019 National Book Festival

October 18, 2019 0 By Stanley Isaacs


>>Michael Martys: Like
to introduce Gal Beckerman from the New York
Times Book Review and he will introduce
our presentation today. [ Applause ]>>Gal Beckerman: Thank you
and I guess let’s get started. Let me introduce the two of you. Short introductions. If there’s something in
particular that you want me to– that you want to
elevate about yourself after I give these
then you can jump in, but David Treuer is the author of “The Heartbeat
of Wounded Knee”. He’s the author of novels
as well as non-fiction and teaches literature
and creative writing at the University of
Southern California. And next to him is
Colin Calloway. The book that we’re talking
about today is “The Indian World of George Washington”. He’s a Professor of
Native American studies at Dartmouth College, and
his book, “The Indian World of George Washington”
was a finalist for the National
Book Award in 2018. So let’s just jump
right into it. I have questions for each of you but I think there will
be overlapping themes between the two books and
between your, both of your work. David let me start with you.>>David Treuer: Okay.>>Gal Beckerman: So I want
to start by talking about “Bury My Heart at Wounded
Knee” which I understand was a, kind of a inspiration of
sorts of you doing this book. It’s a book that you write
about kind of capturing a lot of hopelessness and
poverty and squalor. Those are words actually
in the book about the world that it’s describing, the Native
American world it’s describing. In your book, self consciously,
is a sort of corrective. So–>>David Treuer: Yeah.>>Gal Beckerman: so talk
a little bit about that.>>David Treuer: Yeah so I read
Dee Brown’s book “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” in 1990
when I was 20 years old. It was– it happened to be
on the hundredth anniversary of the Massacre at Wounded Knee. And Dee Brown’s book was– I mean Dee Brown was
a really sympathetic, really vigorous champion, you
know, of and for native people. And yet his book perpetuated
a pretty accepted way of viewing native
people and native history and native communities. He writes in the introduction
to that book, my book starts in 1850 and I end in 1890 and
I mostly cover the Plains Wars, a time of unparalleled greed
and blah blah blah blah blah, and I end in 1890 at the
Massacre at Wounded Knee where the culture
and civilization of the American Indian
was destroyed. Full stop. I’m a 20 year old kid
who just got to college from Leech Lake Reservation
where–>>Gal Beckerman: Right.>>David Treuer: you
know my mother’s Ojibwe, I’m Ojibwe from Leech
Lake Reservation. My father’s not. And I just left my community
which has its problems but it’s not defined
by only poverty and hopelessness and squalor.>>Gal Beckerman: Right.>>David Treuer:
It’s not defined– you know our culture and
civilizations are alive and fairly– doing fairly well. And that story hadn’t been told. The story of Native American
life had not been told. Stories of Native American
death, well we’ve heard those. And so I felt like there
was a book missing. And Toni Morrison said that if
there’s a book you really want to read and it doesn’t exist,
it’s up to you to write it.>>Gal Beckerman: Right.>>David Treuer: And so that
stayed with me and stayed with me and I– it
felt imperative. It felt critical. Because now I have
children of my own. It felt critical to provide
something for them for myself and for the entire world
that looked at the ways in which native folk have
been making our own history, not just– history is not
just a litany of abuse. History is not just
a list of things which we have somehow survived. But it’s something we’ve made. And I felt like we needed that.>>Gal Beckerman: Right. And so that that
wouldn’t be the last word as well it sounds like.>>David Treuer: Right. So I like– Dee Brown
ends his book in 1890 and I begin mine in 1890–>>Gal Beckerman: Right.>>David Treuer: and I bring
the stories of native lives up to the present with
the opposite thesis that 1890 wasn’t the end,
it was just a low point–>>Gal Beckerman: Right.>>David Treuer: from
which we’ve been emerging.>>Gal Beckerman: Right. So Colin, let’s jump back
200 years and your book is about George Washington and
his Indian world but I’m very– you emerge with a quite
nuanced picture of Washington on the issue of Native
Americans. And it’s not entirely
the kind of bleak picture that I would have imagined. I mean partly it is, but there’s
this other kind of element.>>Colin G. Calloway: Right. Right.>>Gal Beckerman: So talk
a little bit about kind of the realism and the
even moral kind of elements of the way that Washington
thought about Native Americans.>>Colin G. Calloway: Yeah. So actually a chilling moment
here, David said he read “Bury My Heart at
Wounded Knee” in 1990 and I realized I
read it in 1970. [laughter]>>David Treuer: I’m just a kid.>>Colin G. Calloway:
Thanks for that, David.>>David Treuer: You’re welcome.>>Colin G. Calloway: But
actually it reminds me that that shadow of that kind of
history looms large backwards. And one of the reasons
for doing this book about George Washington’s
time was I think it’s– those attitudes have
shaped how we think about the earlier
history, right? That Indians were defeated,
they were dispossessed. Their story was over by 1890. So it was never going to–
there was never any real power and presence there in 1790 because we know how
the story played out. It was very different. And I wanted to get
that omnipresence and that power back
into the picture. And Washington of course
is the vehicle to do that and he became, for me, a
much more interesting person than I’d expected and
perhaps many of us think. I mean on the one level as a
historian of Native American, for me he’s the town destroyer. He’s somebody who advocates and implements policies
of cultural erosion. And there’s a lot
of bad stuff to lay at the feet of George
Washington. And yet, having read so
much of his correspondence with Henry Knox and
other people, I can’t say that that’s
all there is to it. He spends too much time
and ink and energy worrying about what he would
call the Indian problem. It’s not the Indian
problem, it’s his problem and it’s the United
States’ problem. And that is two things
going on here. One, we’re going to take
Indian land, no question. The nation is predicated on
the acquisition of Indian land. That is how the nation
was going to be built. So that’s never an
issue for Washington. The issue is how do we do that
and still look good, right? How do we do that and
still maintain our honor as the new nation on the
block, the democracy? We need to look good to
the nations of the world. We need to look good
to our own citizens. We need to look good
to posterity. And he agonizes over that and of
course he never reconciles that. But he wrestles with
that in a way that some later presidents
I think do not.>>Gal Beckerman: Is it just
a question of looking good or was there a kind of element to the way Washington actually
saw the native population that gave them–
that imbued them with a certain amount
of rights or? I mean you have a, there’s
a letter that you quote from Henry Knox the
Secretary of War in which he says Indians possess
the natural rights of man.>>Colin G. Calloway: Yeah.>>Gal Beckerman: Which
I was shocked to read because I wouldn’t have imagined that that’s the way they
would have been thinking about those populations.>>Colin G. Calloway: Yeah.>>Gal Beckerman: I
mean we’re so, you know, now we’re conditioned
to understand that there was only a certain– only white men were really
who they were talking about when they talked
about natural rights of men. So that was a kind of a
shocking phrase to kind of see.>>Colin G. Calloway: Yeah. And I think one, one of the big
questions for the United States at the end of the revolution
when it’s won its independence and it’s won from the
British all of this land which was not British land,
is what will be the place of Indian people in
this new republic? And I think for Washington,
being able to carve out a place for Indian people is
an important goal. But it comes with
very clear provisions. And as his thinking and
his Indian policy develops, there will be a place for Indian
people in the new republic to the extent that Indian
people live like Americans.>>Gal Beckerman: So
a certain assimilation that would allow them–>>Colin G. Calloway:
Assimilation. And of course it’s tied in to
the larger goal of expansion because living like
Americans, becoming civilized in Washington’s mind and in the
mind of Americans at that time, means following a
sedentary way of life and practicing American
style agriculture. Now, Indian people have been
farming east of the Mississippi for hundreds of years but
the wrong people are doing the farming. Women are farming. And in Washington’s view, the
men have to do the farming. And if the men do the farming and they spend their
lives behind a plow, they need less land than
they do if they’re hunting. And that land will become
less valuable to them as American settlers
press on it. So we can help you. We can take that land
off your hand and give it to deserving American farmers. So he’s shaping a policy
and a set of principles that should work hand in hand. And in his rosy glassed
moments, Washington sees this as a possibly almost
a natural process. That Indian people
will give up their land as they make the transition
to American way of life. And– and that will be
a good exchange, right? We will get their land and
they will get the benefits of American civilization. And I think that’s something that the founding fathers’
generation wrestles with. In 1830 Congress answers that
question, what will be the place of Indian people in
the United States with the Indian Removal
Act of 1830 where the answer is
there will be no place–>>Gal Beckerman: Right. Right.>>Colin G. Calloway: for Indian
people in the United States.>>Gal Beckerman: Yeah. David, I’m curious
as somebody who’s– you know there’s a big chunk
of your book in the beginning where you also do
kind of a history–>>David Treuer: Yeah.>>Gal Beckerman: leading up
to that 1890 moment and kind of when you hear about
the conversations that the founders
were having, you know, how does that change your
understanding of kind of the place of natives– Native
Americans in American history?>>David Treuer: Well I
should say, yeah there’s, my book starts in 1890
but then I realized I had to do a little back story. And so, I said well I should
go back a little further because people need to know
why 1890 looked like 1890. And so then I did a
little more back story. [Inaudible] well no I should
go further back and I ended up going back to
20000 B.C. [laughter]>>Gal Beckerman:
Why stop there?>>David Treuer: As one does. My editor was very alarmed. [laughter] But I had
a guide to help me through those– that wilderness. And it was in fact Colin’s work
which I relied on so heavily to do the early parts, the
early history parts of the book. So I just want to thank
you in public for your work because it was hugely helpful–>>Colin G. Calloway:
Not 20000 B.C. [laughter]>>David Treuer: Not 20000 B.C.
but a large part of it I was at sea and you provided so
much direction so I really want to thank you for that. How do my feelings about sort
of the founding fathers change? I don’t– I mean it’s mixed. On one hand you know you have
Mount Rushmore and everyone on there has killed Indians. So it’s hard for me
to dig it, you know? You have Jefferson writing
Adams and he’s like, you know, for my yeoman farmer,
for my agrarian ideals to really work, we need land. And to do that we need
to get it from Indians. And the best way to do that? Let’s just sell them stuff
and put them in debt. These are some secret memos
he’s writing I think to Adams. Let’s get them in debt. Let’s get them beholden
to us and then to satisfy those debts well
they’ll just trade their land for what we need and
they can go further west. So you have our founding
fathers looking for ways to sort of disenfranchise– I mean very
consciously so– native people. On one hand. And on the other, you know
the early history shows us, and Colin’s work shows us, and
other people’s work shows us, that native people
weren’t simply– the question wasn’t simply
how are native people going to resist or defy or survive
the American experiment, but that the American experiment
ended up shifting and changing in relation to native people. And native people ended
up shifting and changing in relation to America. And that all of us have kind of
ended up growing up together. We have– native people
have shaped this country. Fundamentally determined
its shape. And I said this on C-Span,
which is weird to say, just a few minutes
ago [laughter] but for example we’re
used to thinking of that the first real
test of state’s rights versus federal power as being
over the question of slavery but that is simply not true. The first test of state’s rights versus federal power was
negotiated in relation to native people in the American
southeast over the question of the Indian Removal Act. That was the first test. Who matters most? What matters most? States? The federal government? Tribes? And so that’s just
one example of many that sort of native people have
been at the center of America’s questions about
how it will become itself–>>Gal Beckerman: Yeah.>>David Treuer:
since the beginning. You know and as Colin points
out and as you pointed out in your question, there has
been a kind of civil war going on since the beginning. And it’s been a war about sort of how does America
reconcile its stated ideals with its lived practices?>>Gal Beckerman: Right.>>David Treuer: That was
the case from early days and it’s been the case at
Standing Rock in 2016–>>Gal Beckerman: Right.>>David Treuer: where
you have people trying to stop energy partners
from building a pipeline through sacred lands to the
people of Standing Rock. And the larger question
is, what matters more? Private Enterprise? Who has more power and who
should you be listening to more and who matters more? Corporations or the common good? That’s the war we
see at Standing Rock. It’s not Indians versus Whites. It’s corporations
versus the common good. But it’s native people who are
forcing that conversation–>>Gal Beckerman: Right. Right. Right.>>David Treuer: into
the public sphere.>>Gal Beckerman: Right. It reminds me a little
bit the, you know, The Times’ 1619 Project
and this–>>David Treuer: Right.>>Gal Beckerman: idea of
kind of America forming in relation to, you know, how
it treated African Americans and how it treated– you
can’t, once, you can’t remove that element from understanding
how America becomes America.>>David Treuer: Right. You want to understand this
country you have to understand that it was, you know, built using black labor
using Indian land.>>Gal Beckerman: Right. Right.>>David Treuer: Absolutely.>>Gal Beckerman: Right.>>David Treuer: That’s
how the country was built. You can’t ignore one
part of that [inaudible].>>Gal Beckerman: Right. David, you say that we Indians
often get ourselves wrong and I’m just curious to kind
of dig a little more into that.>>David Treuer: Yeah.>>Gal Beckerman: Is it buying
the narrative that, you know–>>David Treuer: Sure.>>Gal Beckerman: “Bury
My Heart” narrative that, for yourself or?>>David Treuer: I mean you
hear these stories over and over and over again whether
you’re native or not. And the stories– America
is shaped by narrative, among other things, right? And so native people, like me
growing up on my reservation, well there was a lot of
difficulty where I’m from. A lot of struggle. It becomes the only thing
you can see after a while. And so sure, like for me growing
up, I couldn’t help but agree that sort of our lives,
sort of our, you know, our autonomous lives had ended
at some point in the past and what we had wasn’t life, it
was just perpetual suffering. And that reservations are places
of pain and history is only that which we have somehow
endured without really living. That’s how I felt growing up. There’s nothing good here. This is where good
ideas go to die. I’m like I’ve got
to get out of here. And I left. Within months I’m like
oh man I miss this place. I miss my family. I miss my tribe. I miss my religion. I miss the landscape. I miss– I miss sort of
all, sort of the texture of what had been my
native life growing up. And I wasn’t missing
suffering, right, that’s not what I was missing. I was missing so
much more than that. But I didn’t have a
narrative for that. So writing my book
wasn’t a matter of presenting an alternative
history to Dee Brown’s, I had to come up with an
alternative narrative.>>Gal Beckerman: Right.>>David Treuer: Not
a narrative of loss, but a narrative of surplus. Not a narrative of suffering but
a narrative of energy and life. I needed it because I was sick
of having the same discussion in public with non-native
people. Like yes, I’m native. Like no, it doesn’t suck. [laughter] Because we
go kind of crazy, right? Because you hear one of
two things when you talk to people who aren’t native. People like, oh you’re
native, that’s so beautiful. And you’re like you have
no idea how hard it is, how dare you say it’s pretty? [laughter] How dare you– how
dare you want what we have? You don’t– it’s
hard what we have. Our lives are difficult. And then you hear someone– someone will meet
you and they’re, oh you’re native,
that’s so difficult. You’re like, no it’s not. It was beautiful, man. [laughter] And so we
go a little insane. And I say I want something
that captures all of it. And to do that I had
to– my book is history. It’s reportage. But it’s also memoir
because I had to take a little
journey inside too.>>Gal Beckerman: Yeah. Colin, can you talk
to us a little bit about the Proclamation of 1763? Because I found that sort
of revelation, you know, when I was looking at your book. And actually also
kind of the argument that you make using the
Proclamation of 1763 about why the Revolutionary War
might have happened reminded me also of the 1619
Project which, you know, one of the controversial
elements in the way that they told, they
kind of retold the story, was that the Revolutionary
War happened so that the colonists could– so that Americans could preserve
slavery which they were worried that the British might
take away from them. And so similarly you’re,
you’re kind of making– there is a thesis in the
book that, at least one of the reasons, I don’t know
how central you place it, that the war was fought was that so the colonists
could have access to lands that the British were
keeping kind of out of bounds. So could you just
describe a little– because it’s a radical
kind of rethinking of the Revolutionary
War in the way that the 1619 folks have done,
you know, kind of moving it away from the realm of kind of
ideological revolutionary ideas and more towards a kind of
materialist understanding of kind of why they
needed to push back.>>Colin G. Calloway: Yeah. So I’m not sure it’s that radial
a rethinking of the revolution because the revolution– the American Revolution
was a war for freedom. But that included the
freedom to get Indian land. Right? And Indian
people know that. They understand that. That’s why most of them
side with the British. Not partic- because they
particularly like the British but because they know that
for Americans this will be open season. And what had happened
was that at the end of the Seven Years War or
the French and Indian War, the French had been defeated. The Briti– part of the reason
why that had happened was that Indian people had made, in
the Ohio Valley, had made peace with the British and gave them
the green light to advance and take over French fortresses
because, yet again, French power in the interior depended not
so much upon French troops and French gunfire as it
did upon Indian allies. Without remove, the
French were done. But at the end of that war, the British then forgot
the promises they had made to the Indians which
resulted in a war which is often called
Pontiac’s War. I actually call it the
first American revolution because the Indians in 1763 in the Ohio Valley Great Lakes
do what the Americans do 12 year later, and that is they take on
the largest empire in the world. And they give it a bloody nose. To prevent that kind of
thing happening again, the British issue the
Royal Proclamation of 1763. And what that does is basically
say everything from the Atlantic to the Mississippi
is British territory. But west of the Appalachian
Mountains is Indian country. It’s reserved Indian territory. That’s not a permanent situation but what it was saying is
only the king’s agents, the duly appointed king’s
agents, can make deals with Indians– the representatives
of their tribes– for a formal transfer
of Indian lands. What we cannot have, because it
will produce endless conflict and bloodshed, is settlers
and independent companies and everybody just going over
there, cheating the Indians out of their land, etcetera. So what they did was run
an imaginary line basically down the Appalachian Mountains, said east of this is
British settlement, west of it is Indian
country, right? Now, that did not restrict
frontier settlers, right? Scotch Irish pioneers
for instance from going across the line and settling
in Indian land, right? The Brits would try and chase
them off, they’d come back. But that’s not why– and I’ve
said this many times before but I can’t resist
saying it in this country. They were going to build a wall but they couldn’t get the
Indians to pay for it. [ Laughter and applause ] But, now I’ve said here
I can’t ever say it again because [inaudible]
but the people who it really affected were the
people who for almost 20 years or more had been speculating
in Indian lands west of the Appalachian Mountains. And those people were people
like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas
Jefferson, Patrick Henry, the Lee family of Virginia. Many of the elite who
become the most radical, the most pronounced voices for
revolution because those people, in the case of George
Washington, he had fought in the French and
Indian War thinking of himself as a British subject. That was frustrating
in many cases when he couldn’t get
a royal commission. But he still saw himself
as part of that empire. And I think when the Royal
Proclamation happens in 1763, what that means for
people like Washington is that old French Indian alliance that had prevented them
moving west selling their land and making a killing
has been replaced by a British Indian alliance. Right? And so the empire for which they fought are
now thwarting their ambitions because there’s not only a cloud
over their title, but the buying and selling of Indian
land is now to be done by the central government. And Washington reels
against that. Now, 20 plus years later
when he’s president, congress passes a measure to
do much the same kind of thing because it’s the
perennial problem of how the central government
controls the frontier. But this is a huge part of
that road to revolution. And both– there’s
two elements to it. The one we already know about which the Brits
tax the colonists, right? Well one of the reasons the
Brits tax the colonists is that after Pontiac’s War they
realize they’re going to have to leave an army in North
America– 10,000 men– that’s going to cost a bundle. And British tax payers are
taxed to the hilt at the end of this first world war. So some bright spot comes up with the idea well let’s
tax the colonies, right? We all know of that. That’s a standard
part of our narrative of the coming of the revolution. But I think that the
proclamation and that closure of access to Indian land
is equally important. And when the revolution’s
fought, one of the things that’s
being fought for is to remove that king’s tyrannical
attempt to stifle the buying and selling of Indian land.>>Gal Beckerman: I
wanted actually you both to address this next
question to kind of, you know, muse on the notion of
sovereignty because you– the word comes up in
both of your works. I’m just going to read
little quotes from both. And it’s kind of– the optimism
I feel that kind of I can emerge from both of your
books with is wrapped up in this idea of sovereignty. So David, you write that
to believe in sovereignty, to move through the world
imbued with the dignity of that reality is to resolve
one of the major contradictions of modern Indian life. It is to find a way to be Indian
and modern simultaneously. And Colin you write, you
know, about the efforts to extinguish Native Americans, that their sovereignty
was never extinguished. And so maybe David,
starting with you–>>David Treuer: Sure.>>Gal Beckerman: if you can
kind of deepen our understanding of what does sovereignty
mean in the context of Native American
lives in America?>>David Treuer: I mean
sovereignty is at the basis of our understanding
of tribal nations. You know we understand
ourselves to belong to– and this is a legal
designation, right?– being Native is not just a
racial or cultural designation in the United States,
it’s a legal designation. The basis of that
is sovereignty. You know that we have our
own sovereign Indian nations with our own laws, our own
laws, our own– often– our own courts, our own
constitutions, you know? And to remember that,
right, is really important. So many people misunderstand
the native legal situation as one of social welfare. That we have reservations
as form– as prisons. In those prisons we
are given healthcare. And this is how people
think of it, given. We’re given healthcare. We’re given schools. And people think
we’re given casinos. None of these things
were given, okay? You know? This is not– these are not pity payments for poor treatment we’ve
received over some centuries. As sovereign nations we
have our own systems. And to remember that, that
our treaty rights are rights that we’ve reserved, rights
that we’ve always possessed. To remember that. To remember that’s– that how
we live is not just, you know, at the behest or because of
the sort of the kind feelings of this or that liberal
administration, but these are the rights
we’ve always possessed prior to the coming of the Europeans to this country,
affects how you act. It affects how you see yourself. It affects how you
move through the world. It’s important.>>Gal Beckerman: Okay. Colin do you have any?>>Colin G. Calloway: Yeah and
I think one of the neat things about working with George
Washington, getting back to this sort of ambivalent
picture that I present of him and have of him is
his own ambivalence because you can quote
him on other– sorry, if people say
well are you saying that George Washington
advocated genocide? I say no. The word he
used was extirpate. It means much the same thing. And sometimes people will
say well you’re talking about sovereign Indian nations. What do you mean by that? Is that something
you’re making up? I said no I’m not. George Washington
regarded Indian nations as sovereign Indian nations
because the constitution says that treaties with foreign
powers will be ratified with a two third
vote of the senate. George Washington made
it clear to the senate that that provision,
those provisions, applied to Indian
nations as well. And the treaties that David
mentioned are fundamental because treaties by
definition are agreements between sovereign nations. They are not treaties in
which the United States gives Indians things. They are often treaties in which
Indians give up land in return for pledges, right, that are
still on the books as it were. So for me as a historian I
think that point that David made about Indian people being
political entities is huge. And that when we look
back to say the 18th or the 19th century we should
see not Indians simply reacting en mass against European
invasion, but see multiple
Indian nations, right? Somebody made the
point yesterday about feeling his
life was not lived on the margins, it was central. And I think that’s true
for Indian nations. And so I often think we
should look at Indian nations on the map of North
America– hundreds of them– and see them as hubs that
are at the center of a wheel with spokes going out, right? They are nations with
their own foreign policies which entail dealing with
other Indian nations, other European powers,
and the United States. And that’s the complicated
political map that is North America in 1600,
1700, and even still in 1800. And I would actually
suggest that even today.>>Gal Beckerman: Yeah.>>Colin G. Calloway: If we
take David’s point, right? This is still a political map
in which there’s not one nation, there’s not 50 states, but
there are 573 federally recognized tribes. That’s a very complicated
picture–>>Gal Beckerman: Yeah.>>Colin G. Calloway: Right? Which is full of complications but it could also be
full of possibilities.>>David Treuer: There’s so
much, like the early history and colonial history and prior
to that in North America is so interesting and there’s
a really good book– I think it’s a great book– called “Masters of Empire”
which talks about Ojibwa, Odawa, Potawatomi, like occupation
of Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan and the Great Lakes. And he makes, the author
makes this amazing point that it was foreign policy
of this tribal empire to empower the French if
the British were strong and then break those promises
and empower the British if the French got too strong
because they knew very well that if you kept European powers
wrong footed all the time, the Indians would always win. And this was the lay of the land for many centuries
in North America. To the extent that sort
of my tribe, Ojibwa, was part of this empire,
this tribal empire, we would send delegations out to
Iroquois country many hundreds of miles away by canoe
and say hey guys, what do you think
about the British? Do you think they’re
getting too powerful? Would you attack them perhaps? You know, would you help us all? And then there’d be all these
alliances between tribes which were oftentimes at
loggerheads because my tribe and the Iroquoian tribes
were often at war too. And this balance of power
that native tribes were able to execute as a kind of foreign
policy agenda was only really truly upset when America
won the American Revolution.>>Gal Beckerman: Yeah.>>David Treuer: And then
after the War of 1812 and all of that sort of. And then just sort of North
America took the shape it had and America was then the single
power and there was no one to keep wrong footed any longer.>>Gal Beckerman: Right.>>David Treuer: It’s
kind of cool stuff.>>Gal Beckerman: Yeah.>>David Treuer: It’s
really cool stuff. You should read this
stuff, you know? [laughter] It’s so cool
because it goes, runs completely against the ways we’re
used to thinking of–>>Gal Beckerman: Right.>>David Treuer: you know
America’s founding but also of how tribes worked in North
America and how we related to the British and the French
and all of that [inaudible]–>>Gal Beckerman: It
shows a savvy kind of foreign policy [inaudible]–>>David Treuer: Yes. We are political actors.>>Gal Beckerman: Well
this, so this connects to my last question then
I’m going to open it up. It seems, as works of
history, what connects both of your books is this desire
to kind of return agency or to bring agency into
Native Americans in history. And so I’m curious kind of
looking forward, like the work to be done, kind of where
you see possibilities for the future, for future
work kind of in this same, in the same territory.>>David Treuer: I mean my work? Or just work?>>Gal Beckerman:
[Laughs] I mean for you or for other historians. I mean it’s– the point
being that, you know, exactly as you’re enthused
right now about this notion of understanding kind of how,
understanding them as actors, you know, and not just
as being acted upon. You know there– are there parts
of the history or certain kind of episodes that, or, that need
to be looked at with a new lens?>>David Treuer: But there’s so many qualified
amazing people doing it. I mean Colin’s doing it already.>>Gal Beckerman: Yeah.>>David Treuer:
In a book called “The Other Slavery” someone’s
talking about slavery in native populations which
started before the slavery of Africans and lasted longer–>>Gal Beckerman: Yeah.>>David Treuer: and is
ongoing today in the Americas. And this book, “Masters
of Empire”, Colin’s work, there’s so much being done,
what more is there to be done? I don’t know, like
everything, right? [laughs] Everything.>>Gal Beckerman: Colin, do you
have any thoughts about that?>>Colin G. Calloway:
Yeah because–>>Gal Beckerman: Yeah.>>Colin G. Calloway:
sometimes people like me– not British people,
people who are working in Native American history– [laughter] actually if
you think it’s weird that a British guy is doing
Native American history, the guy who wrote “Masters of
Empire”, Michael McDonnell, was born in Wales– even though
he had a Celtic Scots name– born in Wales, grew up
in Ontario, and now lives and teaches in Australia.>>Gal Beckerman: That’s right. Right.>>Colin G. Calloway: This
is global stuff, right, that we’re doing here. But I think people who work in Native American history
are often accused of trying to take America’s well-worn
historical narrative which is something that
many people hold dearly, and turn it on its head. And I think what doing the
Washington book taught me or opened my eyes to was that
I wasn’t trying to turn it on its head, that even
the historical narrative that we have about the United
States doesn’t make sense without Indians.>>David Treuer: Right.>>Colin G. Calloway: Right? There’s lots of things
simply don’t happen if Indian people are not there. If Indian power is not there. And so if that’s the canvas
and we’re looking at hundreds of different nations, the
possibilities for exploring and digging deeper to either
tweaking or refining or filling out fundamental aspects of the
American story are endless. And that doesn’t mean we’re
being unpatriotic or trying to turn it on its head. But as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “great nations deserve
great history”. Or he said something and I
said something like that. [laughter] That’s the
phrase that comes to mind. And President Obama
said much the same when he was opening the
African American Museum. This is not– this is not
heresy to question history–>>Gal Beckerman: Yeah.>>Colin G. Calloway: but this
is actually the true democracy–>>David Treuer: Right.>>Colin G. Calloway: to
incorporate all of the actors and all of the players and
all of those experiences.>>David Treuer: I mean
there’s– just to build on that, I mean there’s a tendency to
pay attention to native stories and to native lives and
native history as a kind of liberal social act. As a kind of community
service, right? Well you know, we
took all this land. The least I could do
is read this book. [laughter] You know? Watch this show. I mean, it’s the least I can do. I’ll just pay attention
a little bit. But the fact is, as
Colin points out, that you cannot understand
American history unless you think about Native
American history. You simply can’t. You know and even in a
contemporary setting, people have been asking me
since I’ve been on book tour, don’t you think the election
of Sharice Davids is good news for Indian people
in North America? I said I think it’s
good news for Kansas. [laughter] Because a lot of
Americans in this day and age of the wealth gap in our time of growing inequality are
increasingly suffering from lack of education to healthcare,
lack of education to– lack of access to healthcare,
lack of access to education, lack of access to
capital and to credit. Many Americans are finding
themselves in the position that Native Americans have
been in for many centuries. And so her election, the
election of Sharice Davids, Kansas, is not just good
news for native people. As a Native American woman, who
better to help middle Americans who are finding themselves in
the position that we’ve been in and that she’s been in for
a very long time, right? So you want to know
where you’re headed. You want to know
what’s happening to you. Well you have to understand
American Indian history because folks, your
lives are starting to look a lot like our lives. [laughter] And in
some ways that’s good, but in some ways
that’s not so healthy. Pay attention.>>Gal Beckerman: Well I want
to give a chance for questions. So I cannot see but are there– oh look, people are
coming to the– there’s microphones
on both sides. Yeah, it looks like
we have somebody here.>>Audience member 1: My name
is Peter Beck and first I’d like to thank “The
New York Times” for bringing David’s
book to my attention. I think it’s one of the
most important books that I’ve ever read.>>David Treuer: Wow. Thank you.>>Audience member
1: And, well I– for example I was
very conflicted about how I should think about
casinos and you disabused me of any guilt I should
feel about that. [laughter] But one of
the core messages I took from your book was that
Native Americans discovered that the ultimate weapon was
not a gun, it was the law. And as you mentioned briefly. And learning to use
American Law and the treaties that have been signed. And so I was wondering
if you could comment– I was really intrigued when
the Cherokee Nation announced recently that they were going
to advocate for their member of congress that was promised
to them way back when. And two thoughts occurred to me. What took them so long
to, and this doesn’t seem like the most opportune moment
to be asking 1600 Pennsylvania or Capitol Hill for anything. So how do you see
this playing out? And thank you again for
the work you’re doing.>>David Treuer:
Thank you so much. It may not be opportune but
it’s certainly necessary in this day and age. I used to think of
Washington D.C. as where people gathered
together, you know, to help the rest of the country. [laughter] I was born
here, give me a break. You know? [laughter] And
it doesn’t quite feel that way anymore but the
Dakota who lived in Minnesota who were suffering horribly in the mid 19th century
decided it was a very good time to attack in 1862 when
America was in shambles– it was a good time to
have some Indian wars because America was involved
in its own civil war and they, sensing a moment of
weakness, people rose up. Maybe this is also that moment
of weakness and civil war. It’s a really good
time to rise up. [Laughs] But thank you
so much for noticing that and for your question. Thank you.>>Colin G. Calloway: If I
could just piggyback onto that, that notion of sending
representatives to congress. Take a look at the Treaty
at Fort Pitt in 1778. That year the newly independent, declared its independence
United States, makes its first two
international treaties. One is with France
and the other is with the Delaware Indian Nation. And in that treaty with the
Delaware there is a provision that when the war is over, the Delawares can
head an Indian state with representation in congress. Now of course that
never happened but I think it’s a reminder
to us that the United States in making that was not doing
that out of the goodness of its heart but the power
dynamics of the time, right? The United States knew it
needed a Delaware Alliance and Indian power was very real. And so that idea of an
Indian state and that idea of representation in
congress goes way back.>>Gal Beckerman:
Let’s take a question from this side over here.>>Audience member
2: Hi, thank you both for bringing this conversation
to this history track. I really appreciate it and actually my question
is directly flowing from what you were just
speaking about about the move for Cherokee Nation
representation. Do you see, how do you
see that as paving the way for additional treat-
existing treaty rights to potentially be
reclaimed or enforced? Do you see that as
paving the way as– for other treaty rights to be
recognized that haven’t been?>>David Treuer: I don’t know
if I see it paving the way but it is one part of, you
know, myriad ongoing efforts to remind the government
of its promises which isn’t just a moral
reminder, it’s a legal one. Treaties are the
supreme law of the land. They need to be honored and
they need to be kept active. And that has been sort of
the hard work of many, many, many native people who’ve
become either tribal leaders or have come to work in the law. So I couldn’t say how it’s
going to help or hinder or affect those ongoing efforts
but there but there are many, many ongoing efforts
all over the place. You know just speaking
at a personal level, I mean my dad moved here– my mom and dad moved here
to D.C. before I was born. My dad was working for the
Bureau of Indian Affairs and he ended up working
for ATW and OEO. My mom was, had been a
nurse but was no longer and she was raising
my brother and I. And my father asked her,
he said look, Peggy, he said, you’re stagnating. You need to do something. What do you want to do? If you could do anything,
what would you do? She goes oh that’s stupid,
I don’t want to say. He’s like no just,
it’s just you and me. We’re just talking here. What do you want to do
if you could do anything? We’re just chatting. And she goes well, you know,
we don’t have any lawyers and we always lose in court. And we need lawyers. He’s like well why
don’t you do that? He was that kind of
guy, well just do it. And so while raising
my brother and me and then subsequently my
twin younger siblings, she went to law school here
at Catholic University, who admitted her provisionally because she did not have a
college degree, and she went on to become the first American
Indian judge in the country. [ Applause ] So she recognized– I
mean out of her experience as a young girl of having
their like, their game stolen by the game warden, their
entire rice harvest confiscated because they were told they
were ricing out of season and off the reservation
when neither thing was true. But they had no power, right? So fighting for Indian
rights, fighting you know for treaty rights is
crucial and ongoing. And I’m glad the
Cherokees are doing that. Along with all the
other native folk who are fighting in the courts.>>Gal Beckerman: Let’s take– we have time for
one more question.>>Audience member 3: Yes I’d
like to ask a question about, you know, the early republic
that George Washington was of course the first president. And considering he
was so ambivalent about Native Americans
and what to do, you know, in terms of working with them,
did he kind of tend to delegate that to the Secretary of State,
to ambassadors, to the congress? Because as we know
about George Washington, he doesn’t always seek conflict when he already knew the British
could at any time come back in and try to, you know,
remove us basically. Did he think of it in terms of
there was a diplomatic solution in terms of working with
the Native Americans or was it all going to be
eventually just a conflict and we were going to have to do obviously what
happened, you know? Thank you.>>Colin G. Calloway:
Yeah, thank you. Well it varies, right? And he, does he delegate? Well he spends a
lot of time working with Henry Knox who’s
his Secretary of War and who is the person primarily
responsible for Indian affairs at that time because
Indian affairs was lodged in the War Department
which may give us some idea of how they were
thinking about it. It was then later
moved to, you know, Department of the Interior,
which is where it still is, which is a strange place. Not the Department of State. But does he think of
a military solution? Does he think of a
diplomatic solution? Both. Because the
philosophy or the policy that I think Washington
developed is that we will follow the
British model and deal honorably with Indian people as
we take their land. So the way to do that is
make treaties with them where we give them a fair and
honest price for their land. They will make those
treaties, give up land, and then follow the
American way of life and there will be
a place for them. So that’s all well and
good but then what happens when Indians say,
thanks but no thanks? Then Washington’s
language and tone changes. Then those Indians become
recalcitrant savages who must be extirpated. And that requires being
crushed in a hunt, right? And he’d done that
during the revolution by sending American armies
into Iroquois country, burning 40 Iroquois towns,
destroying crops, orchards, and tried to do that again. Well when he tried
to do it again in 1791 sending the
American army into what is now northwest Ohio, the Northwest Indian Confederacy
destroyed the American army.>>David Treuer: That’s true.>>Colin G. Calloway: They didn’t just defeat
it, they destroyed it. So as of November 4th, 1791,
the United States had no army.>>David Treuer: That’s right.>>Colin G. Calloway: Right? This is a republic
that’s essentially– this is two years
after constitution. Jefferson says when the
word reaches Philadelphia, nobody talked about anything
else because it looks as if the whole thing’s
going to fall down, right? And who’s heard about
that battle? Thousands of books
about Custer–>>David Treuer: Yeah.>>Colin G. Calloway: and
the Battle at Little Bighorn, but the destruction of the only
army that the United States had at the hands of Indians
in Ohio in 1791, what does Washington do? Now diplomacy seems
like an [inaudible]–>>David Treuer: Really
[inaudible] good idea. [laughter]>>Colin G. Calloway: So if you
were in Philadelphia in 1791, 1792, 1793, you couldn’t
step out to buy a sandwich without falling, bumping
into an Indian delegation because Washington was inviting
Indian delegates to Philadelphia to talk about peace
and friendship and all of that kind of stuff. But essentially also to buy time for the American
army to be rebuilt. And to prevent more
Indians from joining that western confederacy. And three years later
a new American army, which is remodeled– and again
this is a product of defeat by Indians– reverses
that verdict. But depending upon
the circumstances, he’s willing to go either way. And there are certain
Indian people that he sees as deserving the benefit of
his civilized, patient program, and then there are
others who will always be, in his words, hostile. Indian people also shift their
policies and maneuver according to shifting circumstances.>>Audience member 3: Thank you.>>Gal Beckerman: Well
I want to thank both of you so much for this–>>David Treuer: Thank you.>>Colin G. Calloway: Thank you.>>Gal Beckerman:
fascinating [inaudible]. [ Applause ]