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Nancy ShoemakerNative American Whalemen and the World: Indigenous Encounters and the Contingency of Race

University of North Carolina Press, 2015

by Andrew Epstein on May 18, 2015

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For as long as Herman Melville's Moby Dick has been a staple of the American literary canon, one element often goes unnoticed.

The ship commanded by the monomanacial Ahab on his quest to slay the great white whale is named the Pequod, just one letter of difference from Pequot, a Native nation living within what is now southern New England. Perhaps Mellville was just participating in the widespread romantic nostalgia of the age, when many corporate enterprises and vessels took the name of the supposedly disappearing and noble Indians.

Or, maybe he was simply gesturing at the reality of the industry.

In the middle decades of the nineteenth century, when Moby Dick takes place, Native men from New England constituted a huge portion of the whaling workforce, some spending decades at sea, encountering diverse peoples across two oceans, and invigorating their economically marginalized reservations with vital income. These forgotten seamen finally have a chronicler in Nancy Shoemaker, professor of history at the University of Connecticut. Author or editor of seven books, her latest is Native American Whalemen and the World: Indigenous Encounters and the Contingency of Race (University of North Carolina Press, 2015).

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Andrew NeedhamPower Lines: Phoenix and the Making of the Modern Southwest

April 26, 2015

Last month, VICE NEWS released a short documentary about the Navajo Nation called "Cursed by Coal." The images and stories confirm the title. "Seems like everything's just dying out here," says Navajo citizen Joe Allen. "It's because of the mine. Everything is being ruined. They don't care about people living on that land." About four […]

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Tracy LeavelleThe Catholic Calumet: Colonial Conversions in French and Indian North America

March 9, 2015

Studies of Christian missions can easily fall into two different traps: either one-sidedly presenting the missionaries as heroes saving benighted savages or portraying them as villains carrying out cultural imperialism. At the same time, these vastly different perspectives are based on the same error of minimizing native agency. In The Catholic Calumet: Colonial Conversions in […]

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Margaret D. JacobsA Generation Removed: The Fostering and Adoption of Indigenous Children in the Postwar World

March 5, 2015

In 2012, a young Cherokee girl named Veronica became famous. The widespread and often coercive adoption and fostering of Indigenous children by non-Native families has long been known, discussed, and challenged in Indian Country. Now, because of an interview on Dr. Phil with the white South Carolina couple seeking to adopt Veronica, the issue went […]

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Boyd CothranRemembering the Modoc War: Redemptive Violence and the Making of American Innocence

December 9, 2014

If George Armstrong Custer had kept off of Greasy Grass that June day in 1875, Vine Deloria, Jr.'s manifesto might well have been called "Canby Died For Your Sins." The highest ranking U.S. military official to be killed in the so-called "Indian Wars," General Edward Canby's death at the hands of Modoc fighters in 1873 […]

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Edward E. AndrewsNative Apostles: Black and Indian Missionaries in the British Atlantic World

November 7, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Christian Studies] Often when we think of missions to Native Americans or people of African descent, we think of white missionaries. In his book Native Apostles: Black and Indian Missionaries in the British Atlantic World (Harvard University Press, 2013), Dr. Edward E. Andrews challenges this view. Through his careful research, skilled use of anecdotes, and compelling […]

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Claudio SauntWest of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776

October 21, 2014

Few years in U.S. history call to mind such immediate stock images as 1776. Powdered wigs. Founding fathers. Red coats. And if asked to place this assembly of objects and people, a few cities stand out: Boston. Philadelphia. Williamsburg, perhaps. This is the small world conjured by the Revolutionary era; the remainder of the continent, […]

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Mark RifkinSettler Common Sense: Queerness and Everyday Colonialism in the American Renaissance

August 21, 2014

In Settler Common Sense: Queerness and Everyday Colonialism in the American Renaissance  (University of Minnesota Press, 2014), Mark Rifkin, a professor at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and incoming president of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, explores three of the most canonical authors in the American literary awakening–Hawthorne, Thoreau, and Melville–demonstrating how even as their texts mount […]

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Ian Haney LopezDog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class

June 30, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Political Science] Ian Haney Lopez is the author of Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism & Wrecked the Middle Class (Oxford UP 2014). He is the John H. Boalt Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, and on the Executive Committee of the Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social […]

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Jace WeaverThe Red Atlantic: American Indigenes and the Making of the Modern World, 1000-1927

June 3, 2014

For all the incisive work published in Native American and Indigenous studies over the past decades, troubling historical myths still circulate in both academic and popular discourse. One of the most persistent is how we tell the story of the Atlantic world as a set of unidirectional processes dominated by Europeans and populated by enslaved […]

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