American Politics & Public Policy Workshop: Dan Carpenter, “Indigenous Representation by Petition: Transformations in Iroquois Complaint and Request, 1680-1760”

Event time: 
Wednesday, January 21, 2015 - 5:00pm through 6:15pm
Event description: 

“Indigenous Representation by Petition: Transformations in Iroquois Complaint and Request, 1680-1760”

Guest Speaker: Dan Carpenter, Allie S. Freed Professor of Government and Director of the Center for Political Studies, Harvard University

Abstract: Narratives of the Six Nations peoples of Iroquoia have moved from racialized metaphors of military prowess to more historically accurate images of diplomatic skill, subtlety and ritual.  Yet the diplomatic emphasis of recent studies squares poorly with the increasing use of ever-more formalized petitions by the Iroquois, particularly in the years after the Albany and Montreal Treaties of 1701, and in some cases before.  The petition is commonly associated with hierarchical supplication to a sovereign from a subject.  Why did the ever-sovereign Six Nations resort to petitioning colonial authorities?  I argue that for various Iroquoian peoples, the petition became a means of performing representation to colonial powers.  By this I mean the communication, in ritual and words, of the identity, sovereignty and history of a people to often doubtful or malicious colonial authorities who could also serve as allies and partners. Many eighteenth-century Iroquois petitions incorporated older patterns of kaswentha (“Two-Row” diplomacy), yet they also marked innovative departures from earlier practices. I hypothesize that at least four dynamics shaped the petitioning practices of the 18th-century Iroquois: (1) the expanding spatial arrangements of the Six Nations, (2) the confederacy politics of the Six Nations, including the emergence of pro-English versus pro-French factions within Iroquoia, (3) the emergence of new colonial institutions such as legislatures with committees, state councils and monarchical organizations, and (4) the growing use of petitions by other Native peoples in the Northeast and Great Lakes regions. The study relies on an original quantitative database of Iroquois requests and complaints, some newly utilized documents from the French archives, and a reinterpretation of the 1710 visit of the “Four Indians Kings” to Queen Anne.

Speaker Bio: Daniel Carpenter is Allie S. Freed Professor of Government, Director of the Center for American Political Studies in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Director of the Social Science Academic Ventures Program at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University. Dr. Carpenter mixes theoretical, historical, statistical and mathematical analyses to examine the development of political institutions, particularly in the United States.  He focuses upon public bureaucracies and government regulation, particularly regulation of health and financial products.

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