"The chiefs now in this city" Indians and the urban frontier in early America

Colin G. 1953- Calloway

Book - 2021

America's founding involved the melding of disparate cultures and communities, a blurring of coundaries, some physical and others imagined. One of the most significant divisions in early America was that between the country's vast and sparsely populated interior and its crowded coastal cities. To many white colonials, the urban and rural divide represented the borderline between civilization and savagery. Embodying the latter were the nation's Native populations. Wherever Indians ...lived defined the frontier. As Colin Calloway's fascinating new book reveals, however, a large number of Native leaders were well acquainted with city life. In fact, over the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries they were in town often, regularly traveling to Albany, Boston, Charleston, Philadelphia, Montreal, Quebec, New York, and New Orleans--primarily to conduct diplomatic or trade business, but often from a sense of curiosity and adventure. Some were even tourists. During their visits, which were sometimes for extended periods, they walked the streets, sat in pews, drank in taverns, and slept in hotels and lodging houses. Crowds gathered to see them; people attended the theatre to witness "the Chiefs now in this city"--as they were widely called in newspaper accounts--"watch a play." Based on primary accounts, Calloway's book illuminates in words and pictures what Native visitors to these cities both saw and how they were seen. Their experiences redefine standards narratives, reminding us that America's beginning involved far more than violent confrontations--raids and wars and massacres--between colonists and Indigenous peoples and included longstanding and often sophisticated interaction in metropolitan settings. In the process, "The Chiefs Now in This City" offers both a corrective and a vibrant portrait of a country in formation. --

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Subjects
Genres
Creative nonfiction
Published
New York, NY : Oxford University Press [2021]
Language
English
Physical Description
xiv, 265 pages, 16 pages of plates : illustrations (some color), map, portraits ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 201-246) and index.
ISBN
9780197547656
0197547656
Main Author
Colin G. 1953- Calloway (author)
  • Introduction:
  • Native Americans' urban froniers
  • The towns and cities of early America
  • Coming to town
  • The other indians in town
  • Taking their lives in their hands
  • Portrait gallery: picturing chiefs in the city
  • Lodging, dining, and drinking
  • The things they saw
  • Performance and performers
  • Going home
  • Conclusion.
Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

In this eye-opening history, National Book Award finalist Calloway (The Indian World of George Washington) dispels popular notions about the absence of Indigenous peoples from towns and cities in colonial America. Rather than retreating from urban centers, Calloway reveals, Native Americans frequently moved toward them, exploiting new economic opportunities and facilitating cross-cultural exchanges. Calloway discusses the Indigenous settlements that preceded and coexisted with Albany, Montreal, Philadelphia, and other North American cities, and describes how Natives who became permanent city residents melted into the polyglot and multiracial urban underclass. Chiefs and other high-ranking delegates on diplomatic missions enjoyed lavish dinners and parties thrown in their honor, Calloway notes, but their "admiration of buildings, streets, markets and ships was tempered by doubt about the values, practices, and humanity of the society that constructed them." Calloway also takes note of the dangers Native visitors faced in cities, including exposure to smallpox and other deadly diseases, and delves into the personalities and negotiating strategies of Native leaders including Delaware chief Teedyuscung and Mohawk statesman Joseph Brant. With an abundance of colorful anecdotes drawn from contemporaneous newspaper accounts and letters, this scholarly yet accessible account will appeal to fans of early American history. (May) Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

In this eye-opening history, National Book Award finalist Calloway (The Indian World of George Washington) dispels popular notions about the absence of Indigenous peoples from towns and cities in colonial America. Rather than retreating from urban centers, Calloway reveals, Native Americans frequently moved toward them, exploiting new economic opportunities and facilitating cross-cultural exchanges. Calloway discusses the Indigenous settlements that preceded and coexisted with Albany, Montreal, Philadelphia, and other North American cities, and describes how Natives who became permanent city residents melted into the polyglot and multiracial urban underclass. Chiefs and other high-ranking delegates on diplomatic missions enjoyed lavish dinners and parties thrown in their honor, Calloway notes, but their "admiration of buildings, streets, markets and ships was tempered by doubt about the values, practices, and humanity of the society that constructed them." Calloway also takes note of the dangers Native visitors faced in cities, including exposure to smallpox and other deadly diseases, and delves into the personalities and negotiating strategies of Native leaders including Delaware chief Teedyuscung and Mohawk statesman Joseph Brant. With an abundance of colorful anecdotes drawn from contemporaneous newspaper accounts and letters, this scholarly yet accessible account will appeal to fans of early American history. (May) Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Describes what Native peoples observed as they walked the streets, sat in pews, attended plays, drank in taverns, and slept in hotels and lodging houses while visiting in the Eastern cities of North America.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

During the years of the Early Republic, prominent Native leaders regularly traveled to American cities--Albany, Boston, Charleston, Philadelphia, Montreal, Quebec, New York, and New Orleans--primarily on diplomatic or trade business, but also from curiosity and adventurousness. They were
frequently referred to as "the Chiefs now in this city" during their visits, which were sometimes for extended periods of time. Indian people spent a lot of time in town. Colin Calloway, National Book Award finalist and one of the foremost chroniclers of Native American history, has gathered
together the accounts of these visits and from them created a new narrative of the country's formative years, redefining what has been understood as the "frontier."

Calloway's book captures what Native peoples observed as they walked the streets, sat in pews, attended plays, drank in taverns, and slept in hotels and lodging houses. In the Eastern cities they experienced an urban frontier, one in which the Indigenous world met the Atlantic world. Calloway's book
reveals not just what Indians saw but how they were seen. Crowds gathered to see them, sometimes to gawk; people attended the theatre to watch “the Chiefs now in this city” watch a play.

Their experience enriches and redefines standard narratives of contact between the First Americans and inhabitants of the American Republic, reminding us that Indian people dealt with non-Indians in multiple ways and in multiple places. The story of the country's beginnings was not only one of
violent confrontation and betrayal, but one in which the nation's identity was being forged by interaction between and among cultures and traditions.