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Texts Purify the Landscape of Indians by Denying Them a Place in Modernity

(p.105) Chapter 3 Lasting
Firsting and Lasting
Jean M. O’Brien
University of Minnesota Press

This chapter initially discusses the temporalities of race implied by Thomas Gray’s poem “Change,” which places Indians in an ancient temporality where they are victims of change, making them seem passive by nature and dismissing their continuing participation in future endeavors. Local narratives also contained the practice of “lasting”, a rhetorical technique claiming that Indians can never be modern. This technique is usually found in discourses pertaining to “blood”, such as stories regarding the “last full-blooded” Indians. The chapter cites the stories of Squanto, Charles Josias, Eunice Mahwee, and Esther Kenyon as examples of the famous “last” Indians, as well as James Fenimore Cooper’s novel Last of the Mohicans which exemplifies the theme of lasting. It also addresses the various local texts containing specific explanations for Indian extinction that strengthened the myth of the vanishing Indians.

Keywords:   lasting, last Indians, Squanto, Charles Josias, Eunice Mahwee, Esther Kenyon, Last of the Mohicans, James Fenimore Cooper, vanishing Indians

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