Paperback / softback
July 18, 2001
.7 Pounds (US)
$23.95 USD, £14.50 GBP
v2.1 Reference

White Robe's Dilemma

Tribal History in American Literature

The Mesquakie peoples of present-day Iowa, historically known as the "Fox," are at the center of White Robe's Dilemma. An encounter with the French in the Great Lakes region, their original homeland, marked their first appearance in Euro-American history. Targeted for annihilation after they refused alliance with the French, they nevertheless endured, reappearing again and again in the records of the English and Americans as well as the French.

Over the years, the resistance of the Mesquakies has taken many forms, diplomatic and military, economic and cultural. They have rejected Christianity for the most part, and ridiculed the many anthropologists who keep coming to study them. A substantial number have managed, unlike virtually any other Indian group in the United States, to elude the reservation system by buying and maintaining their own settlement. Several have made important contributions to the literature in English by Indians, as has Black Hawk, of the confederate Sauk, whose autobiography has been in print since the Jacksonian period; William Jones, who became a student of renowned anthropologist Franz Boaz; and Ray Young Bear, author of the highly regarded autobiography, Black Eagle Child or The Facepaint Narratives.

In this intriguing study, Neil Schmitz imaginatively reconstructs and carefully analyzes the multiple legacies of the Mesquakie people. He shows how the complex story of their survival raises critical questions about the representation of Indians in American literature and history.

Although the Mesquakies are central to the book, Schmitz ranges widely through American literature both by and about Indians. Chapters on Standing Bear and Black Elk reopen the issue of agency and status, and reposition their tribal history. Helen Hunt Jackson's A Century of Dishonor and Elaine Goodale Eastman's Sister of the Sioux are given extensive readings. In pointed example and comparison, the author's broad knowledge of American literature repeatedly shows itself.

About the Author

Neil Schmitz is professor of English at the State University of New York at Buffalo and author of Of Huck and Alice: Humorous Writing in American Literature.


"Must reading for scholars in Native American studies."—Choice

"This short volume is very long in its reach. It is a seminal book with which any serious scholar of American Indian literatures and histories will have to contend."—Barry O'Connell, editor of On Our Own Ground:

The Complete Writings of William Apess, A Pequot

"Whether the subject is Black Hawk or Black Elk, about whom much has been written, or Ray Young Bear and Georges Sioui, about whom less has been written, Neil Schmitz's White Robe's Dilemma is consistently insightful and provocative. The book wears its theoretical sophistication with ease and grace, brings its extensive historical learning to bear in lively fashion, and navigates rough political waters on an even keel. Schmitz makes a very substantial contribution to what seems a new and exciting work."—Arnold Krupat, Sarah Lawrence College

"Schmitz (English, SUNY at Buffalo; Huck and Alice: Humorous Writing in American Literature) here takes an original approach to Native American literature. He focuses principally on the various literary works by and about the Mesquakie people, also known as the Fox, who reside in Iowa but originated in the Great Lakes region. Schmitz bluntly points out the difference between Mesquakie history and the written and interpreted Anglo version, and he clearly illustrates the Mesquakie effort to resist Western influence including Christian missionaries and anthropologists through military, economic, or political means. Schmitz ranges far afield in his assessment of the impact of published literature as a whole on Native Americans, their views of self, and the influence of these views in a variety of social arenas. The complexity and detail of the text make this book suitable for academic libraries and specialized collections. It would also make a wonderful companion text in graduate-level courses exploring Native American histories."—Library Journal

9781558492912 : white-robes-dilemma-schmitz
Paperback / softback
192 Pages
$23.95 USD

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