White Native Americans
The novel begins by alluding that its unspeakable historical premise has factual merit. ALLEGEDLY the author’s great great aunt, a “May Dodd”, left a journal about her life experience, hidden all these years in shame by her family. The author takes it upon himself to tell her repressed tale, and because it is the untold fate of 999 nameless more, we infer it to be one of the dark secrets of the American national identity.
The story concerns 1000 white women who were traded to the Indians in exchange for resettlement and peace. One thousand white women. The title does grab you. It has undeniable where-the-white-women-at? appeal.
The phenomena also shares something with the White Indian Series by Donald Porter. That’s a western series for readers who couldn’t be bothered to know about the lives of the Native Americans unless they were WHITE Native Americans. These readers can’t sympathize with Indians as victims, unless they are white Indian victims, and then preferably of course they should be white Indian victims of Indians.
The mythic white Indian abounds on film, and it’s not just Indians. The story of The Last Samurai had to be about a white man in Japan (Tom Cruise) or who would care?
Here you have the fate of 1000 women sold, sacrificed or let loose down the river to become Indian squaws. One part romantic fantasy, several parts feminist grudge, (1000 parts rape fetish?), all at the hands of red heathen.
To be fair, the author does provide a disclaimer that 1000 white women never changed hands. Fergus implies however that an original Cheyenne proposal to be given 1000 white women was real and asks readers to ponder, what if?
If true, it’s a piercing lesson on the embarrassing legacy that can come from sarcasm.
How deeply insulting is it to suggest that Indian tribal leaders would have asked the army negotiators for white women? And as a condition of laying down their weapons? I think it’s indescribably racist to be susceptible to thinking that Indian fathers and braves sought white mates with whom to raise new generations of their tribe.
Neither in-breeding nor poor education are excuses enough for this prevalent self-centered bigotry.