Thursday, October 24, 2019

Native American/European Slave Trade Essay

A North American conception of slavery often begins and ends with the forced captivity of Africans. However, slave trading took root in many parts of the world over centuries. In particular, the eras of exploration and colonialism brought the institution of slavery to the forefront of world culture. As Europeans arrived in the Americas in increasing numbers, they found themselves sharing one surprising commonality with their Native American adversaries: the use of human captives for personal and cultural advantage. Brett Rushforth’s â€Å"A little flesh we offer you: the origins of Indian slavery in New France† and James Brooks’ â€Å"This evil extends especially†¦ to the feminine sex† examine the Euro-Native slave trade within the context of two vastly different colonial cultures, Canada (New France) and New Mexico. What common features united these two institutions, and what features differed them? Further, what social and historical factors account for those similarities and differences? Foremost, the New France and New Mexican institutions shared a general outcome in their slave trades: â€Å"cross-cultural negotiation† (Brooks, 281) and the creation of â€Å"mutually intelligible symbols through which cultural values, interests and needs could be defined† (Brooks 281). Indian tribes occupying New France territories (such as the Iroquois and the Ottawa) held a long tradition of utilizing captives as symbolic forces of peace. Warring tribes would offer captured humans as a show of good faith toward their adversaries. The captives served numerous roles: replacing fallen tribesmen (in everything from name to manner), representing retribution for injured tribes, stimulating population growth, and— most importantly—securing alliances with other tribes. When European colonialists arrived seeking Native American trade and military assistance, the New France tribes considered captive offerings to be the ultimate sign of respect and comrade-ship in dealing with their new visitors. In fact, one Sioux chief pronounced the following after offering his European visitors a captive slave: â€Å"No longer regard us as Sioux, but as Frenchmen† (Rushforth, 789). Once the French realized the power of slaves in fostering alliances with the natives, they were able to build some formidable allegiances. Likewise, New Mexican Europeans created strong bonds with local Pueblo, Navajo, and Apache tribes through captive trading. Captive Spaniards and Indians often performed important social functions within their new homes. (Women were the ideal captive candidates for both New Mexico and New France, due to their reproductive capacities). Standard-bearers such as Maria Rosa Villalpando and Juana Hurtado Galvan demonstrated the importance of the captive within New Mexican culture. Both women served as interpreters and emissaries amongst their former and current tribes, and both secured prominent positions within their captive homes. The captured women of New Mexican society also fulfilled important economic roles within the larger society, contributing especially to hide-tanning and other trading enterprises. Similarly, captives in New France worked as domestics, farm hands, dock loaders, and at other semi-skilled jobs. While both New France and New Mexican colonialists both eventually accepted the institution of slavery (with averages of five and fifteen percent for their respective slave populations), they shared an initial reluctance to engage in the practice. For the Frenchmen, slavery was an institution forbidden by their own government. Therefore, they approached any attempted slave trades with the natives with reluctance or even hostility. However, an incident involving Daniel Dulhur (in which a refusal of bartered captives resulted in a near-catastrophic isolation of Indian tribes) crystallized the importance of alliance-making captives for the French. This consideration, combined with â€Å"laborers [which were] scarce and extraordinarily expensive in Canada†(Rushforth, 801), coerced the French government to legalize Indian slave trading in the colonies. Conversely, the New Mexico colonialists were somewhat quicker to engage in slave trading as a means to â€Å"redeem indigenous captives† (Brooks, 281) and â€Å"baptize them into the Catholic faith† (Brooks, 282). They even offered captives the opportunity to become citizens after twenty years of service. Soon, New Mexico villagers would further realize the ability of slave trading to â€Å"foster mutual exchanges with a minimal loss of life† (Brooks, 292). Both societies would soon engage in trade fairs and bartering as if the practices were second nature: â€Å"two good horses and some trifles† for an â€Å"Indian girl twelve to twenty years old† (Brooks, 282). The results of EuroNative trading systems up North and down South differed markedly, with respect to both the slaves themselves and larger society. Captives in New Mexico generally boasted a much more peaceful existence than their New France counterparts. While New France slaves could do little to raise their station in life, New Mexico captives often enjoyed increases in freedom and circumstances (although they shared the stigma of coercive sexual practices with New France female captives). Many female captives, for instance, were able to eventually purchase lands from their captors. The children of said captives also enjoyed full citizenship within their societies (the â€Å"hope† counteracting the â€Å"shame† (Brooks, 296) of sexual coercion), a luxury not afforded to the mixed-bloods of New France. New France slaves were viewed more as objects (whether they were objects of trade or objects of allegiance): â€Å"Here is a little flesh we offer you† (Rushforth, 794). Meanwhile, New Mexico captives were often adopted by their captive families, securing protection and affection from their new families. In fact, many captives chose willingly to â€Å"remain in their host societies throughout their lifetimes† (Brooks, 284), even when they were afforded a chance at freedom. One captive woman even refused a one thousand dollar ransom for her return. On the other hand, New France captives were the constant subject of derogatory terms and â€Å"a life of consistent, coerced, and degraded labor† (Rushforth, 780). In a larger context, systems of slave trading brought derision and division to both New Mexico and New France, albeit with different outcomes. For its part, New Mexico slave trading intensified the caste-like division between mestizos and genizaros and espanoles. Women often feared a return to their previous homes in part due to a belief that they would be ridiculed and outcast by pure Spaniards. Class consciousness did increase in relation to the rising mestizo population, as did the relationship between New Mexico villagers and Native Americans. Santa Fe administrators blamed the rising rebelliousness of the villagers on â€Å"bad upbringing†¦. from†¦the proximity and trade of the barbarous tribes† (Brooks, 293). The emerging alliance between villagers and Native Americans peaked with a joint siege and execution of Santa Fe officials in 1837, when the natives and villagers made â€Å"the same cause†¦. and same interests† (Brooks, 294). However, the â€Å"mixed-bloods† of New Mexico soon found their unique identity and place within larger American culture. In New France, the outcome of the slave trade was more subtle, as chattel slavery gradually emerged as the new trend, thus leading to a system which â€Å"rewarded brutality with valuable goods† (Rushforth, 808). In an ironic twist, the slave system which once served as a â€Å"partial defeat of France’s power over its Indian neighbors† (Rushforth, 808) transformed into an institution where French colonialists â€Å"redirected their impulse for control and domination onto distant Indian nations† (Rushforth, 808). Why did slave trading in New Mexico have a slightly more positive outcome than in New France? For one, New Mexico tribes and societies were â€Å"enhanced by traditions of matri- lineality and social mobility† (Brooks, 287), which put the primarily female captives in a much more secure position within their new homes. The importance of women in the textile culture of the natives automatically raised the status of all women, including the captives. Even captive men could make themselves useful, performing tasks such as gun repairing and saddle-making. The New Mexico captives simply had more opportunity, â€Å"negotiating narrow fields of agency with noteworthy skill† (Brooks, 284). More importantly, the resulting generation of mixed bloods which sprung from slave trading found themselves in a unique position of power, as their manpower and negotiating capabilities proved in high demand for colonialist forces. This new generation carved a niche and an identity for themselves which endures to this day, as evidenced by the musings of one descendent: â€Å"We have relatives in the Pueblos, and out there, in Oklahoma† (Brooks, 301). Within the conflict, the New Mexicans found coexistence—a principle which New France (and its more oppressive slavery practices) could never quite accomplish. References Brooks, J. F. (1996). This evil extends especially†¦ to the feminine sex: negotiating captivity in the New Mexico borderlands. Feminist Studies 22(2), 279-301. Rushforth, B. (2003). A little flesh we offer you: the origins of Indian slavery in New France. William and Mary Quarterly 60(4), 777-808.

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