Mastering language: Liberty, slavery, and native resistance in the early nineteenth-century south
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Centuries ago, the people who inhabited the region we know today as the American South encountered for the first time a different people who had come from Europe to take gold, slaves, and other commodities from their land and deliver to them the one faith that would, to the newcomers’ minds, save their souls. The men who represented the clans, towns, and confederacies that encountered them, however, saw those outsiders who hoveled by the sea as useful if uncouth people. Nonetheless, they often, but not always, spoke to themgraciously in a language rich with hospitality, welcome, and belonging. Such words were invariably accompanied by bowls of food to share and by displays of sacred items to open the straight white paths that had always carried good intentions between one people and another. On one occasion, for example, a Yamacraw leader’s wife presented the founders of Georgia two bottles, one containingmilk and one containing honey, to welcome themto their promised land. Two delegates from the Creek town of Coweta likewise told Georgia’s founders a vivid story that began in the hole in the ground from which they had crawled and the red rivers they had crossed on their long walk before they found the smooth and clear white paths that had brought themto their homeland and that now promised to open before James Oglethorpe and his fellow trustees as well. In talks with the governor of South Carolina, Cherokee diplomats passed around a white wing as a token of their new peace with their Creek neighbors, while Chickasaw diplomats beseeched the English in Charles Town to assuage their needs and to protect their women and children as would be expected of any close friend. Choctaws meanwhile invoked the powers of white earth, white wings, and sacred fire to bind them to their new neighbors.
Native Diasporas: Indigenous Identities and Settler Colonialism in the Americas
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Historical Studies not elsewhere classified