The role that Native Americans played in colonial America was the focus of ‘Native Americans and the Atlantic World,’ a lecture presented by the Atlantic History Center on Friday, Oct. 3.
Dr. Peter C. Mancall, an award-winning historian and professor at University of Southern California, spoke at the second annual speaker series.
‘Interest in Atlantic History has exploded in recent years, quite literally ripping through borders,’ said Mancall.
The major area of study has been concerned primarily on European expansionism and studies have focused on the effect Europeans had on native peoples, said Mancall.
‘Understanding the story requires knowing more than the experience of Europeans. Indigenous peoples are shown as victims, the full story considers the agency Native Americans possessed,’ said Mancall.
The documents that survived form the period studied come almost entirely form European sources, which are critical in reconstructing an accurate story of Native American experiences, and require reading between the lines, said Mancall.
‘These were people who were capable and interested in trading with Europeans,’ said Mancall.
Mancall’s lecture featured a power-point presentation with images of indigenous peoples that were depicted in European books of the time.
One such book, ‘A briefe and true report of the Newfoundland of Virginia,’ by Thomas Harriot featured early European images of native peoples.
The depictions of the indigenous peoples in European text and imagery were often dramatized and inaccurate. The depictions framed the impression of the physicality of Native Americans for European readers, said Mancall.
‘Native Americans were reluctant to adopt European ideas of value and possession of land. Indigenous people always tried to govern their own lives,’ said Mancall.
The European ideology of land ownership was not shared by the indigenous people who believed that there could be no single owner of land, but only a system of using the land, said Mancall.
‘Dr. Mancall has a prolific career in examining the impact Native Americans had during the period of colonization. He shows them as producers of furs for a global market place and as consumers of goods,’ said Dr. Christopher P. Magra, an assistant professor of history and director of the Atlantic History Center.
The Atlantic History Center in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences was created to examine the connections between the Atlantic Ocean and the regions explored from the late fifteenth-century to the mid-nineteenth century.
‘The Atlantic History Center is excited to be able to bring a world-renowned historian such as Dr. Mancall to CSUN for our second annual speaker series,’ said Magra.
Mancall is the sole author of four books and has edited three others, such as ‘Deadly Medicine: Indians and Alcohol in Early America’ and ‘Valley of Opportunity: Economic Culture along the Upper Susquehanna.’
‘The story of Native Americans and the Atlantic world is also a story of capitalism and Dr. Mancall makes that connection through his research and writing,’ said Magra.
After the lecture Mancall signed copies of his book which were also available for purchase.
‘The history often explored is that of the Europeans. Native Americans are left out of that narrative. What the Atlantic Center aims to do in the curriculum is offer a fresh way of looking at old subjects,’ said Magra.
‘The lecture was very eye-opening and informative. As far as the agency of the Native Americans, shows that they had more control of their futures,’ said Dennis Laux, a senior majoring in history.
‘The records don’t often depict the fact that they had that control. They were not as helpless as has been portrayed,’ said Laux.