Whipped Like a Dog: Crossed Blood in The Last of the Mohicans

Barbara A. Mann (University of Toledo)

Presented at the 10ᵗʰ Cooper Seminar, James Fenimore Cooper: His Country and His Art at the State University of New York College at Oneonta, July, 1995.

Originally published in James Fenimore Cooper: His Country and His Art (No. 10), Papers from the 1995 Cooper Seminar (No. 10), The State University of New York College at Oneonta. Oneonta, New York. Hugh C. MacDougall, editor. (pp. 48-61).

Copyright © 1999, State University of New York College at Oneonta.

[May be reproduced for instructional use by individuals or institutions; commercial use prohibited.]


Initially, I had not the slightest interest in James Fenimore Cooper. By the age of twelve, in fact, I cherished an active prejudice against him, prompted by my prior esteem for Mark Twain, whose quirky social courage in denouncing Jim Crow Lynch Law and Christian hypocrisy had long since earned my loyalty. Of course, in the process of devouring Twain, I read — and laughed uproariously — over the famous critique of Cooper in which Twain ridiculed him as a failed romantic whose embarrassing “Literary Offenses” totaled eighteen out of a possible twenty-two. 1

Twain’s Cooper-tweaking was original only in its wit, for he was articulating views common to his time. After the death of James Fenimore Cooper in 1851, his fame plunged precipitously. For critics gazing through the tunnel vision of Realism, trashing Cooper became a literary rite of passage. They attacked his allegedly poor comprehension of Native American culture; skewered his messy plots, so implausible in their own, well-ordered drawing-rooms; and faulted his lack of boy/girl romance, which Europeans smugly mistook for “the universal language of love,” instead of a fraught game of hide-and-sex confined to Victorians. D.H. Lawrence was honest enough to concede the fast hold that Natty Bumppo had on his fancy but, unable to explicate it without openly mentioning homo-eroticism, he bashfully wrote it off to a “childish” taste. 2

Given this unpromising introduction to Cooper, when I finally did sit down to read him (under duress), I was amazed: by his warmth of spirit; by the honesty of his social analyses; but, most of all, by the fearlessness with which he broached, then examined, Forbidden Knowledge: race, slavery, the invasion of America, and oppression in general.

Mythopoeic Allegory

There has been something of a Cooper renaissance lately, so I eagerly scanned what modern critics had to say about my new favorite author — and was amazed again. Were these critics reading the same Cooper I was? Mine had forged a searing social critique, but theirs seemed to be wallowing in febrile mysticism.

Cooper the Inscrutable has a nice ring to it for those in train with Richard Slotkin in Regeneration through Violence (1973). Armed with ahistorical and culture-specific Jungian insights, Slotkin impossibly mystifies Cooper as “mythopoeic” 3 — his recurrent refrain that explains nothing, resolves nothing. Worse, Slotkin somehow concludes that violence against the Indians served, and still serves, the nifty “mythopoeic” purpose of regenerating white culture. This is a chilling thought to any Native Americans in the crowd, but Slotkin seems negligent of Native existence in real time.

For her part, Jane Tompkins starts well in Sensational Designs (1985) — i.e., from the sort of historical base that has just worked so splendidly for her on Charles Brockden Brown — but halfway through her Cooper Chapter, “No Apologies to the Iroquois,” she bogs down in her own frail grasp of Indian culture and history. Apparently, the seven-year lapse between Sensational Designs and West of Everything (1992) reversed her position on apologies to the Iroquois, for in West, Tompkins humbly admits her shortcomings:

Forgetting perpetuates itself. I never cried at anything I saw in a Western, but I cried when I realized this: that after the Indians had been decimated by disease, removal, and conquest, and after they had been caricatured and degraded in Western movies, I had ignored them too. 4

Apology noted; apology even accepted, perhaps, but apologies fail to address Tompkins’ core problem: a serious lack of information concerning Native America. I mention this not to attack Tompkins — it was she, after all, who first prodded me into thinking about Cooper in a new way — but because hers is a problem, and a “solution,” common to many literary critics. Too frequently, scholars assume that gift-wrapping “white guilt” for presentation to the nearest Native gets them off the critical hook, but they err.

Guilt does not cure ignorance. The proper remedy for ignorance is knowledge. Nevertheless, most critics hover between oblivion and guilt when the subject turns to Native America. For some elusive reason, Euro-Americans seldom take the step of educating themselves concerning Native history and culture. Instead a few, like Tompkins in West of Everything, substitute self- criticism for revision but most, like the earlier Tompkins of Designs, blithely assume that what [49] they do not know cannot matter. They ignore it altogether. Thus did Tompkins obviate her difficulties with Cooper by throwing up her hands in bewilderment and, with maddening vagueness, lump all the Leather-Stocking Tales together as “allegory.” 5

The “glazed look of incomprehension” 6 that Geoffrey Rans sees washing over the critical gaze at the mere mention of Cooper derives largely from this recent insistence on Cooper as a gripless mystic, I think. “Groping” does describe the critical problem with Cooper, but the fault lies with the critics, not with the author. If they cannot locate the Leather-Stocking core, it is because they are looking in all the wrong places: in Europe, John Locke and Sir Walter Scott instead of into the Fire at Onondaga, the mainland colonial slave codes, or the rift between colonial British and American policy on Indian miscegenation. Ironically, for all touted multiculturalism in academia today, there has been surprisingly little movement in the direction of assessing James Fenimore Cooper as an author ahead of his time in terms of cross-cultural applications.

This oversight comes not for lack of documentation. It is no secret that Cooper grew up in the newly-pioneered backwoods of New York, the beating heart of the Iroquois League. The years of Cooper’s youth, roughly 1790-1815, coincided with the vigorous, if final, years of the League’s threat to the fledgling United States. As a boy, he was personally acquainted with figures now identified as Natty Bumppo originals, 7 as well as with Chingachgook originals then and in later years. 8 Nor as an adult did Cooper ever deny or disguise the influence of the backwoods Moravian missionaries on his imaginative growth. 9

Childhood impressions were not the sole Leather-Stocking muse. Cooper’s considerable knowledge of Indian cultures has garnered the attention of anthropologists and historians since the 1950s. In 1955, the noted historian of the Iroquois, Paul A. W. Wallace, published his ground-breaking study of “Cooper’s Indians,” conclusively demonstrating the extent of Cooper’s ethnographic debt to eighteenth century Moravian missionary, John Heckewelder. Regarded as a stunning primary source by modern historians of the northern woodland Indians, Heckewelder lived through, and assiduously recorded, the formative years of the first American “frontier.” Between 1818 and 1823, he published more than 1,000 pages of diaries, linguistic essays, transcribed oral histories and road journals covering the forty-eight years he lived with the Indians (1762-1810). Countless pages of unpublished manuscripts also remain in the archives. In evaluating Heckewelder, Wallace concluded that, “As a reporter of Indian life during his time and in his vicinity he has no superior.” 10

If Heckewelder languishes in literary obscurity today, it is not (as rumored during his lifetime) because his work was “inferior” to that of his contemporary, the parlor-darling Henry Rowe Schoolcraft. This biased judgment is not supported by modern scholarship. In his time, Heckewelder was silenced for being Moravian in Protestant America; for being more likely to speak in German, Iroquois or Algonquin than in English; and for feeling completely at home in a wigwam — all in a society which scorned such evidence of “low social origins” and equated it with “low” intellect. Mainly, however, Heckewelder was silenced because he held his literary mirror up to the grimy backside of the pioneer movement, a vulgar reflection which does little credit to Euro-America. Two hundred years ahead of his time, Heckewelder grappled with Euro-centricity and named the genocidal impulses underlying western colonialism. But mostly, he admired the doomed dignity of the Delaware in the teeth of it all, whose tragic, stern, intelligent spirit his most appreciative reader, James Fenimore Cooper, infused into Chingachgook, Uncas and Natty Bumppo, the towering hero of the Leather- Stocking Tales.

Although historians are convinced, literary critics have been unaccountably slow on the uptake. It is a curious comment upon Cooperian critics that few of them have ever bothered to read Heckewelder, Cooper’s acknowledged source on Indians. Fewer still understood him, if they did, for reading Heckewelder with comprehension is a hard business. Although the reader must come to Heckewelder with a sound, and prior, historical grasp to understand his texts, critics typically approach him unprepared, believing that whatever historical knowledge they possess is sufficient unto their day.

To illustrate (1) where critics go awry, and (2) the alternative way I propose reading Cooper, I have extracted below one theme from The Last of the Mohicans for examination in depth: race. To advance the plot of the Mohicans Cooper depended upon the complexities of institutional racism in colonial America, as personified by Cora, Magua, Hawk-eye and Munro.


Decoding the Subtext

Few critics have considered the subtext of Cooper’s America — slavery as well as invasion — even though racial themes replay regularly in The Leather- Stocking Tales. Of the tiny number of critics who are historically inclined, almost none have taken the next logical step of cross-referencing what Cooper knew of Native and African Americans with how he constructed his stories.

This critical failure works to the direct detriment of nearly all modern readings of The Leather-Stocking Tales, leaving critics sifting through mythopoeic allegories when they ought to be dusting out the nooks and crannies of American history. Unprimed by any appreciable historical grounding in chattel slavery or Indian cultures, most literary critics qualify as naive readers, apt to miss entirely what Cooper expected his readers to guess easily. Consequently, The Leather-Stocking Tales are approached as a boy’s adventure yarn spinning out classic, if ridiculously convoluted, chases when they are, instead, a very adult appraisal of the painful political problems that arise when racial identity is oppressed or denied.

Antebellum America was a violently repressed place. Direct discussion of any touchy subject — race or sex, especially — was worse than a crime; it was a social blunder, so Cooper’s contemporaries were accustomed to following a trail of deep-throated hints to the unspeakable point. Cooper scattered his clues with great subtlety and finesse but Antebellum readers, itching to scandalize their own prurience, followed the trail without difficulty. They knew the code.

There were established conventions for laying a trail, knowledge of which acted like Captain Midnight Secret Decoder Rings, allowing the public to unravel the author’s encrypted meaning in a twinkling. For example, the very mention of “Moravians” — especially of any still out in the bush — screamed “naughty sex” to American readers. This was the reason Charles Brockden Brown opened Wieland (1798) by dropping the name of Count Zinzendorf 11 — the Moravians’ well-known protector in Europe and benefactor of missions in the New World. 12 Brown was alerting his readers that gothic, illicit sex formed the submerged theme of the novel. In making the heroine’s mother pray “after the manner of the disciples of Zinzendorf,” while denying her membership in a local church, 13 Brown was hinting ever so delicately that Mama Wieland might have been a mixed-blood, for Moravian missionaries were known to marry Indians and recognize their cross-blooded off-spring. 14 Such Moravian mixed-bloods were not, however, welcome in white, mainstream Protestant congregations. This context throws an entirely new light on Brown’s plot, helping to explain why Papa Wieland is fated to burn in fact as well as in hell (for marrying out of his race); why the Wieland siblings cannot marry, at least not whites, at least not long, at least not happily; why the ventriloquist Carwin attacks the Wieland children so relentlessly; and so forth.

Cooper made use of the same inferential conventions. If we will but consult the Antebellum encryption code, we will see that subtextual suggestions of race, sex and oppression electrify the air between Cora, Heyward and Magua, with Hawk-eye acting as a ground.

The Caribbean Connection

Critics do have a passing knowledge of colonial slavery. Hence, they have less excuse than usual for missing Cooper’s point with Cora Munro, “the daughter of a gentleman” of “the West Indies” and “a lady whose misfortune it was ... to be descended, remotely” from African slaves. 15 The missed clue here attaches to the British West Indies, a hellhole of slavery with its own special history, a past not to be confused with that of the American mainland. British chattel slavery in the West Indies began only after sugar planters had consolidated their land monopolies. For Barbados, that was in 1650; for Jamaica and the Leeward Islands, 1680. 16 By 1757, the year in which Mohicans is set, the institution was around a century old. A venerable period, it lent a deceptive time frame to any number of polite fictions, not the least of which was the implication that it was physically possible to be only “remotely” descended from West Indian slaves.

There is not enough space here even to begin relating the heinous brutality of Caribbean slavery. It was a horrifying system that coolly calculated workforce depletion rates based on death. In general, a 10% annual loss was considered standard among lenient masters, while others figured 75 out of every 100 slaves would be dead within three years of landing in the West Indies. 17 This amortization schedule ought not to be construed as meaning the remaining 25 lasted much longer. Life expectancy of kidnapped Africans in the West Indies ranged between four and seven years from date of purchase. 18

In the early years, only a tiny number of the Africans carried off into Caribbean slavery were women. Typically, women lasted less than the three-year minimum required for a profitable balance sheet. Besides, they performed heavy labor poorly — unless it was the heavy labor of childbirth. Pregnancy was frowned upon as an all-around profit-loser 19 [51] during which both the unproductive mother and baby usually “died.” Concubinage — i.e., throw-away sex slavery — was a luxury indulged in by planters only after the triangle trade was well underway, between 1660 and 1680 in the British West Indies. Domesticity — i.e., sustained, child-bearing concubinage — only became common two generations later.

This was because the on-going rivalry between Britain and France slowed down the economic development of the West Indies throughout the seventeenth century and into the opening decades of the eighteenth century. Especially disruptive were the Anglo-Franco wars of 1689-1697 and 1702-1713. Because of them, social life in the colonial Caribbean did not hit its stride until the second decade of the eighteenth century, after hostilities with France wound down and profitable trade wound up. 21 Hence, mixed blood planters’ children like Cora only started being reared, not killed, after 1713.

It was post-1713 that blood quantum counts began in earnest as planters sought to exempt their own children from the ferocious slave codes of the 1660s. 21 Based on grandparentage, quantum-counting was a technical-sounding way to enforce racist imperatives. For example, quadroon and octoroon designated “one-fourth” and “one-eighth” African heritage, respectively. Much of the system was a ruse, however, with cross-bloods like Cora Munro claiming the lightest “taint” their skin tones could justify. To facilitate deception, planters carefully sequestered mixed-bloods indoors, more “remote” from the tanning sun than from their African heritage. Planters depended upon the social authority of pseudo-science to disguise the slippage with which the blood quantum terms were actually applied.

The deception was common knowledge and, moreover, one to which contemporary authors often alluded. Charlotte Bronte used the fact as a pivot of her plot in Jane Eyre (1847), for example, to create Bertha and Richard Mason of Jamaica. Indeed, such slippage happened often enough in real life, as anyone can attest who has ever researched the Caribbean roots of French Empress Josephine Bonaparte, or of Rachel Levy/(Lavine), the high-spirited mother of Alexander Hamilton.

The continental counterpart of the Caribbean slave codes arose in Virginia, the premiere Southern colony. Virginia had slaves as early as 1619; legally recognized slavery in the 1640s; and attempted its first slave code in 1661. 22 By 1757, the mainland slave laws were fairly final, departing from the Caribbean codes in one very important particular: there was no caste exemption for the children of planters. Any person of African descent, “remote” or otherwise, was considered a slave unless legally manumitted in court. Thus, while “quadroon” acted as a legal racial status in the West Indies, there was no similar intermediate status in America for mixed-bloods.

Furthermore, people of color were presumed to be slaves unless they could produce written evidence to the contrary, for they were not allowed to act as witnesses in court. Nor were they allowed to read and write. The deck was clearly stacked against cross-bloods in early America because, as famed colonial historian Edmund Morgan has it, “They must be seen as black.” In pursuit of deck-stacking, Virginia’s trend-setting racial law of 1691 “provided extensive punishments for miscegenation in or out of wedlock,” explaining why white fathers so fervently denied paternity of their mixed-race off-spring. 23 In the eighteenth-century, the Virginia Assembly reaffirmed its stand, taking “pains in all its laws” to identify mixed-bloods (including Native American mixed-bloods) “with blacks and to deny them any benefit from a free paternity.” 24

In America, therefore, Cora Munro — the child of a black mother and a white father — was officially classified as a slave. Even had Colonel Munro legally emancipated his daughter, she would have been cast out of white society and been liable to “capture” and re-enslavement at any time. Thus, the Munros had more than shame as a motive for hiding Cora’s parentage. Colonel Munro realized what critics so casually overlook: that according to mainland colonial law, Cora was his slave, not his daughter.

Nor was Munro’s exposure of Cora’s race to Duncan Heyward some Lear- like fatherly foible: it was a requirement of law. When Munro misunderstood the Major to be asking for Cora, not Alice, in marriage, he had no choice but to confess her race since miscegenation, or intermarriage with a person of another race, was a felony in colonial America. In other words, had Colonel Munro not apprised Major Heyward of the truth, and Heyward had “innocently” married Cora, Munro would have been guilty of perpetrating racial fraud, an imprisonable offense.

For his part, Heyward was horrified at Cora’s “cross” only partly from racist bigotry. In alluding to Heyward’s Southern birthright, 25 Munro did not mean to activate the “prejudice” which Heyward forthrightly denounces as “so unworthy of [his] reason,” 26 Munro meant to call up a Southerner’s instantaneous recognition of Cora’s predicament: Should Heyward knowingly marry her, any subsequent chance discovery of Cora’s “crossed” blood would simultaneously dissolve their marriage, criminalize Heyward and enslave Cora along with any children of their union-a prospect which might well horrify any suitor.

[52] Well before Colonel Munro confirms her racial status to Heyward, however, Cora has essentially confessed to the reader that she is passing for white. Early in the novel, she rebukes Alice for suggesting “we distrust” Magua because “his skin is dark” 27 and regularly distances herself from Europeans, “whose shades of countenance may resemble mine” (italics mine). 28 At the end of the novel, Cora appeals to the Tamenund on the implicit grounds of being, like him, “[o]ne of a hated race, if thou wilt — a Yengee,” she hastily amends, cautiously hinting, that if it is all the same to the Tamenund, would he please not blow her cover? 29

If Heyward, Tamenund and the reader have to guess Cora’s lineage, Alice is in on the family secret from the start. The only time in the novel that Alice acts as the protective rather than the protected sister is when Heyward questions Cora’s worth as a function of her color. “Alice,” he observes, obliviously enough, “you will not be offended when I say, that to me her worth was in a degree obscured” by the discovery of her heritage. Alice responds angrily, “withdrawing her hand” and coldly cutting him down to size: “Then you knew not the merit of my sister.” 31

Cooper nudges reader suspicion along with Cora’s “dark glossy tresses,” 31 so “shiny and black, like the plumage of a raven” 32 thick with “rich” and “flowing curls.” 33 Her skin is “beautiful but less brilliant” 34 than Alice’s although her “complexion was not brown, but ... the color of rich blood.” 35 Even when Cora blanches, her skin only lightens to an “ashy paleness.” 36 So singular is Cora’s “dark-eyed” 37 appearance that the characters, themselves, take to calling her “the dark-hair.” 38

Significantly, the only other women in Last of the Mohicans who, like Cora, sport “dark flowing tresses” 39 are clearly women of color, the Delaware clanswomen conducting her funeral. Because Cora’s skin is near their own in color, the young clan mothers sing of her race as the wellspring of her unique merit. Her “blood” was “purer and richer than the rest of her nation,” a fact “any eye might have seen” 41 — which, presumably, includes Natty’s hawk eye, Magua’s Mingo eye, or Heyward’s handsome eye.

Cooper’s trail here is hardly original. It employs common code-words of the day, terms reserved for cross-bloods. Richard Mason of Jane Eyre also has a “brown eye” and a “complexion” that is “singularly sallow,” 41 while his monstrous sister, Bertha, sports “thick and dark hair hanging long down her back,” 42 “shaggy locks” framing her “purple face” 43 with its “fearful blackened inflation of the lineaments.” 44 Bertha is distinct from Cora only in her purpose: Bertha’s purple face, black around the veins, is meant to convey horror; Cora’s blood-colored face is meant to inspire suspicion, invoke compassion and, perhaps, foreshadow her death.

Indian Cross-Bloods on the First Frontier

If Cora never speaks without insinuating she is black, Natty never opens his mouth without insisting he is white. No fewer than twenty times in Last of the Mohicans Hawk-eye announces the purity of his biological credentials. 45 Although he concedes having “lived with the redskins long enough to be suspected,” 46 he hammers away at his cross-less blood till I begin to think he doth protest too much. I have not finished mulling this over, but I strongly suspect that Cooper may have intended Natty as a miscegenate passing for white.

Colonial and later American miscegenation laws were only slightly less damning in the case of white-Indian “crosses” than of black-white crosses. Indians were not legally enslaved unless taken prisoner in one of the many “Indian wars” trumped up by Southerners at least partially for that purpose, a topic that historian J. Leitch Wright treats in detail in The Only Land They Knew (1981). 47 In the North, the Puritans were renowned for parceling out defeated Indians among themselves as slaves, or worse, shipping them off into Caribbean slavery. 48 There was much more to Native American crossed blood than appeared in the slave huts, however. Here, we must appreciate that two separate and competing miscegenation policies existed, one British and the other, American.

The British Home Office actively encouraged inter-racial fraternization — reproductive sex — because the British were in America for the fur trade. The only trading link the woodland Indians recognized (even among themselves) was the kinship link. British agents therefore took Indian wives opportunistically, to create kinship trading pools. 49 They regarded the resultant mixed-bloods as a built-in pool of interpreters, ad hoc cultural ambassadors, as it were. The Crown simply could not have conducted its American business without agents like Alexander McKee, himself a mixed-blood, 51 whose Shawnee in-laws gave the British a direct pipeline to that vigorous and pivotal nation. 51

A few fond English fathers educated their mixed-blood sons, dressed up their cross-blood daughters in frills, and introduced them both into British society. In this way, prominent cross-bloods like John Ross, Alexander McKee, John Norton, William Augustus Bowles, Alexander McGillivray, and Blue Jacket received their grounding in European literate thought. It was an understanding that they then used to good effect against white settlers. Their entree into [53] continental polite society notwithstanding, cross-bloods were never accepted into colonial society, where they had a reputation for being “somewhat wild,” 52 a sort of worst-of-both-worlds combination. “Mixed” was considered synonymous with “degenerate.” 53 This perception grew up alongside of the outcast children who, as they came into adulthood, failed to identify with the Euro-colonial world, inspiring the frequent charge of “treachery” — although the colonists never quite explained why mixed-bloods ought to feel any loyalty to the white world.

British-Indian marriages meant little to the Crown’s officers who, upon returning home, typically deserted their Indian wives and children. 54 Once back in England, they took white brides, who became the mothers of their acknowledged off-spring, but — unlike Jane Eyre’s Mr. Rochester, who was stopped short at the altar — no one raced to England, accusing them of bigamy. As a result of this British practice, by 1701, mixed-blood children were overrunning whole villages in the South 55 and by 1800, there was a significant mixed-blood population all along the first frontier. 56

The British policy of inter-racial fraternization was a constant thorn in Columbia’s side. Unlike the English officers, the colonists had come to stay, not to trade. Colonists viewed fraternizing with Indians as fraternizing with the enemy. Consequently, paternal support of Native children was not just frowned upon in the colonies; it was outlawed. Virginia, lead colony of the South, made Indian- white marriages illegal in 1691, with Massachusetts, lead colony of the North, following suit in 1692. 57 Virginia reaffirmed its ban on miscegenation in 1705, providing that all inter-racial relations were to be presumed illicit. 58 This included Indian-white relations.

Obviously, the British practice amounted to a de facto negation of colonial law. It is no accident, then, that one of the very first acts of “free” Virginia in 1776 was to reassert its miscegenation law, carefully subsuming Indian cross-bloods under the term “mulatto/a” (from “mule,” for a sterile animal). A little less certain of Revolutionary victory, perhaps, Massachusetts waited until 1786, three years after the Treaty of Paris, to re-outlaw miscegenation, criminalizing spouses and off-spring. 59 “Founding Father” James Madison was but articulating the prevailing opinion of America’s white elite when he deemed racial mixing America’s “original sin.” 61

On the frontier, where white women were in short supply, a shocking level of slippage continued nonetheless. Customarily, should the Indian convert to Christianity, the marriage might be recognized, barely, should the white partner so desire. Given the penalties and the prejudice, however, paternal recognition was unlikely. Because the offspring of cross-blood unions were always assigned the identity of the parent with the least racial status, children of Indian-white liaisons were considered Native American — or, if enslaved, Black. (There was an entire legal category, since forgotten, of “zambo,” designating a slave of Native American and African descent. 61 The slang term for a zambo was “griffe.”) 62

Thus, “Indian” only appears to be a more desirable — or a more distinct — designation than “slave” from the comfortable distance of two centuries. Most planter children were assigned house duties, but the life of an Indian cross-blood was in constant danger. All Indians, even the acknowledged children of whites, could be murdered at will and without consequence by pioneers, 63 while cross-bloods like Cora frequently enjoyed parental protection. Given this background on the subject, Natty Bumppo’s trademark “man without a cross” mantra begins to transcend the pesky/comic paradigm into which it is usually crammed. It starts sounding desperate.

Cooper drops more hints concerning Natty than just his Moravian connection, One particularly suggestive passage occurs in The Deerslayer, for instance, as Hurry Harry and Natty are discussing the charms of Judith Hutter, whom Harry constantly brings up, only to flare up the moment Natty betrays the most fleeting sign of arousal. After a painful confrontation regarding race, during which Natty distances himself from Hurry’s thesis that “skin makes the man,” Hurry becomes disgusted with Natty’s “Moravian ignorance” on matters of race. Less nimble of tongue than Natty, a frustrated Hurry resorts to taunting him with threats:

If you wish to be considered a savage, you’ve only to say so, and I’ll name you as such to Judith and the old man [Hutter], and then we’ll see how you like your welcome. 64

It works. Natty shuts up in a trice.

If my inkling is right, and Natty is a closet cross-blood, it is no longer necessary to build mythopoeic castles in the allegoric sands to explain why Natty had “no kin,” 65 avoided sexual entanglements and died childless. We need only consult the perils and penalties attached to “crossing” the race barrier. A cast-off cross-blood passing for white would hesitate to own his Indian relatives. A self-hater, as any Indian Natty must be, would eschew marriage with an Indian while avoiding sexual relations with white women-a lynching offense for a slave or an Indian at the time. An Indian Hawk-eye lived and died alone simply because the risks of romance outweighed the benefits.


Magua, Cora and the Iroquois League

Once the African truth comes out on page 188, Cora and Cooper should have little thematic reason to continue tossing out racial innuendoes, yet the allusions continue unabated to the end of the novel, another 227 pages. Hence, another vein of meaning must await excavation in the Cooper mines — and to be sure, one does. It inheres in the stunning political debate between Cora and Magua in Chapter XI and becomes visible to the naked eye in Cora’s climactic appeal to the Delaware centenarian, Tamenund.

The Magua/Cora conversation encapsulates contemporary white fears of the Indian/African common cause that actually existed in nascent form against the colonists. Cooper delved far deeper into white anxiety over this alliance than has ever been appreciated. Similarly, in making Cora lay her case before the Tamenund, Cooper was not resorting to some Scott-ish stereotype of a lady-in-distress appealing to Arthurian chivalry to prevent the impending loss of her virtue. As Cooper correctly has Natty observe, Indians never raped female captives. 66 Instead, and in character, Cooper had Cora thinking on her feet, acting as an extraordinarily astute diplomat attempting to checkmate a Wyandot enemy using a Delaware pawn.

More than just the distance of two centuries obscures what Cooper was up to here. The egregious ignorance of Native American history on the part of most literary critics keeps them from appreciating either the debate or Cora’s ploy. Thus, if my discussion of either is to be clear, the reader requires some backgrounding.

League Structure

The first and most simple fact to keep in mind is that “Tamenund” is not a personal name. It is a position title denoting the lead sachem (civil chief) of the Delaware, an elective office. 67 Roughly equivalent to “Mr. President,” “Tamenund” refers to different individuals at different times.

Second and more complex, the political structure and philosophy of the Iroquois League must be understood. Geographically, the Iroquois Confederacy formed a “sacred hoop.” 68 The circle of its lands revolved around New York and by 1757 included southern Ontario in Canada, most of Ohio, and western Pennsylvania. The Ohio and St. Lawrence Rivers, plus Lakes Ontario and Erie, fell within its domain. 69 Pre-contact, the Seneca, Oneida, Mohawk, Onondaga and Cayuga nations joined to design, debate and then ratify, the Constitution, or Great Law, creating the mighty Iroquois League.

Governmentally, the cardinal directions on the rim of the hoop were parceled out to the Confederated nations of the union. Holding the most sacred ground, dead center, were the Onondaga, Keepers of the Council Fire at the Iroquois federal capital. The Seneca were the “Guardians of the Western Door” and the Mohawk, “Guardians of the Eastern Door” while the Oneida, “little brothers” of the Mohawk, held the North up to the St. Lawrence River, a boundary that kept that door naturally. This same task was accomplished for the Cayuga, “little brothers” of the Seneca, by the Allegheny Mountains in the South. Heading into the eighteenth century, the Iroquois began to shudder at the numerical frailty of the Cayuga. They leapt at the chance to shore up their Allegheny population when the powerful Tuscarora, just defeated by Southern colonists and fearing enslavement, petitioned for membership, a plea accepted and formalized by their entry into the League between 1710 and 1735.

Under the Iroquois Constitution, new nations could either petition for full admission or be incorporated as legal residents of one of the existing states. If incorporated, they were placed under the sponsorship of their host nation in their area of residence. Whether accepted as a full state or incorporated as a people, all groups were assigned a legislative, executive or judicial function in the Confederacy upon admittance. 71

The “Mingo”

One of the important incorporated groups was the Wyandot, miscalled “Huron,” a French slur meaning “prickly boar’s hair,” intended to ridicule the Mohawk hair style. 71 The European invasion splintered the Wyandot of Canada, pushing one fragment West and South around the Great Lakes. 72 Accepted into the Iroquois League under Seneca sponsorship, the Wyandot were assigned to assist the Seneca in border patrol along the far Western Gate in Ohio. 73 It was to this larger Wyandot group that Magua was born but it was only to the Wyandot/Seneca of Ohio that Cooper was referring when he used the word “Mingo,” another slur. “Mingo” is from the Lenni Lenapi (Delaware) word mengwe, meaning “the Stealthy People.” 74 It is a word that Cooper clearly knew and used correctly. 75


The Delaware and the League

A second important incorporated group was the Delaware/Mohicans. They were the weak link, because they were the resentful link, in the Shining Chain of the Iroquois Confederacy. Dispossessed of their original mid-Atlantic coastal homeland (now New Jersey, Delaware and lower coastal New York) circa 1600 76 by the original European invasion, they found themselves pushed West, into the territory of their old rivals, the Iroquois. (Cooper borrowed the oral tradition of this invasion directly from Heckewelder, and put it into the mouth of Chingachgook.) 77 Paul Wallace correctly observed that by 1700, the Delaware were “what today would be called ‘displaced persons’” 78 to whom the Iroquois granted political asylum, absorbing them as citizens of the Confederacy. Because the invasion had thrown the Delaware into central New York, the Onondaga state, they first found themselves under Onondaga mentorship.

Proud of their own — very ancient, it should be emphasized — national heritage, one faction of the Delaware/Mohicans openly chafed at the Iroquois bit. When Moravian missionaries came among them offering Christianity in the late 1740s, this disaffected minority mistook the offer for one of full membership in white society. They thought they were being adopted by the Moravian clan of the Christians, just as whites were legally adopted into Indian clans, 79 and that their residence in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, put them under the sponsorship of the State of Pennsylvania. To them, this looked like a reasonable alternative to Iroquois citizenship, so they jumped at the chance to live once more in their traditional mid-Atlantic homeland. This faction constituted the “Moravian” Delaware who attempted to secede from the Iroquois Confederacy. 81

Because their attempted secession was as disruptive to the League as South Carolina’s later secession was to the American Union, the Iroquois removed the Delaware from all positions connected to warfare. The Delaware were collectively assigned the governmental function of peace-keeping. Clan mothers — women — ran the judiciary, the branch of government that oversaw dispute arbitration, the Delaware assignment. Hence, anyone appointed a judge was handed a ceremonial cornpounder and a skirt, just as modern judges own a gavel and a gown. This appointment was what the Iroquois were referring to when they said that they had “made women” of the Delaware. This phrase which has so overwhelmed the sexist sensibilities of Europeans — from frontiersmen, missionaries and Cooper right up to some modern critics — was no insult. It was a job description. Cooper inherited his misinterpretation from John Heckewelder who, for all his years with the Indians, never accepted the nonsexist, yet gender-based, nature of roles in Native society. 81

Notwithstanding that the Moravian Delaware had turned in their skirts and cornpounders, the Fire at Onondaga refused to recognize their secession. 82 Consequently, when two hundred forty-one “Moravian” Delawares and Mohicans traveled west to Ohio with the missionaries after 1765, 83 the Iroquois League transferred their custody from the New York Onondaga to the Ohio Wyandot/Seneca, where they continued to be considered “women.” The Moravian Delaware thereafter projected their resentment of the League onto the “Mingos.”

The Iroquois Position on Slavery

The Iroquois unabashedly named Christianity as a tool of hated European oppression, of which chattel slavery was considered the worst manifestation. They held all Indian converts to Christianity in contempt as “slaves” of the Europeans, a charge they feared might become literally, as well as figuratively, true. Alarmed by the precedent of conversion as much as by the fact (which was minimal), anxious Iroquois diplomats attempted to rescue their misguided Delaware Cousins from the missionaries. In 1768, the Seneca counselor Zaneshio, a Guardian of the Western Door, warned the Delaware that they were in a fair way of “being made slaves, should they tolerate a preacher from among the white people and suffer themselves to be instructed by him.” 84 In 1771, the Moravian missionary David Zeisberger was challenged by a Delaware shaman (probably Wangomend), who claimed:

it was well known among the white people, that [Zeisberger] was a seducer of Indians, for the purpose of having them transported as slaves, where they would be harnessed to the plough, and whipped to work. 85

Nervous slurs like these rested on the knowledge that the Iroquois had acquired of colonial Virginia when the Tuscarora nation was admitted to the Confederacy. The Tuscarora owned western Virginia and western North Carolina; thus, they had full knowledge of the British history of the Virginia colony. To modern mainstream readers, slavery may appear to epitomize horror in this era, but to the Keepers of Old Things — the official female historians of the Iroquois League 86 — slavery was just another example of the homicidal tendencies of Virginians, as fully displayed during Nathaniel Bacon’s 1676 Rebellion. The two stories, of slavery and of Bacon, were told in tandem.

[56] Euro-American historians often regard Bacon’s Revolt as a precursor of the American Revolution, but the Keepers remember it as an example of genocide. Bacon began his revolt with the shockingly complete massacre of the Occaneechees of North Carolina, 87 a horror story that came into the Confederacy along with the Tuscarora so that, by 1776, the term “Virginian” was laced with frightful meaning in the Iroquois lexicon. “[T]hey are a barbarous people,” the Keepers maintained. 88 The word “Virginians,” synonymous with “long knives,” 89 indicated any whites — not only citizens of Virginia — who “in their usual way, speak fine words to you, and at the same time murder you!” 91

The sadistic corporal punishments that Europeans casually meted out to slaves inspired righteous outrage among the Iroquois, who rejected the idea that people had a right to punish one another. Given what was already known of Virginians, it was easy for them to believe the tales told by a young Delaware “who had received his education in Virginia” and who “spread unfavourable reports of the Virginian people” of them “beating the negroes so unmercifully.” 91 In 1781, this same Delaware man cheerfully entered into a conspiracy to assassinate John Heckewelder, then stationed at Salem, Ohio, simply because his Wyandot superiors teased him as “the Salem white man’s slave,” warning “that by and bye this Salem whiteman, would whip him also.” 92 Similar condemnations of the physical abuse practiced by Europeans on people of color literally haunt.Indian pronouncements in this period.

For their part, colonists were deeply aware — and terrified — of the potential for a large-scale black/Indian uprising. It was not lost on Southerners that a large percentage of Creek and Seminole supporters were escaped slaves called “Maroons” who, in exchange for refuge and hope, manned entire forts against the colonists and, in Cooper’s age, against the U.S. military. 93 Indeed, I believe that one of the unsung reasons for Indian Removal was to separate Southern slaves from the insurrectionary influence of Southern zambos like the “renegade” Osceola, 94 who fought so valiantly against the U.S. Army in the Second Seminole War (1835).

Cora’s Appeal to the Tamenund

It was against this backdrop that Cora formulated her appeal to the Tamenund, hitching her hopes to the larger Iroquois analysis of slavery, as well as to the particularized Delaware revolt against the League. Specifically, she was playing on the acrimonious rift between the Wyandot and the Moravian Delaware in petitioning the Delaware, the loose cannons of the Iroquois League, for release from the Wyandot, Magua. At the same time, she used her own, tenuous racial status both to win the sympathy of the Delaware and to bring the Iroquois analysis of slavery to bear in her favor. By telling the Tamenund, “the curse of my ancestors has fallen heavily on their child,” 95 Cora cleverly tied the internecine Wyandot/Delaware strife to the generic Indian hatred of slavery. She is implicitly comparing her bondage to Magua to the European oppression of her under slavery.

Thus Cora has Magua pinned coming and going, from the Delaware point of view: first as a reviled Iroquois overlord and second as a man depraved enough by white contact to adopt their theory of slavery. Magua himself has played directly into Cora’s strategy by arguing that enslavement of Cora was acceptable because of her African heritage. 96 All this fancy footwork notwithstanding, in the end, the Tamenund is senile, so Magua prevails — or so it appears at first blush.

As we have seen, condoning slavery is an utterly unIroquois sentiment, and one that would have been scorned in any actual Council, even one run by a squirrelly Tamenund. Here, we glimpse the outer edge of Cooper’s sympathy with Native culture, the point at which his European upbringing undermines the accuracy of his Indian portrayal. Cooper’s unconscious conflation of “Indian captivity” with “Indian slavery” signals a purely European assessment of the case, just as his horror of castration (being “made a woman”) had earlier skewed his presentation of the Delaware position in the League. Whereas Cooper compares Cora’s captivity to slavery, genuine Native American captivity led to adoption, not enslavement.

There is, however, more to Magua’s victory than hardening of the presidential arteries, and I believe that Cooper was at least partially conscious of it. Cora’s scheme backfires because Cooper’s Tamenund was not a Christian convert. Ancient in person as well as in the ways of the Lenni Lenape, the Tamenund appeals neither to God nor to Jesus, but to “Manitto” 97 — Manitou — the great spirit whom contemporary Christians regarded as the Devil. Among other things, this means that Cooper’s Tamenund led the non-Moravian Delaware, they who had sustained their relationship with the League. This Tamenund was, therefore, bound to uphold the League.

The case of Cora vs. Magua concerned two points of Iroquois law. First, captives remained in the custody of their captors until turned over to Iroquois women, who decided their fate. The Tamenund could not have found against Magua without violating League law concerning the disposition of captives. Second, the Iroquois chain of command in [57] Ohio ran from the federal Fire at Onondaga, to the Seneca, to the Wyandot, to the Delaware. In this instance, the Tamenund could not have found against Magua without insulting his Wyandot superiors. Thus, however falsely Cooper makes Cora and Magua argue their cases, he ultimately aligns his plot with Iroquois Law. The subordinate Delaware sachem recognizes a Wyandot war chief’s right to take his captive home.

Semper Fi: Magua and Motive

Those inclined to argue that this passage is accidental, should turn to the astonishing conversation between Cora and Magua in Chapter XI and consider what Cooper has staged there: A “quadroon” and a “Mingo” are openly debating the “rights” of Europeans to dominate them. Cora is half white. She defends the European culture that fathered her, for she is ashamed and frightened of her African half.

But if Cora is only half black, Magua is doubly Iroquois: As an adopted Mohawk, he is a Guardian of the Eastern Door; as a Wyandot, he is a Guardian of the Western Door. 98 This is something like joining the Marines, twice. Magua speaks, then, as a dual warrior whose whole job is to resist European invasion. He argues against Europeans based on the cultural disruption they visit on Native peoples with their imported imperial wars 99 — a discourse highly reminiscent of those found in speeches that Heckewelder copied down verbatim as Iroquois orators spoke. 101

In this passage, therefore, Cooper is establishing a strong political motive for Magua, but critics refuse to see him as galvanized by anything as lofty as patriotism. Instead of understanding that Magua has accepted a dangerous position as a double agent behind white lines out of loyalty to the Iroquois League, critics typically reduce him to a lone and brooding man, evil out of personal spite. The only phrase they hear in his speech is that he has been “whipped like a dog” 101 at Colonel Munro’s command — and even this, they misconstrue.

In confiding his humiliation to Cora, Magua is trying to raise her consciousness, and he has some reason to hope she will understand him since she once pointedly defended his race within his hearing. 102 This is why he explains to Cora that it was Colonel Munro — her father/owner — who had him whipped. Like Wangomend and Zaneshio, Magua is denouncing the white whip, in hopes that Cora will reconsider her scheme of passing. Like Osceola, he is calling Cora to join with him in the struggle against their common enemy; to condemn Munro/Europeans for crimes against Magua/Indians and Cora/Africans, since both Africans and Indians may be legally whipped at will by whites, who call their oppression “Justice.”

Sadly, Cora is less willing than Magua to name oppression, and her suicidal identification with whites rankles Magua. Her determination to continue her masquerade as long as possible invokes his “look of bitter irony” later in the novel as he disdains the Europeans as “her people.” 103 When Magua presses the issue of systemic injustice — “Is it justice to make evil, then punish for it?” 104 — Cora is constrained to silence, tacitly conceding his theoretical point. Yet, her naive belief that discovering “how to palliate the imprudent severity on the part of her father” 105 would resolve the matter demonstrates how inextricably invested in passing she is. “And am I answerable that thoughtless and unprincipled men exist?” 106 she demands of Magua to deflect his onslaught. By re-packaging the issue as personal, not political, she undercuts his call for African/Indian solidarity. In the end, Cora and Magua part bitterly, because neither will budge tactically.

Thus, Cooper has set up a daring philosophical dialogue on the ethics of resistance: oppressed minorities, Cora/Africans and Magua/Native Americans, expose the meaning of Munro/Europeans, i.e., European sophistry and cupidity in defining slavery and invasion as “justice,” then punishing their victims. Cora, the assimilationist, identifies with and defends European interests, which she has internalized as her own. Magua, the Indian nationalist, rejects and hates European interests as inimical to his being. Importantly, neither can acquit the defendant, Munro, no matter how much Cora might like to.


It was passing tones like these, plucked from the finest chords in Cooper’s repertoire, that attracted me to the Leather-Stocking Tales. Ironically, I find that these are exactly the tones most likely to pass right over the critical head without disordering a single hair. Yet, daring themes of race, sex and oppression recur with such clockwork regularity in the Leather-Stocking Tales that, along with Geoffrey Rans, we must finally consider the probabilities:

either Cooper was consistently dumb and lucky, or he knew what he was doing. 107

For my part, I believe Cooper knew exactly what he was doing.


1 Mark Twain, “Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses,” Selected Shorter Writings of Mark Twain, ed. Walter Blair (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1962), 227-229.

2 D. L. Lawrence, “Fenimore Cooper’s Leatherstocking Novels,” James Fenimore Cooper: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. Wayne Fields (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1979), 45.

3 Richard Slotkin, Regeneration through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600-1860 (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1973), 485.

4 Jane Tompkins, West of Everything: The Inner Life of Westerns (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 10.

5 Jane Tompkins, Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction, 1790-1860 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), 102.

6 Geoffrey Rans, Cooper’s Leather-Stocking Novels: A Secular Reading (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991), x.

7 Robert Spiller, Fenimore Cooper: Critic of His Times (New York: Russell & Russell, 1963), 7.

8 Hugh C. MacDougall, Secretary/Treasurer, James Fenimore Cooper Society, Cooperstown, New York. Letter to Birgit Hans, January 5, 1993.

9 Spiller, Fenimore Cooper ... , 4.

10 Paul A. W. Wallace, “Foreword,” in John Heckewelder, Thirty Thousand Miles with John Heckewelder, ed. Paul A. W. Wallace (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1958), viii.

11 Brown, Charles Brockden, Wieland, or The Transformation: An American Tale [1798], Bicentennial Edition (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1977), 12.

12 Paul A. W. Wallace, “Introduction: The Moravians,” in Heckewelder, Thirty Thousand Miles ... , 23-24.

13 Brown, Wieland, 12.

14 For instance, Moravian mixed-bloods included Joseph Shabosh and Jacob. Joseph was the son of the John Bull. John Heckewelder, A Narrative of the Mission of the United Brethren among the Delaware and Mohegan Indians from Its Commencement in the Year 1740 to the Close of the Year 1808 , [1820] (New York: Arno Press, 1971), 319. The Delaware, Jacob, was Mr. Bull’s son-in-law. Heckewelder, Thirty Thousand Miles ... , 191.

15 James Fenimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans; A Narrative of 1757 [1826] (New York: The Penguin Group, 1980), 187-188.

16 Richard S. Dunn, Sugar and Slaves: The Rise of the Planter Class in the English West Indies, 1624-1713 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1972), 46.

17 Gwendolyn Midlo Hall, Social Control in Slave Plantation Societies: A Comparison of St. Domingue and Cuba (Baltimore and London: The John Hopkins Press, 1971), 14-15.

18 Elizabeth Abbott, Haiti: The Duvaliers and Their Legacy, revised and updated (New York: Touchstone Books/Simon & Schuster, 1988) 11.

19 Hall, Social Control ... , 26-27.

20 Dunn, Sugar and Slaves ... , 233.

21 The original code was passed in Barbados in 1661, and acted as a model for the other islands thereafter. Dunn, Sugar and Slaves ... , 239.

22 Edmund S. Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1975) 297, 311.

23 Morgan, American Slavery ... , 335.

24 Ibid., 336.

25 Cooper, Last of the Mohicans, 188.

26 Ibid., 188.

27 Ibid., 24.

28 Ibid., 120.

29 Ibid., 360.

30 Ibid., 308.

31 Ibid., 362.

32 Ibid., 21.

33 Ibid., 132.

34 Ibid., 374.

35 Ibid., 21.

36 Ibid., 177.

37 Ibid., 92, 98.

38 Ibid., 210, 220, 221, 222.

39 Ibid., 402.

40 Ibid., 406.

41 Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre [1847], With lithographs by Barnett Freedman (Norwalk, CT: Heritage Press, 1974), 177.

42 Ibid., 267.

43 Ibid., 277.

44 Ibid., 267.

45 Cooper, Last of the Mohicans, 35, 40, 73, 83, 90, 91, 92, 138, 142, 143, 148, 216, 217, 224, 227, 233, 314, 316, 318, 353, 373.

46 Ibid., 40.

47 J. Leitch Wright, The Only Land They Knew: The Tragic Story of the American Indians in the Old South (New York: The Free Press, A Division of Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1981), 102-125. For a discussion on the related topic of the Indian ancestry of “black” slaves, see Wright, The Only Land They Knew ... , 248-278.

48 Neal Salisbury, Manitou and Providence: Indians, Europeans, and the Making of New England, 1500-1643 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), 222.

49 Colin G. Calloway, Crown and Calumet: British Indian Relations, 1783-1815 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987), 53-56.

50 Heckewelder, Thirty Thousand Miles ... , 423.

51 Calloway, Crown and Calumet, 72.

52 Ibid., 117.

53 Ibid., 120.

54 Ibid., 179.

55 James H. Merrell, The Indians’ New World: Catawbas and Their Neighbors from European Contact through the Era of Removal (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989), 5.

56 Calloway, Crown and Calumet, 181.

57 Richard Drinnon, Facing West: The Metaphysics of Indian-Hating and Empire-Building (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1980), 85.

58 Morgan, American Slavery ... , 335.

59 Drinnon, Facing West, 85.

60 Ibid., 112-113.

61 Wright, The Only Land They Knew, 252.

62 Drinnon, Facing West, 107.

63 Of the thirty-four children and sixty-two adults, male and female, murdered during the 1782 Gnadenhutten massacre of the Delaware by a Revolutionary regiment dispatched out of Fort Pitt, several were mixed bloods, among them, the Jacob mentioned in Footnote 14 above.

64 James Fenimore Cooper, The Deerslayer; or, The First Warpath [1841] (New York: Bantam Books, 1982), 41.

65 Cooper, Last of the Mohicans, 414.

66 Ibid., 255. Warriors were barred from all sexual activity since the life force (sex) and the death force (war) canceled each other out. To perform the sex act on the warpath robbed a warrior of his power. Gregory Evans Dowd, A Spirited Resistance: North American Indian Struggle for Unity, 1745-1815 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), 9.

67 Richard White, The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 380.

68 For a superb discussion of the meaning of the hoop in Native American cultures, see Paula Gunn Allen, “The Sacred Hoop: A Contemporary Perspective,” Studies in American Indian Literature: Critical Essays and Course Designs, ed. Paula Gunn Allen (New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 1983), 3-22.

69 Elisabeth Tooker, “The League of the Iroquois: Its History, Politics, and Ritual,” Handbook of North American Indians, vol. 15, Northeast, ed. Bruce G. Trigger (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1978), 418-420.

70 A. C. Parker, The Constitution of the Five Nations, or The Iroquois Book of the Great Law (Albany: The University of the State of New York, 1916), 56-57.

71 James Herbert Cranston, Etienne Brule: Immortal Scoundrel (Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1949), 48-49.

72 Elisabeth Tooker, “Wyandot,” Handbook of North American Indians, vol. 15, Northeast, ed. Bruce G. Trigger (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1978), 399-400.

73 Heckewelder, T hirty Thousand Miles ... , 94.

74 Ibid., 425.

75 For instance, when he has Natty quip that “the Mengwe fill the woods with their lies, and misconstruct words and treaties.” Cooper, The Deerslayer, 6.

76 Ives Goddard, “Delaware,” Handbook of North American Indians, vol. 15, Northeast, ed. Bruce G. Trigger (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1978), 213-215.

77 John Heckewelder, “Indian Tradition of the First Arrival of the Dutch, at Manhattan Island, Now New York” [1801], Collections of the New-York Historical Society for the Year 1841, Second Series, 1841 (New York: I. Riley, 1811-1859). This same story also appeared in John Heckewelder, An Account of the History, Manners, and Customs of the Indian Nations, Who Once Inhabited Pennsylvania and the Neighbouring States [1819], (New York: Arno Press & The New York Times, 1971), 71-75. Chingachgook’s abbreviated version of the story may be found in Cooper, Last of the Mohicans, 37-38.

78 Paul A. W. Wallace, “Foreword,” Heckewelder, Thirty Thousand Miles ... , ix.

79 The legal provisions for adoption formed an important section of the Iroquois Constitution, Articles 66-70. Parker, Constitution of the Five Nations, 49-50.

80 To petition for secession was their legal right under Article 71 of the Constitution. Parker, Constitution of the Five Nations, 50.

81 In considering the phrase “made women” fightin’ words, Cooper was echoing a misinterpretation he picked up from Heckewelder, An Account of the History, Manners, and Customs of the Indian Nations ... , 60-70. See also Paul A. W. Wallace, “Cooper’s Indians,” James Fenimore Cooper: A Reappraisal, ed. Mary E. Cunningham (Cooperstown, NY: New York State Historical Association, 1954) 55-78; and Paul A. W. Wallace, “John Heckewelder’s Indians and the Fenimore Cooper Tradition,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 96.4 (1952), 496-504.

82 And to refuse their petition was the legal right of the central Iroquois government under Article 70. Parker, Constitution of the Five Nations, 50.

83 Heckewelder, Narrative ... , 120.

84 Ibid., 102-103.

85 Ibid., 116.

86 In 1784, Benjamin Franklin described the Keepers he had seen functioning in Council: “The Business of the Women is to take exact Notice of what passes, imprint it in their Memories (for they have no Writing), and communicate it to their Children.” Benjamin Franklin, “Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America” [1784], The Heath Anthology of American Literature, 2ⁿᵈ ed., vol. 1 (Toronto and Lexington: D.C. Heath and Company, 1994), 746.

87 Morgan, American Slavery ... , 259.

88 Heckewelder, Narrative ... , 131.

89 Ibid., 179.

90 Ibid., 219.

91 Ibid., 207.

92 Ibid., 227.

93 Wright, The Only Land They Knew, 276-278.

94 Ibid., 260.

95 Cooper, Last of the Mohicans, 362.

96 Ibid., 356.

97 Ibid., 358, 359.

98 Ibid., 42-43.

99 Ibid., 119-120.

100 Heckewelder, Narrative ... , 379-384.

101 Cooper, Last of the Mohicans, 120.

102 Ibid., 24.

103 Ibid., 371.

104 Ibid., 120.

105 Ibid., 121.

106 Ibid., 120.

107 Rans, Cooper’s Leather-Stocking Novels, xvi.