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The Transatlantic Indian, 1776-1930$
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Kate Flint

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780691203188

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691203188.001.0001

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“Brought to the Zenith of Civilization”: Indians in England in the 1840s

“Brought to the Zenith of Civilization”: Indians in England in the 1840s

(p.53) Chapter Three “Brought to the Zenith of Civilization”: Indians in England in the 1840s
The Transatlantic Indian, 1776-1930

Kate Flint

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines the impact made by the Ojibwa and Iowa Indians who toured with George Catlin in the 1840s—and the impression that their travels in Britain made upon them. Both groups performed dances and uttered “the dreadful war-whoop,” and both groups were, effectively, live exhibits, introduced and explained in lectures and in the question-and-answer sessions Catlin held. How did these Indians interpret England? The evidence is somewhat limited, since it must come largely from Catlin's words, in the book he published about his years in England and Europe. In conveying Indian voices, Catlin invariably makes them sound as though they think and express themselves in a simpler, more “innocent” way than the—by implication—more sophisticated product of Western civilization. A native perspective on 1840s Britain is provided by the Ojibwa Maungwudaus. Throughout his account, individual experience gains its importance not through subjective response but as something that may be shared through terms designed to reach a specific readership or audience, with its own familiar frames of reference. Native peoples are not the Other against which modernity is being postulated; rather, the modern world is being presented for them.

Keywords:   Ojibwa Indians, Iowa Indians, George Catlin, Britain, England, Indian voices, Western civilization, Maungwudaus, native peoples, modernity

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