Abstract

Abstract:

The article investigates the enduring stereotype of the cruel and warlike Iroquois in early American writings and visual representations. It looks at the tomahawk as a material object that reifies this stereotype and appears repeatedly across visual, written, and material culture through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. By triangulating the archives of the library, the gallery, and the museum, the article is intended to better understand this enduring legacy of violence associated with the Haudenosaunee and perpetuated in written accounts, artistic portrayals, and collections of Haudenosaunee material culture. The bellicose nature of the tomahawk came to represent the false dichotomy imposed by Euro-Americans of the difference between savagery and civilization. The fear provoked by the Iroquois tomahawk acted as an implicit justification for settler violence and oppression of Haudenosaunee. In turn, the article argues, the Haudenosaunee have used this reputation for violence in protection of their sovereignty over the centuries.

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