- From Huronia to Wendakes: Adversity, Migrations, and Resilience, 1650–1900 eds. by Thomas Peace and Kathryn Magee Labelle
This edited collection of articles, dedicated to the history and culture of the Wendat (or Wendat-Huron) people, is both novel and innovative in its methodology and scope. At the very least, this work counters traditional, popular-cultural narratives that evoke the declension—if not destruction of—the Huron people during the seventeenth century, from James Fenimore Cooper's Last of the Mohicans (1826) to Bruce Trigger's monumental study The Children of Aataentsic (1976). In contrast, the authors and Wendake-Huron contributors like Janith English and Linda Sioui offer a more nuanced, complex account of how the Wendake-Huron confronted and adapted to European colonialism over multiple eras and landscapes. In each chapter, the authors articulate overarching themes of "migration, resilience, and survival in the face of separation [as] important components to understanding Wendat history" (5). Even more compelling is how the Wendat homeland—Wendake Ehen—expanded beyond the limits of the lower Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence River Valley to encompass new places and peoples as the Wendat-Huron "moved across the continent, adapting to new circumstances … in the wake of [the] colonial encounter" (5–6). Therefore, the Wendat-Huron diaspora produced new Wendakes—in Quebec and Ontario, as well as Michigan, Oklahoma, and Kansas—yet they all remained connected in past and present to the original Wendake Ehen. This insight alone upends traditional understandings of Wendat-Huron history and culture, and thereby restores agency to a people that have often been subject to "narrative[s] of victimhood" (17).
More importantly, though, this edited work makes a very particular and significant intervention in Native American history and studies: by collaborating with Wendat-Huron scholars and other members of the community. This stands in stark contrast to the majority of scholarly works related to Native American history and culture, where working with the actual indigenous peoples and communities being written about is little more than an afterthought for most authors, unless native themselves. This is particularly true when it comes to the study of early America (1491–1800 [End Page 625] ), in which authors typically feel unbound by such collaborative necessities, instead wedded to a documentary archive, at the expense of the oral histories and other historical truths that can only come with intentional and inclusionary dialogue with the indigenous peoples and communities being written about. I will be the first to admit that, in my research, I am guilty of burying myself in the archive to "excavate" native history in early America, without inviting a relationship with those same indigenous communities. But as the authors of this edited collection argue explicitly, anyone who works in Native American history and studies has a responsibility, at the very least, to reach out to the indigenous peoples whom they study and write about. While such invitations for collaboration need to be intentional and respectful, authors must also remain cognizant that native communities may not wish to be involved in such a process, for a number of reasons. And for those native individuals who might welcome such a relationship, it is important to remember they are "not representative of [their] nations as a whole," but "reflect the perspectives of … members of their communities" (10).
In the case of From Huronia to Wendakes, seven scholars and community members from the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma, Wyandot Nation of Kansas, Wyandot Nation of Anderdon, and Nation huronne-wendat read the essays and then offered their critiques as well as insights prior to publication, which the authors then incorporated into their manuscripts. One of the most important contributions that came out of such collaboration was the connections between kinship and geography in Wendat-Huron history and culture. In particular, community members emphasized that their identities as Wendat-Huron were derived from the land that they lived upon, given that Wendake itself means "where the Wendats live," which proved true in the past as much as the...