Guest Editors" Introduction: Indians as Southerners; Southerners as Indians: Rethinking the History of a Region
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Guest Editors" Introduction
Indians as Southerners; Southerners as Indians: Rethinking the History of a Region

It is not news to readers of Native South that the standard definitions of "southerners," "southern culture," and "southern history" exclude American Indians. In the essay that introduced this journal to the public in 2008, founding editors James Taylor Carson, Robbie Ethridge, and Greg O"Brien voiced their frustrations about the field"s myopia. "The metanarrative," they observed, reveals "a deep impression that southern social relations were singly derived from and are still predicated on the binary racial construct of black and white."1 Their observation remains accurate nearly a decade later. Debates continue to focus extensively upon the consequences of tobacco, rice, and cotton culture. Prominent works on southern history explore in great detail the origins and evolution of African slavery, the emergence of a planter mentalité, the development of slave societies, the violence inherent in early modern race relations, and the contradiction between the rhetoric of the American Revolution and the reality of slavery. They subsequently examine the political, social, religious, economic, and gendered debates that sowed the seeds of sectional controversy as the nineteenth century progressed. After the Civil War, southern historiography focuses heavily on economic discrimination, white supremacy campaigns, the construction of Jim Crow laws, the Great Migration, and the origins and evolution of the long civil rights movement. This narrative is unquestionably sophisticated and illuminating, and has come a long way since the days of the "Lost Cause" espoused by scholars such as J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton, U. B. Phillips, and William Archibald Dunning. But the metanarrative remains the same: to study southern history is to explore a biracial story.2

To be sure, highly respected scholars of the Indian experience have [End Page vii] engaged this "traditional" structure through award-winning books and in the Journal of Southern History.3 Their work emphasizes that the southern experience was far more than a negotiation between black and white; it was a process of interaction between multiple cultures and with political, social, economic, environmental, and epidemiological consequences of the highest magnitude. These issues served as catalysts for tension between Indian agency and the reach of Euro-American power, and profoundly influenced the region, the continent, and the Atlantic world. Unfortunately, these scholarly contributions have done little to transform the field. Indeed, if survey texts and university syllabi are guides, the contours of southern historiography have largely remained static.4 Even scholars of memory—a field that studies the creation of false narratives and purposeful misremembering of the past—have tended to ignore the ways in which Natives have been intellectually excluded.5

The situation is not entirely bleak, however. The "line in the sand" drawn by Native South"s founding editors has inspired both established scholars and an emerging generation of historians to commit to changing the traditional narrative. Since the establishment of the journal, its scholars have become more visible within the profession. They have delivered papers at annual meetings, sat on committees, and served in prestigious leadership roles at the Southern Historical Association and other regional organizations. In 2014 a particularly vocal group gathered in Tallahassee, Florida, to explore the future of southern history. Sponsored by Florida State University, the "Indians as Southerners, Southerners as Indians" symposium was a two-day event through which innovative papers powerfully centered indigenous lives within southern history.6 As the event progressed, a sense of intellectual dismay overtook the conversations between the participants and audience members. Out of these shared frustrations grew a series of strategies for addressing a simple question: Why do historians continue to overlook that indigenous people play such a crucial role in directing, illuminating, and responding to events in the American South? A universally embraced strategy was that Native South scholarship needs to become even more visible. Subsequently, symposium participants orchestrated roundtables and panels at various conferences to explain why the teaching of southern history requires greater focus on Indians. They (and like-minded Native South scholars) attended panels at these and other conferences to insert indigenous southerners when their absence [End Page viii] seemed particularly conspicuous. Most recently, the University of...


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