- Coming Full Circle: The Seneca Nation of Indians, 1848–1934 by Laurence M. Hauptman
Hauptman has published so many books about Iroquois history that it is now reaching the point where it is difficult to keep track of them all and their differences from each other. As he remarks in the preface, this book fills the chronological gap in his oeuvre between Conspiracy of Interests: Iroquois Dispossession and the Rise of New York State (Syracuse, 1999) and In the Shadow of Kinzua: The Seneca Nation of Indians since World War II (Syracuse, 2014). The preface also states that this book draws from "a massive, 933-page report" on government and leadership, which he wrote at the request of the Seneca Nation (xi). That provenance might explain why at times the book seems more like a report intent on documenting all the information found in a research process than a broad historical analysis emerging from an engagement with the historiography on nineteenth- and twentieth-century tribal histories.
Coming Full Circle complements Hauptman's other books in its institutional approach, but, unlike the others, it seems more like a collection of articles than a book that revolves around a single theme. Each chapter zeroes in on one or two issues, such as the impact of the 1848 revolution in Seneca Nation politics, which resulted in a restructured, written constitutional government; the internationally recognized runner Lewis Bennett, aka Deerfoot; the Thomas Orphan Asylum, later Thomas Indian School; the Seneca students who attended Hampton Institute in Virginia; and various legal cases involving Senecas and the Seneca Nation in the first half of the twentieth century. The one issue that Hauptman treats in a thread, though it is not consistently addressed in all the chapters, is that Seneca Nation politics were fraught with disagreeing visions for the nation. Another frequent issue is the ambiguity among the three political entities—the federal government, New York State government, and the Seneca Nation itself—about who had a say in the nation's operations, relations with outsiders, and resources. Though Hauptman does not explicitly discuss the problems posed by this ambiguity, he has done so extensively in his other work.
The book covers many different topics, sometimes in extraordinary detail. It will be a valuable reference for any historian working on nineteenth- or twentieth-century Iroquois history, whereas other readers will view discrete sections of the book as more useful than the book as a whole. Someone interested in Indian athletes, for instance, would find the section on Bennett important. Another reader seeking information about Indian boarding schools would lean toward Hauptman's carefully researched material on that subject, which includes a six-page chart listing the students at Hampton, their years of attendance, their occupations, and other information about them. Hauptman's decades of archival research and many conversations with tribal members have made him one of the foremost authorities on Iroquois history, and although the [End Page 615] writings in this book do not always cohere thematically, it is worthwhile to have this material accessible in print.