Hendrick Aupaumut (Mahican) (1757-1830)
Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr.
Classroom Issues and Strategies
Some students may be concerned about the deviations from "standards"
in matters of syntax and grammar, so you might ask them to examine these
deviations in such writers as Madam Knight. Have them consider the Southwestern
humorists of the nineteenth
century, for example, as models of the ways writers play on the deviations
for literary effect. Suggest to students that Aupaumut's style may be seen
as an example of "authentic" English dialect of an American Indian.
Have them compare the Fus Fixico letter by Alexander
Posey in Volume 2 for a literary use of an Indian's English dialect.
Students are amazed at how little the questions of race/political power,
race/social bias, and race/fear have changed in two hundred years. And
expect to hear this question: "Could Indians actually write back then?"
Major Themes, Historical Perspectives, and Personal Issues
1. Indian identity, racial self-consciousness. (Aupaumut is painfully
aware that he is an Indian writing about Indians. He is also aware of his
odd position in defending the U.S. when the Indians have ample reason to
doubt it. Note the I-they posture he takes.)
2. Ethnic identity in the emerging new nation.
3. Indian-white relations, colonial period to period of Indian removal.
Significant Form, Style, or Artistic Conventions
Have the students investigate the narrative's structure.
An Indian, having visited tribes in the old Northwest, is making recommendations
concerning the posture the U.S. should take toward those tribes. His report
indicates that he advised the tribes how they should act. Also, the piece
is a defense of himself against accusations that he betrayed his trust.
While his audience was mainly public policy makers, the piece speaks with
pointed relevance today about the American Indians' (reasonable) distrust
of federal policy makers. (Some things have not changed in the past two
Comparisons, Contrasts, Connections
The "assimilated" Indian, since the "Praying Indians"
of the Puritan period, has been in an anomalous position. Aupaumut is caught
between the expectations of two societies. Compare this position with that
of Copway, Apess,
and Boudinot. For
relevant texts related to the Indians' distrust of the Europeans, see relevant
sections of Smith, Bradford
(more relevant to Aupaumut), Franklin,
the Pueblo Revolt texts,
Ronda, Jeanne, and James P. Ronda, "'As They were Faithful': Chief
Hendrick Apaumut and The Struggle for Stockbridge Survival, 1757-1830."
American Indian Culture and Research Journal 3.3 (1979) 43-55.