Hendrick Aupaumut (Mahican) (1757-1830)

    Contributing Editor:
    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.

    Original Audience

    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 hundred years.)

    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, and Delgado.


    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.