In the nineteenth century, when the crisis of Indian removal profoundly reshaped Indigenous America, many Native American diplomats and intellectuals turned to public speaking and writing to protest or negotiate U.S.-Indian relations. Through their efforts, scenes of Indigenous diplomacy—in Washington DC, at tribal councils, and in military outposts—became an important seedbed for Native American literature. In this lecture, Dr. Frank Kelderman explores the relation between these diplomatic settings and the history of Native American writing and oratory in the era of Indian removal. How did Native writers and speakers assert a public voice at a time when the power and livelihood of Indian nations was under increasing threat? What kinds of collaborations and deal-making went into these diplomatic scenes, and how did those shape the meaning of Indigenous texts? And what are the archival, historical, and interpretative problems that these writings pose for us as present-day readers? To explore these questions, this lecture will showcase a range of visual and written artifacts from different archives. Focusing on Native writers and speakers from the Great Lakes to the Missouri River Valley, it will show how the practice of Indigenous diplomacy gave rise to an unexpected and often misunderstood tradition of Native American writing.
Frank Kelderman is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Louisville. He is the author of Authorized Agents: Publication and Diplomacy in the Era of Indian Removal (SUNY Press, 2019). His articles on Native American literature and culture have also appeared or are forthcoming in journals including American Studies, Studies in American Indian Literatures, Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the United States, and American Quarterly. At the University of Louisville, Dr. Kelderman teaches courses on U.S., Native American, and global Indigenous literature.