Aspectsof William Apess writings that are helpful for understanding thehistory of New England Indians in the 19th century
WilliamApess work takes an in-depth analysis of the prejudices that nativeIndians had to encounter during the 19thcentury. His writings address a number of issues including racialdiscrimination and the impact that the introduction of Christianityhad on the native tribes. It also describes the native’s strugglesto free themselves from the shackles of inequality and racialprejudice. Ason of the Forestgives an account of his youth and early adulthood, describing thestruggles that the average natives had to go through in the hands oftheir tribesmen as well as the whites(NativeAmericanWriters).His book is described as one of the earliest books written by anative American, a fact that makes it an important tool to understandthe real challenges and struggles that the natives had to go through.This paper discusses the aspects in William Apess work that areimportant to the understanding of the history of New England Indians.
Apesspoints out that he had parents of mixed racial identities. Such caseswere common among the native Americans during the late 18thcentury as increased interaction between the natives and the whitesled to intermarriages (Apess, 2). In Ason of the Forest,Apess states that his father was White and his mother was a peqoutwoman. Despite having a white father, Apess points out that he choseto follow the ways of his mother’s people, in the process married afemale of the blood who had no single drop of the white man’s bloodin her vein (Apess, 60). Apess brings to light the issue of mixedracial identities and how children born out of such relationships hadto struggle with identity issues.
Apessdiscusses how the numbers of the natives had been drastically reducedby the time of his birth. He is quick to point out the injusticesthat had previously been committed by the whites to the natives. Hediscusses the role that the natives had to play in the revolutionarywar, giving an account of his own participation in the war and how itled to a further reduction in the numbers of the natives (Apess, 53).In his writing, he makes clear that most natives did not acquireinformal education to the levels that would make it possible for themto compete fairly with the whites. He points out that the whitesconsidered the natives inferior, calling them savages. His work goesinto details to describe how the natives lost most their land duringthe 18thcentury. It points out how the natives who had remained close to thewhite settlers were forced to give up their ancestral land throughtreaties that they could not clearly understand. Apess points out howthe native’s ignorance as well as the deceptive tactics used by theWhites led to the eviction of the natives from their ancestral land(Apess, 93).
Apesswriting also gives an account of the economic activities that thenative Indians engaged in during the 18thcentury and the 19thcentury. His work enables readers to understand how the socialchanges brought about by the arrival of the Whites necessitated ashift in the economic activities that the native Indians had toengage in (Harrell, 76). The arrival of the Whites in the north ledto most of the natives to drop their traditional economic activitiessuch as hunting and planting and taking up new roles such as makingof weapons and trading (NativeAmericanWriters).Apess points out that the arrival of the Whites led to many menfinding themselves in whaling voyages in the seas and the women andchildren going into domestic service. His work describes the impactthat this shift had on the native communities and the consequences ofthe harsh conditions that the natives now found themselves in(Harrel, 88).
Apessfocuses on his conversion to Christianity and how Christianity initself was important to the freedom struggle in which he was anactivist. In Ason of the Forest, Apessshows how he shifted to become a devoted Christian and later on howhe starts developing conflicting ideas about the religion. In hiswriting, he points out how the arrival of the whites and some oftheir products negatively influenced the society. He blames alcoholfor being the reason behind the constant abuse he and his siblingshad to endure at the hands of their grandparents. His description ofthis event shows how the natives had slowly started forgetting theirway of life and responsibilities. Internal and external conflicts asa theme is dominant in Apess work. He describes the native’sstruggles against the injustices committed by the Whites as well asthe internal conflicts that the natives had to encounter,particularly over the Christian faith and their traditions andidentity (Furford, 67).
InConclusion, Apess writing focuses on a number of themes that arerelevant to the understanding of the history of Indians in NewEngland. His writing depicts how the Indians experienced racialprejudice and how the changes in the society impacted their economicas well as family roles. It shows how most natives of mixed races hadto struggle to be identified in the society. His writing also bringsto light how the natives had to struggle with reconciling theirethnic background with Christianity and other changes brought by theWhites.
Apess, William. ASon Of The Forest.New York: Apes, 1831. Print.
Fulford, Tim. RomanticIndians. Oxford:Oxford University Press, 2006. Print.
Harrell, Willie J. OriginsOf The African American Jeremiad.Print.
NativeAmericanWriters,.`William Apess- Early Native American Poet`.Nativeamericanwriters.com.N.p., 2014. Web. 2 Nov. 2014.