literature by white people
like The Last of the Mohicans
by James Fenimore Cooper,
as a race whose time has ended.
despite the fact that there were, and are,
thousands of living Native Americans.
their continued reality,
has no place
in our imaginations.
|James Fenimore Cooper|
Despite his inaccurate, and sometimes offensive, portrayal of Native Americans, Cooper did have some good things to say. Writing on the eve of the Industrial Revolution, he dramatized, quite movingly, the conflict between nature (the wilderness/frontier) and the encroachment of "civilization" and industry. A good example of this exists in his novel The Pioneers, in a section entitled "The Slaughter of the Pigeons."
Into this scene of death and carnage walks the hero of Cooper's novel, Natty Bumppo (aka Leatherstocking, aka Daniel Day Lewis from The Last of the Mohicans). Natty Bumppo was the hero of Cooper's five-novel epic known as The Leatherstocking Tales (which included The Last of the Mohicans). In this novel, he is in his 70s, but is still an able hunter and tracker. Leatherstocking is a man of the wilderness, and he is appalled by the callous and wasteful behavior of the people of Templeton. Natty gives a speech on the proper use of nature, which he learned from his native American friends: