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Arts of Diplomacy: Lewis and Clark's Indian Collection

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When Meriwether Lewis and William Clark led the Corps of Discovery on their epic journey across the American West, they were acting not only as territorial explorers but also as diplomatic emissaries from Jefferson?s U, S. government to the Indian peoples they encountered. This fresh examination of the rare and beautiful Native American objects related to the Corps? expedition brilliantly challenges the conventional wisdom about Lewis and Clark and places their journey in the context of a complex process of ...

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Overview

When Meriwether Lewis and William Clark led the Corps of Discovery on their epic journey across the American West, they were acting not only as territorial explorers but also as diplomatic emissaries from Jefferson’s U, S. government to the Indian peoples they encountered. This fresh examination of the rare and beautiful Native American objects related to the Corps’ expedition brilliantly challenges the conventional wisdom about Lewis and Clark and places their journey in the context of a complex process of mutual discovery between representatives of very different cultures.

In Arts of Diplomacy, anthropologist Castle McLaughlin demonstratesthat Native Americans were active participants in these historic encounters. Selecting objects of significance to bestow as gifts or use in trade, they skillfully negotiated their own strategic interests in their dealings with the exploring party. McLaughlin and her team of researchers tell a story of Native peoples who were sophisticated traders and cultural brokers already engaged in a global exchange of goods and materials decades before the captains’ arrival on the scene.

The vehicle for this analysis is the extraordinary collection of late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century Native American objects from the Prairie, Plains, and Pacific Northwest that is housed at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University. Long thought to represent the only remaining ethnographic items acquired by Lewis and Clark, some of the pieces are shown to belong to a newly identified collection of early Native American materials that was assembled in the 1820s by Lt. George C. Hutter, Clark's nephew by marriage.

Hillel S. Burger’s exquisite color photography and contributions by art historian Gaylord Torrence, anthropologist Anne-Marie Victor-Howe, objects conservator T. Rose Holdcraft, Wasco fiber artist Pat Courtney Gold, and Mandan-Hidatsa community activist Mike Cross enrich this ground-breaking analysis.

University of Washington Press

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As the bicentennial years of the Lewis and Clark expedition approach we can expect to be inundated with any number of books, articles and television programs about the "Corps of Discovery," but it is doubtful than any will prove more insightful and thought provoking than McLaughlin's groundbreaking study. Associate curator of Native American Ethnography at the Peabody Museum, McLaughlin takes a multidisciplinary approach centering on the collection of objects acquired from native tribes during the expedition. Even if the book did nothing more than present and describe these fascinating objects-which it does with lush and painstaking thoroughness in text and in 195 illustrations (150 in color)-it would be of great appeal to neophytes and experts alike. Some of the objects depicted, like the extraordinary ceremonial raven bustles, are as impressive in themselves as anything our continent has produced. But through them McLaughlin, along with some guest essayists, is able to describe both the voyage and its milieu in fresh and surprising ways. The America from which Jefferson sent Meriwether Lewis and William Clark was a democracy in its fragile infancy; the tribes, McLaughlin illustrates, including the Mandan and Sioux, were not yet conquered peoples but vital actors in a thriving and interdependent cultural economy. In the complex interaction between the expedition and the peoples they met, the exchange of objects could have numerous meanings, which are explored here with great nuance and subtlety; their eventual status as "museum" objects is also discussed. At various points, this narrative is interleaved with panel pages in which material aspects such as cedar bark and glass beads are explored more fully, and also, most usefully, contemporary native artisans not only discuss their crafts but react to the implications of McLaughlin's ideas. Readers will want to do the same. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In the bicentennial year of the Lewis and Clark expedition, Harvard's Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology features objects brought back from the epic exploration of the Corps of Discovery. Associate curator McLaughlin is forthright in saying that only six objects can definitely be attributed to trade between Lewis and Clark and the Native Americans, but the collection includes a host of important and stunning objects that most likely came from this source, including fabric, glass beads, feathers, silk ribbons, and grizzly claws. Many pieces were collected by Clark's nephew by marriage, Lt. George C. Hutter, in the 1820s, and others found their way to the Peabody by various routes. Essays by McLaughlin, with occasional contributions from other anthropologists and Native American artists and activists, delve into the importance of trade to the expedition and describe the objects lovingly and in great depth. The processes of making them, still being practiced in many areas, are also explored. Including numerous beautiful and explanatory illustrations, this is recommended for Lewis and Clark fans, Native American crafts lovers, and even those seeking insight into political history.-Gay Neale, Brodnax, VA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780295983608
  • Publisher: University of Washington Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2003
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 10.90 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Social anthropologist Castle McLaughlin is associate curator of Native American ethnography at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.

University of Washington Press

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Table of Contents

List of illustrationsForeword: The Names of the Nations, by James P. RondaPreface, by Rubie WatsonIntroduction: Discovering Lewis and Clark's Indian Collection

PART ONE: THE LIFE HISTORY OF A COLLECTION1. The Lewis and Clark Expedition: An American Quest for Commerce and Science--The Fabric of Empire2. Up the Missouri: Patterns of Diplomacy and Exchange--Glass Beads--From Time Immemorial: The Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara People, by Mike Cross3. Selections: The Making of a Collection4. Into the Museum: From Gifts to Artifacts

PART TWO: THE PEABODY MUSEUM OBJECTS5. From Warriors and Women Traders: Objects Collected by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark--Jo Esther Parshall, Quillwork Artist--The Raven Belt Ornaments of Lewis and Clark, by Gaylord Torrence6. The Army Moves West: The Curious Collection of Lieutenant George C. Hutter--Missouri Melodies: Flute Player Keith Bear7. Enigmatic Icons: Objects Probably Collected by Lewis and Clark or by Lieutenant Hutter--Butch Thunder Hawk, Painter8. The Language of Pipes --Identifying Feathers--Identifying Wood--Silk Ribbons9. Grizzly Claws, Garters, and Fashionable Hats: Other Possible Expedition Objects--A Wasco Weaver Meets Her Ancestors through Lewis and Clark, by Pat Courtney Gold

Afterword: The Peabody-Monticello Native Arts ProjectNotesReferences CitedAcknowledgmentsContributorsPicture CreditsIndex

University of Washington Press

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