Nancy Shoemaker

in A Strange Likeness

Published in print April 2004 | ISBN: 9780195167924
Published online September 2007 | e-ISBN: 9780199788996 | DOI:

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Eighteenth-century Indians and Europeans meeting on the council grounds relied on the human body as a resource for metaphors that could explain their relationship: that because they were all people with arms, legs, eyes, and ears, they would join in one body with one heart and one mind and become one people. This was the language of peace negotiations, but as conflicts erupted over broken agreements and European expansion, increasingly the human body provided the metaphors to explain why they were not one people — they had different skin colors. In particular, Indians began to claim an identity as “red people” sometime in the early 18th century, a trend originating among Southeastern Indians such as the Cherokees and Creeks, probably because it made sense within an existing color symbolism organized around “red” (the color for war) and “white” (the color for peace) and because Europeans settling in the Southeast at that time had identified as “white people,” instead of “Christians” which was still the prevalent term in the Northeast, to distinguish themselves from their “black” slaves. Indians adopted the same racial terminology as Europeans (and vice versa) but endowed the terms with different meanings, so that “red” came to be a source of pride and supremacy, for the “red people” were here first, and “white” came to be associated with the accumulation of wealth and greed.

Keywords: body metaphors; red and white color symbolism; Cherokee Indians; southeast; identities; whiteness

Chapter.  7031 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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