"An Indian from Habit:" James P. Beckwourth and Racial Fluidity in the Nineteenth Century Fur Trade

Files

thesis1.pdf

Citation

Mitchelson, Kalee, “"An Indian from Habit:" James P. Beckwourth and Racial Fluidity in the Nineteenth Century Fur Trade,” Scholar@Simmons, accessed April 4, 2020, https://beatleyweb.simmons.edu/scholar/items/show/108.

Title

"An Indian from Habit:" James P. Beckwourth and Racial Fluidity in the Nineteenth Century Fur Trade

Creator

Mitchelson, Kalee

Date

2017

Description

The western fur trade of the early 19th century created a largely fluid racial environment that transcended contemporary notions of nationalism and early concepts of race politics. Although this idea of racial fluidity existed previously in the fur trade’s long history, relationships between trappers and Native Americans during the 1820s-30s were insulated despite concepts of race hardening throughout the rest of the country. Men such as James P. Beckwourth, an African American freed slave, engaged in relationships with Native American women while ideas of racial purity and Jacksonian nationalism were strengthening in the United States politic. Claiming to have been promoted as a chief to the Crow tribe, Beckwourth’s life in the trade contradicted 1820s-1830s Jacksonian nationalism. This thesis will explore depictions of race in the fur trade, focusing on both self-perceptions and external perceptions of trappers. From an analysis of Beckwourth’s autobiography to racial ideals of the early nineteenth century - scholarly, literary, and artistic works have debated the subversive nature of cross-cultural relationships in the early 19th century fur trade. Relationships between Native American women and fur trappers not only defied elements of cultural boundaries but also challenged racial norms established in the Jacksonian era.

Publisher

Simmons College (Boston, Mass.)

Format

1 PDF (59 Pages)

Language

English

Type

Masters Theses