Diane Rothenberg: On the Insanity of Cornplanter (Part Two)

Posted by Lidya Endzo Kun iLLa On 7:00 AM

[Continued from posting on July 28, 2009.]

The existence of the content of Cornplanter’s visions is serendipitous. A copy of the manuscript (or the original) was in the collection of the Cornplanter family and was found and recopied by a young man, Charles Aldrich, in 1849, and sent to Lyman C. Draper who had expressed an interest in collecting memorabilia relevant to a project on the Revolutionary War. Aldrich offered himself as a reliable local scholar who had access to a series of documents in the possession of William O’Beale, one of Cornplanter’s sons. Aldrich apologized to Draper for the legibility of the manuscript he sent because, he explained, he was rushed in producing it, but “it is about as legible from the ms from which it is taken.”

Cornplanter called on Henry York to interpret and transcribe his dictation of his visions. Henry York was a Seneca living at the Cattaraugus Reservation where he was occasionally, but apparently not preferentially, called on to act as an interpreter. We may assume that York was both bilingual and literate, but the chaotic form of the written document presumably produced by him is likely as much a reflection of his own limitations as it is of Cornplanter’s mental state. Ethnohistorians are certainly aware of the problem of the intervention of interpreters and the reliability of their productions.

The manuscript entitled “A Copy of Cornplanter’s Talk February 12, 1820, it being 328 years after the discovery of America” is quite systematic in its presentation. This is not the forum for presenting the manuscript in its entirety and so the following is a schematic description, including some explanatory remarks of my own.

I. PREHISTORY: Presents The Iroquois Origin Myth of Turtle Island, the origin of Good and Evil personified by the mythical twins, and the creation by the Great Spirit of natural abundance for the Indians. The absence of intoxicating liquors in that natural abundance indicates that they should be excluded from Indian use.

II. RECORDED HISTORY: The section begins with the words that dramatically set the tone for the whole section: “The white man lies when they say that he (the Savior) ordered them to seek out the Island.” The account that follows describes the coming of the British and French, the deceptions they practiced to involve the Indians in political conflicts that disrupted Indian life, and the distress, including personal family examples, that the Indians suffered from having allowed themselves to get involved in white men’s affairs. In this section Cornplanter describes a conversation he had with a British general who reassured Cornplanter that he had no cause for remorse in having killed seven people during wars fought for British interests. Cornplanter’s expressed retrospective conclusion was that killing and warfare were wrong, particularly when it was done to further European interests that ultimately resulted in Indian land losses.

III: RECOMMENDATIONS FOR BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION: (These are the contents of the visions themselves, reported by Cornpanter as having been received from the Great Spirit for his own behaviorial modification, but also to be imparted by him to the Seneca community.) a) Reject alcoholic beverages. b) Destroy tokens of war and gifts from whites that were rewards for participating in and advancing white interests. Significantly Cornplanter indicates that he was instructed that, “when you destroy anything by my voice (i.e. by my instructions) you must do it publically and not keep it secret, but let all know it …” I think we are justified in suggesting that when Cornplanter destroys his sword, his French flag, his feathered hat, the documents giving him a commission of captain, and his wife’s family’s wampum, he was not engaged in a private act of madness, but rather in a prepared, public, political event replete with appropriate political symbols designed to influence public opinion and action.

IV: PERSONAL STATEMENT OF STRATEGIES FOR FUTURE BEHAVIOR AND RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE COMMUNITY: a) Future separation of whites and Indians, particularly around missionary activity among the Indians. He says, “I do not wish to forbid the ministers to preach among their own people for if I did it would strike them with confusion and might make them take their own lives and so it would be with us if we would quit our own way, we should get into confusion and something would happen or befall us so that we should lose our lives.” b) No tax payments. (Insofar as he was a holder of private property who was at that time being faced with tax assessments from which he had believed his property to be exempt, this instruction was likely more a personal declaration, which he repeated in his Warren, Pennsylvania. address, than it was at that time generally relevant to the Seneca community. As a general position with reference to Native American sovereignty, he was certainly being prophetic.) He says, “They will support themselves and the white people must do that same thing.” c) To determine future action, Cornplanter says that he will follow the instructions of the Great Spirit as he understands it, “for I believe him to be my master and if he tells me wrong I cannot help it,” which certainly constitutes a convenient all purpose response to further missionary pressures that was directed not just to religious belief and practice but to all areas of social restructuring. d) Indians should avoid drinking cow’s milk because it makes them sick, and the more they drink, the worse they feel.

The recommendation for Indians to avoid drinking cows milk seemed, on its face, so bizarre that it frequently functioned as the clincher argument to prove Cornplanter’s derangement. The historian, James Axtell, has suggested that cow’s milk may have been the only white introduced item without parallel in prior Seneca experience. The substitution of hen’s eggs for wild eggs, raised meat for wild, metal tools for wooden or stone, cloth for skins would be acceptable because of the parallelism of the categories, but cow’s milk would be without an appropriate item to fill in its binary slot. This is not an unattractive suggestion that provides satisfying cultural reasons for cultural behavior and that would probably be totally satisfactory if it were not that the consequences of drinking cow’s milk as described by Cornplanter seem to suggest that he has observed something physical happening to those who drink it.

Needless to say, the drinking of cow’s milk is non-native in origin, although Cornplanter’s community had 14 cows and other livestock before the Quakers came in 1798. The Quakers assisted them in accumulating more, but were very critical of their neglect of their cattle, particularly during the winter. Under these circumstances, milk production must not have been abundant, but milk was probably at least sporadically available During the nineteenth century cattle stock increased and, after 1860, when the coming of the railroad made possible the commercialization of cheese manufacture, Senecas participated with whites in supplying the milk for this industry. The importance of cheese manufacture for white markets is, however, forty years after Cornplanter singled out cow’s milk for special condemnation specifying that it was detrimental to children and cursed by Christ to revenge himself on the wicked who are blighted by drinking it. And to repeat: the more of it you drink, the worse it is.

In our contemporary age of milk substitutes, it may be hard to believe that lactose intolerance was only first identified in the 1970’s, including the pinpointing of those rare communities that could tolerate dairy products. The symptoms are familiar and distressing: diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting, and excessive bloating. They vary in severity from individual to individual and, for many years, were taken to be the irrational psychosomatic response of populations who rejected animal milk drinking for cultural reasons. Certain Native American communities approach estimates of 100% malabsorbers. Cornplanter described those symptoms and he might have concluded that what was good for white men was not appropriate for Indians no matter what the whites advised.

The scholars who accepted Cornplanter’s temporary derangement and who were writing before the physical evidence was in looked at this strange injunction against milk-drinking as the confirming evidence to accept the missionary’s statements that his behavior at this time was irrational. We can, of course, never really know, but I find it more productive to consider what he might have had in mind rather than to accept that he was out of his mind. He was a remarkable man and deserves at least this much respect.

[A professional anthropolgist & an active player in the emerging discourse around an ethnopoetics, Diane Rothenberg is the co-editor of Symposium of the Whole: A Range of Discourse Toward an Ethnopoetics (University of California Press, 1983) & the author of Friends Like These: An Ethnohistorical Analysis (University Microfilms International, 1976). Copies of her book, Mothers of the Nation, are still available through Ta’wil Books, joris@albany.edu. Two essays from the same collection, "Corn Soup & Fry Bread" & “The Economic Memories of Harry Watt, were posted earlier in Poems and Poetics (December 5, 2008, March 12. 2009, March 24, 2009, & April 8, 2009). “On the Insanity of Cornplanter,” a historical account that touches also on the poetics & problematics of vision in traditional Indian cultures, has only recently been reassembled.]

0 Response to 'Diane Rothenberg: On the Insanity of Cornplanter (Part Two)'

Post a Comment

Tattoos Picture Page 1 Tattoos Picture Page 2 Tattoos Picture Page 3 Tattoos Picture Page 4 Tattoos Picture Page 5 Tattoos Picture Page 6 Tattoos Picture Page 7 Tattoos Picture Page 8 Tattoos Picture Page 9 Tattoos Picture Page 10 Tattoos Picture Page 11 Tattoos Picture Page 12 Tattoos Picture Page 13 Tattoos Picture Page 14 Tattoos Picture Page 15 Tattoos Picture Page 16 Tattoos Picture Page 17 Tattoos Picture Page 18 Tattoos Picture Page 19 Tattoos Picture Page 20 Tattoos Picture Page 21 Tattoos Picture Page 22 Tattoos Picture Page 23 Tattoos Picture Page 24 Tattoos Picture Page 25 Tattoos Picture Page 26 Tattoos Picture Page 27 Tattoos Picture Page 28 Tattoos Picture Page 29 Tattoos Picture Page 30 Tattoos Picture Page 31 Tattoos Picture Page 32 Tattoos Picture Page 33 Tattoos Picture Page 34 Tattoos Picture Page 35 Tattoos Picture Page 36 Tattoos Picture Page 37 Tattoos Picture Page 38 Tattoos Picture Page 39 Tattoos Picture Page 40 Tattoos Picture Page 41 Tattoos Picture Page 42 Tattoos Picture Page 43 Tattoos Picture Page 44 Tattoos Picture Page 45 Tattoos Picture Page 46 Tattoos Picture Page 47 Tattoos Picture Page 48 Tattoos Picture Page 49 Tattoos Picture Page 50 Tattoos Picture Page 51 Tattoos Picture Page 52 Tattoos Picture Page 53 Tattoos Picture Page 54 Tattoos Picture Page 55 Tattoos Picture Page 56 Tattoos Picture Page 57 Tattoos Picture Page 58 Tattoos Picture Page 59 Tattoos Picture Page 60 Tattoos Picture Page 61 Tattoos Picture Page 62 Tattoos Picture Page 63 Tattoos Picture Page 64 Tattoos Picture Page 65 Tattoos Picture Page 66 Tattoos Picture Page 67 Tattoos Picture Page 68 Tattoos Picture Page 69 Tattoos Picture Page 70 Tattoos Picture Page 71 Tattoos Picture Page 72 Tattoos Picture Page 73 Tattoos Picture Page 74 Tattoos Picture Page 75 Tattoos Picture Page 76 Tattoos Picture Page 77 Tattoos Picture Page 78 Tattoos Picture Page 79 Tattoos Picture Page 80 Tattoos Picture Page 81 Tattoos Picture Page 82 Tattoos Picture Page 83 Tattoos Picture Page 84 Tattoos Picture Page 85 Tattoos Picture Page 86 Tattoos Picture Page 87 Tattoos Picture Page 88 Tattoos Picture Page 89 Tattoos Picture Page 90 Tattoos Picture Page 91 Tattoos Picture Page 92 Tattoos Picture Page 93 Tattoos Picture Page 94 Tattoos Picture Page 95 Tattoos Picture Page 96 Tattoos Picture Page 97 Tattoos Picture Page 98 Tattoos Picture Page 99 Tattoos Picture Page 100 Tattoos Picture Page 101 Tattoos Picture Page 102 Tattoos Picture Page 103 Tattoos Picture Page 104 Tattoos Picture Page 105 Tattoos Picture Page 106 Tattoos Picture Page 107 Tattoos Picture Page 108 Tattoos Picture Page 109 Tattoos Picture Page 110 Tattoos Picture Page 111 Tattoos Picture Page 112 Tattoos Picture Page 113 Tattoos Picture Page 114 Tattoos Picture Page 115 Tattoos Picture Page 116 Tattoos Picture Page 117 Tattoos Picture Page 118 Tattoos Picture Page 119 Tattoos Picture Page 120 Luxury Villa and Home Page 1 Luxury Villa and Home Page 2 Luxury Villa and Home Page 3 Luxury Villa and Home Page 4 Luxury Villa and Home Page 5 Luxury Villa and Home Page 6 Luxury Villa and Home Page 7 Luxury Villa and Home Page 8 Luxury Villa and Home Page 9 Luxury Villa and Home Page 10 Luxury Villa and Home Page 11 Luxury Villa and Home Page 12 Luxury Villa and Home Page 13 Luxury Villa and Home Page 14 Luxury Villa and Home Page 15 Luxury Villa and Home Page 16 Luxury Villa and Home Page 17 Luxury Villa and Home Page 18 Luxury Villa and Home Page 19 Luxury Villa and Home Page 20 Luxury Villa and Home Page 21 Luxury Villa and Home Page 22 Luxury Villa and Home Page 23 Luxury Villa and Home Page 24 Luxury Villa and Home Page 25 Luxury Villa and Home Page 26 Luxury Villa and Home Page 27 Luxury Villa and Home Page 28 Luxury Villa and Home Page 29 Luxury Villa and Home Page 30 Luxury Villa and Home Page 31 Luxury Villa and Home Page 32 Luxury Villa and Home Page 33 Luxury Villa and Home Page 34 Luxury Villa and Home Page 35 Luxury Villa and Home Page 36 Luxury Villa and Home Page 37 Luxury Villa and Home Page 38 Luxury Villa and Home Page 39 Luxury Villa and Home Page 40 Luxury Villa and Home Page 41 Luxury Villa and Home Page 42 Luxury Villa and Home Page 43 Luxury Villa and Home Page 44 Luxury Villa and Home Page 45 Luxury Villa and Home Page 46 Luxury Villa and Home Page 47 Luxury Villa and Home Page 48 Luxury Villa and Home Page 49 Luxury Villa and Home Page 50 Luxury Villa and Home Page 51 Luxury Villa and Home Page 52 Luxury Villa and Home Page 53 Luxury Villa and Home Page 54 Luxury Villa and Home Page 55 Luxury Villa and Home Page 56 Luxury Villa and Home Page 57 Luxury Villa and Home Page 58 Luxury Villa and Home Page 59 Luxury Villa and Home Page 60 Luxury Villa and Home Page 61 Luxury Villa and Home Page 62 Luxury Villa and Home Page 63 Luxury Villa and Home Page 64 Luxury Villa and Home Page 65 Luxury Villa and Home Page 66 Luxury Villa and Home Page 67 Luxury Villa and Home Page 68 Luxury Villa and Home Page 69 Luxury Villa and Home Page 70 Luxury Villa and Home Page 71 Luxury Villa and Home Page 72 Luxury Villa and Home Page 73 Luxury Villa and Home Page 74 Luxury Villa and Home Page 75 Luxury Villa and Home Page 76 Luxury Villa and Home Page 77 Luxury Villa and Home Page 78 Luxury Villa and Home Page 79 Luxury Villa and Home Page 80 Luxury Villa and Home Page 81 Luxury Villa and Home Page 82 Luxury Villa and Home Page 83 Luxury Villa and Home Page 84 Luxury Villa and Home Page 85 Luxury Villa and Home Page 86 Luxury Villa and Home Page 87 Luxury Villa and Home Page 88 Luxury Villa and Home Page 89 Luxury Villa and Home Page 90 Luxury Villa and Home Page 91 Luxury Villa and Home Page 92 Luxury Villa and Home Page 93 Luxury Villa and Home Page 94 Luxury Villa and Home Page 95 Luxury Villa and Home Page 96 Luxury Villa and Home Page 97 Luxury Villa and Home Page 98 Luxury Villa and Home Page 99 Famous People Page 1 Famous People Page 2 Famous People Page 3 Famous People Page 4 Famous People Page 5 Famous People Page 6 Famous People Page 7 Famous People Page 8 Famous People Page 9 Famous People Page 10 Famous People Page 11 Famous People Page 12 Famous People Page 13 Famous People Page 14 Famous People Page 15 Famous People Page 16 Famous People Page 17 Famous People Page 18 Famous People Page 19 Famous People Page 20 Famous People Page 21 Famous People Page 22 Famous People Page 23 Famous People Page 24 Famous People Page 25 Famous People Page 26 Famous People Page 27 Famous People Page 28 Famous People Page 29 Famous People Page 30 Famous People Page 31 Famous People Page 32 Famous People Page 33 Famous People Page 34 Famous People Page 35 Famous People Page 36 Famous People Page 37 Famous People Page 38 Famous People Page 39 Famous People Page 40 Famous People Page 41 Famous People Page 42 Famous People Page 43 Famous People Page 44 Famous People Page 45 Famous People Page 46 Famous People Page 47 Famous People Page 48 Famous People Page 49 Famous People Page 50 Famous People Page 51 Famous People Page 52 Famous People Page 53 Famous People Page 54 Famous People Page 55 Famous People Page 56 Famous People Page 57 Famous People Page 58 Famous People Page 59 Famous People Page 60 Famous People Page 61 Famous People Page 62 Famous People Page 63 Famous People Page 64 Famous People Page 65 Famous People Page 66 Famous People Page 67 Famous People Page 68 Famous People Page 69 Famous People Page 70 Famous People Page 71 Famous People Page 72 Famous People Page 73 Famous People Page 74 Famous People Page 75 Famous People Page 76 Famous People Page 77 Famous People Page 78 Famous People Page 79 Famous People Page 80 Famous People Page 81 Famous People Page 82 Famous People Page 83 Famous People Page 84 Famous People Page 85 Famous People Page 86 Famous People Page 87 Famous People Page 88 Famous People Page 89 Famous People Page 90 Famous People Page 91 Famous People Page 92 Famous People Page 93 Famous People Page 94 Famous People Page 95 Famous People Page 96 Famous People Page 97 Famous People Page 98 Famous People Page 99 Famous People Page 100 Famous People Page 101 Famous People Page 102 Famous People Page 103 Famous People Page 104 Famous People Page 105 Famous People Page 106 Famous People Page 107 Famous People Page 108 Famous People Page 109 Famous People Page 110 Famous People Page 111 Famous People Page 112 Famous People Page 113 Famous People Page 114 Famous People Page 115 Famous People Page 116 Famous People Page 117 Famous People Page 118 Famous People Page 119 Famous People Page 120