Joseph Genetin-PilawaDec 13, 2012
Crooked Paths to Allotment
The Fight over Federal Indian Policy after Civil War
University of North Carolina Press 2012
Despite what you may have learned in undergraduate surveys or high school textbooks, the nineteenth century was not one long and inexorable march toward Indian dispossession -- the real story is far more tragic. As historian Joseph Genetin-Pilawa masterfully relates in his new book Crooked Paths to Allotment: The Fight over Federal Indian Policy after the Civil War (University of North Carolina Press, 2012), Native and non-Native reformers developed a host of viable policy alternatives to allotment and forced assimilation in the post-Civil War years. Seizing the ferment of Reconstruction, dynamic figures like Ely Parker -- briefly featured in Speilberg's Lincoln -- attempted to harness the power of a growing federal government to protect indigenous nations from rapacious land loss and cultural genocide, only to be outmaneuvered by elite "humanitarian" forces who equated dispossession with progress. Adeptly synthesizing the study of American political development with post-colonial thought, and demonstrating an keen attentiveness to human agency within the limitations of larger structures, Genetin-Pilawa excavates the "repressed alternatives" of late nineteenth century Indian policy, destabilizing a narrative too often presented as inevitable.