Week 2: Jane Dinwoodie, ‘Camouflage Tactics’

Join us on Wednesday 23rd October at 4pm for OxEARS, where Jane Dinwoodie, a postdoctoral research fellow at Cambridge, will be joining us to present her research. We will meet in seminar room 1 at the Rothermere American Institute on South Parks Road, and head to the pub for a drink and dinner afterwards. All are welcome!

‘In 1830, the US Congress passed the Indian Removal Act. Statesmen envisaged a radical spatial solution that would cement American power in the South; in less than a decade, they proclaimed victory, having moved 65,000 Indigenous Southerners to Indian Territory. Two centuries later, historians stress its tragedy, but still see removal as a pivot that transformed Indigenous South into Cotton Kingdom. This paper tells a different story. From Appalachia down to the Gulf, members of the Five Tribes devised various means to resist deportation. One of the most effective – though least studied – was a strategy I call “camouflage tactics,” in which individuals made themselves illegible or invisible to outsiders. Camouflage encompassed a spectrum of action. Some people claimed whiteness or to be “Citizen Indians.” Others moved to multi-ethnic places like New Orleans, strategically spoke (or pretended to speak) certain languages, or drew on relationships with white allies and biracial kin to purchase land and hide in plain sight. Some of these actions became permanent, but many were momentary and quickly superseded by new tactics. Camouflage was rarely easy, often requiring individuals to deny their origins, assume new identities, and separate from their nations. Still, it was effective. Agents’ correspondence suggests that they missed most of these actions. By blurring their identity as removeable Indians, hundreds of Indigenous Southerners successfully avoided westward deportation. In doing so, they sustained an enduring Indigenous South, subverted US policymakers’ ambitions for a complete removal, and challenged American claims to sovereignty over the region in the decades beyond.’

Jane Dinwoodie is a postdoctoral research fellow at Cambridge University. From July 2020, she will be a Lecturer in nineteenth-century American history at University College London. She received her doctorate at Oxford University in 2017, under the supervision of Professor Pekka Hämäläinen. Her current book project centres on Indian removal and the thousands of individuals, families, and communities that avoided it.

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