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John Mack Faragher's new book A Great and Noble Scheme: The Tragic Story of the Expulsion of the French Acadians From Their American Homeland is definitely worth reading. I have a long review/response to it (entitled "Exile Without an End: The first ethnic cleansing in American history") due out in the next hard copy issue of Reason Magazine, but I wanted to say a few quick words here, as well.

In A Great and Noble Scheme, Faragher takes the definition of ethnic cleansing generated by the United Nations Security Council Commission of Experts in the early 1990s and applies it retroactively to American history, finding its first example in the 1755 expulsion of the French Acadians by the British government (an action that not only transferred all of the French Acadians' lands to British hands, but also managed to kill over half of the Acadians in the process). The Acadians before this point had flourished, Faragher argues, because a) they declared themselves neutral in the nationalistic struggles between France and England, and refused to fight for or against either side; 2) they traded with everyone, regardless of nationality; and c) they treated the native Míkmaq as friends and allies, intermarrying with them, adopting words from their language, and living in peaceful coexistence.

Most significantly, Faragher draws two big conclusions from his study.

1) The history of the Americas is not exceptional, at least in terms of the global pattern of ethnic cleansing; in fact, North American history includes ethnic cleansing from its earliest colonial times, and the British expulsion of the Acadians as a planned military operation anticipates later, similar actions by the U.S. government, such as the removal of Native Americans in campaigns like the Trail of Tears.

2) The Acadian experiment, which showed tremendous success for nearly 150 years before the British ended it by force, suggests that the North American story, at least, did not have to unfold as it did in conquest and killing. In the Acadians, and their friendly and prosperous relationships with the Míkmaq, other Native American nations, and other European travelers, we can see an alternative model for how peoples might have lived, loved, and traded together successfully in peaceful coexistence to everyone's advantage.

Whether or not you accept all of Faragher's arguments, this is an important text with implications that spill beyond the 18th century.

Incidentally, I should give a big thanks to Reason Magazine for supporting my work so consistently. Several of the other pieces I have written for the magazine are now in its online archive.

Two of these are also long book reviews/responses:
From May 2004, my review of The Passions of Andrew Jackson by Andrew Burstein: "Not the Same Old Hickory: The contested legacy of Andrew Jackson."

From October 2001, my review of The Wild Frontier: Atrocities During the American-Indian War From Jamestown Colony to Wounded Knee by William M. Osborn: "Brutal History: Conflict between whites and Native Americans didn't end at Wounded Knee."

Reason also published my investigative piece on the illegal Bureau of Indian Affairs occupation of the Cherokee Nation in the 1990s:
From March 1999: "Tale of Tears: When the Bureau of Indian Affairs occupied the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, it was an old story with a modern twist."

And now, an appropriate quote for the day:

“Where is the thatch-roofed village, the home of Acadian farmers—
Men whose lives glided on like rivers that water the woodlands
Darkened by shadows of earth, but reflecting an image of heaven?
Waste are those pleasant farms, and the farmers forever departed!
Scattered like dust and leaves…”

from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Evangeline, a Tale of Acadie


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 26th, 2005 04:17 pm (UTC)
your scholarship is amazing
Dr. S., your learning, intelligence, and scholarship amaze me. And inspire me to try to be smarter and learned myself!! Thank you for the links.

Jul. 26th, 2005 05:04 pm (UTC)
Re: your scholarship is amazing
What an incredibly kind and encouraging thing to say! I am so touched by your thoughtfulness. *hugs* Thank you for your kindness. Really, I didn't know if anyone would be interested in this, but it helped me get my thoughts together to put all of that in the same place, you know? Anyway, your lovely reply has made my day. Thank you. Love back to you!
Jul. 26th, 2005 06:11 pm (UTC)
Wow, I need to read that first one. Having Cajun ancestors, and all.

I agree, I learn a lot from the stuff that you post, although rarely do I have time to go into it in any depth. It's just great to know that there's all this information out there, should I ever have time to really research it!
Jul. 26th, 2005 11:20 pm (UTC)
Oooh, you would like A Great and Noble Scheme - he does a great job of pulling all of that together with the Cajun legacy. And thanks so much for your kind comments. I really appreciate them!
Jul. 26th, 2005 11:54 pm (UTC)
Just a reminder: You are way smarter than me, and you rock. Way to go on the Reason Magazine stuff!
Jul. 27th, 2005 12:23 am (UTC)
You are too sweet! But as for smartness, I recall you saving me with that MP3 just a little while ago because I couldn't even figure out how to make it work! You rock pretty hard yourself, Mr. RevSF Writer. :) Anyway, your kind words mean a lot: thank you very much for making my day! And I look forward to reading more of your work soon.
Jul. 27th, 2005 01:39 am (UTC)
great post, A. having read briefly on Canadian history, partic the founding 'split' govt of French/English, most tensions mentioned seem to be between quebecois and anglophone canada. I had heard of acadian communities but didn't know anything about the dispersal and links with subsequent cajun groups.

re a peaceful scenario of prosperous co-existence - what do you think of that possibility? the cynic in me envisages other issues that would have beset these groups that would have prevented a utopian alternative. most likely, however, it would still preferable to what ended up happening. the overriding imperatives of the colonial project have little patience with understanding other cultures, except perhaps in terms of accumulating/wielding social capital.

argh. sorry. didn't mean to essay at you. thanks for the brainfood. :)
Jul. 27th, 2005 03:24 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much for your reply! I certainly did a disservice to Faragher by oversimplifying his work in such a short space. I definitely agree with you about being wary of utopian predictions, as well. I am interested in how this case does and does not fit the bill of colonialism in all its complexity: these people were, essentially, a rather one-shot migration; the denounced their nationalism and assumed a language and economy built on a syncretic indigenous/archaic French/vernacular English basis; and they intermarried to the degree that they were, in essence, a distinct people. It creates an interesting study of assimilation and acculturation in the absence of a nation-state and its corresponding institutional drive to subdue, accumulate, and expand. (That's not to say the drive wasn't there on own, necessarily, but it lacked the power of the state apparatus to make it happen.) And this case questions who, exactly, the Other is (since the second and third generation Acadians apparently recognized the Míkmaq as family and the French as strangers, and the Míkmaq and French often seemed to have returned the favor).

From a perspective of classical political thought, it seems less likely that people will want to kill or drive away good trading partners and sources of income than Others who impede their idea of manifest destiny. And the sort of grassroots, illiterate, instinctive natural rights rhetoric that the Acadians threw back at the British (and, before that, the French) reminds me a great deal of the whole failed Franklin experiment, which also declared independence in North America prior to 1776.

At any rate, you're quite right in your cynicism. Heaven knows history supports it. I do appreciate Faragher's willingness to challenge the "inevitability" argument, however, because its corresponding mainstream manifestation here seems to be either "they had it coming" or "what can you do?" -- a pet peeve of mine, since I think it mercilessly twists the debate today about current Native American policy. Plus, I guess I like Faragher's approach at the retroactive application of the 20th-century concept of ethnic cleansing. It puts a little more "umph" (the technical term! LOL) in his methodology.

And now who's long-winded? And all that is to say I agree with you about the imperatives of the colonial project and why wariness is best employed against utopianism. Thanks for the excellent points.
Jul. 28th, 2005 03:23 am (UTC)
*admires your shiny brain* pls be long-winded more often. :)

this community's history is really fascinating. what you say about lacking the state apparatus is v true, and the acadians' overt rejection of the brits/french would place them in a very different dynamic with Native American groups. just curious - were there no tensions between the acadians and the mikmaq? just thinking of other instances where settler-invader groups have tried to claim 'indigeneity' with problematic results.

I see what you mean about Faragher positing a fresh framework for examining and acting on these issues. being stuck in unconstructive models is frustrating. wish I were sitting across a table from you right now as have buzzy qs re state of Native American policy and whether there is a separate set of sovereignty issues that inflect concepts of Native American 'citizenry' in the US (I should go read your work on this area!). I know there probably isn't a single school of thought on this. Some Indigenous activists in Oz argue for specific sovereignty rights, others lobby for equity in civic infrastructural areas and attention to working for 'whole citizenship'. The specific govt unit that focused on Indigenous issues was abolished earlier this year (thanks to our wonderful current govt).

thanks for the great info and your perspective. lots of good stuff to think about.
Jul. 27th, 2005 03:51 am (UTC)
You are a very smart women and I always enjoy reading your books view. Maybe when school is out or I am done with school which ever comes first. I may be able to read some of this books. I still have not got to read "Tolkien on film essays on Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings" but I am hoping soon.
Jul. 27th, 2005 03:26 pm (UTC)
Re: Hello
You are so kind! Thanks so much for your lovely comments. I know you have been so busy with your schoolwork, it's very kind that you take time to comment. I hope all is going well! *hugs*
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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