Talk to Look at Misinterpretation of Monuments of Indigenous Peoples

A visiting lecturer will explore the ways in which monuments of indigenous people are misinterpreted by different communities during a talk at UT at 5:00 p.m. Wednesday, April 13.

Jean O’Brien, an American historian and member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, will deliver the 2016 Milton M. Klein Lecture. The talk will be held at the McClung Museum.

The event is free and open to the public. The Department of History is sponsoring the lecture.

O’Brien’s lecture, “Monumental Mobility: The Memory Work of Massasoit,” will draw from a book she’s writing and will focus on the public memory of Massasoit, the seveenth-century Pokanoket leader and Wampanoag Confederacy leader who attained fame as the broker of peace between the English and his own people.

A statue of Massasoit was erected in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1921.

In the late twentieth century, the statue was replicated in Kansas City, Missouri, Chicago, and Salt Lake City Valley.

O’Brien questions how the Midwestern and Western communities came to have replicas of a monument to a man whose history lies elsewhere. She questions whether those statues are commemorations of history or rather works of art associated with sentiments which may, or may not, have their roots in the actual story.

Last year, in a study published in the journal Ethnohistory, O’Brien suggested the answer lies in “the unique portability and profitability of Massasoit as a symbol and narrative device.”

“The statue’s mobility appears to deny scholarly assumptions that memorials exist as a way to fix history in place and exert a sense of permanence of memory on the landscape,” she wrote.

O’Brien will talk about the relationship between local communities and colonial history and the interpretations of the monument offered to those connected with or disconnected from its local history. The lecture also will consider how these monuments encourage national narratives that mask the traumas of indigenous peoples.

O’Brien is the Distinguished McKnight University Professor in the Department of History at the University of Minnesota. She is the author of four books, including Dispossession by Degrees: Indian Land and Identity in Natick, Massachusetts, 1650-1790 and First and Lasting: New England Indians In and Beyond the Nineteenth-Century Local Imagination. She also has authored numerous articles about American Indian history. She is co-founder and past president of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association and past president of the American Society for Ethnohistory.

 

CONTACT:

Mary Beckley (865-974-5421, mcopela8@utk.edu)

Lola Alapo (865-974-3993, lalapo@utk.edu)