This essay by Eula Biss, a Chicago writer and artist in residence at Northwestern, was pointed out to me a few months ago, but that was before my blogging days. It’s remarkably well written, and I think it’s worth sharing so I’m giving it permanent space here.
From The Believer magazine, it’s called No-Man’s-Land: Fear, Racism, and the Historically Troubling Attitude of American Pioneers. It weaves Laura Ingalls Wilder throughout, particularly the events of Little House on the Prairie.
With the benefit of sixty years of hindsight, Laura Ingalls Wilder knew, by the time she wrote Little House, that the pioneers who had so feared Native Americans had been afraid of a people whom they were in the process of nearly exterminating. And so as a writer she took care, for instance, to point out that the ribs of the Indians were showing, a reminder that they came, frighteningly, into the house for food not because they were thieves but because they were starving. They were starving because the pioneers were killing all their game. If anyone had a claim on fear, on terror, in the American frontier, it was obviously the Indians, who could not legally own or buy the land they lived on, and so were gradually being driven out of their lives.
It’s a good, albeit long, read.