An artistic rendering of Jonshon Hall
In his introduction to The American Empire and the Fourth World, Anthony J. Hall talks about many aspects of the Indigenous life after 1492. In his introduction, he relates his trip to a conference in Charlottetown and his trip back when he makes various stops.
On his return trip, he stops at Johnson Hall in Johnstown, New York. Johnson Hall is a very interesting place. It was built in 1763 and it was inhabited by Sir William Johnson. He was the first superintendent of the Northern Division of the British Imperial Indian Department. What is so fascinating is that this building was actually a place where Native people could go freely without any risk of being shot. There were not many places like this at this time. Sir William Johnson was recognized for his ability to make treaties with the Iroquois people. Those treaties are the foundation of what would later be called the Covenant Chain. The Covenant Chain is a series of treaties between the Indigenous and the British Empire. The author says that we do not hear a lot about Johnson Hall because the Johnson family was on the wrong side of the American Revolution and the historical site was kind of forgotten because of that. The family was loyal to the British crown and to the Indigenous tribes. That made them enemies of the state during the Revolution of 1776.
Another thing that the author talks about a lot in his introduction is the war of values that happened during the last five centuries and that is still happening today. The author talks about the war of 1812, when the Indigenous peoples of the United States rallied to stop the expansion of the new country towards the west coast. Through this war, we could see the irony of the United States. They called themselves the land of freedom, but the Indigenous peoples had to fight for their own freedom in this country. The Indigenous peoples tried to seek refuge in the international law, but at this time, only the White Europeans were protected by those laws. This war was linked to the privatization of the land, which is a huge part of the war of values that is still raging today. The Europeans brought with them the idea of private property.
Anthony J. Hall also talks about the domestic courts of law. He affirms that these courts are problematic. They are not designed to judge whether Indigenous peoples should have treaty rights or not. He takes the example of Canada. In Canada, the courts of law are established according to British laws since Canada was colonized in big part by the British. The people working in these courts of law have no experience whatsoever in Indigenous laws. He also talks about the fact that Aboriginal people have no influence in the choosing of future judges. On the other hand, these judges will have a great influence on the Indigenous peoples.
In my opinion, this text is very interesting and I recommend it to anyone who would like to learn a little bit more about the relationships between settlers and Natives throughout the last five centuries. For me, the part where he talks about Johnson Hall is the most interesting because we see another side of these relationships. At one point, the author relates an encounter he had with a guide at Johnson Hall. The guide told him that people always asked him where the Americans shot the Indians. This encounter shows how much all we hear is settlers shooting at Natives. We rarely hear about these kinds of places where Europeans and Natives were actually friendly. It is refreshing to see that some settlers respected the Natives. I also found that the author's take on the war of values was very accurate. It is true to say that the idea of privatization really clashed with the opposite idea that Natives had. The text is written by a professor and I think it is intended for other scholars. Sometimes the text is rather complicated. It is not accessible for everybody. The reader has to have a very good vocabulary and a good understanding of history to be able to understand this text. Overall, this text is certainly relevant to anyone who would like to learn about the relationships between settlers and Natives since 1492.