White People, Indians, and Highlanders: Tribal Peoples and Colonial Encounters in Scotland and America. By Colin G. Calloway. New York: Oxford University Press, July 2008. Cloth: ISBN 978-0-19-534012-9, $35.00. 392 pages.
Review by Andrew K. Frank, Florida State University
from SJC post 2 (10/13/08)
In White People, Indians, and Highlanders, Colin Calloway explores the parallels and contrasts between the experiences of Highland Scots and Native Americans as the cultures encountered and engaged in acts of British colonialism and market capitalism. Much of the volume betrays a single thesis and instead emphasizes the complexities and ironies of their parallel histories. At the same time, though, Calloway effectively demonstrates how the histories of Highlands Scots and Native Americans were both transformed, albeit differently, as “capitalism displaced tribalism” (176).Calloway carefully delineates the cultural distinctions between Scots and Natives while impressively demonstrating how outsiders frequently perceived similarities. These resemblances often reflected cultural and social realities as much as they were intellectual creations of English colonizers. As much as the different cultures understood and controlled land differently and had contrasting clan and kinship structures, they both had warrior traditions, clan-based kinship networks, ties to the soil, oral and storytelling traditions, a belief that leaders should act for the good of their people, and an ethos emphasizing that individuals should share rather than accumulate wealth. At the same time, English society also believed them both to be lazy, barbarous, savage, and in need of civilization. These perceived and real similarities magnified as the two peoples intermingled and intermarried on the American frontier.Most of the volume, however, eschews cultural comparisons and explores how the cultures’ histories shaped and were related to one another—how “on both sides of the Atlantic, tribal peoples scrambled to adjust to new colonial relationships, structures, and economic orders” (11). The result is a messy set of connections that defy easy characterization, and a reminder that Native American history is not as distinct as it is often portrayed. Similarly, Calloway uses the insights of whiteness studies to remind us that Highland Scots once occupied a place outside of the “civilized” English norm.Calloway divides the volume into thematic chapters that impressively tie together but are equally effective as distinct entities. Calloway begins the volume with a chapter on conquest and colonization that epitomizes the interpretive tensions within the volume. As much as the English government brutally sought to pacify Natives and impose “civilization” with the same policies they used in the British Isles, the histories of the two peoples differed markedly. Scottish soldiers frequently imposed the will of the English crown and eventually the United States government. Similar histories, as Calloway repeatedly states, did not necessarily create alliances.The next two chapters build on the themes of conquest and colonization. One explores how Scots and Indians confronted the Industrial Revolution with comparable concerns for balancing innovation and tradition. Scots and Natives became part of the Atlantic economy, with often-disruptive “repercussions on social and political structures” (55). Chapter three demonstrates how ethnocentric English reformers sought to make Englishmen and women out of various tribal peoples. Although the English often held similar stereotypes of Scots and Natives, the so-called civilizing efforts often had quite different results. As Highland Scots increasingly embraced English norms, they often took on the role of introducing and enforcing cultural changes within more resistant Native societies. In short, Calloway shows how Scots and Natives underwent similar structural changes while emphasizing their different manifestations.The next three chapters explore the various ways in which Highland Scots and Native Americans met, merged, and competed on the American frontier. One chapter explores the ways in which Scottish soldiers and Native warriors united as allies and clashed as enemies. Another details the Scottish dominance of the fur trade, emphasizing how Native hunters and Scottish traders had complex and competing purposes and understandings of the trade. Once again, a joint experience did not result in a truly shared history. Chapter six builds on this chapter by examining the intercultural families that formed and the cultural mixing that occurred within Indian villages.The final three chapters detail the great divergence that occurred between Highland Scots and Natives. Chapter seven, perhaps the volume’s most insightful, details the parallels of the Scottish clearances and the various removals in Native society. For similar reasons and in similar contexts, both peoples saw themselves displaced in the name of progress and capitalism. The shared histories did not necessarily create sympathy, as many Highlanders whose families suffered from the clearances helped expel Natives (many of whom had Scottish relatives) from their homelands. After a chapter that explores the ways in which Scottish settlers tried to use Native lands to insure their own economic and cultural survival, Calloway demonstrates how the act of mythmaking allowed Natives and Scots came to occupy different places in the British Empire and history. In this way, Scots largely became an accepted and distinct part of the British Empire, while Natives were presumed to be disappearing in the face of American development. Finally, in the epilogue, Calloway explores the parallel ways in which Scottish and Native identities and heritages are performed, transformed, and embraced in the modern world.Because the volume covers a tremendous geographic and chronological scope, the volume occasionally lacks a sense of time and place. Some comparisons cross centuries, and distinctions within Native society are frequently and perhaps necessarily blurred. Despite this minor caveat, White People, Indians, and Highlanders deserves a readership interested in colonialism and ethnic identities on both sides of the Atlantic. With brilliant insights from the literatures and experiences of both Scottish and Native American studies, Calloway demonstrates the value of placing Native American and Scottish history in a much wider context than they normally appear.