The acceptance of colonization as inevitable does not exist in a moral vacuum. For many scholars, the question of colonization’s perceived inevitability may seem like a moot point: historians long ago demonstrated that the success of colonization was by no means guaranteed, and rehashing old arguments simply distracts us from less superficial explorations of the past. If we choose not to engage with public discussions of colonization’s perceived inevitability, however, we effectively allow a pillar of racial power in the United States to remain standing.
In revisiting approaches to Native American agency, suffering, aggression and violence, Ned Blackhawk’s Violence over the Land: Indians and Empires in the Early American West and Pekka Hämäläinen’s The Comanche Empire have provided readers and historians with new critical windows into the long Amerindian past, one inflected by a succession of transformative encounters with outsiders.
In his first inaugural address, Abraham Lincoln tried to calm the fears of his political opponents: “While the people retain their virtue and vigilance no Administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can very seriously injure the Government in the short space of four years.”