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ERIC Number: EJ872617
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 26
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0095-182X
The Flemish Bastard and the Former Indians: Metis and Identity in Seventeenth-Century New York
Midtrod, Tom Arne
American Indian Quarterly, v34 n1 p83-108 Win 2010
This article examines the lives of three children of Dutch men and Mohawk women: the Mohawk leader Smits Jan and the siblings Jacques van Slyck and Hilletie van Olinda of the Dutch village of Schenectady. In recent years several historians have examined how cross-cultural settings enabled people to reshape their identities. William Hart sees the eighteenth-century New York frontier as a place in perpetual flux and its inhabitants as cultural borrowers who could defy established categories of ethnicity and status. The case of metis in seventeenth-century New York, however, seems to suggest that ethnic categories were important and difficult to transcend. While Smits Jan lived his life as a Mohawk leader, Jacques van Slyck and his sister Hilletie van Olinda became full members of Dutch colonial society. Being metis may have afforded these people some cultural capital not available to either Indians or Europeans, and at times all three seem to have attempted to use their background as a diplomatic tool, with varying degrees of success. In that sense metis people could bridge a cultural gap, but they were not people who changed ethnicity or identity at will. While the Van Slycks managed to make the transition from Mohawk to Dutch society, they did not do so more than once, and it seems to have been a trying experience. Indeed, the case of the Van Slycks seems to suggest that metis persons may to some extent have been vulnerable members of Iroquois society in the mid-seventeenth century, at least if they acted in ways that defied established ethnic boundaries. Smits Jan is in some ways more difficult to assess. As a prominent Mohawk leader he was in frequent contact with European officials, and both he and the French appear to have placed some level of importance on his Dutch ancestry. But the Dutch never clearly acknowledged Smits Jan as anything other than a Mohawk, which may be symptomatic of an enduring skepticism of or discomfort with people of mixed ethnicity, and the headman himself had far more extensive interactions with the French than with the Dutch or any other Europeans. (Contains 34 notes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: France; Netherlands; New York