Stereotypes and Stereotyping of Native American in The Pioneers

1950 Words 8 Pages
The Native American Behind the Stereotype in The Pioneers

Throughout the history of American literature, the Native American is rarely presented as a fully developed character; instead, he is degraded to a mere caricature, one deeply rooted in traditional racial prejudices. In his novel, The Pioneers, James Fennimore Cooper became the one of the first American authors to depict an Indian as a leading character; in fact, Cooper's depiction of the infamous Chinkachgook is widely considered to be the original archetypical basis for Native American figures as seen in American literature. However, Cooper's characterization of Chinkachgook, known by a variety of names, including John Mohegan and Indian John, is based
…show more content…
However, Cooper rather carelessly misused these missionary accounts in his writing; in essence, he combined what he knew of several different Indian tribes, blended them into his own creation, and misnamed them as the single, fictional nation of "Mohegan." Even the information that Cooper relates as historical fact is riddled with errors and misconceptions, most clearly in his history of the Delewares.2 Beyond this, these Moravian accounts are representative of solely the white perspective of Native Americans, and hence, the voice of the Native American himself is, alas, entirely lacking in Cooper's research. This lack of Indian perspective is reflected in his writing, which tends to view the Native Americans solely in light of their relationship of the white man.

More specifically, the character of John Mohegan is the epitome of the white stereotypical view of the Native American as the "noble savage." In fact, The Pioneers represents the later years of Chinkagooch's life, and now, he is a Native American who has been extremely westernized, adopting the white name of John Mohegan as well as an adapted version of Christianity. However, beyond this westernization, John Mohegan remains a rather wild figure, one that continues to have a certain mysterious and untamed quality. For example, Cooper details Indian John's
Open Document