Monsters of Contact
Historical Trauma in Caddoan Oral Traditions
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
Van de Logt examines specific sites of historical interaction between American Indians and Europeans, from the outbreaks and effect of smallpox epidemics on the Arikaras, to the violence and enslavement Caddos faced at the hands of Hernando de Soto’s expedition, and Wichita encounters with Spanish missionaries and French traders in Texas. In each case he explains how, through Indian metaphor, seemingly unrelated stories of supernatural beings and occurrences translate into real people and events that figure prominently in western U.S. history. The result is a peeling away of layers of cultural values that, for those invested in Western historical traditions, otherwise obscure the meaning of such tales and their “monsters.”
Although Western historical methods have become the standard in much of the world, van de Logt demonstrates that indigenous forms of history are no less valuable, and that oral traditions and myths can be useful sources of historical information. A daring interpretation of Caddoan lore, Monsters of Contact puts oral traditions at the center of historical inquiry and, in so doing, asks us to reconsider what makes a monster.
“In Monsters of Contact, Mark van de Logt connects the ‘myths’ of Caddoan peoples with tangible historical events attendant to the unfolding trauma of European colonialism. Unleashing literary theory and ethnography to consort with the fragmentary documentary record, van de Logt shows that stories long presumed to lie in the shadowlands of monster-filled ‘folklore’ are, in fact, powerfully detailed metaphors for the lived experience of these Indian Nations.”—James F. Brooks, author of Mesa of Sorrows: A History of the Awat’Ovi Massacre
“In this fascinating and thought-provoking study, Mark van de Logt demonstrates how Native American oral traditions can be used successfully to augment the European-based historical record. By tying stories previously dismissed as Caddoan ‘fairy tales’ to documented historical events, the author reveals the Native Americans’ side of history.”—F. Todd Smith, author of From Dominance to Disappearance: The Indians of Texas and the Near Southwest, 1786–1859