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“The Elks Are Our Horses”: Animals and Domestication in the New France Borderlands*

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Historians have long overlooked the role played by animals in cross-cultural interactions in the American borderlands. Yet domesticated animals - and the social practices that accompanied them - were central both to the ‘civilizing mission’ of colonizers and to indigenous American resistance. This paper examines these themes within the context of the Great Lakes and Upper Mississippi region between 1670 and 1730. Drawing evidence from Algonquian and Iroquoian languages and cultural practices as well as from the accounts of French missionaries and voyageurs, I show that the indigenous peoples of the Pays d’en Haut rejected the positive connotations that domestication held for Europeans, and instead equated domestication with enslavement. The resulting conflicts between conceptions of nature, ownership and tameness had an enduring influence on European-Indian relations. Although this study examines specific patterns of interaction on the New French frontier, it also raises broad questions relating to environmental history and European-indigenous interactions throughout the New World.

Affiliations: 1: University of Texas at Austin, E-mail: Ben@theappendix.net

10.1163/18770703-00303002
/content/journals/10.1163/18770703-00303002
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/content/journals/10.1163/18770703-00303002
2013-01-01
2016-12-03

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