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Feb. 22, 2016 Brandon Layton, "Enfants de Langue: Children as Intermediaries among the Choctaws and Chickasaws"

Feb. 22, 2016 Brandon Layton, "Enfants de Langue: Children as Intermediaries among the Choctaws and Chickasaws"

Feb 22, 2016
from 12:00 PM to 01:30 PM

Social Sciences & Humanities 273

On Monday, February 22, 2016, Brandon Layton will present his research entitled, "Enfants de Langue: Children as Intermediaries among the Choctaws and Chickasaws." Please mark your calendars. Refreshments will be served at noon with the talk starting shortly thereafter. See below for the full abstract.

Children played critical, but overlooked, roles as intermediaries in the Lower Mississippi Valley. From 1699 to 1763, French Louisianans and Scotsmen from British South Carolina sent boys between the ages of eight and fourteen to live with, and learn the languages of, the Choctaws and Chickasaws. Although these go-betweens maintained interpersonal relationships among both Indian and Euro-American worlds, growing up with the Choctaws and Chickasaws made them more clearly identify with their Indian adoptive community than their European one. In 1707, Marc Antoine Huché began living with the Choctaws. Twenty-five years later, he reported to French officials that he preferred living in Indian country to the more unfamiliar settlement of Mobile. A Scottish trader who lived with the Chickasaws as a boy starting during the 1730s, James Colbert, spoke Chickasaw more fluently than English.  He went on to marry three Chickasaw women and had nine Chickasaw children. Euro-American adoptees became Choctaw and Chickasaw in a very real cultural sense. 

 This paper offers a novel interpretation of Indian-European relations in which children, rather than adults, shaped intercultural relations. Through children, European empires sought to build alliances that would secure the region. The Choctaws and Chickasaws incorporated Euro-American boys into their communities as kin and expected them to support tribal interests. Torn between cultural and linguistic worlds, these children, and the adults that they became, tried to accommodate both communities, producing a relative geopolitical balance for most of the colonial period.

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