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Joseph Keppler and the Seneca Nation, 1899-1956

Author: Mary C Aimonovitch
Publisher: [Place of publication not identified] : [publisher not identified], 2008.
Dissertation: A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the State University of New York College at Oneonta at its Cooperstown Graduate Program in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts, 2008.
Edition/Format:   Thesis/dissertation : Thesis/dissertation : Manuscript   Archival Material : English
Database:WorldCat
Summary:
The relationship between whites and American Indians in the early twentieth century was a tenuous one. The creation of the reservation system during the nineteenth century and the continuing legacy of social evolutionism left American Indians marginalized and on the periphery of society. In this environment, Joseph Keppler and members of the Seneca Nation formed a relationship that lasted more than forty years. But
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Details

Named Person: Udo J Keppler
Material Type: Thesis/dissertation, Manuscript
Document Type: Book, Archival Material
All Authors / Contributors: Mary C Aimonovitch
OCLC Number: 265419311
Credits: Advisor: Wendell Tripp.
Description: iii, 63 leaves ; 29 cm
Responsibility: Mary C. Aimonovitch.

Abstract:

The relationship between whites and American Indians in the early twentieth century was a tenuous one. The creation of the reservation system during the nineteenth century and the continuing legacy of social evolutionism left American Indians marginalized and on the periphery of society. In this environment, Joseph Keppler and members of the Seneca Nation formed a relationship that lasted more than forty years. But their different backgrounds and circumstances fostered separate and often conflicting objectives that ultimately precluded equality or friendship between the parties.

Keppler's personal aims for the relationship derived heavily from the social evolutionist theory that swept much of the world in the second half of the nineteenth century. He thus hoped and worked unrelentingly to guide the Seneca Nation from savagery to civilization through assimilation. As part of his paternalism, he zealously collected Seneca cultural objects for white ownership and preservation, believing that whites had better reason for, or claim to, ownership of Seneca objects than did the Seneca people.

At the turn of the century, Seneca individuals faced poverty, unemployment, and discrimination, and sought to access resources (money, basic living necessities, influence, and information) that Keppler could provide as a wealthy, white benefactor. But the Seneca were uninterested in charity or pity, and thus labored to keep their self-respect and autonomy when requesting Keppler's assistance by recounting emergency circumstances, proposing loan or trade arrangements, or selling treasured possessions.

My research centers heavily on the Joseph Keppler Jr. Iroquois Papers held at the Cornell University Library. Using decades of correspondence between the Seneca people and Joseph Keppler, I seek to understand how each party developed and chose their priorities and the consequences of their decisions. Ultimately, Keppler and the Seneca were left to negotiate among the shifting pressures and tensions of their affection, their personal objectives, and the goals each party advanced. The outcome speaks volumes to the limitations of social interactions between whites and American Indians in the early twentieth century.

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