Tesdahl presents research on Iroquois culture

October 21, 2014
Dr. Eugene Tesdahl

PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — Dr. Eugene Tesdahl, assistant professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and a specialist in early American, Native American, and women’s history, recently presented his research about Haudenosaunee culture and spoke on a panel at the Conference on Iroquois Research, held in Java Center, N.Y.

“‘Haudenosaunee’ translates as ‘people of the longhouse,’ which is what the people of the Six Nations – or Iroquois – prefer to call themselves,” said Tesdahl.

According to Tesdahl, the conference has worked to encourage appreciation and scholarship on Haudenosaunee culture, history and communities among both Native and non-Native scholars since 1945.

“Native American history has long been a significant and delicate field,” said Tesdahl. “This conference brings members of native communities into vibrant dialogue with scholars. The dialogue reveals a sense of history as well as a sense of resilient cultural groups still integral to American society.”

At the conference, Tesdahl presented his paper, “‘In their hands the Indians transport dishes, muslin, and Calanderies’: Haudenosaunee Women Smugglers, 1700-1754,” which examined the ways in which Native women grew as entrepreneurs and diplomats, despite clashes between the French and British empires.

“Smuggling often brings to mind modern examples of violent cartels trafficking alcohol, tobacco or firearms across transnational borders,” stated Tesdahl. “One would hardly suspect women as smugglers or items like furs and cloth as contraband. And yet, Haudenosaunee women, particularly Mohawks, employed trade and smuggling to remake the corridor between Albany and Montreal on their terms in early eighteenth century. Their inter-imperial influence extended beyond the Hudson-St. Lawrence River corridor to indelibly change the early-modern Atlantic World.”

At the conference, Tesdahl also spoke on the panel “220 Years of Oral History Sustainability among Seneca Creation Narratives,” with Dr. Kevin White of the State University of New York at Oswego in Oswego, N.Y., and Michael Galban, public historian at Ganondagan State Historic Site in Victor, N.Y. At the panel, Tesdahl, White and Galban addressed LaSalle’s 1678 version of the Seneca creation story. Tesdahl translated this document from the archaic French to modern English. Galban provided Haudenosaunee cultural context for the translation. White compared this account to other versions of Seneca Creation, demonstrating the strength of oral history, even when recorded in print.

“Both of the papers fueled articles currently under review by peer-reviewed journals,” said Tesdahl. “The feedback given by colleagues, visiting scholars and Haudenosaunee tribal members strengthened both articles in influential ways. I brought back a sense of how the People of the Longhouse still deeply revere their rich history to enrich my classes at UW-Platteville.”

This semester, Tesdahl teaches Introduction to U.S. History I, Colonial American History and Women’s History and will begin teaching Native American History in the fall of 2015.

The UW-Platteville College of Liberal Arts and Education’s Dean’s Fund for Faculty and Staff Development Committee funds numerous opportunities for faculty to share their research, work with underserved communities and enhance their craft of teaching. The Dean’s Fund supported Tesdahl’s participation in this conference.


Contact: Dr. Gene Tesdahl, department of history, (608) 342-1788, tesdahle@uwplatt.edu
Written by: Laurie Hamer, College of Liberal Arts and Education, (608) 342-6191, hamerl@uwplatte.edu

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