The centerpiece of New York State’s 150th anniversary of the Sullivan Expedition of 1779 was a pageant, the “Pageant of Decision.” Major General John Sullivan’s Revolutionary War expedition was designed to eliminate the threat posed by Iroquois allied with the British. It was a genocidal operation that involved the destruction of over forty Indian villages. This article explores the motivations and tactics of state officials as they endeavored to engage the public in this past in pageant form. The pageant was widely popular, and served the state in fixing the expedition as the end point in settler-Indian relations in New York, removing from view decades of expropriations of Indian land that occurred well after Sullivan’s troops left.
Settler Colonialism and the Revolutionary War: New York’s 1929 “ Pageant of Decision”
Andrea Lynn Smith is Professor of Anthropology at the Department of Anthropology and Sociology, Lafayette College, Easton, PA whose research focuses on collective memory and settler colonialism. Her book Colonial Memory and Postcolonial Europe: Maltese Settlers in Algeria and France (2006; Indiana University Press), won the William A. Douglass Prize in 2007, and she recently published Rebuilding Shattered Worlds through Recollection (with Anna Eisenstein, 2016; University of Nebraska Press). She is completing “Celebrating Sullivan,” a monograph on public commemorations of the Sullivan Expedition of 1779 in Pennsylvania and New York and their reverberations into the present day.
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Andrea Lynn Smith; Settler Colonialism and the Revolutionary War: New York’s 1929 “ Pageant of Decision”. The Public Historian 1 November 2019; 41 (4): 7–35. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2019.41.4.7
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