The French and Indian war was a crucial one for the development of the United States as it forged a nation which was still in its early infancy. The crux of the matter lies in the fact that in Sheppard’s book she is out to prove that all wars in this period were due to empire building and the capacity to challenge Britain as a nation of empires.
Empires Collide tells the tale of several Chippewa Indian families and the white families whom they marry or interact with. Because of the difference in cultures, religions and the way of life in general, the author shows how these two different ‘tribes’ managed to change their ways yet retain some of their background. Through the years, they have managed to affect each others’ lifestyles and customs.
The book also deals with some very fastidious details of the armies which were involved in the conflict as well as the relative size of the armies in Question. Sheppard goes into incredible detail to describe all this and she also provides some interesting facts about the characteristics of the Indian and French armies with the latter spurned by their imperialistic ambitions and credentials. There is also a lot of detail on the British Empire and its credentials in those days where it was probably one of the most advanced in Europe. The book focuses extensively on other areas most notably, regiments of the foot and regiments of the line as well as other issues which pertain to war mongering such as style and conflict in this regard.
Sheppard also brings a lot of personal detail into her narrative which is obviously not always one sided. She seems to have a preference for the Indian situation which although terrible at the time was also full of capability and promise.
The stories take place on a remote Indian reservation in North Dakota, which is not far from Canada and each chapter is narrated by a different person. The author herself grew up in a similar place and so she has based her story on familiar surroundings.
The story tells us of the Kashpaw and Lamartine families who are trying to figure who they really are. Through the years, spanning fifty years, they have intermarried and interacted from the 1930’s to the 1980’s.
The stories of Marie Kashpaw and Nector Kashpaw cover the early years of the collection of stories. They have separate stories to tell but these come together when Marie and Nector marry. Their stories also include Lulu Lamartine whom Nector has had a relationship with. Lipsha Morrissey is Nector and Marie’s grandson. He tries to create a love medicine in the 1980’s for his grandparents who now live in an old peoples’ home. This is an irornic story filled with dark humour as the story rages back and forth in time from the 1930’s to the 1980’s.
Some families resign themselves to living on the reservation, others look to the city for answers and hope of a better life. Unfortunately, once they reach the city, they find that they have brought their customs and their destinies with them. Some of them, out of despair, commit suicide. However, this is not a dark book, as each chapter is filled with humour and matter-of-fact details. Although life in general in not easy, life does go on, and every character has a unique way of coping with their problems. The reader gets to know the main characters very well.
There is a sense of the extended family and the mother is the person who holds the families together in this community – through thick and thin. Orphan children are taken into the brood by the mothers and raised as their own, different points of view are tolerated, flaws accepted, and those in need are looked after. The door is always open to family and friends and all the community looks out for each other. The ways and superstitions of the Old World are interwoven with the new world and make interesting throughout the book. We see here even more, the contrasting cultures and backgrounds and notice too, that sometimes there is conflict and that these do not always get along together.
In chapter thirteen, entitled Love Medicine, (1982), we find out the revealing news that the whole family of Kashpaws, Pillagers and Nanapushes have, or have had in the past, special powers of healing and insight. Lipsa Morissey says: “I got the touch”.
Lipsa’s adoptive grandmother Marie asks Lipsa to invent a love medicine for her husband, Nector. Nector, in his old age, continuously mentions his old flame Lulu who lives in the same retirement community as Nector and Marie. Lipsa decides to make the medicine work by making Nector eat a male goose’s heart and Marie eats a female goose’s heart. They have chosen geese because geese mate for life and Marie wants Nector to be faithful. Nector teases Marie by putting the heart in his mouth but not eating it. Marie gets angry and hits Nector on the back, causing him to choke to death. Lipsa and his grandmother are shocked but Marie still considers Lipsha to be her favourite. She tells him: “Lipshayou was always my favourite.” Soon after, Lipsha learns that Lulu is his true grandmother.
Lulu asks Lipsha to go to the retirement home to talk to her and tells him about his lineage. She tells him: “I either gain a grandson or lose a young man who didn’t like me in the first place”.
Native Americans have always been terribly discriminated ever since they have had their territory invaded and taken over by the white man. Steadily but surely they have lost almost all the land which they staked a claim upon and this has obviously brought about untold hardship and brutality on Native American’s lives.
The prime example of discrimination exists in the reservation system where Native Americans are sort of shunted off into areas where they can continue to live their own lives however completely without resources and assistance. This results in high rates of depression, suicides and suchlike which obviously indicate that the Native American lifestyle is far from ideal in its current form.
Native Americans are denied the pleasures and opportunities of mainstream society in the sense that they have few economic opportunities to better themselves due to the rigid structure of the reservations. That perhaps is the greatest discrimination of all.
Please discuss discrimination that exists within Native groups. Is this always the case?
Native groups are actually rarely indulging in discrimination among themselves although this does exist. Some groups are perhaps favoured more than others, those who tend to conform with American mainstream society are granted some more leeway and economic freedom while those who rebel and cause problems are left even more in the lurch. Mary Crow Dog is rather sensitive about this issue as she sees her fellow Native Americans, albeit from other tribes as traitors for co-operating with the white man. It is something she cannot find herself to accept and the discrimination actually hurts her considerably.
The author is a fiery spirit and temperament and brings a passion and involvement to her cause which is rarely equalled in other books I have read on the subject. She strongly believes in her cause and is certainly an incredible promoter for the continuation of the Native American tradition. Through the considerable abuse she received at the hands of nuns at a boarding school, she grew even more passionate about her Native American ways and that become the one searing goal in her life. Finally Sheppard also believes that the wars brought about a certain insistence on behalf of the Americans to do things their own way and this eld to the eventual conflict between the American nation and the colonisers themselves. One could describe the French and Indian War as the precursor of what was to come in the American War for Independence with its far reaching consequences and eventual results.
Sheppard R: The French and Indian War, London, Osprey 2006, Print