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Probationary Settlers and Indigenous Peoples in the American West: American Jews and American Indians, 1850-1934

Mikal Brotnov Eckstrom, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


“Probationary Settlers and Indigenous Peoples in the American West: American Jews and American Indians 1850-1934,” explores Jewish encounters with American Indians in the context of white settlement in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, and North Dakota. In the mid-nineteenth century, immigrant Jews fought against, traded with, and lived among Indians. By 1890, however, Jews primarily sought dispossession of native land through agricultural communes across the Plains. This study examines the nuances of Jewish identification with American Indians as “Others,” as well as with American whites as settler colonists. As Jews struggled to gain the status and privilege of white settlerhood in the 19th-century West, they readily participated in the settler colonial practice of displacing Indigenous people. By following the trajectory of Jewish immigrants and their descendants, my dissertation makes sense of the national, racial-ethnic, and class boundaries that Jews crossed to promote their own interests as they both carried out and critiqued federal Indian policy. Using insights from settler colonial and whiteness studies, government documents, and Indian oral histories, this project explains how Midwestern Jews participated in and benefited from Native dispossession. Not fully entitled to the privileges of whiteness, however, immigrant Jews, like American Indians, also faced pressure to assimilate into American society during the late 19th and early 20th century. American Jews eventually claimed the benefits of whiteness and economic settler structures whereas Natives remained marginalized because the federal government did not envision full citizenship and self-determination for Indigenous peoples. This dissertation also considers the role of gender and intimacy in Jewish-Native relationships and interactions to explore the converging and diverging experiences of American Indians and Jews. With these shared interactions in mind, “Probationary Settlers and Indigenous Peoples in the American West” views families as a key site of cooperation and conflict within the settler state.

Subject Area

American history|Native American studies|Judaic studies

Recommended Citation

Eckstrom, Mikal Brotnov, "Probationary Settlers and Indigenous Peoples in the American West: American Jews and American Indians, 1850-1934" (2018). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI10840891.