Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 11: No 2) >> Pioneers, Indians, and ''Southern Adams'' in ''The Two Camps'' >> Page 5

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Scholarship | 2003
Transcription honest and realistic appraisal of pioneering when he describes how, "Though
wandering, and somewhat averse to the tedious labours of the farm, they [pioneers
like Nelson] were still not unmindful of its duties; and their open lands grew
larger every season, and increasing comforts annually spoke for the increasing
civilization of the settlers" (WC 50). Interestingly enough, at least in "The Two
Camps," one detects in Nelson a greater sense of stewardship towards the land,
perhaps a consequence of his greater dependence on the wilderness for his
livelihood as a hunter. Instead of his more characteristic diatribes against
pioneers who abused their lands,4 Simms states cursorily, and favorably, after
describing the stocks of meat pioneers kept in fortress-like cabins in case of
Indian attack, "In this way these bold pioneers took possession of the soil, and
paved the way for still mightier generations" (50).
In "The Two Camps," Simms also demolishes Native American
stereotypes. In 1879, the United States finally decided that Native Americans
were "persons within the meaning of the law" with the full rights of American
citizenship—in other words, that Indians were now, at least legally, people.5
Simms, anticipating once more future developments, had been recognizing
Indians as people—often on an equal or superior footing to whites, and in ways
far-reaching and honest in his fiction for at least thirty years before this. "The
Two Camps" perfectly illustrates these oft-liberal concepts Simms employs when
describing interactions between his Indian and white characters, and accurately
reflecting his assertion of possessing "an early and strong sympathy with the
subject of the Red Men" (Letters, III, 101).
While a significant number of Simms's stories add grist to the more
traditional white, distorted Hollywood images of whooping, scalping, and
tomahawk-brandishing Indians, "The Two Camps," with its close juxtaposition of
whites and Indians, perfectly illustrates the ways in which Simms shatters what


4 As in The Western Immigrants" (Poems 163), or "Oakatibbe: or the Choctaw
Sampson," where Simms describes the melancholy aspect of "the girdled trees,
erect but dead, .the perishing skeletons of recent life" that "impress you with
sensations not entirely unlike those which you would experience in going over
some battle-field, from which the decaying forms of man and horse have not yet
been removed" (WC 192). Pioneer depredation of nature was a popular theme for
Simms, illustrated for instance by James E. Kibler's article, "Stewardship and
Patria in Simms's Frontier Poetry."
5 At the Omaha, Nebraska trial of the Ponca Indian chief Standing Bear, in a
United States District court, Judge Elmer Dundy had to rule on whether an Indian
had the rights of freedom guaranteed by the Constitution. The government tried to
prove that an Indian was neither a person nor a citizen so couldn't bring suit
against the government. On April 30, 1879 Dundy stated that an Indian is a person
within the law and that the Ponca were being held illegally (net.unl).



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