Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 11: No 2) >> Pioneers, Indians, and ''Southern Adams'' in ''The Two Camps'' >> Page 6

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Scholarship | 2003
Transcription were then-popular stereotypes and in the process further frustrates our critical
efforts to categorize neatly his Native American portrayals.
The protagonists of "The Two Camps" first meet in the forests of old
Carolina, the stalwart frontiersman Nelson and the almost mortally wounded
Indian boy of fourteen or fifteen, who, in time, becomes the great warrior
Lenatewa. There should be enmity between them after all, Simms describes
how the Indians were becoming discontented, having been wronged by the whites
in trade and demoralized by drink. Instead, good Samaritan-like, Nelson
describes how, although "the thought of such a weight on my shoulders made me
stagger" (WC 58), he "thought, if so be I had a son in such a fix, what would I
think of the stranger who should go home and wait till daylight to give him help!"
(WC 58). Hoisting Lenatewa on his shoulders, Nelson returns to his cabin, where
his wife Betsy washes the blood from the Indian's head until, after a period of
months, he regains his strength.
In a scene uncommon, if not unheralded in the writing of its era, Simms
describes Lenatewa inside Nelson's cabin playing with, and becoming fond of the
latter's little girl. "By little and little," Nelson notes, "he got to play with my little
Lucy... and, after a while, he seemed to be never better pleased than when they
played together" (WC 59). For Lucy's part, Simms describes how "The child,
too, after her first fright, leaned to the lad, and was jest as willing to play with him
as if he had been a cl'ar white like herself '(WC 60).
In what may be yet another first for Simms in American Literature, he
suggests something that must have shocked readers of the day that this
handsome Indian man, noble in thought and deed, could fall in love with, and
subsequently marry a beautiful and perfectly virtuous white woman who would
love him equally in return. Just as unorthodoxly, Lucy's father, Nelson, looks
beneficently upon this match, remarking to himself, "What if he is favourable to
my daughter? The fellow's a good fellow; and a raal, noble-hearted Indian, that's
sober, is jest as good, to my thinking, as any white man in the land" (WC 76).6
Shortly thereafter, Nelson's sentiments grow warmer as he reflects, "Wouldn't
they make a handsome couple! ' (WC 78). As the couple is walking, Nelson
ponders further:

the thought flashed across me that, jest then, he [Lenatewa] was
telling her about his feelings; and perhaps, said I to myself, the girl
thinks about it pretty much as I do. Moutbe now, she likes him
better than any body she has ever, seen and what more nateral?

6 Simms repeatedly judges white people against Lenatawa, if not to suggest a
cultural superiority, then at least a cultural parity between the best kind of Indian
and just-hearted white men like Nelson who are Indian-like in their knowledge of
"woodcraft" and stewardship of the land. To the footnoted quote, Simms adds, "I
must tell you that an Indian of good family always has a nateral sort of grace and
dignity that I never saw in a white man" (WC 62).


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