Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, leading historian Nicole Eustace reconstructs a crime and its aftermath: on the eve of a major treaty conference between Iroquois leaders and European colonists in the distant summer of 1722, two white fur traders attacked an Indigenous hunter and left him for dead near Conestoga, Pennsylvania. Though virtually forgotten today, this act of brutality set into motion a remarkable series of criminal investigations and cross-cultural negotiations that challenged the definition of justice in early America.
Eustace...shines a revealing spotlight ... Her multi-layered exploration of the far-reaching consequences of this crime reveals forgotten treasures in America’s attic ... She painstakingly sketches in the details of eighteenth-century colonial America ... As plentiful and evocative as these details are, they are not merely set dressing. Instead, Eustace uses these items to unveil the mechanisms of colonialism ... Details like these do paint a picture, but Eustace tells even better than she shows. She draws from dozens of primary sources and hundreds of secondary ones, yet seamlessly weaves them into a cohesive, compelling narrative full of intrigue and pathos. Sailing smoothly across the surfaces of ledgers and meeting minutes and treaties and treatises, she anchors us to these antique texts with occasional well-chosen quotes but always goes deeper to reveal the motivations, assumptions, and stratagems lying beneath the words. Her commentary both offers essential context for the book’s events and infuses them with energy ... Eustace manages to maintain the narrative tension ... Savvy ... Revealing.
Much of the text format is in the present tense. The author primarily describes the initial events as they occurred, as if they are happening in the moment in a blow-by-blow account ... This makes for a more interesting read ... This book’s overall format is how a nonfiction work should be presented ... There is much here for readers to digest and history lovers, certainly, to appreciate in the way of a good and well-told story. Finally, it bears repeating that this is not just the story of a murder case, which is somewhat of an anti-climax actually, but a comparison of how differing cultures and belief systems can conflict, especially when certain religious and racial superiority attitudes should happen to rear their ugly heads.
Thoroughly detailed ... Relying on primary sources, including colonial writings, Eustace’s account offers not only the history of the trial, but also an inclusive examination of ongoing clashes over the possession of land rights. Black-and-white illustrations of colonial letters throughout add context ... A scholarly history that questions the misconception that Indigenous concepts of justice were brutal. While well-documented, such a complex historical analysis is best suited for academics and informed subject specialists.