“They Preach, but Practice Not”: The Indian Prophet in Early American Drama, 1800s-1850s
Maria Staton

The Indian Prophet is a stereotypical character in American plays of the first half of the nineteenth century. He systematically appears in plays featuring Native Americans ; there is a common pattern in his characterization, and this characterization differs significantly from those of other stage Indians. The Indian Prophet is invariably portrayed as “false”; he uses his spiritual influence to lead his tribesmen into a deadlock and betray them at the crucial moment. The Prophet has a historic prototype – the Indian spiritual leaders who headed native revitalization movements in the first half of the nineteenth century. Their influence at times became a major concern for the U.S. government who fought it both by force and by allegations; in this connection, a new negative stereotype of the American Indian – the Indian Prophet – appeared in the theatre. Given the fact that plays about American Indians were widely popular in the United States for about fifty years, the significance of the character becomes clear: it spread a negative message about individuals who posed a threat to the success of Euro-American colonization.

Full Text: PDF      DOI: 10.15640/ijll.v2n4a1