Forest Diplomacy: Cultures in Conflict on the Pennsylvania Frontier, 1757


W. W. Norton & Co. | Now Available | ISBN 978-0-393-67378-4

Forest Diplomacy begins with Pennsylvania and the Delaware Indians engaged in a vicious and destructive war. The focus of the game is a peace negotiation, which seeks to end the conflict. At the outset, students familiarize themselves with the historical context, previous treaties, firsthand accounts of the war, controversies over Quaker pacifism, and various Iroquois and Lenâpé cultural texts. Then, students divide into three groups: Interpreters, Pennsylvanians, and Indians. Initially, the latter two groups meet separately, but interpreters may shuttle back and forth. This gives students an opportunity to identify with their assigned cultures. It also allows distrust and suspicion to fester. Students reunite when formal treaty deliberations begin. The structure of these meetings is dictated by the traditional rituals of Indian forest diplomacy, which are intended to create a dispassionate space in the midst of the bloodthirstiness of war. Understanding the attendant cultural conventions becomes an essential element in peacemaking. Ignoring the protocols negates clever compromise on issues like scalping, the liquor trade, settlement, treaty-writing, and land ownership. When negotiations conclude, students must still maintain the peace. Negotiating a clever compromise is one thing, but if the treaty remains disagreeable to a significant number of participants, it collapses amid renewed violence. However, if enough participants can be convinced that the treaty represents a just peace then it will stand.

About the Author:

Nicolas W. Proctor teaches history and administers the first-year program at Simpson College. He is author of Bathed in Blood: Hunting and Mastery in the Old South, and is currently working on several projects for the Reacting to the Past series including Forest Diplomacy: War and Peace on the Colonial Frontierand Modernism vs. Traditionalism: Art in Paris, 1888-89 (with Gretchen McKay and Michael Marlais). Proctor is Chair of the "Reacting to the Past" Editorial Board.