Most Native American, white, and bi-racial interpreters on the American frontier lived firmly on one side or the other of the cultural divide. However, Jonathan Pointer (1784 - 1857), an African-American interpreter for the Wyandots at Upper Sandusky, Ohio, lived "between worlds." Although raised by the Wyandots, he lacked a Wyandot spouse, and therefore was never fully integrated into Wyandot society. Pointer's race, status, role raise a number of questions about intermediaries on the frontier. Why did the Wyandots turn to a black man to do their translating? Did white negotiators trust him? Was Pointer merely a free-lance functionary or a key culture broker? Did Pointer's status as interpreter trump his racial identity? How did Pointer identify? An analysis of Jonathan Pointer will complicate and deepen our understanding of interpreters on the American frontier, and will render visible the presence of blacks in Indian country.


Hart, William B.

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