The Highland Crofters of Scotland and the Indigenous Peoples of North America shared similar social structures and belief systems. Social identity was through bands, clans or septs. Chiefdom generally descended through lineage. Historical narratives, folklore and songs were preserved through oral tradition and were generally in the safekeeping of a storyteller, bard or great orator. For both, animal motifs were not uncommon in storytelling.
Furthermore, the greatest similarity was their relationship with the land. Each viewed land as a communal resource, not a commodity. Additionally, both groups shared a strong spiritual connection with the natural world, and it is represented in their respective cultures and the arts.
The Highland Clearances were one of the darkest events in Scottish history. Landowners changed land management practices and families and communities who for generations worked the lands under feudal tenancy agreements were evicted from their cottages or small-holdings. Many were forcibly removed and put on ships to North America.
However, changes in agrarian practice not only affected the Highland communities with the attendant displacement from the land and emigration. Lost in the historiography of the relationship between the Highland Crofters and the native peoples of North America is the story of the Lowland Cottars who were also forced off their lands and driven to become city dwellers or immigrants. Agrarian workers were not suited to city life and the influx of Cottars into the cities led to housing problems, food supply and law and order issues. The Cottars moved from being land-loving agriculturalists to town and city slum dwellers. The new agrarian practices and the rise of capitalism forced Cottars and Crofters into a life totally alien to them. In order to survive, thousands left for North America.
Did this traumatic transition have a brutalizing effect on them and how was it played out in their new homelands? What kind of relationships did the Crofters and Cottars cultivate with the land-loving indigenous population? Did their respective home-land experiences impact upon their perceptions and treatment of the indigenous populations? Were new, shared cultural traditions developed and what if any are the legacies of assimilation on diverse cultural identities, belief systems and the arts?
In her lecture, Blood Brothers and Brothers in Arms, Professor Yvonne McEwen will highlight one of the many fascinating stories that emerged from her research into Scottish-Indigenous relationships.
This lecture examines the relationship between Scotland and World War One indigenous soldiers and subsequent post-war relationships and transatlantic advocacy for Indigenous rights.
The talk will be followed by a discussion, a Q&A and a wine reception. We are grateful to the Institute for Academic Development (IAD) for their support with this event. The event is free of charge.