Covered with Night: A Story of Murder and Indigenous Justice in Early America

Liveright: Norton. Apr. 2021. 336p. ISBN 9781631495878. $28.95. HIST
In 1722, the alcohol-fueled murder of a Seneca man, Sawantaeny, by two white fur traders led to the Great Treaty of 1722, “the oldest continuously recognized Indigenous treaty in Anglo-American law.” Yet as Eustace (history, New York Univ.; Passion Is the Gale) explains in this thoroughly detailed book, the criminal trial that informed the land treaty arose out of colonists’ desire to hang the murderers, while Haudenosaunee Confederacy diplomats sought emotional reconciliation and economic restitution for the murder. The author covers the lengthy trial and eventual land treaty that brought forth a greater understanding of concepts of justice in Haudenosaunee and other Indigenous traditions and how those conflicted with the beliefs of colonists. 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.
VERDICT 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.
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