Document Type

Open Access Article

Author Biography

Mark Alan Mattes is an assistant professor of English at the University of Louisville. He is the editor of the forthcoming collection Handwriting in Early America: A Media History. His most recent publications appear in the journals Eighteenth-Century Studies and Ohio Valley History and in the collection Apocalypse in American Literature and Culture (2020). Mattes is currently working on a book that examines how Indigenous and settler archives shape histories about Native Americans and the Ohio River valley.


Settler accounts of the Cayuga Native American Soyeghtowa (Logan), such as Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia, interpret his famous mourning speech, “Logan’s Lament,” as the words of a melancholic, noble savage and vanishing Indian. This essay decolonizes settler accounts of Logan’s words and deeds such as Jefferson’s book by considering Indigenous relationships to a once-living memorial on Shawnee land in central Ohio, the Logan Elm, which nineteenth-century settlers apocryphally identified as the site of Logan’s speech. Drawing on scholarly work on Indigenous writing and historical media by Native American and settler intellectuals, as well as local knowledge keepers, sections focus on Indigenous memories of Logan recorded in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century textual archives, early twentieth-century Native American orations, and twenty-first century interpretations of Logan by enrolled members of the Seneca Cayuga Nation. These interpretations, rooted in the sacred and political significance of trees in the Haudenosaunee treaty protocol, the founding of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, and the oral tradition of the Haudenosaunee Constitution, figure Logan’s speech as an Indigenous history oriented toward Indigenous futures.

(Included in the issue section "Beyond the Book")