Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Andy Doolen


Stereotypes describing the Native Peoples as lacking in many attributes such as religion, civilization, self-control, and even family bonds originated in the early years of contact, popularized through captivity narratives, and used in nineteenth century writings to justify the “vanishing” of the Native people. My dissertation adds to the discussion of myth of the Vanishing American by focusing on overlooked representations of Native illness. Illness, a shared human experience, was preserved for white characters in white authors’ writings. Ailing Native peoples were either denied any stories narrating this experience of human vulnerability or were depicted as resorting to superstitious and heathenish practices. This dismissal and manipulation of Native illness, especially when set against the typical Christian model of suffering and redemption through illness, is meant to dehumanize and demonize the Native people and to avert any sympathy towards them. My work analyzes narratives published in the crucial decade of the 1820s to argue that while Nineteenth century writers such as James Fenimore Cooper and Lydia Maria Child used stereotypes about Native peoples to blame them for their own decrease in number and to absolve the whites of any guilt towards them, the Native American writer William Apess used his narrative to combat these stereotypes and to reflect the physical and spiritual sameness between the white and Native races.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)