US Law and Native Americans
Reaction Paper: The Last of the Mohicans (1992) Michael Mann, Dir.
Best of Both Worlds: Hawkeye the Hero
As we discussed in class, last of the Mohicans was the novel that established James Fennimore Cooper one of the most popular American writers of his period. It is ironic that Cooper knew no Native Americans firsthand, since it would be his portrayal that would define their identity in American culture. His idealized characteristics of the Native American were emphasized and glorified in the protagonist Hawkeye. One can assume that that the directors of the 1992 film took cues from Coopers Novel to depict the hybrid hero of the film. Raised by Indians Hawkeye retains his European appearance while also characterizing the anti-establishment attitude of his American fellows. It is through these dynamic dimensions of his identity that Hawkeye emerges as the celebrated popular hero of the story.
The audience is introduced to Hawkeye as the white adopted son of Chingachgook, a Mohican. It would appear that Cooper reflects approval even admiration for what he believes to be traits of a Native American. I believe that professor Richland stated it best when he noted that “Hawkeye seems to be an Indian in all of the ‘right’ ways.” I think that professor was alluding to the fact that Hawkeyes dual identity allows American audiences to accept Hawkeye as their American hero. It is truly arrogant and sadly accurate notion that not only can a white become and Indian, but he can surpass them in their very own skills. Hawkeye is a master tracker, in touch with that land and his surroundings. A cunning marksmen and warrior he exudes a respectful and spiritual persona and receives respect from his native “brothers.” Everything that an American might admire in Native American culture, Cooper neatly packs into an acceptable white package that is Hawkeye.
As white man he can command attention from both sides of his heritage....