Chateaubriand and the Welsh Indians


Although it appears almost certain that Chateaubriand's travels in America did not take him further along his proposed itinerary than Niagara Falls, the author of Atala frequently found it necessary to speak of the Ohio Indian Mounds (les ruines du Scioto) in the various works in which he described his travels. His earlier readings, and particularly, at the time he was preparing the Voyage en Amérique, the recent investigations of the mounds and the artifacts discovered there described in the publications of Malte-Brun, made Chateaubriand particularly enthusiastic in speaking of that area. The question foremost in Chateaubriand's mind: what civilization could have produced these monuments, so far in advance of the capabilities of the Indians inhabiting the region in Chateaubriand's time, or those inhabiting the East coast at the time of Chateaubriand's visit, or the Hurons, Iroquois and Natchez about whom he has read so much. A proposed answer: could these have been built by the legendary peaux-rouges blanches, the Welsh Indians who kept reappearing in folklore. The tracing of this legend of a race of White Indians proves to be extremely pervasive and long-lived. The reasons for the myth's popularity to a great extent is bound up with the character of civilized man. (RS)

Switzer, Richard
Release Year:
1974-1975 Fall-Winter; 3(1-2): 6-17.