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Open Access Tales of Esnesv: Indigenous Oral Traditions about Trader‐Diplomats in Ancient Southeastern North America

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Material assemblages excavated from sites across eastern North America indicate the existence of ancient exchange networks that once spanned from the Gulf Coast to the Great Lakes and from the Atlantic to the Ozarks. Yet identifying specific mechanisms of trade is more difficult. This article investigates oral traditions about esnesv—persons who acted as travelers, traders, diplomats, and acolytes—told in a Native American community in the US South whose members identify as of Muskogee (Creek) ancestry. Esnesv traveled great distances, enjoyed impunity in enemy territories, facilitated exchanges of knowledge and materials with important celestial qualities, and mediated peacemaking between peoples. Esnesv stories provide Indigenous perspectives on ancient exchange and diplomacy practices as a historically particular and archaeologically viable alternative to elite‐controlled trade models. These stories describe trade goods that are simultaneously of earth and sky, furthering archaeological understandings of landscape and cosmology by rethinking difference, distance, and materiality. Esnesv threaded earthly fragments of the sky and Milky Way through peoples’ relationships with foreign others, making exchange and peace within a world of roads connecting diverse, place‐based lifeways. In doing so, they rebalanced the world, facilitating circulations of mobile landscapes and cosmic substances that generated new connectivities and ways of being. [oral traditions, exchange, decolonizing methodologies, Native American and Indigenous peoples, North America]

Spanish
Los ensamblajes materiales excavados de sitios a través de Norteamérica oriental indican la existencia de redes antiguas de intercambio que una vez se extendieron desde la costa del Golfo a los Grandes Lagos y desde el Atlántico a los Ozarks. Sin embargo, identificar mecanismos específicos de comercio es más difícil. Este artículo investiga tradiciones orales acerca de los esnesv —personas quienes actuaron como viajeros, comerciantes, diplomáticos y guardianes de la cultura— contadas en una comunidad indígena americana en el Sur de Estados Unidos cuyos miembros se identifican como de ascendencia Muskogee (Creek). Los esnesv viajaron grandes distancias, disfrutaron impunidad en territorios enemigos, facilitaron intercambios de conocimiento y materiales con cualidades celestiales importantes, y mediaron negociaciones de paz entre los pueblos. Las historias de los esnesv proveen perspectivas indígenas sobre prácticas de intercambio y diplomacia antiguas como una alternativa históricamente particular y arqueológicamente viable a modelos de comercio controlados por la élite. Estas historias describen el comercio de bienes que son simultáneamente de la tierra y del cielo, fomentando entendimientos arqueológicos del paisaje y la cosmología al repensar la diferencia, la distancia y la materialidad. Los esnesv enhilaron fragmentos terrenales del cielo y de la Vía Láctea a través de las relaciones de personas con otros de fuera, haciendo intercambios y la paz dentro de un mundo de caminos conectando formas de vida diversas, basadas en lugar. Al hacerlo de este modo, ellos reequilibraron el mundo, facilitando circulaciones de paisajes móviles y sustancias cósmicas que generaron conectividades y maneras de ser nuevas. [tradiciones orales, intercambio, metodologías descolonizadoras, pueblos americanos nativos e indígenas, Norteamérica]
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 December 2018

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