A series by Anthony F. Hughes

It was thanks to the radio that I first learned of the existence of the novelist James Fennimore Cooper. Back in the early 1960s, Radio Éireann occasionally aired dramatisations of some well-known novels that held a special appeal for me.

Those radio adaptions went out around 5 p.m. on weekday evenings. They were in series format with each episode lasting for 30 minutes or so. Lorna Doon was one of the novels that featured back then, as did Ivanhoe. The dramatisation that really left a lasting impression on me, however, was Cooper’s tale about a tribe of Indians on the verge of extinction. Technically speaking The Last of The Mohicans (1992 movie version) is not a ‘Western’ as such. Put pure and simple it’s an Indian movie. The same could be said for A Man Called Horse and Dances with Wolves. The difference is that the latter two have their settings west of the Mississippi in the 1800s.

Prior to the coming of The Last of The Mohicans all regular Western film-goers were aware of the existence of the Red Man, most notably the Apache and those tribes who were collectively called the Plains Indians. There were literally hundreds of different native American clans however who never got a mention in any production back then. The Michael Mann directed film adaption of Fennimore Cooper’s masterpiece changed things slightly in that respect.

The first British colonists to set up home in the New World did so in the year 1608. By the mid 1700s the Crown had a firm foothold on that continent’s eastern seaboard. Those White colonists had plenty of Red neighbours whom they referred to as Indians, but they had their own identities. The Shawnee people, and the Creek, to name just two.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own