Look at this passage that appears in Fuller's Summer on the Lakes. What is implied by thinking of "Human Culture" as a single entity? What is the "hand which cannot err"? Although history can be conceived in different ways (cyclic, degenerative, progressive), in what specific way is history conceived in these lines, and why is this important?  "We take our turn, and the Philosopher Sees through the clouds a hand which cannot err, An unimproving race [ostensibly native Americans] with all their graces And all their vices, must resign their places; And Human Culture rolls its onward flood Over the broad plains steeped in Indian blood. Such thoughts, steady our faith."

In this passage of Summer on the Lakes, Fuller suggests that Native Americans will become extinct because of the inevitable, powerful expansion of “human culture.” By thinking of “human culture” as a single entity, she is suggesting that true culture is that of white society, which is an oversimplified view of culture that justifies discriminatory ideologies. History is conceived as a progressive force in these lines, one that eradicates “unimproving” peoples.

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This passage reflects Fuller’s view that Native American people would inevitably become extinct. Although she spent a great deal of time with Native Americans and expressed sympathy for their challenging life experiences, she ultimately felt they would not be able to resist white colonial forces. She saw their way of life and their interaction with nature as exotic and threatened by the power of what she saw as the civilized Western way of life. In her eyes, Native Americans are “unimproving,” meaning that they will be unable to become “civilized” like Westerners, and as a result, they will perish.

In this passage, history is conceived as a progressive force that ultimately eradicates “unimproving” people. Like a hand that cannot move from its path, Fuller views the expansion of civilized society, the true “human culture,” as inevitable—like a powerful flood that will overtake the weak. To her, “human culture” is that of white society. In thinking of human culture as one entity, she is excluding the culture of so many people and oversimplifying the complexity of human society. This is a problematic way to view culture, as it can lead to the erasure of people’s histories and can be used to justify racism and discrimination.

From a contemporary perspective, we can view this passage as evidence that throughout history, people have made unfounded racist claims about certain groups of people to fuel their interests. Even though Fuller herself was not overtaking Native American lands, we see how she has come to believe socially constructed ideas about people of color and white superiority. Her beliefs have made her contribute to destructive ideologies, which shows us how history can be conceived as a destructive force.

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