On the eve of a major treaty conference between Iroquois leaders and European colonists in the distant summer of 1722, two white fur traders attacked an Indigenous hunter and left him for dead near Conestoga, Pennsylvania. Though virtually forgotten today, this act of brutality set into motion a remarkable series of criminal investigations and cross-cultural negotiations that challenged the definition of justice in early America.
In Covered with Night, leading historian Nicole Eustace reconstructs the crime and its aftermath, bringing us into the overlapping worlds of white colonists and Indigenous peoples in this formative period. Frantic efforts to resolve the case ignited a dramatic, far-reaching debate between Native American forms of justice-centered on community, forgiveness, and reparations-and an ideology of harsh reprisal, unique to the colonies and based on British law, which called for the killers' swift execution.
In charting the far-reaching ramifications of the murder, Covered with Night-a phrase from Iroquois mourning practices-overturns persistent assumptions about "civilized" Europeans and "savage" Native Americans. A necessary work of historical reclamation, it ultimately revives a lost vision of crime and punishment that reverberates down into our own time.