Journey into Mohawk Country–Van den Bogaert and O’Connor

 

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Journey into Mohawk Country is George O’Connor’s adaptation of Harmen Meyndertsz Van den Bogaert’s diary, an historical document detailing the young Dutch explorer’s 1634 journey out west of New Amsterdam to make contact with Indian villages for trade. O’Connor uses Van den Bogaert’s words verbatim, but his graphic novel format allows him extraordinary liberties with the journal’s account. Vague descriptions are literally fleshed out; O’Connor finds innuendo in even the simplest of Van den Bogaert’s entries, illustrating a between-the-lines reading of the Dutchman’s diary. O’Connor even manages to stick a strange epiphanic mystical revelation scene in there. The story itself is pretty simple: Van den Bogaert and his two companions head out into Mohawk country, meet and trade with Indians, eat bear, learn about some alien customs (including a sequence where some Indians show Van den Bogaert how to heal the sick by vomiting on them), and go back to Fort Orange. It’s really the little interpretive scenes around the text-proper, courtesy of O’Connor’s cartoony pictures, that make Journey into Mohawk Country such a pleasure to read. O’Connor’s work here illustrates the first-person narrative’s slippery claims on truth and the limited viability of a “true” historical account. Good stuff.

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