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Narrating Sovereignty: The Covenant Chain in Intercultural Diplomacy

Hatton, Heather



This article considers Haudenosaunee recitals of the history of the Covenant Chain as a powerful communicative mechanism to define and assert sovereign identity and rights in the context of intercultural diplomacy. It reflects initially on the metaphorical language used to structure these historical narratives and how it enabled the Haudenosaunee to articulate self-understandings of their sovereignty. Contending that the narrative’s main power stemmed from its application in specific diplomatic contexts, the article then examines three instances when the Haudenosaunee recounted the entire history of the Chain during mid-eighteenth century treaty councils with the British. It explores the reasons underpinning the narrative’s use on these occasions and its overall implications. Finally, the article discusses the adoption of the narrative by one British diplomat, Sir William Johnson, considering his motivations for using the Covenant Chain and its intended effects.


Hatton, H. (2019). Narrating Sovereignty: The Covenant Chain in Intercultural Diplomacy. Journal of early American history, 9(2-3), 118-144.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 9, 2019
Online Publication Date Dec 10, 2019
Publication Date 2019-12
Deposit Date Dec 9, 2020
Publicly Available Date Jan 14, 2021
Journal Journal of Early American History
Print ISSN 1877-0223
Electronic ISSN 1877-0703
Publisher Brill Academic Publishers
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 9
Issue 2-3
Pages 118-144
Keywords Sovereignty; Covenant Chain; Power; Haudenosaunee; Intercultural diplomacy
Public URL
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