Tribe, Race, History
Native Americans in Southern New England, 1780–1880
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Over the past decade (and more), I have had a great deal of assistance in conceptualizing, researching, and writing this book. It began with a fellowship at Old Sturbridge Village in 1991, during which I first became interested in continuing the study of New England’s Natives into the nineteenth century and found more sources that helped me write my first book on the eighteenth century. The first...
At the end of the American Revolution, only a few thousand Indians remained in southern New England. Declining in numbers and plagued by alcoholism,poverty, and the contempt of their white neighbors, they seemed to teeter on the brink of extinction. But Indians and their communities did survive, and their story over the subsequent century has great significance for American history. First, the...
1 Land and Labor
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, William Tudor of Boston reported that Indians in the region “are a harmless set of beings, and lead a life of hardship,though not of labor.” Within their few remaining reserves, “they cannot alienate their lands... Each individual has a right to cultivate what piece of land he pleases, and this, as well as the hut he occupies, are his, from a kind of right of ...
2 Community and Family
At about the time of American Revolution a Narragansett, Alice Prophetess,bought an African American slave and made him her husband. She would later tell their grandson William J. Brown that she did so “in order to change her mode of living.” Brown commented that, among her grandmother’s people, “it was customary for the woman to do all the drudgery and hard work in-doors and out......
3 Authority and Autonomy
On April 17, 1776, as war and social upheaval rocked New England, John Adams took a moment from the Continental Congress in Philadelphia to answer his wife Abigail’s famous charge to “remember the ladies.” Before twitting his wife that the “numerous and powerful” female “tribe” had “grown discontented,” he seriously observed, “our Struggle has loosened the bonds of Government every-...
4 Reform and Renascence
In late September 1819, after a summer of working with Vineyard Indians, Troy-Watuppa, and Narragansett, Frederick Baylies told the Society for Propagating the Gospel (SPG) that “a new Era appears to be commenced among the Indians in regard to Education, their Schools are in a flourishing state, & under Providence,I think will be the means of great good. Here the tender mind, is early disciplined...
5 Reality and Imagery
On February 12, 1822, Mercy Ann Nonesuch (d. 1915, figure 5) was born in awigwam to the last Indian family on the Niantic reserve. She was bound out to white families until 1846 when she married Henry Matthews, a Mohegan stone-mason who held a good-sized farm on the tribal reserve. A reporter who inter-viewed them around 1870 noted that they lived in “an end-frame house of mod-...
6 Citizenship and Termination
On October 9, 1866, the Narragansetts met a joint legislative committee at the Ocean House in Charlestown. Its chairman told the tribe that the state was considering terminating their separate legal status and giving them full citizenship.The nation was moving toward civil equality for all men regardless of race or color,he noted, as exemplified by Congress’s recent passage of the Civil Rights Act. In...
About 1900, a young Columbia College student visited Mohegan. Frank Speck quickly developed a friendship with the elderly Fidelia Fielding (1827–1908), the only surviving fluent Mohegan speaker. Over the next few decades, he would publish several important articles about southern New England Indians, documenting their present and past. Yet they did not appreciate all of his work. In late spring...
Essay on Sources
The richest sources of documents on Indians in southern New England are the three state archives. Indian individuals, factions, and tribes sent many letters and petitions to state, county, and local officials. These contain descriptions of their communities, economic and social condition, and relations with neighboring whites. Occasionally, other individuals and groups within the community and white neighbors, including selectmen and...
Page Count: 344
Illustrations: 11 halftones, 2 line drawings
Publication Year: 2010
Series Title: The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science
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