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Becoming Brothertown

Native American Ethnogenesis and Endurance in the Modern World

Craig N. Cipolla

Publication Year: 2013

Histories of New England typically frame the region’s Indigenous populations in terms of effects felt from European colonialism: the ravages of epidemics and warfare, the restrictions of reservation life, and the influences of European-introduced ideas, customs, and materials. Much less attention is given to how Algonquian peoples actively used and transformed European things, endured imposed hardships, and negotiated their own identities. In Becoming Brothertown, Craig N. Cipolla searches for a deeper understanding of Native American history.
    Covering the eighteenth century to the present, the book explores the emergence of the Brothertown Indians, a "new" community of Native peoples formed in direct response to colonialism and guided by the vision of Samson Occom, a Mohegan Indian and ordained Presbyterian minister. Breaking away from their home settlements of coastal New England during the late eighteenth century, members of various tribes migrated to Oneida Country in central New York State in hopes of escaping East Coast land politics and the corrupting influences of colonial culture. In the nineteenth century, the new community relocated once again, this time to present-day Wisconsin, where the Brothertown Indian Nation remains centered today.
    Cipolla combines historical archaeology, gravestone studies, and discourse analysis to tell the story of the Brothertown Indians. The book develops a pragmatic approach to the study of colonialism while adding an archaeological perspective on Brothertown history, filling a crucial gap in the regional archaeological literature.

Published by: University of Arizona Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xii

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pp. xiii-xvi

As with the conclusion of any long-term, labor-intensive project, one naturally looks back to when it began to take stock of just how much happened in the intervening years. In the case of this project, I feel like an altogether different person than the one who began this research in 2006 and committed to writing this book in 2010. ...

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1. Occom’s Doubts

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pp. 1-11

Though with a different vessel than many readers will envision, akin to most colonial histories of North America, the Brothertown story begins with a crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. ...

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2. Pragmatism and the Archaeology of Colonial Ethnogenesis

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pp. 12-29

In writing the letter excerpted in the epigraph, Joseph Johnson— then a nascent leader in the Brothertown movement—aspired to raise funds for his school among the Tunxis Indians of Farmington, Connecticut. Like all people enmeshed in colonial contexts, Johnson continually refashioned his identity in relation to the “foreign” peoples, ...

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3. Brothertown Histories

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pp. 30-52

So wrote Thomas Commuck from mid-nineteenth-century Brothertown, Wisconsin. Only three decades before, Commuck—a Narragansett Indian—first joined the Brothertown community in their New York settlement just as they were preparing for their next move west. ...

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4. Brothertown Writing: Peopling the Place, Placing the People

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pp. 53-73

As described, Occom saw Brotherton, or “Brothertown” as it came to be known, simply as place rather than as an identity. For him, the newly formed body politic was exactly that—a community linked by shared religious views and approaches to the politics of colonial North America—rather than an emergent ethnic group. ...

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5. Commemoration in the Northeast

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pp. 74-119

Hardship and change were all too familiar for Aaron Poquiantup. He was born a Niantic Indian among the tumult of postrevolutionary New England and spent his childhood and much of his teenage life as part of the Christian Indian communities of coastal Connecticut and Rhode Island. ...

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6. Commemoration in Wisconsin

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pp. 120-161

Hannah Dick’s grave sits in a small cemetery in the northwest corner of Brothertown, Wisconsin, adjacent to the lot where she spent the last twenty-one years of her life. It is the only Brothertown cemetery bounded by stone walls reminiscent of the vernacular architecture of New England. ...

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7. Spatial Practices at Brothertown

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pp. 162-179

In an effort that ultimately led them to current-day Wisconsin, the Brothertown Indians sought out yet another new communal land base in the early nineteenth century. As outlined in chapter 3, they first looked to present-day Indiana, writing the letter quoted above to the leaders of a multitribal community then residing in the area ( Jarvis 2010). ...

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8. Ethnogenesis and Endurance in the Modern World: Toward a Deeper Understanding of Colonial Culture and Native American Identity Politics

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pp. 180-194

Nearly two and a half centuries have passed since Samson Occom began questioning his people’s place in coastal New England, since members of several local tribes gathered at Mohegan to discuss their uncertainties about the future, and since Joseph Johnson went to Oneida in search of a new homeland. ...


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pp. 195-212


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pp. 213-218

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About the Author

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pp. 238-238

Craig Cipolla received his PhD in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania in 2010 and is currently a lecturer at the University of Leicester, where he holds a Marie Curie Research Fellowship and directs both the Centre for Historical Archaeology and the Master’s Program in Historical Archaeology. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780816599622
E-ISBN-10: 0816599629
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816530304
Print-ISBN-10: 0816530300

Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 20 illustrations, 21 tables
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 855906064
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Becoming Brothertown

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Brotherton Indians -- History.
  • Brotherton Indians -- Migrations.
  • Brotherton Indians -- Ethnic identity.
  • Indians of North America -- History -- Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775.
  • United States -- History -- Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775.
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