Early Native Literacies in New England
A Documentary and Critical Anthology
Publication Year: 2008
Published by: University of Massachusetts Press
Title Page, Copyright
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This project emerged from our sense that the extraordinary range of materials relating to colonial Native America that Native tribal historians and university scholars have unearthed warranted a far larger audience than they have hitherto received. The richness, subtlety, and depth of Native textual production in early New England and the window that these texts open to a world...
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In 1769 a young Narragansett woman named Sarah Simon spent an agonizing afternoon trying to explain to the white minister responsible for her Christian education just how far short of providing a new spiritual framework for her life his efforts had fallen. Her letter survives in the Dartmouth College archives. In 1794 Hendrick Aupaumut, a Stockbridge/Mahican tribal leader who had...
1. The Mohegans
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Before English contact, the Mohegans of Connecticut—certainly one of the most widely recognized of the New England tribes today (thanks, in no small part, to the Mohegan Sun Casino)—were closely tied to the Pequot Tribe, having migrated with them from the upper Hudson River Valley some time around 1500. They split from the Pequots under the leadership of their sachem...
2. The Narragansetts
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According to Narragansett tradition, the deity Cautantowwit created humanity. Dissatisfied with his earlier stone creations, Cautantowwit broke the original man and woman and made a second version of humanity from a tree. From the great Cautantowwit, humans received corn and beans; Cheepi, a force of darkness, connected them to a spirit world and was therefore central to...
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We have titled this section after the name of the first “praying town,” Natick, established by Christian Indians and John Eliot some twenty miles west of Boston. The title acknowledges that no one traditional term fully represents the people included in this chapter. Unlike the groups named in the other sections of this anthology, Natick Indians have a specific colonial origin: The...
4. The Pequots
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The center of Pequot communal life was the area between the Thames and the Mystic rivers in present-day Connecticut. At the time of colonization, the Pequots numbered approximately thirteen thousand, and they controlled some two thousand square miles of territory. Undeniably a powerful force in colonial New England, they were a commanding presence before European contact...
5. The Wampanoags
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The Wampanoag people lived in settlements that stretched from southeastern Massachusetts (including Cape Cod, Nantucket Island, Martha’s Vineyard, and the Elizabeth Islands) to portions of Rhode Island. According to Wampanoag tradition, Moshup, a benevolent giant, shaped the coastline by moving boulders to facilitate his whale hunting, guided the people to Martha’s...
6. Intertribal Conversations
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We believe that it is important to recognize not only the significance and the persistence of tribal identities but also that individual tribal histories tell only part of the story of New England as an “Indian world.”1 Literacy practices, particularly the adoption of alphabetic literacy, cut across tribal identities and linked Native peoples of New England during the early colonial period...
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Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2008