Abstract

Abstract:

Material culture offers an important and challenging critical tool kit for Native American and early American studies. This essay focuses on a series of case studies from the Northeast, particularly Native and colonial contexts in central and eastern Massachusetts, to demonstrate how tangible objects can provide powerful complements to archival/documentary records and even help redress seeming silences or absences that arise from textually focused methodologies. Using a “convergence” approach, it argues for the necessity of working across library, archive, and museum collections to more holistically access the lives and experiences of past individuals and communities. Analyzing items such as stone projectile points, furniture, and carved gravestones associated with locations including the Kwinitekw (Connecticut) River Valley and Natick, and using a deliberately multivocal interpretive strategy, it develops a contextual and at times carefully speculative mode of analysis that helps bring to the fore complexities of Native encounters with New England settler colonialism. At the same time, it considers methodological constraints attendant to materiality and offers cautions about the nature and extent of interpretive work centered on objects and their afterlives.

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