Beyond reservation: Indian survivance in southern New England and eastern Long Island, 1713-1861

Date of Completion

January 2009


Anthropology, Cultural|Native American Studies




The focus of this dissertation is the post-colonial survivance of Indian people in the New England region. Drawing from and developing local histories, this regional study integrates the varied experiences of individuals, families, and communities as they learned to live in what historian James Merrell calls the “Indians' New World.” To understand the legacy of colonization or “invasion” in the New England region, this dissertation begins to connect Indian histories after the arrival of Europeans in the seventeenth century with those of the multi-racial and multi-ethnic “federal recognition” and “casino” Indians of the late twentieth century. In doing so, I examine and contextualize some of the more elusive aspects of Native American ethnohistory. To wit, this study addresses how Indians negotiated race, ethnicity, and identity, their varied responses to land dispossession, and their maintenance of social and kinship networks on land and at sea during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. ^ In this dissertation, I look beyond traditional approaches to Indian history. I argue that three interrelated factors formed the essence of Merrell's so called “new core”: (1) continued connection to homeland (commonly, but not exclusively, reservations), (2) maintenance and expression of a particular Indian identity, and (3) the maintenance of social networks. While these components do not reflect a “new core,” per se, they were (and continue to be) aspects of Indian society and culture that have both persisted and have been overlooked in terms of the significance in the continuity of socio-cultural patterns. Homeland, identity, and kinship. Together, these were the few things Indians continued to share and over which they could individually or collectively exercise power. ^ Historians and anthropologists have approached New England ethnohistory in very distinct and, only occasionally, intersecting ways. I endeavor, in this dissertation, to transcend these disciplinary differences, building on the strengths of each but mindful of their weaknesses. This one-hundred-fifty year study will focus on aspects of Indian history that are rarely considered together: land, gender, mobility, labor, identity, race, rights, ethnic boundaries, and intercommunity connections. The central and unifying theme is community survivance. ^