Connecticut's Indigenous Peoples

Connecticut's Indigenous Peoples: What Archaeology, History, and Oral Traditions Teach Us About Their Communities and Cultures

Lucianne Lavin
With a contribution to the Introduction by Paul Grant-Costa
Edited by Rosemary Volpe
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Yale University Press
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  • Book Info
    Connecticut's Indigenous Peoples
    Book Description:

    More than 10,000 years ago, people settled on lands that now lie within the boundaries of the state of Connecticut. Leaving no written records and scarce archaeological remains, these peoples and their communities have remained unknown to all but a few archaeologists and other scholars. This pioneering book is the first to provide a full account of Connecticut's indigenous peoples, from the long-ago days of their arrival to the present day.   Lucianne Lavin draws on exciting new archaeological and ethnographic discoveries, interviews with Native Americans, rare documents including periodicals, archaeological reports, master's theses and doctoral dissertations, conference papers, newspapers, and government records, as well as her own ongoing archaeological and documentary research. She creates a fascinating and remarkably detailed portrait of indigenous peoples in deep historic  times before European contact and of their changing lives during the past 400 years of colonial and state history. She also includes a short study of Native Americans in Connecticut in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. This book brings to light the richness and diversity of Connecticut's indigenous histories, corrects misinformation about the vanishing Connecticut Indian, and reveals the significant roles and contributions of Native Americans to modern-day Connecticut.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-19519-4
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Faith Damon Davison

    I first met Dr. Lucianne Lavin back in the winter of 1986, when I was a lowly intern at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven, Connecticut. The institution was preparing to put all of its collections’ card catalogue information online—which seemed at the time like a great leap into the future. I was checking the physical inventory of ethnographic materials in collections against the registrar’s list and the card catalog. Lucianne was studying these collections for a survey of indigenous pottery shards. We had a brief conversation, then both of us returned to our work....

  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Introduction Archaeology in Connecticut
    (pp. 1-34)
    Lucianne Lavin and Paul Grant-Costa

    North America was inhabited by many culturally diverse Native groups thousands of years before its “discovery” in 1492 by Christopher Columbus—who never landed on mainland North America, but explored only as far north as the islands of the Caribbean. Many of these Native American cultures were quite complex, with sociopolitical stratification, intricate mortuary rites, extensive trade networks, and viable economies in balance ecologically with both their physical and social environments.

    In Connecticut, the study of Native American history divides into four main stages: Paleo-Indian, Archaic, Woodland, and Post-Contact. These in turn are subdivided into ten major cultural periods:


  7. 1 Connecticut’s Earliest Settlers The Paleo-Indian Period
    (pp. 35-56)

    For the past million years much of North America was repeatedly covered and uncovered by a series of vast ice sheets. In some areas of New England these glaciers were over a mile thick (2 kilometers). Much of the earth’s water was frozen into them. By about 15,000 B.P. sea level had dropped more than 435 feet (135 meters) lower than it is today, leaving much of the continental shelf exposed as dry land.¹

    In northwestern North America the lower sea level exposed land along the Bering Strait, connecting Asia and Alaska. Although commonly called the Bering Land Bridge, it...

  8. 2 Coping with New Environments The Early Archaic Period
    (pp. 57-71)

    During the Archaic stage the climate continued to warm and sea level continued to rise. At around 10,000 to 8900 B.P. there was a dramatic increase in white pine, yellow and gray birch, and oak trees at the expense of spruce, larch, and firs, showing a continued warming and drying, with July temperatures possibly 8 percent higher than today, although the winters were colder.¹ By 9000 B.P. (8000 cal B.C.) the rising sea had created Long Island Sound, separating Long Island from the Connecticut mainland.²

    This pine-birch-oak forest could support white-tailed deer, moose, elk, black bear, wolf, fox, lynx, marten,...

  9. 3 Surviving in Hot, Dry Homelands The Middle Archaic Period
    (pp. 72-84)

    Radiocarbon dates for Middle Archaic settlements range from about 8000 to 6000 B.P. This was a period of continued warming and drying.¹ Like the Early Archaic period, fluctuations in temperatures did occur, but there is evidence for a hot, dry trend in Connecticut: an expansion of grasslands at the expense of woodlands, a surge of forest fires, and the drying up of wetlands. Botanical studies show a decrease in forest tree pollens except for an increase in warmth-loving oak, more ragweed and herbaceous plants, the first appearance of drought-resistant hickory, and evidence for burning in charcoal particles across large stretches...

  10. 4 The Hunter-Gatherer Florescence The Late Archaic Period
    (pp. 85-120)

    The climate continued to become warmer and drier well into the first half of the Late Archaic cultural period (about 6000 to 3800 RCY B.P.). Sea level continued its rapid rise from polar ice melting and post-glacial crustal subsidence, drowning the earlier Archaic coasts.¹ The oxygen isotope content of Greenland ice cores and pollen and plant macrofossil studies show that the climate continued to fluctuate throughout Late Archaic and later Woodland times. Periods cooler and wetter than today—sometimes called “Little Ice Ages”—occurred at about 4330 B.P., 3290 B.P., from 2680 to 2550 B.P., 1550 B.P., 650 B.P. (about...

  11. 5 Environmental Stress and Elaborate Ritual The Terminal Archaic Period
    (pp. 121-142)

    At the end of Archaic times, known as the Terminal Archaic period (about 3800 to 2700 RCY B.P.), some indigenous communities shifted their base camps from large interior wetlands to the floodplains and first terraces of the large river valleys.¹ Although essentially modern environmental conditions prevailed, the climate continued to fluctuate. During the “Little Ice Age” around 3290 B.P. the weather was wetter and cooler than today. The rise in sea level slowed dramatically because of reduced melting of the polar ice cap, and post-glacial crustal movements (the depressed earth bouncing back after the glacier receded) ceased. The inundation of...

  12. 6 Closure, Continuity, and the Seeds of Change The Early Woodland Period
    (pp. 143-166)

    The Archaic stage in southern New England history was followed by the four cultural periods of the Woodland stage: Early Woodland, Middle Woodland, Late Woodland, and Final Woodland. Archaeologists traditionally define each period by its distinct artifact styles and the introduction of new material to the local cultures. During these periods Woodland peoples developed major innovations: the significant use of clay containers (Early Woodland), smoking pipes (Early Woodland), the bow and arrow (late Middle Woodland), and domesticated plant foods (Late Woodland). Recent archaeological, palynological, and geological discoveries show that these cultural periods were also marked by changes in settlement patterns,...

  13. 7 Prosperity and Population Growth The Middle Woodland Period
    (pp. 167-191)

    By the Middle Woodland period (about 1650 to 950 RCY B.P.) climatic conditions had stabilized. Paleobotanists, geologists, ecologists, and geophysicists report no evidence for environmental change until the beginning of the Late Woodland period around A.D. 1000.¹ Sea level continued to rise, but at a much slower rate. Marshlands continued to flourish and expand, producing dense vegetation that provided homes, nurseries, and food for more and more animal life, including human communities.

    Several major cultural changes occurred between 1650 and 950 B.P., and a major environmental shift at the end of this period likely accelerated those changes. At about 1650...

  14. 8 Ecological Abundance and Tribal Homelands The Late Woodland Period
    (pp. 192-269)

    Several important changes mark the beginning of the Late Woodland cultural period (about 950 RCY B.P. to cal A.D. 1524). One is physical. The “Little Climatic Warming Period” began around 950 B.P. (circa A.D. 1000) and lasted several hundred years.¹ During that time temperature increased by one degree Celsius. This climatic change modified the local vegetation (and probably local animal life, too). Southern tree species have been identified from charred fragments at several local Late Woodland period sites: sourwood at both the Sebonac site on eastern Long Island and the Manakaway site in Greenwich, Connecticut, and black walnut from a...

  15. Color illustrations
    (pp. None)
  16. 9 Beaver Skins for Iron Axes The Final Woodland Period
    (pp. 270-317)

    Archaeological evidence has proved that Scandinavian explorers known as the Vikings, or Norsemen, were the first Europeans to make landfall in North America, which researchers believe was the “Vinland” referred to in Norse sagas.¹ A Viking settlement dating to about A.D. 1000 was excavated at the L’Anse Aux Meadows site in Newfoundland, Canada.² Because of its archaeological importance, the site was named a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization in 1978.³

    Our earliest definitive documentary evidence for specific European contacts with indigenous communities of northeastern North America dates to around the beginning of the...

  17. 10 Surviving European-American Colonialism A.D. 1633 into the Twenty-first Century
    (pp. 318-364)

    Following closely on the heels of the explorers and traders, English settlers came in droves, seeking land and natural resources denied to them in England, and religious freedom for themselves—although not for others, sadly. Indigenous people, the first residents of the United States, were not allowed to practice their traditional religions until 1978, when the United States Congress finally passed the American Indian Religious Freedom Act.¹ They became United States citizens only in 1924, when the Snyder Act gave tribal peoples the right to vote.²

    Problems between the English and the continent’s First Nations multiplied during the settlement period,...

  18. Notes
    (pp. 365-400)
  19. References
    (pp. 401-448)
  20. Figure Credits
    (pp. 449-458)
  21. Index
    (pp. 459-480)