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Early Native Literacies in New England

Early Native Literacies in New England: A Documentary and Critical Anthology

Kristina Bross
Hilary E. Wyss
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Early Native Literacies in New England
    Book Description:

    Designed as a corrective to colonial literary histories that have excluded Native voices, this anthology brings together a variety of primary texts produced by the Algonquian peoples of New England during the seventeenth, eighteenth, and very early nineteenth centuries. Included among these written materials and objects are letters, signatures, journals, baskets, pictographs, confessions, wills, and petitions, each of which represents a form of authorship. Together they demonstrate the continuing use of traditional forms of memory and communication and the lively engagement of Native peoples with alphabetic literacy during the colonial period. Each primary text is accompanied by an essay that places it in context and explores its significance. Written by leading scholars in the field, these readings draw on recent trends in literary analysis, history, and anthropology to provide an excellent overview of the field of early Native studies. They are also intended to provoke discussion and open avenues for further exploration by students and other interested readers. Above all, the texts and commentaries gathered in this volume provide an opportunity to see Native American literature as a continuity of expression that reflects choices made long before contact and colonization, rather than as a nineteenth—or even twentiethcentury invention.Contributors include Heidi Bohaker, Heather Bouwman, Joanna Brooks, Kristina Bross, Stephanie Fitzgerald, Sandra Gustafson, Laura Arnold Leibman, Kevin McBride, David Murray, Laura Murray, Jean O'Brien, Ann Marie Plane, Philip Round, Jodi Schorb, David Silverman, and Hilary E. Wyss.

    eISBN: 978-1-61376-075-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    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 served as a go-between for the United States and certain western tribes, created a narration reflecting the oratory that was the signal feature of his diplomatic efforts among the Delawares, Miamis, Shawnees, and others. His work, discovered among private papers...

  6. 1 The Mohegans
    (pp. 15-83)

    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 Uncas, who brought the Mohegans into alliance with the English colonists against the Pequots in the infamous Pequot War of 1637. Throughout the 1630s and 1640s, using his English allies to reinforce his position against neighboring tribes, Uncas...

  7. 2 The Narragansetts
    (pp. 84-104)

    Not technically part of New England in the original colonial sense, the Narragansetts were at the center of a network of Algonquian peoples, with the Pequots and Mohegans to their west, the Wampanoags to their east across Narragansett Bay, and the Nipmucks, Pawtuxets, and Massachusetts to their north.

    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...

  8. 3 Natick
    (pp. 105-129)

    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 Natick Indian identity emerged in 1650, with the founding of Natick as the first praying town in New England. Although the inhabitants were drawn from the Massachusetts, the Pawtuckets, the Nipmuks, and other groups, they are most often...

  9. 4 The Pequots
    (pp. 130-161)

    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 as well. This long-standing dominance may be one reason that Mohegan and Narragansett leaders allied against the Pequots during the colonial period despite their earlier association with them in trade and kinship networks.

    Like the Wampanoags, Narragansetts, and other groups in the area, the...

  10. 5 The Wampanoags
    (pp. 162-197)

    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 Vineyard, and protected them in myriad ways. Additional deities marked the Wampanoag spiritual landscape, not the least of whom was Hobbomok (or Cheepi), who provided visions for adolescent boys who were brave or strong enough to seek these visions from him.

    By the time of permanent English settlement at...

  11. 6 Intertribal Conversations
    (pp. 198-250)

    The texts in Chapters One to Five of this anthology are grouped according to tribal affiliation. We hope that this organization helps readers to understand literacy issues within particular cultural contexts—especially important, since the cultures that produced our anthologized texts are still vital parts of New England today.

    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...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 251-268)
  13. Contributors
    (pp. 269-272)
  14. Index
    (pp. 273-276)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 277-277)