Native American Studies

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By Amy E. Den Ouden

Via concentrating on the complicated cultural and political elements of local resistance to encroachment on reservation lands in the course of the eighteenth century in southern New England, past Conquest reconceptualizes indigenous histories and debates over fatherland rights. As Amy E. Den Ouden demonstrates, Mohegans, Pequots, and Niantics residing on reservations in New London County, Connecticut—where the most important indigenous inhabitants within the colony resided—were less than siege through colonists who hired a variety of skill to expropriate reserved lands. Natives have been additionally subjected to the guidelines of a colonial govt that sought to strictly keep an eye on them and that undermined homeland rights via depicting reservation populations as culturally and politically illegitimate. even supposing colonial strategies of rule occasionally incited inner disputes between local men and women, reservation groups and their leaders engaged in sophisticated and infrequently overt acts of resistance to dispossession, therefore demonstrating the ability of historic recognition, cultural connections to land, and ties to neighborhood family members. The Mohegans, for instance, boldly challenged colonial authority and its land encroachment regulations in 1736 through conserving a “great dance,” in which they publicly affirmed the management of Mahomet and, with the help in their Pequot and Niantic allies, articulated their cause to proceed their criminal case opposed to the colony. Beyond Conquest demonstrates how the present Euroamerican scrutiny and denial of neighborhood Indian identities is a tradition with an extended heritage in southern New England, one associated with colonial notions of cultural—and finally “racial”—illegitimacy that emerged within the context of eighteenth-century disputes relating to place of origin rights.

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Extra info for Beyond conquest: Native peoples and the struggle for history in New England

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As these reports suggest, what was troublesome for government officials was that Pequots – impoverished and desperate as their circumstances were throughout the eighteenth century – had produced and sustained kin and community ties on their own terms, and in the face of a history that had demanded their annihilation. In so doing, did they not also perpetuate their collective rights to their reservation land? In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries European and Euro-American ideas of “racial degeneration” and the government-imposed notion of “blood quantum” would become the quintessential means by which Native identities and Native land rights would be assessed, and undermined, by external authorities (see Jaimes 1992, 1994; Churchill 1998; Strong and Van Winkle 1996; Herndon and Sekatau 1997).

Moreover, their protests against encroachment suggest that local histories and identities were embedded in those colonially circumscribed, shrinking lands upon which they labored – fuelled, as Cassacinamon’s 1721 petition reveals, by the kin and community ties that rendered defense of reservation land a means of preserving part of the past and carving out a collective future. But the documents that lend insight into Natives’ land struggles do not suggest a simple history of communities that were consistently politically cohesive or uniformly driven toward a common goal of opposing or accommodating colonial domination: the conditions of daily life for Native people in the early eighteenth century greatly limited the possibilities for unanimous and overt resistance to dispossession and colonial authority.

Ind 1st, 1:101; see chapter 5) Such manipulations of reservation communities’ internal affairs reflect, to borrow Gerald Sider’s phrase, the “peculiar intimacy” of colonial domination (Sider 1987:11). For it was, ultimately, the dismantling and destruction of reservation communities themselves (what came to be referred to as detribalization) that was required to make reservation land fully “accessible” to colonists. The ties to kin and locality that held reservation communities together and lent authority to their leaders (as the 1736 Mohegan leadership ceremony so explicitly announced) were a source of power, creating possibilities for resistance that were not necessarily a trifling matter for the Connecticut government.

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