University at Albany, State University of New York UAlbany Home UAlbany Site Index UAlbany Search
Insert photo description here
Author's Guide
Back Issues
Table of Contents
Online Abstracts


Abstracts: Issue 70

Number 70 Fall 2005

The editorial comment for issue number 70 can be found at the end of this page.

1-10 "Natural Inhabitants, Time Out of Mind": Sachem Rights and the Contest for Wampanoag Land in Colonial New England

David J. Silverman

This paper uses land deeds and related documents from southeastern New England to examine debates between common Wampanoags and their sachems, and between Wampanoags and the English, over the sachems' land sales to colonists. Wampanoag protests against their sachems' transactions, and against English claims to exclusive title based on those sales, eventually produced two tiers of Indian claims-sachem rights and planting rights-that colonists had to purchase to consolidate their possession of the land. Over time, this compromise led to common Indians acquiring fee simple ownership of their planting grounds and to the decline of the office of sachem itself.

Les actes de transactions du sud-est de la Nouvelle-Angleterre sont utilisés dans cet article afin d'examiner les débats, qui ont eu lieu entre les Wampanoags et leurs sachems ainsi qu'entre les Wampanoags et les Anglais, à propos de la vente de terres aux colons. Les protestations des Wampanoags contre les transactions effectuées par leurs sachems et contre les revendications d'exclusivité anglaises basés sur ces ventes, ont mené à la constitution de deux niveaux de revendications amérindiennes indépendantes pour les mêmes terres-les droits des sachems sur laterre et les droits de culture du sol. Les colons ont du négocier sur ces deux plans afin de consoliderleur possession des terres. Avec le temps, ce compromis a mené au déclin de la fonction de sachem età la reconnaissance que les Amérindiens ordinaires possédaient sans conditions leurs terres agricoles.

11-17 Selling the Praying Towns: Massachussett and Nipmuc Land Transactions, 1680-1730

Daniel R. Mandell

In the wake of King Philip's War, the Nipmuc and Massachusett survivors of imprisonment on Deer Island in Massachusetts Harbor resettled four of the villages that before the war had been centers of Christian Indian communities: Punkapoag, Hassanamisco, Natick, and Chabanakongkomun. During the next half-century, all but the last would transfer most of their territory to Massachusetts settlers. Those transactions and their circumstances reveal not only the connections, similarities, and distinctions between the three communities, but also the complex weave of land dealings and contemporary politics that shaped a triangular relationship between these "dependent" Natives, colonists, and the provincial government. These transactions also highlight the uses of and shortcomings in land deeds as sources for understanding Native communities and their relationships with non-Natives.

À la suite de la guerre du Roi Philip, les survivants Nipmucs et Massachussetts, détenus à Deer Island dans la baie de Massachussetts, se sont réinstallés dans quatre des villages qui, avant la guerre, avaient été des communautés amérindiennes christianisées: Punkapoag, Hassanamisco, Natik et Chabanakongkomun. À l'exception de cette dernière, la plus grande part de leur territoire fut transférée aux colons du Massachussetts au cours du demi-siècle suivant. Ces transactions et leurs circonstances révèlent non seulement les liens, les similarités et les différences entre ces trios communautés, mais également la complexité des négociations et de la politique qui caractérisait cette relation tripartite entre les Amérindiens " dépendants ", les colons et le gouvernement provincial. Ces transactions mettent également en évidence la difficulté d'étudier les communautés amérindiennes et leurs relations avec les nouveaux arrivants à partir des actes de vente.

19-48 Indian Land Deeds as Evidence for Indian History in Western Connecticut

Blair A. Rudes

Nineteenth- and twentieth-century anthropologists and historians have used Indian land deeds as primary sources of data in arguing for the existence of such named socio-political groups in western Connecticut as the Paugussett, Pequannock, Potatuck, and Weantinock "tribes" and for defining the limits of the territory of these groups. In so doing, they have failed to consider adequately the extent to which the deeds reflect English biases toward property, territory, and naming Indian peoples. A reexamination of Indian deeds from the area shows that they contain no evidence for socio-political groups larger than towns and suggests that the resident Indians did not conceive of the territorial boundaries among communities as being as rigidly fixed as proposed in prior analyses.

Les anthropologues et les historiens des XIXe et XXe siècles ont utilisé les actes de ventes de terres comme sources primaires pour appuyer l'existence et pour définir les limites territoriales de groupes socio-politiques dans l'ouest du Connecticut, tels que les Paugussetts, les Pequannocks, les Potatucks et les Weantinocks. Ce faisant, ils n'ont pas tenu compte adéquatement des biais sur les notions de propriété, de territoire et d'ethnonymie que ces actes véhiculent. Un nouvel examen des mêmes documents de la région révèle qu'ils ne contiennent aucun indice d'entités socio-politiques plus grandes que celle du village et suggère que, contrairement à ce que l'on croyait dans les analyses précédentes, les Amérindiens ne concevaient pas les frontières culturelles entre les communautés comme étant rigides.

49-66 Oh Wither Weantinock: Deeds and Their Interpretations

Laurie Weinstein and Deseree Heme

The Weantinock Indians lived in western Connecticut along the Housatonic River during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Little is known about them, despite the plethora of place names in the New Milford region that hint at the Native past, like Guarding Mountain, Lake Waramaug, Lake Lillinonah, and Lover's Leap. This paper goes beyond the work of Franz Wojciechowski (1992) in analyzing deeds, court records, maps, and other primary and secondary materials in an attempt to more firmly place the Weantinock in history. Several questions guide our analysis: who were the Weantinock and what can the deeds tell us about them?; who signed the deeds and why?; what can the deeds tell us about Native cultural patterns?; and, what are some of the limitations of using the deeds?

Les Weantinocks habitaient dans l'ouest du Connecticut sur la rivière Housatonic aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles. On ne les connaît que très peu malgré l'abondance de toponymes dans la région de Milford qui témoignent du passé amérindien, comme Guardian Mountain, les lacs Waramaug et Lillinonah, ainsi que Lover's Leap. Cet article va au-delà du travail de Fransz Wojciechowski (1992) dans l'analyse des actes de vente, des documents juridiques, des cartes et d'autres documents primaires et secondaires afin d'asseoir plus solidement les Weantinocks dans l'histoire. Plusieurs interrogations dirigent notre analyse: qui étaient les Weantinocks et comment les actes de vente peuvent nous renseigner sur eux? Qui au juste signaient ces actes et pourquoi? Que disent les actes sur certains aspects de leur culture, et quelles en sont les limites?

67-68 Touring Gotham's Archaeological Past: 8 Self-Guided Walking Tours Through New York City (Diana diZerega Wall and Anne-Marie Cantwell) and Unearthing Gotham: The Archaeology of New York City (Anne-Marie Cantwell and Diana diZerega Wall)

Charles D. Cheek

68-70 Beyond Conquest: Native Peoples and the Struggle for History in New England (Amy E. Den Ouden)

Neal Salisbury


One of the greatest benefits of editing a journal such as Northeast Anthropology is being continually exposed to subject matter far outside of my own areas of expertise. Volume 70 is a prime example: a thematic volume dealing with the use of primary documents related to land transactions between Euro-Americans and Native Americans during the Contact period. When Laurie Weinstein approached me with the proposal for this volume, I eagerly accepted since the subject was so unlike anything I've ever investigated, and also a welcome change of subject for the journal as a whole.

We look at land deeds and other similar documents today as simple records of economic transactions, with little more content than a cash register receipt. As the papers in this volume demonstrate, the records of the land transactions between Natives and White settlers are by comparison very nuanced and informative cultural documents. A range of important anthropological questions can be addressed through careful analysis of early deed documents. Issues addressed in the four papers in this volume include the ethnic identity of Native groups engaging in transactions; the territorial extent of these groups; the contradictory social relations between Native chiefs and their constituents; and different Native and White cultural conceptions about land use and land alienability. At the same time, these papers caution against simplistic assumptions and biases in the interpretation of the primary documentary records regarding early land transactions.

These articles are drawn from a diversity of viewpoints as well, with anthropological, ethnohistorical, and linguistic approaches all addressing a common subject. Weinstein's introductory comments aptly summarize each paper's content. Silverman uses information from deeds to uncover internal conflicts within Native groups between leaders and their constituents as both interest groups strove to cope with encroachment by land-hungry colonists. Mandell, while acknowledging the power of deeds for interpreting the recent past, also cautions that they are selective documents and need to be looked at holistically in the context of the entirety of available documentation. Rudes takes a linguistic approach, using deeds to demonstrate ethnic uniformity among several individual settlements previously assumed to represent discrete tribes. Weinstein and Heme's paper uses deeds to identify previously unknown territorial extends and sociocultural interactions among one Native group in western Connecticut and eastern New York State.

It is the hope of the editorial staff that readers of Northeast Anthropology, regardless of their core interests or areas of expertise, will find something of relevance in this thematic volume. Additional thematic volumes are currently under planning, but this will not undercut our dedication to providing a publication venue for outstanding individual papers.

Regards to our readers,

Sean M. Rafferty


Top of page