Proposal: More Than Surviving

More Than Surviving
Wampanoag Political Agency, Ingenuity, and Persistence in the Antebellum Era 

The general vein of American history often presents northeastern Indigenous peoples romantically stereotyped as “noble savages,” whose struggles were quaint, futile, and relegated to the distant past. Their relationship to arriving European’s is portrayed as shifting from threat to ward before history goes silent on their existence (Vuilleumier). Despite at first being addressed as sovereign peoples by the newcomers, the general understanding is they were killed, “civilized,” assimilated or sequestered onto reservations—while the nation moved on to other important issues shaping its future. In reality, despite incomprehensible hardships related to war, disease, enslavement and economic and social opression, Indigenous peoples of the Northeast sustained cultural traditions, advocated for their rights, and remained connected to their homelands. As part of their survival, they adapted to the ways of the new nation that rose around them. While continuing to maintain traditional governmental structures that predate the arrival of colonists, tribes engaged in political activities that had implications beyond their own communities (Scott), contributing to many of the causes tied to social and political reform movements of the antebellum period including anti-slavery, racial equality, and the fight for women’s and, of course, Indigenous rights.

This project seeks to specifically expand national historical awareness of the Wampanoag Nation of Eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, by creating an online archive showcasing their continuous political activism during the antebellum period. With a focus on 1830–1850, a particularly eventful period of political activity nationally, the online resource will identify and map Wampanoag activists and political activity. Drawing from a range of resources this project will link Wampanoag activism to widely documented political and social issues, highlighting not just continuous presence and vital contributions to the political fabric of the United States, but the sustained Indigenous expressions of agency, ingenuity, and persistence in the face of systematic oppression.

Interactive map showcasing 3-5 instances of political activity by specific Wampanoag communities and individuals. Political and social issues may include desegregation of schools and transportation, Indigenous rights, and abolition.

The site currently to include:

  • Home page that contextualizes the content of the map/project
  • Clickable Map (for proof of concept it may include filters by location and issue even if data points are not available)
  • Landing pages or views that provide additional context including images and short descriptions (Time permitting these may mention relevant national and state legislation or events)
  • Cross-referencing to related instances (location, individual, issue) where relevant

Many of you know this is a project of great personal interest, however please be assured that I am not looking to boil the ocean this semester. My goal is to immerse myself in the process of team building required to create this type of DH project and developing a prototype of what may evolve after this semester into a more involved project. This means that site functionality will be prioritized over populating the map with endless data points—read: research will be finite, not open ended. I am very conscious of the time constraints, and will look to keep goals concrete and attainable—and will look to the team to help determine what that means.

I am excited to partner with teammates who enjoy collaborating and bringing new insight and ideas around how to shape this into something we can all be excited about.



  1. Marion Vuilleumier. Indians on Olde Cape Cod (1970)
  2. Alina Scott. NOT EVEN PAST; Cynthia Attaquin and a Wampanoag Network of Petitioners

10 thoughts on “Proposal: More Than Surviving

  1. Zico Abhi Dey (he/him)

    Hi Majel, Nicely done!! Your notes portion is so reassuring simply because how big this project might be to achieve its goals within this short timeframe. If I get it correctly it is a archive + visualization (mapping) project. Are you going to scrape web for articles to populate the database? Will the archive be visible to public or just be used to store metadata for visualization? I am asking because I am trying to imagine how the project might look. Eagerly waiting to see your vision for the project during the pitch next week.

    1. Majel


      Thank you for your kind words.

      Ultimately, I am interested in public history, so the intention of this project is to be an appealing entry point for the general public as well as a resource for scholars and community members. This is to say, I see it as double tracking the collection of data and the design and development of the front end for the public to interface with. Most of the references I have are in texts that may or may not be digitized—scraping sites would be a great capability to have but I don’t think it makes/breaks the project.

  2. Elizabeth Szypulski (She/her)


    I’m really excited about this project and so glad you are pitching it. Thank you for providing context in the notes section about the scope and priorities.

    You probably address this in your proposal, but I’m curious to hear about your plan for outreach and promotion. Also, have you decided on which tools/languages you’ll use to build the map and site?

    1. Majel


      Thank you for your encouragement! To answer your question, I could see the research being showcased in a visual way on Instagram where the project could also interconnect with a rather large number of accounts dedicated to history of the same period, Indigenous cultural/historical awareness—including individuals and organizations like Illuminative. I also see an opportunity to create a quite one pager that introduces the project to scholars and tribal community members who may find the project of interest with an invitation to interact and follow on social. That being said, I am very excited to have input from the full team on avenues to help raise awareness of the work and topic.

  3. Kristy Leonardatos (She/Her)

    Great job, Majel! Wampanoag Political Activism Online is a wonderful project proposal. I love that it is close to your heart, and that it offers to shed light on the important role that the Wampanoag Nation played in shaping the political landscape of Eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island during the antebellum period. By creating an online archive that showcases the Wampanoag’s continuous political activism, it provides a resource to learn about this underrepresented aspect of American history. I especially like how the project aims to link Wampanoag activism to the wider political and social issues, highlighting the Wampanoag’s persistence, ingenuity, and agency despite facing systematic oppression. I look forward to you presentation 🙂

  4. Miaoling Xue (She/Her/Hers)

    Wonderful project and I am excited to learn more about Indigenous peoples. I think this project is a great opportunity for us to relearn Indigenous ways of thinking and knowing, and improve gender, racial, and ethnic Justice. I am also wondering if you have a plan to do team workshops so that all members could enhance the ability of mapping and digital storytelling. I am curious about the environmental scan and work distribution. Hope to listen more from you tomorrow!

  5. zelda montes (they/them)

    Majel, thank you for pitching this project – I’m excited as the prospect of seeing this come to life!

    I’m curious to hear more about the programming languages you are thinking about for the web development and creation of the maps. I have some ideas as to the technologies that can be used in creating an interactive map, and would love to collaborate in class further!

    Given the focus on functionality of the website, I’m wondering if this project would require a team with more developers.

    1. Majel Peters (She/her) Post author

      Zelda — Thank you for your feedback and thoughtful question. After reviewing similar projects a bit closer I better see exactly what you pointed out— I do think it would be of use to have more than one person working on the technical side. I would love to chat technologies—I’ve been looking into some options, but would 100% look to teammates with deeper technical knowledge to advise.

  6. RC (she/hers)

    Wonderful project!

    Follow-up question on your note around “Most of the references I have are in texts that may or may not be digitized”.

    I’m curious what’s the current volume of references that you already have access to, and in what format are they? (e.g. letters, books, photography, booklet, etc.) And how would they be digitalized (scanned/ photographed)?

  7. Maria F. Buitrago (she/hers)

    Majel congrats on this great project! I love it. Thanks so much for pitching it, I think it will give the group who works on this and the larger CUNY DH Community an excellent opportunity to think through the hurdles of how to gather data and portray knowledge from different ontologies, on the one hand there’s the western European conceptions and on the other (or perhaps with many crossing intersections yet to be seen) the indigenous histories, chronologies, conceptions of time and space, etc. Or maybe the conceptions of time/space for the Wampanoag community have a lot of affinity with conceptions of time/space of the western European logic. I would absolutely LOVE to see/read what you find in that area. On another view, I think a map can give or rather present all of the political history you want to highlight about the Wampanoag Antebellum Era in ways that could be so pedagogical for the larger population. When I first moved to the U.S I had to take a class in HS on American History and from what I remember of it, the narrative was pretty much of completely erasure of indigenous populations. This map could be an excellent pedagogical resource for teachers and students that want to bring new narratives to the American History, of course as you mentioned.
    On the other side, I would like to hear you more on what/how do you envision the Wampanoag community would receive this project? I’m aware that you are part of the community so perhaps you already thought of it but I would love to first the community perception on a project of this kind…there’s something that I’m super interested in & I think academic world calls “Indigenous Data Sovereignty” –So the idea (I need to read more on this) is that the intellectual property of this kinds of works or any work producing and collecting knowledge from, with and about indigenous territories and histories should be built in construction and for the sovereignty of the community. So, with all of this in mind, I would love if you can expand more on the role the community will play in this project and how much agency/voice will they have and how you envision the group should interact? Also… for my own proposal last semester I came across something that might be interesting/important for you (?) is called “ethnographical refusal” & basically is the idea of how to interpret the silents and omissions of a group, but most importantly how to respect the limits that a community or individual might have in telling his/her own story….However given your time period perhaps this does not apply as much, but maybe it’s helpful for you. I’m super super excited to hear more about this!!!!!!

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