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.
- Marion Vuilleumier. Indians on Olde Cape Cod (1970)
- Alina Scott. NOT EVEN PAST; Cynthia Attaquin and a Wampanoag Network of Petitioners https://notevenpast.org/cynthia-attaquin-and-a-wampanoag-network-of-petitioners/