Skip to main content
Log in

Survivance Strategies and the Materialities of Mashantucket Pequot Labor in the Later Eighteenth Century

Historical Archaeology Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

Scholars in New England have long been puzzled by the mixed materialities of colonial period Indian homes. Variously interpreted as a strategy for survival, a reflection of cultural loss, or as representations of continuity and change, these sites and their assemblages remain undertheorized. This article focuses on three sites from the Mashantucket Pequot Indian Reservation in southeastern Connecticut, dating between the 1740s/1750s and the 1780s. By considering the differences among them, archaeologists can begin working toward new understandings of Pequot Indian survivance. That research pathway starts with a reconsideration of Indian work in the 1700s, in which household subsistence labor is distinguished from household surplus labor and labor products from labor time. This tactic allows for more in-depth, contextual studies of furnishings and foodways, in which the differences amongst site assemblages become clues to changing reservation ecologies, social exchange networks beyond the reservation, everyday household rhythms, and acts of “quiet defiance.”

Extracto

Los eruditos de Nueva Inglaterra están perplejos desde hace tiempo por las materialidades mezcladas de los hogares indios del período colonial. Interpretados de manera variada como una estrategia de supervivencia, un reflejo de la pérdida cultural o como representaciones de continuidad y cambio, estos yacimientos y sus ensamblajes siguen padeciendo una insuficiencia de teorías. El presente artículo se centra en tres yacimientos de la Reserva India Mashantucket Pequot en el sudeste de Connecticut, que datan entre las décadas de 1740/1750 y 1780. Al considerar las diferencias entre ellos, los arqueólogos pueden empezar a trabajar hacia nuevas comprensiones de la supervivencia de los indios Pequot. Esa vía de investigación comienza con una reconsideración del trabajo de los indios en los años 1700, en los que la mano de obra de subsistencia de los hogares se distingue de la mano de obra en exceso de los hogares y los productos de la mano de obra del tiempo de trabajo. Esta táctica permite estudios más en profundidad y contextuales de muebles y hábitos alimentarios, en los que las diferencias entre los ensamblajes del yacimiento se convierten en pistas hacia ecologías de reserva cambiantes, redes de intercambio social más allá de la reserva, ritmos diarios del hogar y actos de "callada resistencia".

Résumé

Les chercheurs en Nouvelle-Angleterre ont longtemps été surpris par les matériaux mixtes des maisons indiennes de la période coloniale. Interprétés de diverses façons comme une stratégie de survie, un reflet de perte culturelle ou comme des représentations de continuité et de changement, ces sites et leurs assemblages restent insuffisamment théorisés. Cet article porte essentiellement sur trois sites de la réserve indienne des Mashantucket Pequots dans le sud-est du Connecticut, datant des années 1740 et 1750 et des années 1780. En examinant les différences entre eux, les archéologues peuvent commencer à œuvrer en vue d’une nouvelle compréhension de la survivance des indiens Pequot. Cette voie de recherche commence par un réexamen des ouvrages indiens dans les années 1700, dans lesquels le travail de subsistance des familles se distingue du surplus de travail des familles et les produits de ce travail du temps de travail. Cette approche tient compte d’études plus approfondies et contextuelles du mobilier et des habitudes alimentaires, dans lesquels les différences entre les assemblages des sites deviennent des indices pour l’évolution des écologies de la réserve, des réseaux d’échange social en dehors de la réserve, des rythmes quotidiens des familles et des actes de « défiance calme ».

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Institutional subscriptions

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8
Fig. 9
Fig. 10

Notes

  1. Silliman’s research focuses on the Eastern Pequot Reservation in North Stonington, Connecticut, established in 1683; my studies are of Mashantucket Pequot sites from their reservation (1666) in nearby Ledyard.

  2. One such facility was described in May 1784 as “a large and commodious Store ... three stories high with an excellent cellar under it. It is situated in the center of business, and is finely accommodated for an extensive wholesale dealer; or it may very conveniently serve for three retailers” (Norwich Packet, or, the Chronicle of Freedom 1784b).

  3. Account books for the Ebenezer Punderson store (Punderson 1772–1811) in Preston, Connecticut, include numerous entries detailing Indian purchases of buttons, cloth (flannel, lace, silk), indigo dye, pins, and skeins of thread. An August 1796 entry lists a credit of cash to Pequot Joshua George’s wife: “in part pay for a cloak to be taken up at this Shop hereafter,” presumably after she completed it.

  4. Mohegan Joseph Johnson’s diary (1771–1772) (Murray 1998:126–138) and Samson Occom’s second autobiography (1768) (Brooks 2006:57) provide textual evidence of such woodworking and how carved utensils were valued in the regional economy of southeastern Connecticut.

  5. Relevant newspaper advertisements can be found in the Norwich Packet; and The Weekly Advertiser (1779a) and the Norwich Packet, or, the Chronicle of Freedom (1784a).

  6. Newspaper advertisements from the Norwichtown stores are common in the period from the mid-1770s into the early 1790s. The quotations are from the Norwich Packet; and The Weekly Advertiser (1781) and the Norwich Packet, or, the Chronicle of Freedom (1784c).

  7. Advertisement for stoneware potter Charles Lathrop in the Norwich Packet (1792). Listings for “home-made Earthen Wares” can be found in the Norwich Packet; and The Weekly Advertiser (1779b, 1780).

  8. Stiles indicates that in 1762 one-third of Mashantucket families lived in frame houses on the reservation; the others inhabited wetu (Stiles 1809).

  9. Sumac seeds were plentiful in flotation samples excavated from Feature 1 at 72-66, the stone-and-brick-lined hearth in the frame structure (Kasper 2013:116,131).

  10. Norwich newspapers commonly included fur-related listings from merchants and hatmakers starting in the mid-1780s or so.

  11. Mashantucket Sally George was one such Indian doctor; an autobiographical fragment can be found in William Apess’s 1833 work, “The Experiences of Five Christian Indians” (Apess 1992).

References

  • Apess, William 1992 The Experiences of Five Christian Indians. In On Our Own Ground: The Complete Writings of William Apess, A Pequot, Barry O’Connell, editor, pp. 119–153. University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst.

    Google Scholar 

  • Avitable, Joseph 2009 The Atlantic World Economy and Colonial Connecticut. Doctoral dissertation, Department of History, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY. University Microfilms International, Ann Arbor, MI.

  • Barber, John Warren 1836 Connecticut Historical Collections, 2nd edition. Durrie & Peck and J. W. Barber, New Haven, CT.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bhabha, Homi K. 1994 The Location of Culture. Routledge, London, UK.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bodinger de Uriarte, John J. 2007 Casino and Museum: Representing Mashantucket Pequot Identity. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bragdon, Kathleen J. 2009 Native People of Southern New England, 16501775. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.

    Google Scholar 

  • Breed, Gershom 1755 Merchant’s Day Book, Norwich, Connecticut. Manuscript Collection, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford.

  • Breed, Gershom 1765 Merchant’s Day Book, Norwich, Connecticut. Manuscript Collection, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford.

  • Brooks, Joanna (editor) 2006 The Collected Writings of Samson Occom, Mohegan: Leadership and Literature in Eighteenth-Century Native America. Oxford University Press, UK.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cipolla, Craig N. 2013a Becoming Brothertown. Native American Ethnogenesis and Endurance in the Modern World. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cipolla, Craig N. 2013b Native American Historical Archaeology and the Trope of Authenticity. Historical Archaeology 47(3):12–22.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cipolla, Craig N. 2015 Colonial Consumption and Community Preservation: From Trade Beads to Taffeta Skirts. In Rethinking Colonialism: Comparative Archaeological Approaches, Craig C. Cipolla and Katherine Howlett Hayes, editors, pp. 17–39. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Clifford, James 2013 Returns: Becoming Indigenous in the Twenty-First Century. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Connecticut Archives, Indian Series 1761 Report on the Mashantucket Tribe to the Connecticut General Assembly, 20 May. Connecticut Archives, Indian Series I, Vol. 2, pp. 118a–h, Connecticut State Library, Hartford.

  • Connecticut Archives, Indian Series 1766 Report on the State and Circumstances of the Groton Pequot to the Connecticut General Assembly, 11 October. Connecticut Archives, Indian Series I, Vol. 2, pp. 238a–b, Connecticut State Library, Hartford.

  • Connecticut Archives, Indian Series 1773 Memorial of Mashantucket Indians to the Connecticut General Assembly, 10 May. Connecticut Archives, Indian Series I, Vol. 2, pp. 243a–b, Connecticut State Library, Hartford.

  • Connecticut Archives, Indian Series 1774 Memorial from the Mashantucket Tribe and Their Agents to the Connecticut General Assembly, 25 October. Connecticut Archives, Indian Series I, Vol. 2, pp. 246a–c, Connecticut State Library, Hartford.

  • Daniels, Bruce C. 1979 The Connecticut Town: Growth and Development, 16351790. Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, CT.

    Google Scholar 

  • Decker, Robert Owen 1970 The New London Merchants: 16451909: The Rise and Decline of a Connecticut Port. Doctoral dissertation, Department of History, University of Connecticut, Storrs. University Microfilms International, Ann Arbor, MI.

  • Deloria, Philip J. 2004 Indians in Unexpected Places. University of Kansas Press, Lawrence.

    Google Scholar 

  • Delucia, Christine M. 2015 Locating Kickemuit: Springs, Stone Memorials, and Contested Placemaking in the Northeastern Borderlands. Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 13(2):467–502.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ferris, Neal 2009 The Archaeology of Native-Lived Colonialism: Challenging History in the Great Lakes. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ferris, Neal, Rodney Harrison, and Michael V. Wilcox (editors) 2014 Rethinking Colonial Pasts through Archaeology. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

    Google Scholar 

  • Handsman, Russell G. 2013 Landscape Ecology, Social Exchange, and an Archaeology of Mashantucket Pequot Lives, A.D. 1715–1760. In The Inescapable Significance of Cultural Ecology and Environmental Sciences in Archaeology: Papers in Honor of William M. Gardner, Carole Nash and Heather Wholey, editors. Thematic issue, Journal of Middle Atlantic Archaeology 29:159–170.

  • Handsman, Russell G. 2014 New London County (CT) Stonewares and Mashantucket Pequot Pottery from the Late 18th Century. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Conference for Northeast Historical Archaeology, Long Branch, NJ.

  • Handsman, Russell G. 2015 Race-Based Differences and Historical Archaeologies in Indian New England. In The Archaeology of Race in the Northeast, Christopher N. Matthews and Allison Manfra McGovern, editors, pp. 232–251. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Hubbard, Daniel, and William Hubbard 1767 Letter to Captain George Wilson, 9 January. Letter Book of Christopher Leffingwell, 1764–1767, Leffingwell Family Papers, Manuscripts and Archives, Sterling Library, Yale University, New Haven, CT.

  • Jones, Brian, Kevin A. McBride, and Jason R. Mancini 2003 Indiantown (1760–1805): Survey and Inventory of a Transitional Community. Mashantucket Pequot Reservation, Mashantucket, Connecticut. Manuscript, Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, Research Department, Mashantucket, CT.

  • Kasper, Kimberly 2013 Continuity in the Face of Change: Mashantucket Pequot Plant Use from 16751800. Doctoral dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. University Microfilms International, Ann Arbor, MI.

  • Kasper, Kimberly, and Russell G. Handsman 2015 Survivance Stories, Co-Creation, and a Participatory Model at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center. Advances in Archaeological Practice 3(3):198–207.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kulikoff, Allan 2000 From British Peasants to Colonial American Farmers. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill.

    Google Scholar 

  • Leone, Mark P. 1992 Epilogue: The Productive Nature of Material Culture and Archaeology. Historical Archaeology 26(3):130–133.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Leone, Mark P. 2008 The Foundations of Archaeology. In Ethnographic Archaeologies: Reflections on Stakeholders and Archaeological Practices, Quetzil E. Castañeda and Christopher N. Matthews, editors, pp. 119–137. Rowman & Littlefield/AltaMira Press, Lanham, MD.

    Google Scholar 

  • Leone, Mark P., and Constance A. Crosby 1987 Epilogue: Middle-Range Theory in Historical Archaeology. In Consumer Choice in Historical Archaeology, Suzanne Spencer-Wood, editor, pp. 397–410. Plenum Press, New York, NY.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Magid, Barbara H., and Bernard K. Means 2003 In the Philadelphia Style: The Pottery of Henry Piercy. In Ceramics in America 2003, Robert Hunter, editor, pp. 47–86. Chipstone Foundation, Milwaukee, WI.

    Google Scholar 

  • Matthews, Christopher N. 2007 History to Prehistory: An Archaeology of Being Indian. Archaeologies: Journal of the World Archaeological Congress 3(3):271–295.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • McBride, Kevin A. 2005 Transformation by Degree: Eighteenth Century Native American Land Use. In Eighteenth Century Native Communities of Southern New England in the Colonial Context, Jack Campisi, editor, pp. 35–56. Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, Occasional Papers No. 1. Mashantucket, CT.

    Google Scholar 

  • Merrell, James H. 1989 The Indians’ New World. Catawbas and Their Neighbors from European Contact through the Era of Removal. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mrozowski, Stephen A., D. Rae Gould, and Heather Law Pezzarossi 2015 Rethinking Colonialism: Indigenous Innovation and Colonial Inevitability. In Rethinking Colonialism. Comparative Colonial Approaches, Craig C. Cipolla and Katherine Howlett Hayes, editors, pp. 121–142. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Murray, Laura J. (editor) 1998 To Do Good to My Indian Brethren: The Writings of Joseph Johnson, 17511776. University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst.

    Google Scholar 

  • Myers, Susan H. 1977 A Survey of Traditional Pottery Manufacture in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States. Northeast Historical Archaeology 6(1&2):1–13.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Naumec, David 2008 Connecticut’s Native Troops, 1775–1783: Militia, Connecticut Line, and Continental Service. In Proceedings of the Northeastern Native Peoples and the American Revolutionary Era: 17601810, David Naumec, editor, pp. 56–80. Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, Mashantucket, CT.

    Google Scholar 

  • Norwich Packet 1792 Charles Lothrop: Advertisement. Norwich Packet 26 July, 19(957):3. Norwich, CT.

  • Norwich Packet, or, the Chronicle of Freedom 1784a Jeremiah Harris: Advertisement. Norwich Packet, or, the Chronicle of Freedom 19 February, 10(485):3. Norwich, CT.

  • Norwich Packet, or, the Chronicle of Freedom 1784b Sale of Store at Norwich Landing. Norwich Packet, or, the Chronicle of Freedom 13 May, 10(497):3. Norwich, CT.

  • Norwich Packet, or, the Chronicle of Freedom 1784c Dudley Woodbridge: Advertisement. Norwich Packet, or, the Chronicle of Freedom 28 October, 11(521):3. Norwich, CT.

  • Norwich Packet; and The Weekly Advertiser 1779a Sale of Goods at Norwich Landing. Norwich Packet; and The Weekly Advertiser 27 July, 303:3. Norwich, CT.

  • Norwich Packet; and The Weekly Advertiser 1779b Sale of Homemade Earthenware. Norwich Packet; and The Weekly Advertiser 17 August, 306:4. Norwich, CT.

  • Norwich Packet; and The Weekly Advertiser 1780 Sale of Homemade Earthenware. Norwich Packet; and The Weekly Advertiser 21 September, 364:3. Norwich, CT.

  • Norwich Packet; and The Weekly Advertiser 1781 Samuel Woodbridge: Advertisement. Norwich Packet; and The Weekly Advertiser 4 October, 417:3. Norwich, CT.

  • Occom, Samson 2006 Autobiographical Narrative, Second Draft, September 17, 1768. In The Collected Writings of Samson Occom, Mohegan: Leadership and Literature in Eighteenth-Century Native America, Joanna Brooks, editor, pp. 52–58. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pendery, Steve 1985 Ceramics and the Colonial System: The Charlestown Example. In Domestic Pottery of the Northeastern United States, 16251850, Sarah Peabody Turnbaugh, editor, pp. 67–80. Academic Press, Orlando, FL.

    Google Scholar 

  • Punderson, Ebenezer 1772–1811 Punderson Store Account Books, Preston, Connecticut, Vols. 1–8. Manuscript Collection, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford.

  • Raibmon, Paige 2005 Authentic Indians: Episodes of Encounter from the Late Nineteenth-Century Northwest Coast. Duke University Press, Durham, NC.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Sahlins, Marshall 1972 Stone Age Economics. Aldine-Atherton, Chicago, IL.

    Google Scholar 

  • St. George, Robert 2006 Home Furnishings and Domestic Interiors. In Handbook of Material Culture, Christopher Tilley, Webb Keane, Susanne Kuchler, Michael Rowlands, and Patricia Spyer, editors, pp. 221–229. Sage, London, UK.

  • Schneider, Tsim D. 2015 Placing Refuge and the Archaeology of Indigenous Hinterlands in Colonial California. American Antiquity 80(4):695–713.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Silliman, Stephen W. 2009 Change and Continuity, Practice and Memory: Native American Persistence in Colonial New England. American Antiquity 74(2):211–230.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Silliman, Stephen W. 2012 Between the Longue Durée and the Short Purée: Postcolonial Archaeologies of Indigenous History in Colonial North America. In Decolonizing Indigenous Histories: Exploring Prehistoric/Colonial Transitions in Archaeology, Maxine Oland, Siobhan M. Hart, and Liam Frink, editors, pp. 113–131. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.

    Google Scholar 

  • Silliman, Stephen W. 2014 Archaeologies of Indigenous Survivance and Residence: Navigating Colonial and Scholarly Dualities. In Rethinking Colonial Pasts through Archaeology, Neal Ferris, Rodney Harrison, and Michael V. Wilcox, editors, pp. 57–75. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Silliman, Stephen W., and Thomas A. Witt 2010 The Complexities of Consumption: Eastern Pequot Cultural Economics in Eighteenth-Century New England. Historical Archaeology 44(4):46–68.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stiles, Ezra 1809 Additional Memoir A.D. 1762. In Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Ser. 1, Vol. 10, pp. 102–103. Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston.

  • Sturtevant, William C. 1975 Two 1761 Wigwams at Niantic, Connecticut. American Antiquity 40(4):437–444.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Trunzo, Jennifer M. Cantú 2008 “Buying Into It”: Propaganda, Consumerism, and the American Revolution in Southeastern Connecticut. Doctoral dissertation, Department of Anthropology, Brown University, Providence, RI. University Microfilms International, Ann Arbor, MI.

  • Turnbaugh, Sarah Peabody 1983 17th and 18th Century Lead-Glazed Redwares in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Historical Archaeology 17(1):3–17.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Vizenor, Gerald 1984 The People Named the Chippewa: Narrative Histories. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.

    Google Scholar 

  • Vizenor, Gerald 1990 Interior Landscapes: Autobiographical Myths and Metaphors. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.

    Google Scholar 

  • Watkins, Lura W. 1950 Early New England Potters and Their Wares. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments:

The collections and excavation records used here are archived at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, located on the Mashantucket Pequot Indian Reservation, southeastern Connecticut. Over the years, Roberta Charpentier, the museum’s archaeology lab supervisor, has provided access and shared insights. Doug Curry, formerly on the Pequot Museum staff, helped with some photographic needs. My thanks to the staff of the Connecticut Historical Society (Hartford), the Otis Library (Norwich), the Leffingwell House Museum (Norwich), and the Manuscripts and Archives Division of the Yale University Library (New Haven) for access to account books, historical newspapers, and other documents. The Eastern Pequot Tribal Council and Stephen W. Silliman, Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts––Boston, kindly provided access to archaeological materials from Site 102-123. A first version of this article was prepared for a 2013 Theoretical Archaeology Group meeting in Chicago, Illinois; my thanks to Brad Phillippi and Chris Matthews for their kind invitation to join their session, “Making the ‘Invisible’ Visible in Plural Sites and Communities.”

For more than 35 years, I have learned much from the work of Mark Leone, good friend and respected colleague. The comments of Emily Button, Kurt Jordan, and Bradley Phillippi measurably improved this essay. Tsim Schneider sent along examples of his ongoing California-based research. But, I alone am responsible for the interpretations presented here. This essay is dedicated to the memory of Saundra Siemens Hall (1957–2014), who delighted in the image of 18th-century Pequot families sitting around their wetu while drinking herbal teas brewed in their English-made teapots. “It’s a shame,” she often told me, “Ezra Stiles didn’t record that scene.” Indeed!

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Russell G. Handsman.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Handsman, R.G. Survivance Strategies and the Materialities of Mashantucket Pequot Labor in the Later Eighteenth Century. Hist Arch 52, 51–69 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41636-017-0076-5

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s41636-017-0076-5

Keywords

Navigation