1. Roots and Routes
I’m really excited to be able to present this information and find new ways of getting it to the public, to school kids and into our histories because it is something that has been overlooked for far too long.
This is part of a much larger project I have going on, exploring the histories of Indian New England and considering the different ways they navigated colonization. So the native people of New England have been confronted with histories that have put them on the path of extinction long ago, literally written out of history. Having worked on an Indian reservation for most of my life, I knew differently because I was working with Indian people every day. But back then I didn’t have the tools or the knowledge to explain to people where Indians went. Today I do - and I would like to share part of that journey, part of my process, of exploring and discovering and the kinds of things, the threads that I’ve come up with. And what I’d like to do is take you through, I’ve created a couple of categories in which I’ll present this: roots -- how we consider the presence and placement of people on a cultural landscape. Roots or routes -- or their travels later on. And then I’ll talk a little about (in the theme of alliteration) reconnecting and recollecting (or just collecting) Indian histories. These will be how I’ll frame the conversation today.
What I’d like to do first is orient everybody to the cultural landscape in southern New England. It may be hard to see some of the communities here but I would like to highlight those that are in the region. We are right here along the corridor of the Mystic River, and where I’m coming from is Mashantucket, just to the southeast is the Lantern Hill Pequot community. Also in New London County are the western Nehantic in Lyme; the Mohegan in Montville; along the Connecticut River the Wagunk and the Tunxis communities; and New Haven area- the Quinnipiac; and southwest Connecticut, the Paugusset community; Schaghticoke along the Housatonic River in northwestern Connecticut and if I follow this arc around clockwise in western Massachusetts, the Stockbridge Indians, in Central Massachusetts; the Nipmuc communities in a number of praying towns here. In eastern Massachusetts, the Wampanoag communities, including the well-known and federally recognized Gay Head community or Aquinnah, and also Mashpee; over here in Rhode Island are the Narragansett, and I want to include for the purpose of this conversation, Long Island - we don’t normally think of this as New England but historically and culturally this was not different. There were people moving across this waterway very frequently and there were a lot important cultural and social bonds that were maintained across the centuries. So the Montauk community at the tip of Long Island; the Shinnecock and the Poospatuck or Unkachaug in central Long Island. These would all be really important communites across the region and really composed much of the cultural landscape in the 18th and 19th centuries although it was very dynamic and changing quite rapidly.
Considering this land base and I think this is really where I want to highlight an important phenomenon, that of dispossession, the loss of land. This is Indian country before the arrival of Europeans and there is about nine million acres of land in southern New England. By the American Revolution, Indians across the region collectively possess about 30,000 acres. So from nine million to 30,000 acres. And that really opens up a window of opportunity for me to explore what happened? Where did they go? How did they possibly survive on a landscape that became so diminished, so inaccessible to them? And that is really the root of my inquiry in terms of where they went. So what I’d like to do is use the colonial censuses to explore some questions in terms of understanding the Indian population - where they were, where they were going. What I have here is a series of three colonial censuses: one here in 1756, one in 1762, and one in 1774. What I have here on the left-hand side of the slide is the Indian population and also another important part of the population that are coming into and framing some of the conversation that is going to take place after this is the African population -- through the enslavement of Africans and their presence in various plantation systems and households across the region. So these communities will be coming into more frequent contact but just highlighting here for a minute, in 1756, this colonial era census, this is towards the beginning of the French and Indian War, and many of the censuses that were taken during this time period were either at the beginning or the end of the conflict, they were assessing the relative populations, the numerical strength of these communities and potential internal conflicts; how, especially with the Indian population because they were fighting on the frontier, and they wanted to know if there would be any challenges from within. Here we see in 1756, of those communities identified on the first map, we have, the Lantern Hill Pequots, the Mashantucket Pequots and the Nehantics. Now only three Indian communities represented in 1756 leaves a lot to be desired in terms of how Indians are being documented and enumerated over time and there’s just over 600 Indians documented in Connecticut. So we know from what I just told you and from many, many other documents and sources of information that there is a Mohegan community, that there’s a Wangunk and a Tunxis community, that there’s the Quinnipiac community, Paugusetts, the Schaghticoke, they’re all there -- they’re just not being documented. This becomes an issue of visibility and that visibility replicates itself over and over and over again and it really begins to complicate Indian histories in different ways.
You’ll notice that we have an African population that is more present - maybe the numbers are slightly more than the Indian population but the densities are different. Many of the community - there are very few plantation systems that exist in Connecticut - notably in Colchester. Many of these are in individual houses, and so on.
So the next slide that I want to highlight is only six years later - in 1762 towards the end of the French and Indian War. You can see the communities that I noted earlier conform to those land-based tribes noted, maybe with the exception of the Paugussett, and the Quinnipiac are now dispossessed of their lands in New Haven. There’s a lot going on in the cultural landscape during this time, including not just the wars -- and the wars become important because Indian men are fighting in these conflicts -- 50-75% of the men in these communities are going out and serving in conflict and about 50% or more of those men who serve are dying, either from direct combat mortality, disease encampments and so on. So there is a tremendous demographic difference that is being established during this time period through repeated conflicts. So this is King George’s War in the 1740’s, the French and Indian War in the 50’s and early 60’s, and later the American Revolution. Over and over and over again, these same statistics are repeating themselves and what we see are a large population of Indian women, and a declining population of Indian men; and at the same time we have a population of Africans that are coming into the region, dominated by African men, with a smaller population of African women. We begin to see these populations, not just African and Indian, but also European, coming together in very new ways, for the very first time. And producing, through social and sexual interaction, new kinds of individuals. And really, that’s going to create an issue later on for record keepers in terms of how these people of mixed ancestry are documented.
OK, so some other things that are going on too - enslavement is not just an issue for Africans, it is also a concern for Indians; and not necessarily direct enslavement, indentured servitude was very, very important and as Indians are being dispossessed of this land in this time period. Every one of these communities is losing a lot of land and the parents can no longer provide so what they are doing is binding their children to white families to take care of those kids, raise them in a white household, with religion, with education, with labor and so on. So we are seeing that kind of situation emerge and probably one of the most dramatic things taking place during this time period as the white population is increasing and expanding its reach across the region as it is taking this land, is they are producing an environmental change on a scale that is unimaginable. This is where New England’s forests are becoming fields. So as the land is being taken and divided and logged and turned into farms, Indian people no longer have their traditional subsistence of hunting deer and turkey; access to rivers and streams, the coastline, those things are beginning to -- that kind of access is diminishing.
So, for example, during this time period in the 1760’s, when I see accounts of Pequots or other Indians hunting, they have to go to Massachusetts, they have to go to northwest Connecticut just to find a deer. In local diaries, a deer might be noted as an exceptional event taking place during this time period. It is so uncommon. So what we begin to see is Indians across the region participate much more in what is a market economy. They are no longer able to just go out and forge the way they had - now they are beginning to sell their labor to pay for goods, to pay for foods to bring home to their families. We see that level of engagement taking place. Now with that in mind, what we see is a massive transformation in a very short time period, as road systems are developing, as road systems are developing, as the population is being cast off land that by 1774 when the American Revolution is just on the verge of taking place, we see Indians now, spread across Connecticut towns - 49 towns that Indians are now present in. It is quite astonishing. In the last slide I showed you, there are 940 Indians. So we went from just over 600 to 940 in 1762 and now there’s almost 1,400 Indians. Now this isn’t just reproduction, this is better documentation as well, so there are a couple of things going on.
One of the things I do want to point out here too now is as you can see with this map especially and also with the African population - with reservation boundaries, with town boundaries, state and colonial boundaries (or colonial and then state boundaries), don’t matter as much to the movement of people and if we can get past that, if we can understand that people are very fluid in their mobility, that they’re not attached necessarily to place, that this scenario -- Indians are not even bounded by land, so to imagine Indians at sea is something that is quite new and even revolutionary.
The process of untethering Indians from the land and imagining their placement at sea; and that the sea - the ocean, the vessels become extensions of the land and they become indigenous space is something that I’ve become really excited about and you can begin to see the roots of it in different cases here and what I want to do is take you through a little bit of my process as far as understanding presence at sea -- getting Indians off the land and reimagining them on the ocean.
2. George Job and Tantipanant (Phillip)
So a couple of cases emerge, first quarter, first third or so of the 18th century. They emerge in court testimony. This was really my first window to understanding this and here you have George Job who is an Indian man who traveled on the brigantine London, and during his voyage which was a fourteen month voyage, he documents leaving New London and going to Ireland, Madeira, Cape Verde, Suriname and back to Boston. During this fourteen month voyage, the captain refused to pay his lay; refused to pay him for his fourteen months of work. So he sued him. This is something, other types of histories that we don’t imagine. That Indians are suing in a colonial court, in a colonial context where the rules are unequal but he came out victorious. He was awarded his lay as a mariner. So you can begin to see moments of opportunity, of fairness -- it exists. And maybe it’s early but it has to do with the sea. You would not be seeing this type of thing necessarily on the land and that becomes a theme that is going to be repeated.
In another example (this one will be a little more simple), Tantipanant, or Phillip is a younger boy, or man, who really created an interesting scenario for himself and produced a conflict between his two masters, his master on the land and his master at sea. He was working on a farm on the Connecticut River and he really just didn’t like it and he begged his master on the land - “let me go to sea, I will make you more money and you can have all that money, if I can just go.” So, they made an arrangement with a local captain who brought him to sea and he was very successful and the captain wanted to keep him. So in doing so, Tantipanant or Phillip precipitated a court battle between these two men and he ended up getting what he wanted. So he was able to leverage his talent at sea to have a desired effect. And I just want to point out too, and he documents this route, just from New England to the Caribbean, which these routes in the North Atlantic, either following the ocean currents with George Job or just down and back with Tantipanant, are very common during this time period. And I want to highlight also, the use of aliases. This is something that we are going to see quite a bit of. It is not uncommon, especially as people find their way to the ocean quite a bit more.
I also want to point out too that the nature of movement at sea is not necessarily as liberating as one might hope, or as they might hope, but there are many, many more opportunities and that is something we will also see. So while they are not commanding a ship and making decisions on where the vessels are going, they can make decisions often times on where they can get off and where they can get back on -- on different vessels, different types of vessels, different kinds of service, and so on.
3. Running Away to Sea
So, as we move through the 18th Century, the next time I see groups of people, or more and more people, is in runaway advertisements, and that is where I get the title for this slide and there is actually a nice book with this title called Runaways, Deserters and Notorious Villains. And what this is referring to is these runaway advertisements that are becoming quite prominent and in this unequal society - people who are becoming disempowered, especially people of color are doing what they can to redefine that power structure and they are getting out of service when they can and they are finding new avenues, new places to go. So what we have here are when people in military service, or in domestic service or other types of free or unfree labor don’t like their situation, they are running away. And their masters are submitting these runaway advertisements to local papers and they are advertising really intricately described narratives of who these people were in an era before photographs or any kind of readily available images or reproducible images, what we have are, masters, describing people in exquisite detail, from their complexion, their hair texture, any kind of pock mark or limp, what they were last seen wearing, if they had a particular talent -- anything like that, they’re describing and commonly we are seeing many, many, many more men of color including a lot of Indians in this situation and what is most interesting and what really caught my eye is going through all of these, hundreds and hundreds of these, that at the bottom of each one of these runaway advertisements is a remark from the master saying, “Masters of vessels be warned, not to harbor or conceal this individual, under severest penalty of the law.” And what that told me is that given the opportunity, these men were finding their way to ports, they were getting on vessels and they were getting out of town. So, there was tremendous opportunity along the coastline, if you could find your way to a vessel, especially if you were good at what you did.
4. Builders and Sailors
So what we have going through the 18th century is numbers, more and more Indian people are finding their ways to sea. Other men of color are finding their ways to sea, so much so that when you look at some of the statistics, the labor force - 20-25% of mariners - are people of color. That’s disproportionate to the numbers on the land, where it might be 5-10%, give or take. Ok, this slide, I want to focus on the next time I actually see a more organized group dynamic if you will and this is an image of the Continental Frigate Confederacy. And this was a military vessel that was built in 1778-1779, right nearby on the Thames River, where the Norwich State Hospital sits, a place called Confederacy Point. And I want to note too, that this location happens to be directly across from the Mohegan Reservation.
So I found out that the construction records for this vessel exist in Philadelphia, so I took a drive to Philadelphia and collected all of them and as I was going through all of them, going through all these records, it occurred to me as I was going through the pay records and the number of workers that were putting this vessel together -- from cutting the timber to the blacksmithing and so on, about a dozen Mohegan men were on board, rigging the ship. Now that really caught my eye. That was more of their finished work, but they had been doing other things - cutting lumber, blacksmithing as I said -- but rigging the ship spoke something totally different to me, that these guys were working with ropes and sails and blocks and tackle and essentially engineering the ship to function - this said - in 1778 or 1779 to me- that these guys had extraordinary talent. As a group of people, they were not new at this; they were very, very good at this. And to me, that kind of work, and as I’ve spoken to some of the folks who did the rigging on the Morgan whaleship, this is not easy work, this is dangerous work and in my mind, I’m thinking that these guys are very much the Mohawk Iron Workers of their day, who are building the skyscrapers. These guys are building and making these ships and these massive vessels function.
Now the other thing that I want to highlight about this is that the same men, many men that built this and rigged this later sailed on it in different capacities. Some were the steward, some the boy, some the ordinary seamen, able-bodied seamen, some were marines, and it wasn’t just Mohegans, there were Pequots, there were Nipmucs. Ok, so you start to see not just group, but regional dynamics. These Indian people are forming new kinds of networks, around their labor, in port, and then at sea.
Now this seems to really catch on, this maritime labor. And what we start to see, from outsiders who are going to Indian lands, to Indian reservations, is the beginning, the roots of some pretty significant misunderstandings. At Mashantucket and again at Mohegan a couple of years later, in 1804 and 1807, these white visitors, overseers, are going to the reservations and saying the only people here are old women, crippled men and children. All of the able and smart men are gone, or the young men, go to sea and die. There’s this idea, that there’s this diminishing on the reservations, that anybody that can and is able to, is somewhere else. And that somewhere else, is at sea.
And maritime, labor, this is - for New London, this image of a sperm whale attack is a bit anachronistic, because whaling didn’t really take off in New London until about 1820, but it highlights the danger of maritime labor, so it wouldn’t be incorrect to say that it’s a dangerous place. But the opportunity was great and what we see are very large numbers of Indian men going to sea.
5. Seamen's Protection Certificates
The first time I get a real sense of this, not just for the Confederacy, but for more is in the New London Customs district which really becomes formalized in the late 18th Century and in 1796, during a time period of the Napoleonic Wars when England and France are beginning to fight on the seas and really beginning to disrupt American commerce. So much so that merchants are going to congress and saying, help us -- we are trying to get things going and they are taking our sailors, our workers and pressing them onto these British warships. So the American Congress in 1796 issues an act, called the Act for the Protection of American Seamen. And, in each port of commerce, the customs official is directed to issue Seamen’s Protection Certificates to individual mariners and maintain a register in the port. And what this does is basically produce a type of passport for these mariners who if they are asked to identify their citizenship, they have something to hand over. And not unlike those runaway advertisements, there is tremendous detail, physical descriptions of their complexion, their hair, their height, their eye color, their birthplace, the date of register, their Seamen’s Protection Certificate number, and so on. So tremendous, tremendous detail becomes available, not just to the individual but to the customs official and as a body of information for me, looking at those registers. It is quite phenomenal how much material there is. And when we are looking at the customs district of New London, there’s over, there’s in the neighborhood of about 6,000 Seamen’s Protection Certificates issued. I’ll talk about them briefly, but I also want to talk about the other type of custom records that are being maintained during that time period and those are the surrendered crew lists.
But for now, I just want to show you a little about the Seamen’s Protection Certificates - and this is just a summary of one sheet and the way that they were arranged in New London was alphabetically - each book would be kept. So, all the “A’s” in one book, the “B’s” in another and so on. And I went through and I culled out any person that I could identify reasonably as a person of color unless I knew them if it was a different category, and I knew their name and that they had some sort of tribal affiliation, I would add them in as well.
So, just to highlight here again, the date of issue, the Seamen’s Protection Certificate number, (I’m going to come back to this in just a minute) the name, and some of these names are obvious to me anyway as being Indian. Especially folks like the Ashbows - that’s a very common Mohegan name. Down here you can see “Aaron” - that’s a common Pequot name, “Reuben Aaron” and “Thomas Aaron” and so on. You can see others have much more of a slave ancestry and many holdover slave names like “Nero,” “Cuff,” “Caesar,” “Titus,” and so on. Their ages, as you can see here and they range from age 11 to age 47. That’s roughly the range that we’re really looking at. I mean, 26-40 / 25-40 is really the body of those guys, the ranges. Sometimes you’ll see a nine or ten year old boy or a fifty or sixty year old guy but they’re slightly? outliers. Their height, their complexion and as I started out in the talk earlier, this becomes really interesting because now, a couple of generations later, we’ve had this mixing between populations and how do people begin to be categorized? And how do people get lost in the system, how do you deal with people with mixed ancestry? How are they going to be identified and enumerated, and who’s doing it?
One thing I wanted to point out earlier too and as I’m here now, Indian people are constructing their own sets of rules in this environment of dispossession. There’s so little land that the people that are there maintaining rights as tribal members, they can no longer survive on these tiny pieces of land, so they start constructing rules that exclude other people in the community. So for example at Mohegan, rules emerge in which any marriage to an African, any person of color, or even any person outside of Mohegan, basically resulted in women being cast out of the community, children of mixed ancestry being cast out of the community. Different rules took place. In part that was going on because white neighbors were justifying land grabs because they didn’t perceive the occupants of the land to be Indian. So, Mohegan was responding in that particular way. In Narragansett and in Pequot country, it was a little bit different and rules were constructed in which the child followed the mother. Women are always much more important in these Indian communities, and so for example if you had a child of an Indian mother and an African father, the child followed the mother into the community. If the mother was African and the father was Indian, the child followed the mother out of the community. So racially, we have the same combination, but culturally, who your mother is matters.
So for these communities, they resulted in different groups of people for different reasons being cast out. So to an outsider, in the white community, they’re not really seeing the difference. They’re seeing many different complexions and there is really a constellation of race labels here -- you can see “Black,” “Indian,” “Negro,” “Mulatto,” “Colored,” there’s “Copper,” there’s “Yellow,” there’s “Dark,” “Darkish,” “Tawny,” you name it it’s in here. There are about a dozen and a half labels in here to ascribe to people of color, including Indians. But they’re not identifying by tribe here and that will become important later on. Other categories of information again much like the runaway advertisements -- scars, missing digits, walks with a limp, that kind of stuff, and then birthplace.
Ok, so what to do with all of this? I had I think 1,700 names of people of color, just in the Seamen’s Protection Certificates -- that’s a lot. But it occurred to me that you have these numbers, you have everything alphabetically but what if people were signing up with one another? So I took all of this data, I put it into a sortable spreadsheet, and I sorted by Seamen’s Protection Certificate number and this is what I got: some really interesting patterns of social organization. And I’ll just highlight very briefly, some of these categories. On the top you see the red bars, Peter and Ben George, these are two men known as chiefs and councilors of the Pequot Tribe, at the time these Seamen’s Protection Certificates were issued and you can see that they are the numbers 309 and 310 so they are the ones that I started off with and I asked myself, well - who’s 308 and 311? Right, I mean it kind of makes sense, so I went through 6,000 entries and I found 308 and 311 but they weren’t on the same day and they weren’t anybody connected to them. What I did find as I was going through looking for these guys is hundreds of others - so just for example in the yellow bracket here, Robert Fagins, Peter Hewitt and George Keesucks or Skeesucks, which is a common Algonquian name, you can see there are three Indian men, all from Stonington -- not one of these men shows up in tribal records anywhere, ever. And that really speaks to that issue of exclusion. The point I was just making in the last slide where these men were no longer considered Eastern Pequots or Mashantucket Pequots or any other community because there was no land and they had no rights anymore but they were still Indian.
That becomes an important pattern. You can see each one of these men went to port on the same day and got sequential numbers, makes a lot of sense that they were sticking together, similarly here, almost except 138 and 139 and 140 -- I went through 6,000 records, it doesn’t exist. So on this day, Joseph West, George Pomps and Augustus Harry, all Indians, but now you can see they are coming from different places, they’re born in different places. The only person here, Augustus Harry - he’s Narragansett, he shows up consistently in tribal records during this time but Joseph West and George Pomps don’t. They are becoming part of a new generation of people who are in response to that dispossession; new communities are emerging and there’s the creation of off-reservation communities. People are buying land privately and they are coming out of these types of neighborhoods, these rural neighborhoods of color.
As you see here again, more or less sequential, same date, groups of men, a little more diversity, racially, in a larger region, here in green and in purple (note: colors on Dr. Mancini’s PowerPoint), and you can see a group of men connected to the Mohegan and Pequot communities, just a few years later. But you can see the amount of community forming just in a couple of years, and these are just a couple of examples I’m pointing out. There are many, many others.
6. Indian Men at Sea: Case Studies from the Connecticut, Electra and North America
Moving past that, what can I then do? What can we do? How can we begin to comprehend what happens beyond the port? This is all happening in port when they are issued these certificates so in other series of customs records, these surrendered crew lists become just as invaluable, so for each vessel, men are being counted on the vessels, the captain is submitting an official register of men on that vessel, the captain is recording their role, but much of that same information, their height, their complexion, their hair, their birthplace, but also their current residence, which is helpful. We can sort of begin tracking their movement over time. And at the top it gives you an intended destination, so the name of the vessel, the master of that vessel, and where they are planning to go so it might be the Caribbean or Havana for example for certain products. It might be a whaling voyage to somewhere. These are the kinds of things that I’m looking for and what’s interesting is that when you look at the men being issued those Seamen’s Protection Certificates and you follow them onto a vessel, they’re showing up with even more men, oftentimes, Indian men and other men of color. So those surrendered crew lists only give us a very vague sense of space. The South Atlantic whaling -- what does that mean? Pacific Ocean whaling -- that’s kind of big - so what can we then do?
Having identified groups of these men on particular vessels, I then began to seek out logbooks. If I could find and identify a surrendered crew list . . . this is for the ship Connecticut, going on a whaling voyage to the South Atlantic Ocean and here on this we have Pequots, Charles Brayton, Elisha Apes, along with Ben Uncas who is unmistakably Mohegan; I don’t think any of us could challenge that one. So taking this voyage of the ship Connecticut in 1832 and being able to identify and locate the logbook was really helpful, because in that logbook, is a daily account now of what is happening with that vessel from weather, certainly weather, winds, any whale killings, vessel sightings, but really importantly for me especially is latitude and longitude -- because that gives us points in real space. And if we can reconstruct every time that happens in a daily entry, then we can begin putting people in a global space. And that’s exactly what we started to do. And that’s the next portion of that project, so when you begin to say, the ship Connecticut in 1832 to 1833 voyage -- we can take Google Earth and I can show you exactly where they were with this series of red dots, so.
What they did was they left New London. I wasn’t able to get the top of this but they left New London, they sailed across the North Atlantic Ocean to the Azores, and then south to the Cape Verde Islands, and as they came towards the equator, they went on that - they changed from that clockwise to that counterclockwise current. Here came down, to this little, tiny, volcanic island called Tristan de Cunha. I never knew that I would learn so much about world geography until I did this project but I found some of the most incredible little nooks and crannies and this is one of them, Tristan de Cunha, which is a fabulous little space -- I’m going to come back to this towards the end of the talk. This was the ship Connecticut. You can see they whaled all around here before they headed back home to New London the following year.
Now what’s interesting here is for these maps, for any one of these maps, I wish I could do this live for you but I can show you after, I can click on any one of those dots and it will pull up an entire spreadsheet of information on what happened on that day and then you can see the original entry in the logbook and then the transcription.
I did this for several voyages so, the year before - the ship Connecticut had actually sailed over here - towards the Brazil Banks and down towards the Falkland Islands. You can see there is some activity going on here - they whaled this area pretty heavily before heading back. In the following years, 1833 & 1834, the New London whaleship Acasta came down -- they are in yellow here, did the same whaling. Now, what I want to highlight here is unfortunately what you see is a lot of activity here and very particular information about the whaling grounds. What you can’t see and what I haven’t actually done yet but what I plan on doing very soon is demonstrating how these vessels gammed at sea. And what that means is when these vessels are down here and these groups of Indians are on these vessels are down here, they’re seeing dozens of other vessels at the same time in the same whaling grounds which puts them in contact on a near daily basis with many other people from their families whether it’s brothers or cousins or friends from other communities -- they are seeing each other on the other side of the world. And it’s not just the South Atlantic. When we get over to the Pacific, Indian Ocean, ports around the world, they’re seeing familiar faces. And that is quite extraordinary when we can begin to imagine the Indian experience far away from their homeland.
I just want to mention too, on the first voyage of the ship Connecticut, were three Mohegan men -- Edward Uncas, who is the subject of one of our voyage maps (note: he means story maps), that Krystal will be talking about. Jacob Shillett and Thomas Williams, all Mohegans, born at Mohegan. The next voyage of that ship Connecticut, towards Tristan de Cunha, included Charles Brayton, Benjamin Uncas, Joseph Fagins and Elisha Apes. You’ll hear more about Elisha Apes in my talk. The ship Acasta had Joseph Fagins, brother Charles Fagins, Peter Nocake who’s Narragansett, and Samuel and Jefferson Watson who have Eastern Pequot and Narragansett ancestry. So, a number of men.
Now the next one I want to talk to you about is these green dots. I had chosen for here to focus on the 1830s -- which seemed to be a critical mass of Indian activity in the South Atlantic, and I can see these guys getting on vessels quite easily. The green dot represents a much later voyage but I’ve chosen some voyages to show how the whale fishery changed over time and how Indian people moved in global space according to those changes, so by -- well actually I’ll show you -- the next slide is one of the Charles W. Morgan. So you can see what a typical 1840s - 1850s voyage might look like, so this is the first voyage of the Morgan which had an Indian man named Zenus Gould on it from the Wampanoag community. You can see how they came from New London (note: he means New Bedford), down around Cape Horn, along the coast of South America and then basically whaled the heck out of the equator, went over to Hawaii, up to Alaska, back down, whaled a little bit more and then went home. So this is kind of a typical, well - I don’t know if anything is typical, but this is the kind of space, once people whaled the South Atlantic out, this is what was going on in the Pacific. One of the voyages that is going on - that Krystal and I are following in this project is that of the bark ship North America. We don’t have a logbook but what we have is a journal. I’ll talk a little bit about that too and the author of this journal did a watercolor and located their exact space, using latitude and longitude to show where that voyage went. So we are in the process of translating all of this data into that Google Earth format. (Note: Users can explore that map under “Voyage Maps” on this website.)
But, moving into the 60s - the 1860s, this green voyage is the ship Electra, from New London, and there are two Pequot men on this, and they left New London, they did that typical movement down into the South Atlantic, but they went around the Cape of Good Hope, across the southern Indian Ocean, they stopped in New Zealand, and the north island of New Zealand at Doubtless Bay, and in coming up from New Zealand, they came right past Tahiti, went for Hawaii, resupplied in Hawaii, and then went right up to the Alaskan Coast, and did a bunch of whaling. And, there, they fell into the company of the ship Nile, the bark ship Nile - which has a distinction of being the longest whaling voyage that took place -- about eleven years. That was also a New London vessel. And they sailed in consort with one another at this point where they gammed, they met up, along the Aleutian Islands, to about this point. And right here is where the Electra got into some rough waters, struck a rock, took on a lot of water and sank. Now, we typically hear bad things about shipwrecks, but because they were near the Nile, the Nile was aware of what was happening and not a single person died. Although a lot of whale oil from the Electra was lost, a lot of equipment was salvaged. And I have the logbook - it’s in the New London County Historical Society, so that’s allowed me to reconstruct this route. Now, when the Nile picked up the Electra, they continued, they just took the crew and continued into the Arctic Ocean. Now, when they salvaged the Electra, I tried to find the logbook and any amount of logbook in that eleven year stretch. I searched high and low, I talked to folks here, I talked to New London County Historical Society, and I reached out to New Bedford (note: he is referring to New Bedford Whaling Museum) and it turns out that they had a four month section of the entire eleven years -- that’s all I was able to find. The first entry in that four month journal is salvaging the wreck of the Electra. If I could bottle my luck and sell it… So, that told me that they began going up into the Chukchi Sea, hunting bowhead and gray whales and towards the end of that four months they came back to Hawaii and off loaded everybody in Honolulu. Now that’s also really important and I’m going to come back, I want to pick up threads of this story in the next few slides. But now that we can put these men into global space, now that I’ve showed you the places they’ve been in only a couple of slides, they’re all over the world. I didn’t get into any of the Pacific Islands, but they are there, I promise you. How do we begin to tell their stories? How do we begin to narrate these people who in part, we didn’t even know existed? This is the first time I’m really able to start telling these types of stories.
Well as I begin to build biographies, not just of these individuals, but the vessels that they were on, they lead to important clues. Occasionally, just occasionally, I get really lucky again. It turns out there are a number of published accounts. You get things like Narragansett Chief: Or the Adventurers of a Wanderer. This is something I’m still working with. This was kind of new and it was a surprise text. But this is apparently an autobiographical account, we’re still trying to verify -- one of the most extraordinary accounts I’ve ever read of an Indian mariner.
Incidents of a Whaling Voyage is a published account of a journal that Francis Allyn Olmstead kept on board of the bark ship North America. I showed you the watercolor map that he drew and in the introduction of this book, he laid out for his reader -- he included about a dozen lithographs, which are beautiful. But that the lithographs are really expensive and he regretted that he couldn’t reproduce the entire run of about fifty or sixty illustrations that he had produced in his journal. So I had this to go with, and only a couple of illustrations of a whale hunt but I was able to successfully track down his original journal at the Beinecke Library and it has some of, it actually illustrates, it’s one of the best illustrated whale hunts that is on record, as far as we can tell. And combining the lithographs with the watercolors allows us to see an entire, maybe a dozen and a half run of images and you can check that out on my blog later on (and on the MSE website).
So there’s this wonderful account and then there are occasionally slight tangents where these men were on vessels, where the author of this book, Captain Bourne was rescued by the ship Hudson, that three Pequots were on. So they were the first person to hear this. It was so exciting. He then went out and published it. So, we have a lot of background information from stories like that.
I mentioned Olmstead had published his journal. These are a couple of examples. These are the lithographs up top so you can see just how dynamic some of these things are. Some of his watercolors are just extraordinary and even included a couple of chanties in there. So, we’re going to be reproducing those.
7. Reconnecting: Elisha Apes in New Zealand
Now, my third “R” if you will – Reconnecting -- beginning to figure out how to tell these stories, by going to the places, meeting the people, meeting the decedents, finding new information. One of those places is New Zealand. And I mentioned Elisha Apes. Some of these stories involved people that never returned. A lot of people came back, a lot of people never did. Elisha Apes -- this is an image of him -- he was a young man on board the ship Ann Maria of New London, and the master of the vessel was apparently abusing one of the boys, sent him aloft in apparently very, very cold weather - to the point where he was in danger of dying. So, Elisha Apes and the ship’s carpenter mutinied, they took control of the vessel, took control of the captain’s chambers, took the rifles and other weaponry, and made sure that the boy was safe, but produced a situation for them where if they went back to port, in New London, they would have been arrested and tried and nothing good would have happened, so they ended up agreeing with the captain to just be put off at the next port. And that next port was Otago on the south island of New Zealand. So they were put off.
Elisha Apes ended up marrying a Maori woman, they had eight children and he re-rooted if you will. That was his new place. In the Apes family -- this is his older half-brother, the Reverend William Apes who is very heavily involved in political issues and land disputes - not just in Mashantucket but was involved in the somewhat famous or infamous, what is known as the Mashpee Revolt on Cape Cod which was a non-violent conflict but an important conflict nonetheless, in which he wrote some very important accounts. Land issues became very important the year after Elisha Apes came to New Zealand. The Treaty of Waitangi was signed which officially absorbed New Zealand into the British Empire and dispossessed the Maori of all their lands. So land issues became very prominent in Maori affairs, and Elisha Apes was a major proponent of Maori rights. His son Tiemi, or James Apes, very important in these land issues but also carried on traditions of shore whaling. This is a shore whaling boat that was known as Maori Girl. And, this is when he was obviously a much older man and after it had been restored and brought to the Otaga Settlers Museum.
The Apes family was so prominent that places in New Zealand today include Apes Road, which leads out to the local marae at Karitane, and Apes oldest living grandson, this gentleman Jim Apes who I went to visit last summer -- 87 years old. So the family is still very present. There are a number of Apes decedents - hundreds of Apes decedents - in the south island of New Zealand, and all members of theNg_i Tahu Iwi, or tribe in southern New Zealand.
8. Reconnecting: Other Stories
Ok, so one thread. Another thread -- I had the opportunity to spend some time in Hawaii, and I had the opportunity to actually go to the Hawaii State Archives, and looking at the possibility that local mariners might show up in Hawaiian records, because hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of Hawaiians are showing up in New London. More than 600 as far as I can count and I can’t count any longer because I can no longer distinguish their names. This is also happening in the midst of massive land transformation so as people are beginning to occupy western institutions, people are beginning to occupy Hawaii -- we begin to see Kamehameha III, this time period, is beginning to modernize, to westernize Hawaiian society, and they undergo what is known as the Great M_hele in the mid-1840s, which essentially dispossesses all of common Hawaiians of land rights and we see a flood of Hawaiian mariners into different spaces, different kinds of spaces and some of that space was the ocean.
So at the same time Hawaii is reorganizing along these western traditions, they are maintaining similar kinds of records. So, they have custom records officials in these ports maintaining records both in traditional Hawaiian language and in English and so from my experience when I went to Hawaii and I spent a couple of days in the Hawaiian archives which is next to Iolani palace, which is the last residence of Queen Lili_uokalani . I was able to get into some of these records of discharged foreign seamen -- now keeping in mind that Hawaii is an independent, autonomous, internationally-recognized kingdom during this time period, so they were maintaining their own records. So any American sailors would be showing up as foreigners. So if you remember the ship Electra, that wrecked, went into the Arctic and came back to Honolulu with Sam Fagins and Amos George (two Pequots), here they are right here -- here’s Amos George and Sam Fagins, and they’re now on board the J.D. Thompson, another vessel from New London. Now keep in mind the J.D. Thompson, because I’m going to come back to that too. I also found five Shinnecock whalemen on other vessels, and I found Amos George on another vessel so what is happening is because Hawaii and also San Francisco become the new centers of the whaling industry -- it really shifted from New England to the Pacific where the whaling grounds were. These guys were living and whaling out of Hawaii and probably San Francisco, for years, at a minimum of five to eight years. Ok, now what I can show you here is one of the other things I’m doing for this project is beginning to look at biographies of these men - constructing ideas - given that we never knew anything about them - seeing how their lives moved between the land and the sea. Here’s Amos George -- and what I‘ve done is I’ve sort of taken everything that I know about this guy and put it in a chronology and you can see some of the early information. He was two years old when he was first documented. Then intersecting his land-based events with his maritime events, which I’ve put in bold print and you can see the amount of time he spent at sea. It’s quite extraordinary. Most of these guys are at sea for twenty or thirty years with short intervals in between and when they are home, not necessarily Amos, but other men -- they are marrying, they’re having a child, they’re building a house, they’re signing a tribal petition; they’re showing up dealing with other kinds of things. Some really interesting patterns begin to emerge. And sometimes we’re lucky if they show up in tribal records. But there are some people, Edward Uncas for example, who is one of the subjects of our exploration -- doesn’t show up in a single Mohegan record, not once -- so his entire career, his entire career, his entire life is essentially at sea. I have two records of him on the land - one is, he is arrested and tried by the justice of the peace for getting into a fist fight with somebody in New London -- the next day he’s on a whaleship to Hawaii. When he gets to Hawaii, he shows up, he gets to go to probably, his penitence, he’s going to the Seamen’s Chapel in Honolulu and donating a dollar, which in today’s money is probably about $28. So you can begin to see from having almost nothing about these men to beginning to construct a new idea about what they are doing, what their lives are like, how they are ebbing and flowing between the land and the sea.
I mentioned San Francisco, so I’ll just mention it briefly, and I took this photograph as I was just traveling briefly through the San Francisco airport, on my way to Australia and New Zealand last year; but it just highlights the importance of whaling, whale histories, and so on. So much so that I think we forget sometimes just how important it was not just to the specific whale fishery, but that transition from the whale fishery to the gold rush. And one of the Fagins brothers, there are four brothers -- all of them were whalemen. I’ve mentioned Samuel, actually I’ve mentioned three of them -- Samuel, Joseph and Charles. Their brother Henry got on board the ship Mentor, from New London, a former whaling ship - this ship specifically sailed for San Francisco for the Gold Rush. So he started out that voyage as a mariner -- he ended that voyage as a miner.
Now other vessels, such as the ship Niantic, ended up with many, many, many other whaleships, on and in San Francisco’s waterfront and their harbor, and all were abandoned as men hit the hills for gold. Many of them became the waterfront and knew as they deteriorated and become dilapidated they were just filled in. You can see a couple of hotels here on San Francisco’s waterfront, including the Niantic Hotel, built from the former hull of the Niantic. Every once in a while if you follow the news you’ll see an archaeological investigation in San Francisco reveal a new vessel that’s been unearthed. More often than not it’s a whaling vessel from that time period.
Ok, the next little segment I want to take you on is to Alaska. These threads, these routes, these travels that I’ve been on are interesting because they take me to some really interesting places and I’ve had an opportunity to go to Barrow and also Point Lay, which is about here, to participate in a more recent culture exchange between high school kids in the Pequot community and high school kids in the Inupiat communities of the North Slope. So they’ve been coming here for the last five or six years and we’ve been going there for the last two years, back and forth. And they still participate in subsistence whaling but what I want to highlight here is not just the modern thread but the historic thread that Pequots and other Indians from New England were whaling in the arctic and more than likely had some kind of connection there in the past, and I haven’t yielded any of that yet. But, there are important moments in Arctic history that are quite significant. Between Point Lay and Point Lay is a village of 250 people, and Barrow which is a much larger city if you will, of about 4,700 people. Between those two communities, is the village of Wainwright - a village of about 500 people, and that is where -- off the coast of Wainwright -- the lost fleet, the whaling disaster of 1871 took place, in which 32 whaling vessels were essentially, they got caught in an early freeze and they were crushed in Arctic Ice, and all of the people survived, but they were stranded there for some time, and were living in and amongst the Inupiat people of the North Slope.
Some images that kind of give you an idea of how important whaling still is today, to these communities. These communities are so remote, so far from everything and in a place where a gallon of milk cost $10 and a case of soda costs $36, they still spend a lot of time subsistence hunting marine mammals, including whales, including walrus, different species of seal, there’s caribou, there’s fish and so on, but Bowhead whales were quite significant. You can see the bowhead’s skull is here. Last year when we arrived, they just two days earlier had killed a 54-foot bowhead whale. This is all that was left - a couple of chunks of meat and a jawbone. And those -- it’s so important to the community organization and community survival -- there are many important events that take place, after the harvest. I was able to attend a Nalukataq, which is a whaling Thanksgiving in Barrow, just about a month, and a month and a half ago, in which there was a massive give-a-way of food including all sorts of whale products -- blubber, meat, fermented whale meat, so on. In Point Lay, the harvest is a little bit different, in which beluga whales are harvested. You can see I didn’t want to include any pictures of dead belugas, but you can see the meat and the blubber or muktaaq, which is a piece of skin and blubber which is highly revered. In those communities, this is what they survive on. Here’s the community gathering around a little snack. And then the distribution, the even distribution in the communities by household.
Now, continuing on with the theme of reconnecting -- recollecting or just the idea of collecting these histories. These histories, in the late 19th century and early 20th century, is when museums around the country really began collecting objects to do with American Indian history. This is the golden age of anthropology, museum collecting and so on. In many cases, whaling and whaling histories and other types of histories were overlooked. They weren’t really considered authentically Indian. They weren’t the baskets, they weren’t the bows and arrows, they weren’t the bison -- things like that. So, a lot of objects that were collected by early anthropologists were those kinds of things. But a closer look reveals some interesting patterns and I just want to highlight some of them as I’ve sort of taken this notion of Indians at sea and this community dynamic and let this story unfold and dig a little bit deeper. And I’ve started right at home with some objects that I was aware of, including this whalebone handed knife that ended up in the collections of the Peabody Museum at Yale. Now it was collected in 1913 by a Yale anthropologist named George Grant McCurdy and it was purchased from this woman, Jane Wheeler or Jane Wheeler Durfee. Jane Wheeler Durfee spent a lot of time living in this house which is where a lot of stories and oral traditions are collected, tied to Pequots and whaling. Contemporary community members have been handed these stories, they’ve shared their oral histories but this knife has me interested and in the process of trying to figure out who it originated with, I can’t help but wonder if it originated with her mother, who is Caroline Wheeler, who lived for a very long time with a Pequot man named Peter George. Peter George is one of the people that Krystal and I are exploring, his story is made of a very, very rich whaling history.
So that’s one thread. And you can begin to see the ways in which we can take objects and images and stories and begin developing a much more comprehensive understanding of these maps and of these travels.
As I went across the river to visit my Mohegan friends, they alerted me to a number of their collections in the Tantaquidgeon Indian Museum. One of the objects belonged to a man named Jacob Fowler, and it was this whalebone cane, here, which is a beautiful example of this type of scrimshaw, if you will. And you can see his whaling career spans 25 years. 20-25 years by the end of that last voyage anyway. So quite a long history and quite a rich, rich tradition. And just a couple of other slides from Mohegan I wanted to highlight. Edwin Fowler, who’s a relation to Jacob, here he is on Mohegan Hill with his aunt. And three sperm whale teeth that he brought home on his travels.
But beyond that, some of the interesting things from the Uncas monument -- “Among the articles, we noticed a riding whip of whalebone, beautifully carved in a small and curiously inlaid box with red and white cedar. These were the workmanship of the Indian men when absent on whaling voyages for it be known to the uninitiated that these sons of the forest, having laid aside their arrows are so exceedingly dexterous in the use of the harpoon, that at times the settlement is destitute of men. Every mother’s son of them being out on a whaling expedition from New London.”
So, really, really important, in 1842, and this was a time when Uncas Monument was being put in Norwich and actually it started a decade earlier, as Andrew Jackson was visiting Norwich. He was General Andrew Jackson then and hadn’t quite marched the Cherokees out of the South, but was on his way. But importantly, Edwin, Ed or Edwin Fowler at that time in his diary, noted that “All true Mohegans are whalers at heart.” And I just think that says so much about what it is to be native in 19th- century New England. That would bespeak Pequots, Narragansetts, Wampanoags, any of the Indian Communities.
So, as I’m looking through the Tantaquidgeon Museum and considering the collections of other museums, there are other objects that show up that raise other kinds of questions. So these objects -- an object like this -- this is not the one from the Tantaquidgeon Museum but a lei niho palaoa like this shows up in one of those ash splint baskets at Mohegan, and this is interesting and very curious because this is from Hawaii. This is a really important necklace made of a carved sperm whale tooth, suspended on an elaborately woven braid, multiple woven braids of human hair. When you look at this up close, it is astonishingly beautiful. There are a number of examples of these in the Bishop Museum in Hawaii. But these are only worn by Hawaiian nobility, people of status. So how this ended up in a basket at the Tantaquidgeon Indian Museum, raises some pretty interesting questions -- ones that I may never be able to answer, but it does make you wonder.
Similarly, this hammerhead shark tooth knife from Kiribati, in the Pacific Ocean -- is something that also shows up in the Tantaquidgeon Museum, which we may never know the history -- the specific history of this, but to know that a Mohegan whaleman picked this up on his travels-- more than likely these were common in the Pacific Islands and show up in some of the most intimidating weaponry imaginable, and when you see some of the accounts of these islanders massacring American whaleship crew members, you know it’s being done with these kinds of things.
In the collections of the Rhode Island Museum of Natural History, I was able to identify this object as well as a number of others, this Moai Moko from Rapa Nui, which you may better know as Easter Island -- so those giant heads are the Moai; this is tiny little Moai. It’s a little house deity. This serpentine anthropogenic or anthropomorphic rather face shows up in the collections donated by the granddaughter of the quote unquote last Rhode Island Pequot, who had acquired this from his whaling ancestors. And it includes spears and paddles and walrus tusks, and all sorts of island type or maritime type objects. So, there’s a very rich history there and there’s that recollecting from the objects to the images to the oral histories.
It also extends to very much the contemporary communities and I spend a lot of time bringing my friends from other communities across the region here to Mystic Seaport and who have visited me at the Pequot Museum. From Shinnecock, to Aquinnah, to Mashpee. These communities have incredibly rich histories - maritime histories, whaling histories and so on. So much so that you can see in two of their tribal seals, the legend of Moshup, killing a sperm whale on the cliffs of Gay Head, these beautifully painted cliffs on Martha’s Vineyard; and the whales on the Shinnecock Indian Nation Seal. Because this is an important place where whaling took place and where the community has some really both thriving and unfortunate histories. The history of the Circassian, in which ten former whalemen from the Shinnecock nation all perished in an ocean accident, in the 1870’s.
So, as I conclude this talk, my voyage on the Morgan this summer allowed me to really think about that space. About the whaleship, the smells, the sights, everything about that space and what Indian men might have experienced, that I can’t access through them directly, you know -- where they went in the rigging, where they went in the fo’c’sle, what the wood felt like under their feet, what the smells were like -- all really important. And I’ll just leave it here. If you are interested, I have a lot more in my blog, indianmarinersproject.com. I write about my Alaska travels, other travels, new discoveries, and so on. And I just want to give a shout out to all of these folks, including Lauren who is here with Connecticut Humanities, supporting this project and all of the wonderful folks I’ve had an opportunity to work with from these institutions and these tribal communities.