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Historical Archaeology

, Volume 52, Issue 1, pp 51–69 | Cite as

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

  • Russell G. Handsman
Original Article

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.”

Keywords

survivance household labor hybrid material cultures social exchange Pequot Indians 

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 ».

Notes

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!

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Copyright information

© Society for Historical Archaeology 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.AntiochU.S.A.

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