Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Unseen Neighbors by Thomas L. Doughton

by JimP
The following are three short excerpts from an excellent monograph written by Thomas L. Doughton called Unseen Neighbors: Native Americans of Central Massachusetts, A People Who Had "Vanished"

The monograph can be found as a chapter in a book entitled After King Philip's War: Presence and Persistence in Indian New England (1997 - University Press of New England - Colin G. Calloway, Editor)
Acquiring real estate in the Washakamaug Pond area of Framingham, near a site of Native American occupation, an earlier town resident, Thomas Eames, "found everything as the Indians had left them." The fields nearby were "ready for the plow, from previous cultivation by the squaws," with "meadows…ready for the scythe." Scattered about were "fresh signs of savage life," including wigwam poles, heaps of firestones, open granaries . . ."

At Long Pond, for example, there were remains of an "Indian fort," a circular earthen work, covering an acre and a half, ditch in front of it, enclosed by a wall some four feet high, a raised mound at its center. Several "cellar holes" were built into the embankment.

The history of Sudbury describes another twelve comparable Native habitation sites, quoting the nineteenth-century owner of one of these locations: "I have plowed over seven or eight collections of paving stones that were discolored by fire, that I suppose were the hearthstones of Indian wigwams."
The main gist of the research Mr. Doughton completed was in establishing that Native people didn't vanish from Central Massachusetts as so many scholars from the past have written, but that they are and always have been living right in our very communities. It is a terrific piece of scholarship.

There is much more.

[Click here to read more in a lengthened version of Mr. Doughton's chapter courtesy of Nipmucnet and Mr. Doughton]


Geophile said...

Very interesting. Does anyone know how Mavor and Dix came to the knowledge of "invisible Indians" and the shamanic view of the landscape they evidence in Manitou? Was one of them part native? Or did they have an FFC? They don't say, but it can't have come out of nowhere.

JimP said...

I can only speak for myself and the research I have done. The evidence has always been there -- it's just been scattered across local histories. One had to visit multiple local libraries and town halls to gather all the information. In past times, historians didn't care enough to do the work, and instead relied on 19th century scholars who were particularly biased.

One of the wonderful things about the Pequot Museum Research Library is they're really starting to centralize all that local history information.

Probably the most egregious failure by past historians was how they completely ignored contemporary Native people. It was a prejudice formed by a general concensus that they were not, "real," Indians. It all seems to fall back on Native blood quantum -- and the emphasis once placed on finding, "full-blooded Indians."

Luckily, we are progressing as a society and recognizing that it is not blood quantum that determines one's heritage and culture. Historians are now going to modern Native communities, attending Powows, and getting the story from Native people themselves.

Then there is the phenomenal work of Native historians, such as the terrific people who operate Hobbamock's (Wampanoag) Homesite at Plimoth Plantation, as well as all the work of the Mashatucket Pequots with their Museum and Research Center, and many other band and tribal historic preservation offices too numerous to mention.

All the evidence has always been there. It simply took unbiased and diligent researchers to find it. Until the last few decades, those have been very hard to come by.

JimP said...

I have a few moments and I want to expound a bit.

If you study many 19th century texts about Indians, there are many contradictions. There was a romanticized view of a, "noble race of savages," that had long since, "vanished." At the same time, the texts talk of, "roving bands of gypsies," who are, "dirty, drunken vagabonds." There are also accounts of Indians who owned property, held common Euroamerican occupations, became great scholars, and contributed to Euroamerican society.

It is clear that Native people have existed all along from all sources - especially when looking over local vital, probate, court, and military records.

But the 19th century historians did not recognize them as Native people. Instead, they were placed into categories -- some were assimilated into Euroamerican society, others remained poverty-stricken bands of vagabonds.

Their blood was no longer considered, "pure Indian," and so the, "noble savage of the forest," in their minds, had disappeared into extinction. The extinction of the, "Indian race," was integral to the pictures they painted of the creation of America.

What's amazing is that some of the same historians who wrote about the, "extinction of the red man in New England," were actually working directly on a daily basis with Native communities throughout Massachusetts. Those communities weren't viewed as Indians -- instead they were placed in a kind of cultural limbo, and cast aside as lazy degenerates with mixed blood who were nothing more than beggars selling their filthy, crude wares to Euroamericans.

As I said, the truth has always been out there. It certainly wasn't a secret that Native people never left Massachusetts. It was all a matter of how one viewed it.

Propaganda was a powerful device in those days. As Americans expanded westward, they encountered bloody wars all across the continent. The, "Indian," was the enemy. So Euroamericans considered those who assimilated themselves into Euroamerican society as no longer being, "Indian," and to likewise consider that the, "roving bands," were nothing but filthy beggars and drunken vagabonds.

Geophile said...

Thanks. I'm pretty much aware of what you're saying. The land they'd lived on was sacred to these people, and in one guise or another they stuck around, teaching their children at least some of the old ways.

But I'm curious about Mavor and Dix in particular, and how they came to the understanding they did, how they came to a shamanic view of the landscape at a time when the whole shamanism thing was less well known. There must be a story there.

pwax said...

Well I bet it goes back to Byron Dix. I have asked Mavor how he got interested in the subject and he said his interest came from Alexander Thom's work with European megaliths - Mavor wanted to try out those techniques on the locally available stone walls.

There is little doubt that the idea of Indian stonework was floating around in the mid 70's but was it Strohmeyer or Dix or people associated with NEARA. I do not have the history straight.

Geophile said...

I have read some of Strohmeyer's writings in which he describes an encounter with some native descendants who got in touch with him because of something he wrote about the stonework. An extraordinary account, really, but he seemed to have rewritten it a few times and blurred the fiction/nonfiction line a bit. But whether he'd heard about the idea somewhere else I do not know.

His early death will be a loss to whoever tries to write a history of the people who brought this subject to the fore--as will Dix's. Should you ever find out more, I would be interested to hear about it.

pwax said...

Well maybe I'll make a project out of interviewing Mavor, that might be interesting and I think I am going to see him on the 4th (I am bragging).

Geophile said...

Brag appreciated with appropriate envy!

Will be interested to hear what you learn.

Thomas Doughton said...

I've read with interest this discussion after a friend mentioned to me your link to an article of mine. I'd like to respond to Jim in clarifying that the article cited provided a cursory discussion of the imagined "disappearance" of Natives in New England, and, though you are correct in stating the how of this disappearnce, none of this was as obvious 10, 15 or 20 years ago. I am a Native academic who can testify to how difficult it has been to compel colleagues to go back and rethink what they assumed they knew about regional history. A lot of work has been required for the obvious to become unavoidable.
In any event, I tried to explore some of the why Natives had to be disappear in another writing which is also online.
The title is " 'Like the shadows in the stream': Local Historians, The Discourse of Disappearance and Nipmuc Indians of Central Massachusetts." The link is:

Thomas Doughton

Unknown said...

I grew up hiking the Nipmuc forest which borders southbridge and includes the Hatchet pond area often referrenced in Mr Thomas Dighton's writings. Kudo's Tom for your thorough work, my former friend and professor Dr Vincent Powers would be very proud of your research, he was big on leveraging geneology and local town records to uncover the truth. OK, so you may not ever see this since the last posts were in 2006, but after hiked though the hatchet pond area so many times, embracing the beauty and history of the forest, I am interested in learning more about that area, why it was abandoned, and if there truly is a hidden burial ground out there. If there is, it needs to be properly. Please contact me if you have any information for me. Thanks!!!


Unknown said...

Sorry fot the typo Mr Doughton. and part of my post was omitted - the sentence referrencing the historical burial site near hatchet pond should state "properly preserved, protected, and honored." KWG