By one estimate, 35.5% of all Indians in Rhode Island were living with white families in 1774.”

“By estimate, 35.5% of all Indians in Rhode Island were living with white families in 1774.” This intriguing statistic is presented as part of a discussion demonstrating that the Indian population of New England did not disappear and was not destroyed during the Colonial era.

Colin G. Calloway edited with an introduction, After King Philip’s War:  Presence and Persistence in Indian New England.  Hanover NH: Dartmouth College and University Press of New England, 1997. The book is part of the Dartmouth College series, Re-encounters with Colonialism:  New Perspectives on the Americas.

I purchased this book at Fort Ticonderoga when I went there to research a soldier in the French and Indian Wars.  When I returned home, I shelved the book and just rediscovered it this morning. More than 1/3 of the native population in RI lived in white families!  The genealogical implications are mind-blowing…

Calloway introduces nine essays spanning what he calls ” a dark time for Indian people in New England.”  In Maine, in Massachusetts, in Rhode Island, and in Connecticut the native populations were confined on tiny reservations, subjected to guardian systems and other regulations that whittled away their lands, forced them to abandon their tribal heritages, and adopt American civilization to survive.  The Indians worked as indentured servants in white households and slaves in new industries.  They were edged out of local town offices and prevented from voting through technicalities–including being identified as in-coming Canadians instead of native born residents.  Their numbers were reduced by unfamiliar diseases.  And they survived.

The essays cover this whole period from King Philip’s War through the end of the nineteenth century to show the continuity of the native populations to their 20th century renaissance as functioning, independent communities.  Each essay is carefully documented–with a variety of sources:  some familiar and used by genealogists with some regularity and some unfamiliar and rarely if ever used by genealogists.

Tracing an Indian ancestor with today’s American resources is very difficult–the continuity from one generation to the next is especially troubling.  So this group of studies, with the sources cited, is an exciting beginning.

Stay tuned to this blog–for a checklist of resources familiar and previously unknown.  Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS  Native American ancestry is a perfect course of study for this Thanksgiving weekend.  You can peek into and out of the discussion with fodder to share with your relatives and friends.  Prepare for them to be amazed!

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