I approach many historical questions through place. By visiting specific lands and waters--whether by walking, driving, paddling a canoe, hiking up a mountain, or navigating through city streets--I find we can better comprehend their many layers of meaning, or at least begin to ask new questions about their significances. My understandings have been deeply informed by Native community members and local residents who maintain important forms of knowledge about these places, including stories that are not obvious or visible at a first encounter.
Several places that have been influential to the course of Northeastern and early American history, and to my own thinking about the contested quality of the past, are featured below.
All photographs by Christine DeLucia.
indian college at Harvard
In the mid-seventeenth century an Indian College was established at Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a colonial town located on the Charles River, itself an integral part of longstanding Native homelands. Young Native students from Algonquian communities traveled there to attend this early institution of higher education, where they amassed knowledge about the languages and ways of colonizers at a time when tribal nations were navigating intense pressures from these newcomers. Today a commemorative plaque on the exterior of Matthews Hall marks the location of this important site of cross-cultural encounters. Matthews Hall is presently a student dormitory, where I lived during my first year on campus.
The Indigenous place known as Patuxet, in the heart of Wampanoag homelands on the Atlantic coast, became the site of English colonization in 1620 when the Pilgrims arrived to seek new lands and opportunities overseas. Encounters between Indigenous inhabitants--who had recently endured devastating epidemic diseases--and land-desirous colonizers gradually shifted from diplomacy to outright conflict, with grievous consequences. Since the 1970s this place has been the site of an annual gathering known as the National Day of Mourning (shown here in 2014), where Indigenous community members and allies recall histories of colonization and resistance, and express solidarities and hopes for the future.