Blood Quantum: A Zombie Film

Contributed by Lindsay Randall

The last lesson that I taught for the 2020-2021 academic year was unbelievably interesting and completely unlike anything I have ever taught about.  

So. Much. BLOOD Fun.

Dr. Miriam Villanueva, faculty in the History department, taught a course during Spring term on understanding history through zombie films. She used films such as Ojuju and Zombi Child to explore various cultural, social, and economic issues impacting the cultures that the films center on.

The film that I got to collaborate with Dr. V on was Blood Quantum by director Jeff Barnaby. 

The indigenous people in the isolated reserve of Red Crow are immune to the zombie plague that has taken over the nation, but that doesn’t mean their lives aren’t at risk. It’s up to Traylor (Michael Greyeyes, “Fear the Walking Dead”), the tribal sheriff, to protect the families residing on the reserve and a flood of desperate refugees from the hordes of bloodthirsty, walking white corpses that are closing in.

Click here to rent/purchase Blood Quantum.

The term “blood quantum” refers the racist concept that one’s “Indianness” can be quantified by the amount of “Indian blood” that one possesses. Historically, the idea of blood quantum emerged as a way to construct racial identity to benefit the dominant white society. The idea was as the blood of indigenous people became “diluted” that they would disappear – and with them any legal obligations the government had or any obstacle that they represented for the growth of white society.

The premise of Blood Quantum –that the Indigenous people of Red Crow are immune to becoming zombies–seems to be incredibly positive (as much as anything can be in a zombie film), students in Dr. V’s class were quick to pick up on the quote from the movie that being “immune to the plague doesn’t mean immune to being eaten alive.” They saw how the immunity actually served as another method to ensure the destruction of Native people – there would be no Indigenous people left while hordes of white zombies still roamed everywhere. However, their immunity did give members of the Red Crow reservation a power that was denied to all others in the movie.

As you can see, there was a lot for the students to unpack while watching the film. Below are just a few of the issues/metaphors that students investigated. 

If they’re red, they are dead. If they’re white, they bite.

By no means are these all the ways that the movie serves as commentary regarding historical and contemporary issues in Indian Country nor are the examples given below the only ones that can be found in the movie.

Current conditions of Native reservations

Early on in the movie, there is a discussion about how all the tetanus shots in the clinic have been taken by the emergency department.  Students saw this scene as connected to reservations given the historical and contemporary actions of resources being taken by the government and other for profit industries.

Students also discussed that how the compound was set up to protect against zombies was similar to modern reservations given its lack of electricity, heat, sanitation, and other vital supplies.  

Red Crow Reservation during the zombie apocalypse. 

Dishonesty towards Native people(s) and communities 

There is a scene where a father is trying to bring his clearly sick/injured daughter into the compound. When asked if she had been bitten the father denied it, however the bite mark was easily found on her neck.

There was also a character named Lilith who showed up with the father and daughter who also had a bite wound on her stomach, which she never disclosed while accepting the help and security being offered.

The dishonesty by the father and Lilith in their attempt to get what they wanted – no matter the cost to those who were trying to help them – reminded the students of both the historical and contemporary treatments of Indigenous people where information was intentionally kept from them and did not allow them to make informed decisions (such as the abhorrent lying that took place when Indian Health Services forcibly sterilized young women in the 1970s)

Father holding his infected daughter.

Destruction of Native families

The deaths of numerous characters throughout the movie is not the only way that the destruction of Indigenous families is portrayed within the film. One of the aspects of the movie that students noticed in connection to this was the fact that the character of Lysol had been placed within the foster care system. The statement in the movie that “he left an Alan and came back a Lysol” also demonstrates the trauma that is prevalent within the system and how it can change the entire personality of a child.

Placing Native children into the foster care system is a direct result of the same federal policies which lead to the creation of native boarding schools. The foster care system has played such a destructive role in the harming of Native families and communities that the state of Maine convened  the Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate the trauma that resulted from decades long policies related to Native children in the state of Maine. (Dawnland is an award winning documentary about the Commissions work)

Joss, Joseph, and Joseph’s newborn daughter on the run from zombies.

Missing and murdered indigenous women

The absence of a person makes it easy for them to be overlooked, however students in the class were very aware that the mother of the character Lysol was mentioned a few times but never seen. One part of dialogue that the students brought up was when Joseph says, “The whole reservation knows what happened to his mom” but then nothing more about what happened is said.

The fact that the audience never learns the name of Lysol’s mother is another connection to missing and murdered Indigenous women. While the shooting of unarmed Black men is a crisis within society, at least we know the names of George Floyd, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and countless others. It is a sad commentary on our society that the average person cannot name even one Indigenous woman who has been murdered or who is currently missing.

Joseph and Joss talking about Lysol

Biological warfare

There is a scene where the father of the daughter who died outside of the camp due to a zombie bite brings in the blanket that she had been wrapped up in. When Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs’ character Charlie notices the blanket she grabs it from the man and throws it into a fire while yelling at him that he cannot bring that into the reservation.

The students immediately understood that this scene was meant to evoke the histories of blankets infected with smallpox being given to native people as a method to murder them.

Charlie taking the infected blanket to be burned

Destruction of natural and other resources

One of the topics with which students were already familiar was protests against the destruction of the environment and areas of cultural significance by the construction of gas and oil pipelines. Many Indigenous communities have set up blockades, particularly on bridges, to stop the movement of workers and machines.

The imagery created by the barricade on the bridge to stop zombies from crossing into the reservation is incredibly similar to the pictures from protest sites such as DAPL/Standing Rock.

Barricade on bridge to stop zombies from entering Red Crow Reservation

Christian God used to defend the treatment of Native people(s) and communities

The use of biblical words and the concept of God has been used for centuries to rationalize the inhumane treatment of native people.

“For it pleased God to visit these Indians with a great sickness, and such a mortality that of a thousand above nine hundred and a half of them died, and many of them did rot above ground for want of burial”   – Gov. William Bradford

“For the natives, they are near all dead of the smallpox, so the Lord hath cleared our title to what we possess.”  – Gov. John Winthrop

In the first moments of the movie an “Ancient Settler Proverb” appears:

“Take heed thyself that thou make no treaty with the inhabitants of the land for when they whore themselves to their demons and sacrifice to them, you will eat their sacrifices. And when you chose some of their daughters for your sons they will lead your sons to do the same.”

Some of the students were aware that the “Ancient Settler Proverb” was in fact Exodus 34:12. 

Ancient Settler Proverb

Another interesting connection the movie made was to something that director Jeff Barnaby experienced as a child.

In June of 1981, Lucien Lessard, Quebec Minister of Recreation, Hunting, and Fishing instigated conflict with Mi’kmaq living on Restigouche (now Listugui) by demanding that they remove all nets from their traditional fishing waters. Salmon fishing was vital to the survival of those on the reservation there were, unsurprisingly there was intense pushback from community members. Instead of dealing with the issue peaceably, Lessard sent about 400 Quebec Provincial Police to engage in a brutal raid on the reservation. 

Documentary “Incident at Restigouche”

These events were captured in the documentary “Incident at Restigouche” and Barnaby has commented numerous times on how this film influenced his career. One of the scenes is that of an elder talking about how he took an ax and drew “a line for them not to come any further.”

Elder speaking about how he stood up to the forces illegally entering Restigouche.

A hyper-specific homage to the violent events of 1981 at Restigouche and this elder in particular is found in the animated scene were Gisigu takes a sword to defend against zombies.

Scene from movie that references the attack on Restigouche

So, if zombie movies are your thing, you might consider watching this particular movie and I hope that this blog post will make your viewing richer in your understanding of how it serves as a commentary on issues within Indian Country.

For more about Blood Quantum:

Jeff Barnaby Made an Apocalypse Movie to Watch the System Fall. Then a Pandemic Hit

PODCAST: Jeff Barnaby talks about his indigenous zombie film Blood Quantum

Decolonizing the zombie apocalypse:  An interview with Jeff Barnaby about his new film ‘Blood Quantum’

JAE Publishes Special Issue on Doing and Teaching Archaeology Online

Contributed by Ryan Wheeler

May 2021 saw the publication of special issue “Perspectives on Teaching, Learning, and Doing Archaeology and Anthropology Online” in the Journal of Archaeology and Education. Nine timely articles address the big picture and specific case studies in teaching archaeology and anthropology online—something that many of us have gained new experience in during the pandemic. And, while most institutions are looking to a return to in-person teaching, these articles, organized by David Pacifico and Rebecca Robertson, and based on the 2018 American Anthropological Association roundtable session “Teaching and Learning Anthropology Online,” make the case that teaching archaeology and anthropology online is not only possible, but can be done well and comes with some benefits. For example, Russ Bernard makes the case in his article that “online education is the only way to scale up training in statistics and research methods for both graduate students and undergraduate students of anthropology,” helping to forge more and better connections between our academic departments and employment. Michael Wesch, in his contribution, describes anth101.com, an online course that “is organized around 10 big lessons that attempt to help students embody the ‘ethos’ of anthropology, including … the ability to ask big questions, try new things, see patterns, see the big picture, see the little things that matter, and overcome fear, hate, and ignorance to empathize with others and understand cultural differences.” Check out this great special issue and all it has to offer at JAE today! And, many thanks to JAE editor Jeanne Moe and JAE guest editor Katie Kirakosian for their work on the special issue, and to the authors for sharing their work in JAE!

The Journal of Archaeology and Education is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal dedicated to disseminating research and sharing practices in archaeological education at all levels. We welcome submissions dealing with education in its widest sense, both in and out of the classroom—from early childhood through the graduate level—including public outreach from museums and other institutions, as well as professional development for the anthropologist and archaeologist. The journal’s founders recognize the significant role that archaeology can play in education at all levels and intend for The Journal of Archaeology and Education to provide a home for the growing community of practitioners and scholars interested in sharing their first-hand experiences and research.

JAE was founded at the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology, where archaeology is used to support high school curricula at Phillips Academy, and is hosted at the University of Maine’s Digital Commons website.

From Decolonizing to DAMS: the Beauty of Online Learning

Contributed by Marla Taylor

Over the last couple months, I was fortunate to take two online professional development courses – Decolonizing Museums in Practice and DAM for GLAM. These classes covered very different topics but overlapped in some really surprising ways.

The Decolonizing Museums class is directly applicable to so much of the work that I do every day. We have taken steps at the Peabody Institute to incorporate decolonizing into our collections management policy, researcher access policies, and NAGPRA implementation. I am proud of that work, but also wanted to take a step back and immerse myself in the scholarship behind this approach to museum management.

The class was filled with fascinating, thought-provoking, and occasionally uncomfortable readings that stretched my assumptions and gave me a new framework to view my role, as a white settler female, in managing an archaeological collection full of Indigenous material culture. The instructors and my classmates could not have been better. We represented a wide variety of museum roles and perspectives from across three different countries. We were all open and honest about when we were challenged by the readings and I found listening to others work through their decolonizing journey could be enlightening about my own.

Fortunately for me, one of my classmates was local to the Boston area and we were even able to meet up in person to discuss what we had been learning. She works with the collections at the Boston Children’s Museum. We bonded over our shared decolonization journey, but also our overall museum experiences, and an interest in knitting. We also discovered a collections link between our respective institutions and could seamlessly begin to support each other in repatriation consultations.

I loved the course.

DAM for GLAM was completely different. DAM = Digital Asset Management. GLAM = Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums. This course walked me through what a DAM is and what it can do for cultural institutions. Basically, a DAM is a system to track the digital surrogates of the physical items in the collection and the born digital materials that derive from them (think image of an item in the collection, a scan of an excavation map, digitized archives, a video of a presentation, or a course catalog). This course was less intuitive for me, but ultimately really valuable as I had previously struggled to even understand what a DAM was.

During the course, we were asked to use the collections that we were affiliated with as examples to answer the teacher’s prompts. As the questions were regularly about data management, access, and use rights, I would always answer them through a decolonizing lens. It was really helpful at times to apply the slightly more abstract concepts from the decolonizing class to something as practical as metadata. It forced me to think about how challenging the data management will be to make digital surrogates available to tribal partners, researchers, and educators.

I made some positive professional connections in that class as well through conversations about digital repatriation. I think I helped some people understand that making digital copies of everything that will be repatriated so that you still have access to a version of the item doesn’t really jibe with the idea of repatriation. If a tribe asks us to destroy digital copies of repatriated items (images or 3-D scans), the Peabody will abide by that request. Their cultural authority does not end at the physicality of the item, it encompasses the totality of the item. I am grateful for the opportunity to conduct these thought experiments and share with others.

While both classes were really valuable experiences, I want to discourage any of you out there from taking two courses at once while working a full-time job… just sayin’…

Peabody Pets

Contributed by Emma Lavoie

Pets have always played an important part throughout history and there is regular evidence of this in the archaeological record. We’ve seen pets as companions, guides, and emotional support animals as well as hunters, messengers, and aids in transportation, security, and various other work.

Many archaeologists have found evidence of pets in their excavations of ancient sites, and some even study the history of pet-human bonding and to find the earliest evidence of these relationships. Some of the most recent sites with pet discoveries include a burial in Lima, Peru, an Ancient Egyptian port site that holds one of the oldest pet cemeteries (about 2,000 years old!), and a discovery of a prehistoric puppy that is about 14,000 years old (making it the earliest evidence of pets.)

May 2021 marks National Pet month and what better way to celebrate than to feature the furry friends of the Peabody’s staff!

Meet Scotty

Here’s Scotty enjoying the New England snow

Scotty is a 6-year-old Australian cattle dog mix, rescued from Tennessee by the Great Dog Rescue New England in 2016. Scotty loves to make appearances in Dr. Wheeler’s Human Origins course, where he guest stars during discussions on dog origins and evolution.

Scotty is named for a number of favorite Scottys. These include Scotty from Star Trek and our own Richard “Scotty” MacNeish. In fact, he is often referred to as Scotty MacLeash!

Scotty’s best friend is his pet-mate, Martin – an orange cat who loves to play and wrestle with Scotty, especially during mealtimes.

The best of friends – Scotty and Martin taking a post-play nap

Meet Banjo

Banjo posing for a picture – just look at those cute ears!

Banjo is a 5-year-old pit-bull mix who loves playing fetch, tug, and snuggling with her family. While she loves a vigorous game of tug, she is super gentle with younger and smaller opponents even letting them win.

Banjo also loves being under a blanket to sleep. She sleeps best at night when a blanket is put on her before bed. If she gets up for a stretch at night, you can find her at the side of your bed waiting until you get up to cover her with a blanket in her bed again. On the rare occasion she would sleep in her family’s bed, she would wiggle down to the bottom and spend all night in a blanket cocoon.

Banjo in bed covered up with her blanket

Meet Rourke

Rourke at the beach

Rourke is a 2-year-old golden (ginger) retriever. There may be some Irish setter in there too. Rourke was named after his family’s old Irish name (O’Rourke.) He loves hiking, naps, and the snow, but his favorite place is the water. He loves the beach and lounging in his very own kiddie pool.

By day, Rourke wrestles with his big Bernese mountain dog cousins, and by night he’s a lap dog. He loves peanut butter and the smell of butter and steak. Fun fact – Rourke has his own way of purring and loved sleeping on the backs of couches before he got too big for it… he might have been a cat in a past life.

Rourke always has his tongue out for a photo

Meet Duncan

Duncan lounging in the grass

Duncan is a 9-year-old German shepherd, chow, and boxer mix who was adopted from the SPCA when he was three months old. He loves running and going on car rides with his family. Duncan’s favorite treats are popcorn and peanut butter. He is super strong and has lots of energy, immediately ripping any toys that he’s given to shreds.

Duncan got his name on the way home from being adopted. His family drove past a Dunkin’ Donuts and the rest was history!

Just look at that smile!

Meet Nimbus and Baz

Nimbus and Baz taking a nap – they’re so fluffy!

Nimbus is a white, Himalayan and Siamese mix. She is about 18-20 years old. Baz is a brown, Maine Coon mix. He is 13 years old. Both love taking naps and are a cosmic duality that govern their family’s daily lives.

Nimbus is noisy and skittish while Baz is quiet and affectionate. These two often seem to be composed of contrary forces, but they usually settle into a détente of furry cuddliness.

Cutshamache and Cochichawick

Contributed by Ryan Wheeler

What is now called Andover, North Andover, and parts of Lawrence, Massachusetts were once Cochichawick. This is the Indigenous name for the place where many of us work and live. The name persists in Lake Cochichewick in North Andover, Essex County’s largest lake. Indigenous leader Cutshamache transferred the land to English colonists, not through a deed, but rather in an agreement ultimately attested before the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony:

At a General Court, at Boston 6th of the 3rd m, 1646 (in the Gregorian calendar, May 16, 1646)

Cutshamache, sagamore of the Massachusets, came into the Court, and acknowledged that for the sum of 6 pounds & a coat, which he had already received, he had sold to Mr. John Woodbridge, in behalf of the inhabitants of Cochichawick, now called Andover, all his right, interest, and privilege in the land six miles southward from the town, two miles eastward to Rowley bounds, be the same more or less, northward to Merrimack River, provided that the Indian called Roger & his company may have liberty to take alewifes in Cochichawick River, for their own eating; but if they either spoil or steal any corn or other fruit, to any considerable value, of the inhabitants there, this liberty of taking fish shall forever cease; and the said Roger is still to enjoy four acres of ground where now he plants. This purchase the Court allows of, and have granted the said land to belong to the said plantation forever, to be ordered and disposed of by them, reserving liberty to the Court to lay two miles square of their southerly bounds to any town or village that hereafter may be erected thereabouts, if so they see cause.

Cutshamache acknowledged this before the magistrates, and so the Court approved thereof, and of the rest in this bill to be recorded, so as it prejudice no former grant.

Enamel pin created in 1895 by John E. Whiting to commemorate Andover’s 250th anniversary, the origin of the town seal featuring Cutshamache. Collection of the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology.

The story and its protagonist feature prominently in Andover’s 1895 town seal, where we see Cutshamache holding the coat, part of his payment for the land. Cutshamache appears frequently in the seventeenth century records of the English colony in Massachusetts, ranging from his involvement in the Pequot War to skepticism about missionary John Eliot’s preaching (see Drake 1856). Frank Speck (1928:141), in his discussion of the Punkapog Band of Massachusett, mentions that “the name and pronunciation of Kitchamakin or Cutshamekin are still remembered.” For us, his involvement in selling a large portion of Andover, North Andover, and Lawrence to John Woodbridge sometime in the early 1640s is of greatest interest. Local histories, in books, articles, and now online, frequently repeat the story, and tweak it to fit whatever narrative is being told. In some cases, the currency is converted into modern dollars (a pretty complicated exercise), and in other variants, Cutshamache is described as a Pennacook leader (see the Wikipedia entry for the Town of Andover). The latter makes sense, since the Pennacook, helmed by their leader Passaconaway, are associated with the area around Andover. However, Cutshamache does not appear to have been Pennacook, but was rather a Massachusett leader who lived in what is now Dorchester. The General Court statement clearly identifies him as such. But, this is puzzling, since Dorchester is pretty far from Andover. So what’s going on?

Many authors suggest a family connection between Passaconaway and Cutshamache, possibly based on Sidney Perley’s assertion (1912:35), though I have found no primary sources to support this and this suggested link may just be a way to help explain Cutshamache’s involvement in the sale of the Andover lands. Passaconaway does seem to have created alliances through marriage that crosscut ethnicity and relied more on cultural similarities, creating a heterogeneous coalition distinct from the more homogenous Massachusett (see Cook 1976:29; Stewart-Smith 1998:24-25). What’s more intriguing is the sale of Haverhill in 1642 by Native leaders Passaquo and Saggahew required the consent of Passaconaway (in fact, his consent is mentioned twice in the text of the deed). See the original document and transcript on the Essex National Heritage Area website. The General Court acknowledgment of the Andover, North Andover, and Lawrence sale does not mention Passaconaway, suggesting several possibilities. Perhaps Cutshamache’s less formal court appearance resulted in an omission. But, the court statement includes considerable detail, including the preservation of land and fishing rights for Roger and his company, Indigenous residents of the area.

Tile mosaic version of Andover’s town seal in the foyer of the Town Hall by Perley Gilbert and Elias Galassi. Photograph by Ryan Wheeler, February 3, 2020.

Archaeologist Eric Johnson (1999:155), in his book chapter on Native political geography, provides a different way of thinking about Indigenous groups in the area during the seventeenth century that helps inform Cutshamache’s sale of Cochichawick. Johnson says, “What does a map of bounded tribes imply about political organization? It implies stasis and homogeneity, both within and among political units.” He attributes this to the desire of colonial European observers to describe unfamiliar people and places in a familiar way—through the lens of political organization in seventeenth century Europe. This plagues our understanding today—we want carefully delineated maps that show the boundaries of Indigenous lands, matching those of city, county, and state political entities. Johnson (1999:158) argues for a different model to understand the geography of the area that takes into account the dynamic and heterogeneous polities. Further, he suggests that groups in the region consisted of autonomous communities that regularly underwent expansion, contraction, and internal upheaval, depending on a variety of socio-political strategies at play among leaders and group members. Alliances, often transitory, could result in confederacies of autonomous groups, as well as splintering and new alliances. Confederations were based on real and fictive kinship relationships between principal leaders and those of local communities; autonomy of local communities varied greatly depending on the leadership qualities of the principal leader, overall group size, geographic distances between communities, and genealogical connections (Johnson 1999:161). Within this context, Kathleen Bragdon (2009:206-209), in her second book on the Native people of the Northeast, points to connections between Indigenous communities across the region, stating, “linkages between the Pennacooks and Pawtuckets of the Merrimac drainage of what is now northeastern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire, show connections ranging as far south and east as Natick and Charlestown. Other historical evidence shows marriage ties between Pennacooks and Pawtuckets with Niantics and Wamesits as well.”

Intertribal relations just at the time of European conquest illustrate the linkages that likely characterize the area. After the devastating epidemic of 1619, Indigenous allies of the French raided the lower Merrimack. Passaconaway was the Pennacook sachem at the time. His Pawtucket counterpart, Nanepashemet, was killed around present-day Medford or Malden and his widow assumed the role of sachem. Two of her sons married Passaconaway’s daughters, cementing the Pennacook-Pawtucket alliance. According to historian David Stewart-Smith (1998:24-25), Passaconaway (also called Papisseconnewa) was acknowledged as the leader of Pawtucket, Agawam, and Piscataqua, though each group retained local leaders as well. He explains that it is helpful to think of the larger tribal designations as “aggregations of allied family territories,” including Pennacook, Pawtucket, Massachusett, Nipmuc, and others (Stewart-Smith 1998:28). The divisions were not hard lines, but rather fluctuated with marriages and other connections.

View of Lake Cochichewick from the Brooks School, North Andover Massachusetts, January 15, 2012. John Phelan, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Historian Peter Leavenworth (1999:277) explains the ways in which Pennacook-Pawtucket lands moved into English ownership in the seventeenth century, principally through legal means, but also via violent incursions. He also documents important instances where Indigenous people resisted land loss. Leavenworth describes a violent attack against the Pennacook during King Philip’s War (1675-78), but helps us understand that the extensive transfers of land, through deeds or appearances in the General Court like Cutshamache’s, occurred during the 1640s, following the smallpox epidemic of 1633-34 and decisions by Passaconaway, including the belief that Indigenous people could share land with the English. According to Leavenworth (1999:281), there were serious misunderstandings in terms of what was happening, especially as these more informal land “sales” occurred: English colonists believed they were buying large tracts of land, while the Indigenous “sellers” believed they retained their usufruct rights. This is reflected in Cutshamache’s sale of Cochichawick, which references Roger and his group’s continuing rights to at least some small part of the landscape and fishing rights (check out this interactive map site that shows Rogers Brook in Andover, namesake of the seventeenth century Indigenous inhabitant). Leavenworth also documents an interesting shift in acceptable payment—at first the English were buying land for clothing, tools, ornaments and other trade goods, but apparently by 1650, the Indigenous people of the area would only accept currency. Cutshamache’s sale involves both—6 pounds in money, and a coat (interestingly, an earlier order by the General Court in 1642 directed that a coat be given to Cutshamache, perhaps the coat referenced in the 1646 appearance?).

So, there’s a lot to unpack in Cutshamache’s sale of Cochichawick. Most notable are the traditional cultural patterns that involved seasonal movements, settlement, and marriage that linked widely dispersed groups versus our modern desire to have Indigenous people fit into neat territories that align with historical and modern municipal, county, state, and national boundaries. It’s also impossible to think about this outside the devastating disruptions wrought by European incursions and the attendant diseases and demographic shifts (Strobel 2020:71-75). For example, Daniel Gookin, one of the English colonists, recorded 3,000 Pawtucket men in the earliest days of European conquest, but by 1674, the tribe had been reduced to “not above 250 men.” Within this milieu—traditional Indigenous practices, the disease and disruptions brought by the English, and attempts to adapt—land moved from Native to European hands.

For an Indigenous perspective, check out the detailed histories, timelines, and more on the Massachusett Tribe at Ponkapoag’s website. Here you can learn about the modern day Massachusett, their history, as well as ongoing initiatives, like work on the newly created Massachusetts state seal commission. If you would like to learn more about the Abenaki tribes in nearby New Hampshire and Vermont, start with the website of the Cowasuck Band of the Pennacook-Abenaki. There you can learn about history and contemporary initiatives of the Abenaki, who have close ties to the Native inhabitants of the Andover area.

References Cited and Further Reading

Bragdon, Kathleen J.

2009 Native People of Southern New England 1650 – 1775. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.

Cook, Sherburne F.

1976 The Indian Population of New England in the Seventeenth Century. University of California Publications in Anthropology Vol. 12. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Drake, Samuel G.

1856 Biography and History of the Indians of North America, from its first discovery. Sanborn, Carter, and Bazin, Boston.

Johnson, Eric S.

1999 Community and Confederation: A Political Geography of Contact Period Southern New England. In The Archaeological Northeast, edited by Mary Ann Levine, Kenneth E. Sassaman, and Michael S. Nassaney, pp. 155-168. Bergin & Garvey, Westport, CT.

Leavenworth, Peter S.

1999 “The Best Title That Indians Can Claime:” Native Agency and Consent in the Transferal of Penacook-Pawtucket Land in the Seventeenth Century. The New England Quarterly 72(2):275-300.

Perley, Sidney

1912 Indian Land Titles, Essex County, Massachusetts. Riverside Press, Cambridge (for Essex Book and Print Club).

Speck, Frank G.

1928 Territorial Subdivisions of the Wampanoag, Massachusett, and Nauset Indians. Indian Notes and Monographs No. 44. Museum of the American Indian, Heye Foundation, New York.

Stewart-Smith, David

1998 The Pennacook Indians and the New England Frontier, circa 1604 – 1733. PhD dissertation, Union Institute, Cincinnati OH.

Strobel, Christoph

2020 Native Americans of New England. Praeger, Santa Barbara CA.

Missing the Meaning – Understanding the Material Culture of Protest

Contributed by Lindsay Randall

Recently I collaborated with Dr. Miriam Villanueva of the Department of History and Social Science at Phillips Academy to create a new lesson that focused on both the American Indian Movement and the takeover of Alcatraz Island in 1969 by Native activists. 

Our focus was to have students understand how Native protests are centered around issues regarding tribal sovereignty, treaty rights, and meaningful intergovernmental consultation. We also sought to highlight how the ignorance of the American public regarding these issues perpetuates misconceptions about these protests while also connecting them to modern issues.

To do this we examined two protest signs; one from the 1969 Alcatraz Occupation and one from the recent Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL)/Standing Rock protests. 

We asked the students to investigate the two types of meaning perceived in each of the signs: 

1.) the general public’s understanding of the sign. 

2.) the message the originator of the sign intended to convey. 

During the activity the students worked together to create the following interpretations of each of the protest signs we examined, based on other contextual information that we used.

For background information about the Alcatraz Protest

Incorrect Response: Native Americans are welcomed at the Island because it has always been Indian Land.
Correct Response: It is a commentary on how white people have simply taken what they wanted and Native people are now just simply playing by the same rules.

The students came to the conclusion that this particular sign is meant more as a commentary on the method used to claim Native land in the past – and less about saying all land was once Native land – when they read the following passage from the Proclamation written by Richard Oaks and other protesters at Alcatraz.

Proclamation to the Great White Father and All His People

We, the native Americans, re-claim the land known as Alcatraz Island in the name of all American Indians by right of discovery.
We wish to be fair and honorable in our dealings with the Caucasian inhabitants of this land, and hereby offer the following treaty:

We will purchase said Alcatraz Island for twenty-four dollars ($24) in glass beads and red cloth, a precedent set by the white man's purchase of a similar island about 300 years ago. We know that $24 in trade goods for these 16 acres is more than was paid when Manhattan Island was sold, but we know that land values have risen over the years. Our offer of $1.24 per acre is greater than the 47¢ per acre that the white men are now paying the California Indians for their land. We will give to the inhabitants of this island a portion of that land for their own, to be held in trust by the American Indian Affairs [sic] and by the bureau of Caucasian Affairs to hold in perpetuity—for as long as the sun shall rise and the rivers go down to the sea. We will further guide the inhabitants in the proper way of living. We will offer them our religion, our education, our life-ways, in order to help them achieve our level of civilization and thus raise them and all their white brothers up from their savage and unhappy state. We offer this treaty in good faith and wish to be fair and honorable in our dealings with all white men.

Next we turned our attention to the recent protests around the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Standing Rock Sioux community. For background information on the DAPL/Standing Rock protests.

Incorrect Response: The protesters are violent!
Correct Response: The sign is satire and a play on “Kill the Indian, Save the Man” policy.

To interpret this particular sign the students drew upon their knowledge of Indian Boarding Schools that we covered in Fall Term. They remembered the program of “Kill the Indian, Save the Man” that lead to the creation of the Indian boarding schools.

The students thoughtfully came to the conclusion that the protester was mimicking the phrase “Kill the Indian, Save the Man” to imply that if one removes the capitalist nature of the “Pilgrim” (or white man) that the water and environment will be saved.

We then ended the lesson with a group discussion about how these protests are all connected to each other while at the same time connected to sites and ancestors that are thousands of years old. The students also came up with possible solutions to ensure that the public has a better understanding of the reasons behind the protests so that their ultimate goals are not misinterpreted, thus undermining the power of the protest.

The conversations and points that the students in each of Dr. V’s three classes were incredibly thoughtful and perceptive. Both Dr. V and I thought that this was one of our best lessons that we have created because it seamlessly brought together modern and historical issues while engaging students in close reading of primary sources, mirroring the exact process that students are currently working through for their History 300 research papers.

Much of this lesson was based on the amazing work of April Beisaw and Glynnis E. Olin in their article From Alcatraz to Standing Rock: Archaeology and Contemporary Native American Protests (1969-Today)

The Shadow of Scotty MacNeish

Contributed by Marla Taylor

This month marks the 103rd birthday of Richard “Scotty” MacNeish (1918-2001) – past Director of the Peabody Institute, unconfirmed winner of the 1938 Golden Glove award (a regional amateur boxing title), member of the National Academy of Sciences, and all-around remarkable 20th century archaeologist.  When starting to pull this post together, I found this quote describing MacNeish and could not resist including it here:

A strange, bifurcated goatee decorates his chin, and there is a shimmering reddishness about his hair and face. He has spent, literally, more than 20 years in the field — longer than any other archaeologist. He has published more than 400 books and articles. Despite two heart bypass operations, he retains the pounding mental metabolism of a furious shrew. (“Bones to Pick Archaeology” by Richard O’Mara in the Baltimore Sun, May 16, 1996)

Ok, in my first draft of this blog, I listed information about MacNeish’s professional positions and tried to summarize his career.  That turned into something far too long and meandering to share.  So, instead, I will point you to the wonderful short biography from the Peabody Institute archival catalog records and the much more in-depth biographical memoir from the National Academy of Sciences.  I will use this space to highlight his impact at the Peabody Institute and my daily work.

Throughout his career, MacNeish sought the intertwined origins of agriculture and civilization.  He excavated in North America, Peru, Mexico (Tamaulipas, Tehuacán, Coxcatlan, and Palo Blanco), Belize, and China while searching for the early domestication of corn and rice.  Because of this particular interest, the Peabody Institute is home to a number of plant remains and botanical specimens.  Some of these tiny early maize cobs are an important part of a much larger story on the origin of modern corn.  I have a love/hate relationship with these specimen.  They are so fascinating but also so delicate – I want to share them, but decades of storage without climate control have left them brittle.  Gentle handling is required for sure!

MacNeish was also particularly interested in excavating sites that would push back the archaeological framework for understanding when people arrived in the New World.  I think it appealed to his pugnacious disposition to tell everyone else that they were wrong.  His work is proving relevant as Indigenous scholars push to rewrite the archaeological understanding of the Americas.  I love this aspect of MacNeish’s work and hope that more people will come to utilize these collections.

MacNeish kept EVERYTHING from his research and excavations – a double-edged sword for collections management.  This applies less to the object collections (MacNeish was not always allowed to retain the artifacts he excavated in foreign countries) but very much applies to his archivesHis archives include everything from thank you cards to financial records to drafts of publications to excavation images.  With over 100 boxes of archival material, I am confident that I can find the documentation that anyone is looking for – but I am regularly daunted by volume of material.

If all of that wasn’t enough, MacNeish continues to influence how the Peabody Institute’s collection grows.  We recently received archival gifts from his associates Jane Libby and Dr. James Neely documenting their work with MacNeish and beyond.  Once these collections are processed, I will be happy to share the relevant finding aids. Well, I haven’t even mentioned MacNeish’s reputation as a passionately supportive teacher – or what his archives reveal about his feelings toward those who disagreed with him – or his reputation as a flirt.  Alas, we must draw a line somewhere in this conversation.  Clearly there is so much to say about Scotty MacNeish!   I wish I had been fortunate enough to meet him before he passed, but I am fortunate enough to work in his shadow at the Peabody.

Behind the Photograph: Unpacking the Peabody Collection

Contributed by Emma Lavoie

Throughout history we have used images to tell a story and to document a period or memory in time. Today our society continues to find ways to connect and communicate through social media and digital platforms, using images to share their lives and stories more than ever.

The Peabody collection contains more than 600,000 artifacts, photographs, and documents. The Peabody’s photograph collection, specifically, is extensive and contains many interesting, yet untold stories. To bring these stories and photographs to light, we would like to share them with YOU, fellow readers, in our new blog series, Behind the Photograph.

Our inspiration for this new series of blogs was a photograph of Warren K. Moorehead and the Fort Ancient excavation in Ohio. You can view this story here! To kick off the Behind the Photograph blog series, we’d like to share a second photograph from the Peabody collections.

Students unpack Robert S. Peabody’s collections in the school gymnasium, circa 1901. Lantern slide, from the photographic collections, Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology

This photograph is a lantern slide from the Peabody’s photographic collections. The photograph depicts Phillips Academy students in 1901 unpacking Robert S. Peabody’s donated collections in the school’s old gymnasium. The old gymnasium was located in the Brick Academy – the gym incarnation of Bulfinch Hall. At the time, a new gym (Borden Gymnasium) and the Archaeology Department (later known as the Robert S. Peabody Institute of Archaeology) were in the process of being designed and built on the Phillips Academy campus. In June 1896, fire had gutted the gym leaving the brick walls intact. Although the building was re-roofed, it went largely unused until the Peabody collection was sorted and stored there in 1901.

Earlier in this same year, the Archaeology Department was founded on March 21st at a Trustees meeting held in Boston. An endowment and collection were given from an anonymous donor, now known to be Robert S. Peabody. The school chose Principal Bancroft of the Academy, Professor Warren K. Moorehead, and Dr. Charles Peabody (founder’s son) as the officers of the Archaeology Department. Warren K. Moorehead served as the curator and chief executive officer of the department, while Charles Peabody served as honorary director. For more information on the founding of the Peabody Institute, check out this article from the Phillips Academy student newspaper, the Phillipian.

As the development and construction of the Archaeology Department building was underway, archaeology classes and the Archaeology Department’s collections were held in the old gymnasium. An article from the Phillipian states that Dr. Peabody and Professor Moorehead wished to unpack certain specimens and students would not attend lectures for some weeks. Instead, students met in the old gym to unpack Robert S. Peabody’s founding collection and begin preliminary sorting of the artifacts before they were relocated to the completed Archaeology Building several years later. The 1901 article states that “students found the laboratory work unique and interesting.”

If you look closely in the image, you will see a man standing in the background to the left of the long work table. It certainly looks like Warren K. Moorehead overseeing the sorting and work of the students. Also in the image are the very wooden drawers that are still located at the Peabody today!

In an effort to maintain the sustainability and integrity of the Peabody’s collections, the Peabody collection team is working to rehouse all artifacts from these wooden drawers to acid free collection boxes to better preserve and protect the collection materials. It is our hope in the future to provide proper storage space and conditions that match the preservation needs of our collections.

As more and more wooden drawers are emptied through our inventory and rehousing project, we no longer have use for them. As a result of this, we recently began giving away these wooden drawers to those who may find ways to repurpose them through various DIY projects. You can check out these projects here, here, and here!

If you are interested in having your very own historic drawer, you can contact me at elavoie@andover.edu to schedule a safe and socially distanced pickup. (Who knows… you may even get one of the drawers that were originally in this photograph!)

This image marks a significant time in the Peabody’s history, representing the introduction of archaeology to PA students and the birth of the Peabody Institute and its collections. To learn more about archaeology at Phillips Academy check out Peabody Director, Dr. Ryan Wheeler’s blog and article, Archaeology in the Classroom at a New England Prep School.

Hello Spring!

Contributed by Emily Hurley

After months of cold temperatures and snow storms I’m sure we’re all looking forward to spring and warmer weather! This year the first day of spring, or the spring equinox, takes place on March 20th. To some, equinoxes mark nothing more than seasons passing by. But to others, they were and still are an important time for celebration.

For many Indigenous cultures around the world, the spring equinox is an important time for not only practical, but also ceremonial purposes. Equinoxes were traditionally used to determine what animals would be available for hunting, when to plant and harvest crops, and they marked periods of migration for nomadic groups.

The equinox is marked differently by Indigenous nations around the world, but because tracking the sun’s movements was essential for survival, some cultures found ways to do so in the form of solar calendars. The Maya calendar is perhaps the most well-known of these but there were many others. The Mayans also created other ways to track the sun. The Pyramid of Kulkulkan (or El Castillo) at the site of Chichén Itzá in the Yucatán Peninsula, displays a serpent along the staircase during the equinox. Many still flock to the site on the equinox to see the serpent today.

Image showing the descent of Kulkulkan at Chichén Itzá, March 21st 2009. Image courtesy of Bmamlin, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

At the prehistoric site of Cahokia in Illinois, archaeologists in the 1960s discovered pits arranged into five large circles. Fragments of wood inside the pits indicated that sacred red cedar wood had been used as posts. Archaeologists dubbed this area as “Woodhenge” after realizing that some of the posts act as seasonal markers, marking the solstices and equinoxes. On the day of the spring equinox, the post marking this event aligns with Monk’s Mound (the largest Pre-Columbian earthwork in the Americas and the residence of the leader of Cahokia), where the sun emerges from behind the mound.

An artist’s conception of Woodhenge at sunrise, circa 1000 CE. Image courtesy of Herb Roe, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons
The reconstructed Woodhenge at the site of Cahokia, 2010. Image courtesy of Ryan Wheeler.
Ryan Wheeler visiting the reconstructed Woodhenge at the site of Cahokia, 2010. Image courtesy of Ryan Wheeler.

Another example of using the sun to create certain images is found at the site of Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. At the top of the Fajada Butte are two spirals etched into the rock which on the equinox, are sliced by a dagger of sunlight, called the “Sun Dagger.” Unfortunately the rocks on the butte have shifted, possibly due to human traffic at the site, and now the sunlit images no longer appear. At other areas of the Chaco Canyon site, interred bird bones have been discovered, and archaeologists believe these were the result of sacrificing scarlet macaws during the equinox. Due to their red and yellow feathers, these birds were associated with the sun and fire, and it is thought that sacrificing them during the equinox was a symbolic way of ending the winter season. This was also a common practice among groups throughout the Southwest and Northern Mexico.

Fajade Butte in 2015. Image courtesy of Rationalobserver, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
A diagram of the sunlit areas that were present during equinoxes and solstices at Fajada Butte. The spring, or vernal equinox, is in the center. Image courtesy of Nationalparks, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

In the Anishinaabe tradition, spring is celebrated as the beginning of their new year. Known as the Sugar Moon, this was the time when maple sap would start to run from the trees. Maple sap is considered to have important medicinal properties to the Anishinaabe as it balanced the blood.

Spring traditions in many native cultures are inextricably linked to the sun and moon, as the beginning of spring is marked by the equinox. It was a time symbolic of balance, because during the equinox day and night are of equal length. Spring has also historically symbolized rebirth and growth. It is the time when the earth is awakening from its winter slumber, and the life cycle is beginning again. Animals come out of hibernation and plants begin to bloom and grow again. Many traditions that have grown out of the equinox are based around this idea of balance and new beginnings.

Spring was also recognized by many Native American groups as a time to gather together and make decisions about their communities. It was a time to discuss which groups travelled where, what to do about hostile tribes, and where they could find resources. Today, many Indigenous groups still hold spring equinox gatherings and celebrations, which generally include music, dancing, ritual ceremonies, arts and crafts, and a feast of traditional dishes.

While spring traditions may look different to everyone, I think most can agree that it is a time of growth and fresh starts. With the upcoming season we have a lot to look forward to. We get to smell the fresh, clean air after a spring rain and watch flowers start to bloom. And let’s not forget about spring cleaning! Hopefully warmer weather and fun spring activities are right around the corner!

For further reading check out these resources:

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/160317-spring-vernal-equinox-astronomy-native-american

http://blog.nativepartnership.org/spring-equinox-in-native-american-cultures/

http://muskratmagazine.com/indigenous-calendars-mark-much-more-than-the-spring-equinox/

dIPPIN’ iN: Quick Conversations with Archaeologists

Contributed by Lindsay Randall

Given how wildly successful our Diggin’ In: Digital Lecture series has been, we wanted to expand how our audiences can interact with archaeologists from around the country. 

Our new project – dIPPIN’ IN: Quick Conversations with Archaeologists – highlights the variety of jobs and experiences archaeologists can have by asking each person the same five questions:

  • Describe what kind of archaeology you focus on.
  • How did you get into archaeology?
  • Why should we care about archaeology and history?
  • What is the most exciting thing you ever found?
  • Anything else people should know about archaeology?

It is fascinating to learn about each archaeologist’s career path and what initially hooked them. And, while some answers have been remarkedly similar many are wildly different!

If you want a glimpse into the exciting field of archaeology through the personal lens of an archaeologist, this series is for you.

As we continue to add to the series, you can find the videos here.

And, if you are an archaeologist who wants to participate or if there is someone you want us to interview – let us know!