Teachers Workshop: Investigating 17th Century New England Indian Slavery Through Primary Source Materials

On July 14th and 28th, Indian Papers Project editors, Paul Grant-Costa and Tobias Glaza, participated in Mapping a New World, an NEH-sponsored Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshop for School Teachers.

The gathering, held at Boston Harbor/Deer Island and the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at Boston Public Library, was part of a week-long study of places of conflict and colonization in the 17th-Century.  Other sessions were held at Plimoth Plantation, the Museum of Fine Arts – Boston, the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, and the Massachusetts Historical Society.  In the July 14th workshop, teachers were drawn from all parts of the country. In the 28th, they came from schools in Massachusetts.

In the Indian Papers Project Workshop, teachers visually explored Deer Island and the other islands of Boston Harbor where anywhere from 750 to 1065 Native people were confined in the winter of 1675 during King Philip’s War.  In a classroom setting, they also investigated the war and its consequential slavery of Native bodies through the primary source petitions to the Massachusetts General Court of a number of individuals: colonists, a representative of Empire, and several Native leaders.

Broken into five groups, participants encountered one specific historical person’s voice with the relevant documents in multiple forms — photocopies, digital surrogates, and then Indian Papers Project typographical transcriptions and regularized annotated texts.  After reading the petitions and getting a better sense of the petitioner and his or her concerns, the teachers formed new groups with representatives from each of the five groups and role-played how each historical person might have responded to the others’ requests.

The tasks, which sometimes tested their paleographic skills and kindled their imaginations, were designed to provide an experience of scholarly inquiry through original materials in the New England Indian Papers Series’ collection and an insight into the multiple perspectives on identity, colonialism, international enslavement, and imperialism.

A wrap-up session solicited ideas on how the teachers might use the exercise in their own classes.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *