This Week in New England Native Documentary History

” . . . our English Fathers inform us that we are Considered by them as being Subjects to the Laws and Civil regulations of this Colony . . .”

” . . . the most of us have . . . . in some Measure become acquainted with, and formed some General Idea of the English Customs and Manners . . .”

On May 25, 1774 the leaders of the Tunxis Indians in Farmington, Connecticut wrote to the Connecticut House of Representatives to ask for a copy of the colony’s law books.  Only six days earlier, the tribe had sent a memorial to the General Assembly, notifying the legislature that they and several other southern New England tribal communities had received an invitation from the Oneida to resettle on Indian land in upstate New York that would be called Brothertown.  Such a move would be costly, so the Tunxis asked if the Assembly would permit them to sell their lands in Farmington, which the colonial authorities eventually allowed.  The request for a law book at this moment in history suggests that the Tunxis wanted to better understand their legal rights and responsibilities during the land transactions. 

As the May 25th petition indicates, the Tunxis were quite literate in a number of ways.  In fact, colonial schooling in reading and writing English had been available to them on an occasional basis since the mid-seventeenth century.  In the 1730s, the Connecticut legislature provided for the education and care of several Tunxis youth in a Farmington school.  A few years later, the tribe had built a schoolhouse on the reservation for their children, which was continued until just before the move to Oneida. 

For a closer inspection of the Tunxis documents, click here and here.  Check back in the weeks to come for more documents on the Tunxis and the Brothertown. 

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