Date of Award

Spring 2010

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Anthropology

First Advisor

Dr. Robert W. Preucel

Abstract

The Brothertown Indian community formed in the late 18th century when segments of several tribal groups from coastal northeastern North America broke away from their home settlements to move west together. What united the community was a shared belief in Christianity, a dedication to practices of agriculture, and hopes of escaping the land politics and corrupting influences of colonial culture on the East Coast. This dissertation investigates the ethnogenesis, evolution, and endurance of the Brothertown Indian community from the perspective of collaborative historical archaeology. In doing so, it aims to reassess theories of culture, identity, and discourse in the modern postcolonial world, and to incorporate archaeological data into the study of Brothertown history. In order to accomplish these goals, this dissertation analyzes historical documents, cemeteries, and settlement patterns using theories of practice and pragmatics. The results of these analyses reveal the ways in which several tribal groups joined together to form a new type of Native community and negotiate colonial politics, specifically the roles that linguistic, material culture, and spatial discourses played in these processes. Certain discourses challenged dominant schemes of social classification, obfuscating categories such as “Indian” and “White,” but also had pragmatic impacts within the Brothertown community that shaped memory processes, conceptions of personhood and identity, and overall communal structures. This study concludes that instances of ethnogenesis hinge upon insiders and outsiders continually negotiating social boundaries via words, things, and spaces. It rejects dichotomous frameworks of cultural change that classify materials and practices solely in terms of their origins for more complex considerations of the long-term, pragmatic results of such entanglements.

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