The St. David's Island Project: An ethnogenesis in progress

Jill Bennett Gaieski, University of Pennsylvania


This project focuses on the St. David's Island Community in Bermuda, and considers how this geographically isolated and culturally distinct Bermudian community has succeeded in (re)creating an indigenous American identity more than three centuries following enslavement and relocation of their putative native ancestors. Methodologically, this research embraces a highly collaborative and multi-dimensional anthropological approach to understanding the rise and fall of new cultural paradigms. A variety of anthropological tools are utilized, including oral histories and traditions, genealogies, material culture, archival data, and genetics to investigate a complex Native and colonial American past, while providing the basis for a project that draws upon the various sub-fields within anthropology. ^ Here, ethnogenesis is a central issue for understanding the principal patterns of this modern historiography. This work shows how local and transnational social and political forces interact to create new identities, even when they concern subjects from the past. Using these tools, this project uncovers the bases of and forces behind a Native American, diasporic reconnection movement, its many internal struggles, and the ways in which the movement has maintained a momentum now for more than a decade through a variety of cultural processes including adaptation, the creation of racial hierarchies, and power shifting. Special attention is paid here to the particular ways in which this community has actively chosen its historical narrative and then operationalized it in a way that permits its citizenry to intimately identify with Native Americans abroad. ^ As this research is firmly grounded in a particular historical context, it illuminates aspects of a colonial American history that have yet to be fully told. What makes this project most unique is that it is designed to juxtapose the documentary, oral historical, genealogical, and biological records. An examination of all of these materials provides a basis for a project that merges the various sub-fields within anthropology. Adding genetics to this ethnohistoric investigation renders this approach unique.^

Subject Area

Anthropology, Cultural|Biology, Genetics|Caribbean Studies|Native American Studies

Recommended Citation

Gaieski, Jill Bennett, "The St. David's Island Project: An ethnogenesis in progress" (2013). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3566382.