Has anyone tried to map the Tribal Hidage

Has anyone tried to map the Tribal Hidage

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The Tribal Hidage set out the number of households living in different kingdoms and sub-kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England. Has any work been done to map this data, in particular comparing it to the detailed records of the Domesday Book or other detailed censuses closer to the time? In particular I'm interested in the smaller "Middle Angle" tribes mentioned such as the Gifle, Hicca and Willa.

According to wikipedia, yes several people have done various mappings against known historical documents, although I can't find anything to the level of detail I'd like.

Sir Henry Spelman was the first to publish the Tribal Hidage in his first volume of Glossarium Archaiologicum (1626) and there is also a version of the text in a book written in 1691 by Thomas Gale, but no actual discussion of the Tribal Hidage emerged until 1848, when John Mitchell Kemble's The Saxons in England was published. In 1884, Walter de Gray Birch wrote a paper for the British Archaeological Society, in which he discussed in detail the location of each of the tribes. The term Tribal Hidage was introduced by Frederic William Maitland in 1897, in his book Domesday Book and Beyond. During the following decades, articles were published by William John Corbett (1900), Hector Munro Chadwick (1905) and John Brownbill (1912 and 1925). The most important subsequent accounts of the Tribal Hidage since Corbett, according to Campbell, are by Josiah Cox Russell (1947), Cyril Hart (1971), Wendy Davies and Hayo Vierck (1974) and David Dumville (1989).[39]

  • Hart, The Tribal Hidage, pp. 135-136, 156.
  • Hill and Rumble, The Defence of Wessex, p. 183.

"Domesday Book and Beyond: Three Essays in the Early History of England" includes a high level comparison of Tribal Hildage, Burghal Hildage, and other documents with the Domesday Book. One of the issues pointed out here is the uncertainty of definition of the 'hide' unit of measurement. Since these were taxation documents it was advantageous for people to misstate things to their advantage, and this can be seen in obvious discrepancies between subsequent documents. Domesday allocates 70,000 hides to the whole of England, whereas in the Tribal Hidage it comes to well over 240,000 hides.

Another reference that sounds interesting (but not available online):

  • http://www.lib.unc.edu/mss/inv/l/Lemcke,Ernest_Gustave.html - Unpublished manuscript with maps entitled "The Tribal Hidage or First English Census" by Ernest Gustave Lemcke, a study of the so-called Tribal Hidage, printed in Birch, dealing with the geography and demographics of England in the 7th century.


  • http://www8.georgetown.edu/departments/medieval/labyrinth/library/oe/texts/tribes.gif">Ancient Britain : a map of the major visible antiquities of Great Britain older than AD. 1066

  • Britain before the Norman conquest : 871 AD to 1066 AD (north) and … (south)

I've managed to find this for a start:

The Gifle (300 hides), located in eastern Bedfordshire (map here on page 10)

The isolated tribe that killed a 26-year-old American missionary has been contacted by the outside world at least 11 times before — here's what happened each time

The Sentinelese — a small tribe of indigenous people living on India's North Sentinel Island — have drawn international attention for reportedly killing the American missionary John Allen Chau, who seemed to be visiting the island on a religious mission, writing in his journal, "Lord, is this island Satan's last stronghold where none have heard or even had the chance to hear your name?"

It wasn't the first time the tribe has interacted with people from the outside world, or the first time they've killed an interloper.

The Sentinelese, part of the Andamanese (a group of tribes living on the remote Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal), have a long history of occasional contact with outsiders. Since the 1800s, there have been a number of recorded contacts with the tribe, and anthropologists have made regular visits since the 1960s.

Not all of them have been friendly. In 1880, a British colonizer kidnapped six of the Sentinelese. And in 2006, tribespeople killed two fishermen harvesting crabs off the island's coast.

Here are 11 known points of contact between the Sentinelese and the outside world — and what happened each time.

“You can think of this era as a black hole into which our history tumbles”: Max Adams on Britain after the Romans left

Every early medieval archaeologist has to take on the ‘Dark Ages’ sooner or later. It’s a bit like a Shakespearean actor taking on Lear. At some point, you’re going to have to take a stab at it. You could think of this very obscure period as a black hole into which our history tumbles. You have to hold up a candle to get the merest glimpse of what’s going on, which also makes it irresistible.

Anyone investigating the early Middle Ages starts with the great historian of western Europe in that period, the Venerable Bede. But even Bede, who is prolific in the extreme, says hardly anything about Britain at this time. He covers around 150 years in just 19 lines. There are no Roman sources, and the only narratives we have are a ranting sermon from a cleric that we can’t even date, a couple of documents from St Patrick, and a few obscure references from the continent.

Traditional interpretations of this period have been completely shackled by nationalism – they are all about Britons who are slaves or Anglo-Saxon invaders, as if these rules of national ethnicity apply in this period. This is partly because the primary historian we have to rely on is Gildas, a priest who you would now think of as a sort of ranting, fulminating fundamentalist. He doesn’t mince his words – Saxons are “filthy dogs” and bad Christian kings are “but the bastard children of prostitutes”. But that’s not very helpful for actually reconstructing history. So in The First Kingdom, I’ve tried to get away from all that.

Max Adams is the author of The First Kingdom, Britain in the Age of Arthur (Apollo, 2020)

Can archaeology give us any more clues?

Archaeologists have spent the last 150 years showing how their discipline can deliver. And this is the period when we need archaeology to deliver more than ever. But unfortunately, either we’ve got very little to draw on, or the tools that we normally have at our disposal are missing for this period.

First of all, we rely on things we can date, like pieces of wood with tree rings in them. But for the years 400 to 600, we have very few examples of those available. Pottery, which we also use to date sites, was not being made in industrial quantities. The other get-out-of-jail-free card for archaeologists is radiocarbon dating, which can normally supply dates within around 50 years. But it just so happens that the carbon atmospheric content goes haywire for those 200 years, so even that is no help. All we can do is scrape away with our trowels and try to piece together the fragments of evidence we have.

What might this lack of evidence suggest about what happened in Britain after the fall of Rome?

That’s the old question of any first term undergraduate archaeology degree: is it evidence of absence or is it absence of evidence? Are we missing something because we’re not looking in the right place or is there simply nothing to find? Increasingly sensitive archaeology is showing that the stuff is there. But it’s pretty hard to get at, and when we do get at it, it’s quite difficult to understand what’s going on. So we have to do some imaginative thinking around the archaeology to portray a much more subtle picture.

And what exactly was the “fall of Rome”? Was it a catastrophe? A revolution? Or an evolution too subtle for us to keep a close eye on? The idea that Britain was overrun by Italian sword-wielding legionaries who suddenly abandoned ship in the fourth century certainly doesn’t hold up. Britain at the time is British. The languages spoken are Brittonic – a recognisable antecedent to Welsh – late colloquial vernacular Latin, Irish and some form of Germanic-Friesian dialect, which ends up as a sort of lingua franca 200 years later. We can’t really be sure whether that is because of an invasion of German peoples, which is the traditional view, or if there’s something more subtle going on. People today eat McDonald’s and drive Japanese cars but it doesn’t mean that we’re subject to military conquest by those people. The artefacts that archaeologists find are not biographies of the people with whom we find them.

One thing we can be sure of is that Britain in AD 400 looks very different from Britain in AD 600. In order to guess how that might have happened, we can look at the institutions that we know were in place by the sixth century and try to trace them back to things happening before 400. In other words, we’re not looking for absolute discontinuity or catastrophe, but for how what was already in existence in 400 might have morphed into something else.

How did things change between AD 400 and 600?

The most dramatic thing we still can’t explain is a significant decline in population. The latest estimates of the population of Roman Britain are in the region of 3 to 3.5 million. By Bede’s day, it was nowhere near that – those kind of population numbers weren’t recovered until after Domesday Book in the late 11th century.

There are a few ways to explain that population decline. Gildas would have us believe that all those people were dying in the streets in some grand catastrophe. But if so, why don’t we find the bodies? Nor do we find any evidence of people running away in fear for their lives – leaving behind their homes, their possessions, anything they can’t carry – the kind of evidence that you find at Pompeii or Chernobyl. Likewise, I would question theories about a descent into chaos and warfare, because hardly any bodies from this time have weapon blade injuries. The actual number of skeletons from this time that show evidence of being injured in a fight is only about 2 per cent. Most people die of crippling diseases and old age.

More subtle explanations could be an increase in infant mortality, a slow decline in the birth rate, or perhaps an increase in the death rate leading to a decline in population over the course of 50 or even 100 years. This doesn’t look anything like as dramatic as a catastrophic population collapse.

What we do find is space being repurposed, and that’s a much subtler story. Somebody digging a hole through the mosaic floor in the dining room of a Roman villa and turning it into an iron smelting forge, for example. Why, instead of inviting elite friends round to dinner, is someone now smelting metal in the dining room? We also find a big blanket of dark earth covering Roman towns – what does it mean, where does it come from? You’ve got to do some pretty nimble thinking to try to understand a world that seems to be changing so rapidly.

Were all the advancements of the Roman era lost?

If we’re talking about an elite mosaiced Roman villa, for example – is that advancement? Or is it a pretty grotesque form of conspicuous consumption that people eventually get sick of? Think of the great country houses of Jane Austen’s England. A lot of them are still around, but they aren’t private homes anymore. They are hotels, or wedding venues, repurposed because their palatial ostentation looks pretty grotesque in the 21st century. Most Roman villas were not owned by people who were living in them. There were lots of absentee landlords.

And by the end of the fourth century, Roman villas didn’t suit the needs of society. By then, a system of overlordship seems to have been emerging, in which local authorities were raising renders of food and services which they drew to themselves. We’re talking cartloads of timber, honey or ale and horses, sheep, wool and craft products. One of the key purposes of this system was that you had to hold feasts and redistribute the goods. But the Roman villa was totally inappropriate for such activities because it was designed as a private dining space. It wouldn’t work for assembly or the processing of goods.

What you begin to see instead is assembly sites built slightly away from the villas. People recreate the social dynamics of the Iron Age in a Roman granary that is transformed into a mead hall. The mead hall of Beowulf is essentially a barn conversion. Now should we see that as revolution, or adaptation to a different world?

What more can you tell us about that emerging system of overlordship?

A law of the kings of Kent states that if you’re wandering through Kent in 600 and do not blow your horn to announce your presence, you can be arrested. Why is that? Because people moving through that landscape must belong to somebody. The first thing you’re going to ask somebody if you meet them is: “Who is your lord?”

Instead of a Roman emperor, much more local lords emerge. These may be the former commander of the Roman fort, or the former steward of a villa whose boss is never coming back and who takes over and reorganises it as a local centre of redistributive communal dependency. The closest comparison to the way overlordship worked would be a naval frigate of the age of Horatio Nelson, where the loyalty between a captain and his dependants worked both ways – he was theirs as much as they were his.

One of the most beautiful things to emerge from Bede comes from a tiny throwaway line about the Northumbrian king Edwin spending 36 days at his palace at Yeavering. A colleague of mine, Colin O’Brien, asked: why would a great lord stay in one place for 36 days specifically? Well, 36 days is a tenth of a year. The implications of that are really profound for understanding this period. Think of all the goods and services of a territory being brought to a lord for him to use and consume. Eventually he might become lord over more than one of these territories, and if the goods are still going to one central place in that territory, how are you going to consume them? The answer is: you have to visit each territory in turn to consume its render, and you go for 36 days because you’re consuming a 10 per cent tax on that land. It’s a brilliant insight into how the whole system works.

One of the things about lordship is that they descend like locusts and consume a huge amount of calories. If you want to imagine a place like Yeavering, you’ve got to think of a Bruegel painting, or a cross between the Yorkshire County Show, Glastonbury festival, and a London inner-city riot, full of bingeing and no doubt fighting while all the food and drink was consumed in one place.

What you also see emerging are networks of patronage and dependence, in which linked families, clans and kin alliances all help to foster social cohesion when there is no state. The household was the principal social unit, a hierarchy that consisted of male and female heads of the household at the top, with all sorts of collateral relations and various levels of free and unfree dependants underneath.

Do we have any idea of how people at this time perceived of their own identity?

What’s so exciting is that there seems to have been a very broad, eclectic mosaic of identities. Some people identify with land and with their households. Some communities are named after an ancestral founder, and others identify with a much broader group by the ways in which they approach life and death.

Alongside those strong senses of attachment to house, family, local place or local spirits were regional identities. If you piece together the names of all the places and peoples that we can gather, I think you can create a map of sixth-century Britain which has 200–300 small regional identities, from the kingdoms of Mercia, Northumbria and Kent, right down to tiny communities often focussed on small rivers. These appear in a brilliant document called the Tribal Hidage, which records this hierarchy of peoples who owe tribute to a great overlord. What it reveals is a small scale geography of the early medieval kingdoms of Britain that were emerging after Roman rule collapsed.

This dynamic patchwork of different local identities was shaped by geography. People in the fens of East Anglia, for example, would have a very different sense of identity from people living in the Highlands or on the coast, because their environment was so completely different. Names like the “people of the muddy marsh” or “people of the spring” tell us quite a lot about what people thought about themselves. The north-south divide is always jokingly said to begin at the Watford Gap, and what’s interesting is that Watling Street is a geographical dividing line between all the rivers that flow north and east and all the rivers that flow south and west. It’s a real frontier in the landscape. It just shows how people are sensitive to small geographical niceties.

How did religious affiliations change – and what impact did that have on the development of society?

We tend to think of Anglo-Saxon England before Christianity as “pagan”. But paganism is an unhelpful term, as all it really means is “not Christian”. In this period, I suspect there was a coagulation of re-emerging Iron Age deities, highly localised sets of beliefs and belief systems like animism (where the springs, hills or trees are seen to have spirits in them). People were interested in all the things they always have been – trying to nudge the odds in your favour in matters of fate, poverty, fertility, death, illness, marriage or crop failure.

In the east of England there seems to have been a comprehensive rejection of everything Roman, including Christianity. Meanwhile, in the far west, which was highly resistant to Rome, people became ultra-Romans and embraced Christianity. An ultraconservative form of Christianity arose among peoples of the British-speaking west, which ended up exploding in their faces when St Augustine arrived in 597 and found that the bishops there were 200 years out of date.

Eventually, an intellectual literate priesthood emerged that offered kings not just success in life and on the battlefield but, to use Bede’s famous metaphor, somewhere to go after they flew out of the mead hall of life into everlasting darkness. They were offered a place at God’s side in perpetuity in return for giving the church freehold land. That’s the deal that took us out of the Dark Ages – from that point on, medieval Europe took off in spectacular fashion.

One figure that is always mentioned when we talk about this period is King Arthur. Why are people so obsessed with him, and can we track him down in any kind of historical record?

Let me cheat that question by asking another one: why are archaeologists not interested in Arthur? Talk to almost any archaeologist and they’ll say King Arthur is uninteresting and irrelevant. It’s not that we think Arthur didn’t exist. If Arthur didn’t exist, there were certainly Arthurs. And I think if you were to put him anywhere, you have to put him in the early fifth century. If he’s anything, he’s Roman. But he was not a king. By the time that Arthur is put into a series of annals with dates next to his name, there aren’t any kings, there are only petty lords. If he’s anything, he’s a military commander.

The real problem with Arthur is not that he might not have existed, but that he doesn’t tell us anything useful. What can he tell us about the system of lordship emerging in this period? Where are his territories? Who are his people? What’s his genealogy? He gives us nothing. He’s not a territorial lord and therefore he doesn’t help us explain anything about the political development of a new geography of people and lordship.

In order to understand why people are obsessed with Arthur, you really need to look to the ninth century, when the legends surrounding him crop up. It’s a period of huge uncertainty and everyone’s looking for a saint. The church is collapsing, and Scandinavians are attacking. As the powerful dynasties of competing Anglo-Saxon and Welsh states are beginning to consolidate their power, they want heroic forebears to look back on and say: “Not only were we great once, we can be great again.” Those myths need a convenient, heroic person to coalesce around – someone like Arthur.

Maps Have the Power to Shape History

In 1828, Emma Willard was 41 years old—only slightly older than the United States of America itself, if you start counting from 1789, when the U.S. Constitution came into force. Of course, there were others ways to count, too. The country was a solid 45, if you mark time from the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Revolutionary War and recognized American sovereignty, and a little over 50, if you start counting from 1777, when the Articles of Confederation were signed. In 1828, the story of the country was still malleable, only just being formed into a shape that would harden into history. Willard’s contribution to that process was to make maps.

Willard is one of the first, perhaps the very first, female mapmaker in America. A teacher, pioneer of education for women, and founder of her own school, Willard was fascinated with the power of geography and the potential for maps to tell stories. In 1828, she published a series of maps as part of her History of the United States, or Republic of America, which showed graphically how the country, as she understood it, had come to be. It was the first book of its kind—the first atlas to present the evolution of America.

The book began with map (below) that was unusual and innovative for its time. It attempted to document the history and movement of Native American tribes in the precolonial past. Willard’s atlas also told a story about the triumph of Anglo settlers in this part of the world. She helped solidify, for both her peers and her students, a narrative of American destiny and inevitability.

Willard’s “introductory” map showed the movements of tribes. Courtesy Boston Rare Maps

“She’s an exuberant nationalist,” says Susan Schulten, a historian at the University of Denver and the author of Mapping the Nation: History and Cartography in Nineteenth-Century America. “She’s extraordinarily proud of her country.”

It’d be wrong to call Willard a feminist, but she believed in the intellectual potential and education of women. At the time, education for girls was limited to certain “softer” subjects—geography among them—but Willard knew that girls could tackle philosophy and natural sciences with as much rigor as boys. Before she was 20, she was running a school before she was 30, she had founded her own. Her school was the first in the country to educate woman at a college level, and Willard’s textbooks were some of the best-selling in America.

But her maps were among her greatest innovations. At the time, as Schulten writes, “Americans discovered that maps could organize and analyze information.” Willard believed that maps should capture information about the sweep of history, a story that unfolded across time and space. She created maps as a pedagogical tool, with the idea that an image could help cement lessons in the minds of her students. (She believed, like most educators of her time, in the power and precedence of memorization.) Her historical atlas was one of the major and influential results of these efforts.

Emma Willard. New York Public Library/Public domain

In all, her atlas included 12 maps, though that number varies a little across editions. The one depicting the movements of tribes she called an “introductory” map, outside of historical time American history, as she conceived it, began in the period from 1492 to 1578, when European exploration of the land across the Atlantic began. Each map that followed moved along the story of Anglo settlement and increasing control of American land, highlighting key events, from the Pilgrims’ landing at Plymouth Rock to the Treaty of Paris to the War of 1812, and culminating with the division of states at that time.

But that introductory map of tribal movements already hints at this ending. The boundaries of the future states are already there, in faint outlines. Even as she gave Native American peoples more attention than her contemporaries had, she helped to form a story that wrote them out of American history.

“She often framed the native tribes in terms of respect, sometimes as welcoming the colonists while other times as constituting a formidable obstacle but more generally she accepted the removal of these tribes to the west as inevitable,” Schulten writes, in an article about Willard’s mapping of “settler society.”

The second map in Willard’s series. Courtesy Boston Rare Maps

After the first map, once “history” begins, the tribes appear only when they’re in conflict with or otherwise influencing Anglo-American society. In later versions of her historical atlas, Willard had illustrators depict Chief Powhatan as a “great-man-child” and other native people as stupified by European technology. Though it’s possible to imagine that Willard’s inclusion of tribal movements in her book represents a critique of settlers’ attitudes toward native people, ultimately her views are typical of Americans of her time: God meant for “civilized” people to take this land from “savages.”

What’s innovative about Willard’s work, cartographically speaking, is the way she tried to represent time. “Even though she sees it as inevitable that natives will disappear, she’s collapsing centuries onto a single image,” says Schulten. “She’s trying to map time in a different way as a prelude to what comes next. It’s really an argument that has everything to do with Anglo-America’s vision of the country. She’s a pioneer in that respect.”

Defining the wrong done to Japanese-Americans was fairly straightforward.

On separate occasions 40 years apart, Congress awarded payments to Japanese-Americans who were taken from their homes during World War II and sent to internment camps.

The Japanese American Evacuation Claims Act of 1948 offered compensation for real and personal property they had lost. About $37 million was paid to 26,000 claimants. But no provision was made for lost freedom or violated rights.

That came in 1988, when Congress voted to extend an apology and pay $20,000 to each Japanese-American survivor of the internment. More than $1.6 billion was paid to 82,219 eligible claimants.

The internment had been “carried out without adequate security reasons,” Congress declared, and was “motivated largely by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.” The act acknowledged that the physical and emotional damage the internees had suffered, including missed education and job training, could never be fully compensated.

The bill produced “a wonderful feeling” among Japanese-Americans, according to Representative Robert T. Matsui, a California Democrat who was interned with his parents as a child. “It lifted the specter of disloyalty that hung over us for 42 years because we were incarcerated. We were made whole again as American citizens.”

The injustice began and ended on known dates, most victims could be readily identified through official records, and more than half were still alive when the compensation was awarded. The situation would be much more complicated and challenging for African-American claimants seeking reparations over slavery.

World’s most ruthless tribe that killed US tourist on their island ‘love having beach orgies’

LITTLE is known about the inhabitants of North Sentinel Island and what we do now is downright baffling.

The Sentinelese tribe are an indigenous people who have lived on one of the Andaman Islands in the Indian Ocean for around 55,000 years.

They have zero contact with the outside world and are actively hostile to anyone who approaches, firing arrows at boats and helicopters anytime they draw near.

In the past few years they have killed all who have set foot on the island.

Just this week John Allen Chau was shot to death with poison arrows moments after setting foot on the island.

He was attempting to bring the words of the Bible to the tribe when the fiercely protective Sentinelese shot him down.

Over a decade earlier, in 2006, a pair of fishermen who moored up near the island and fell asleep were despatched by the tribe after their boat drifted in land.

But perhaps the most alarming encounter took place in 1970 when the islanders were observed engaging in orgiastic sex in front of shocked researchers.

Indian anthropologist Triloknath Pandit observed the baffling scene in March of that year as he and a crew tried to study the reclusive tribe.

A group of tribesman were threatening their boats from the shore with bows and arrows and the expedition was trying to decide whether or not to abandon their quest when some of the women arrived.

Pandit described the scene in his notes writing: They all began shouting some incomprehensible words. We shouted back and gestured to indicate that we wanted to be friends.

“The tension did not ease. At this moment, a strange thing happened — a woman paired off with a warrior and sat on the sand in a passionate embrace.

“This act was being repeated by other women, each claiming a warrior for herself, a sort of community mating, as it were.

“Thus did the militant group diminish. This continued for quite some time and when the tempo of this frenzied dance of desire abated, the couples retired into the shade of the jungle.

“However, some warriors were still on guard. We got close to the shore and threw some more fish which were immediately retrieved by a few youngsters.
“It was well past noon and we headed back to the ship.”

The small forested island, which is a similar size to Manhattan, is even off limits to the Indian navy in a bid to protect the tribe of about 150 from being wiped out by disease.

The tribe got international attention after the 2004 tsunami, when a member of the tribe was pictured on a beach, firing arrows at a helicopter inspecting their welfare.

Campaigns by non-profit and local organisations have led the Indian government to abandon plans to contact the Sentinelese.

Survival International, an organisation that campaigns for the rights of tribal people, works to ensure that no further attempts are made to contact the tribe.

The tribe's continued hostility to outsiders may lie in its colonial history.

In the late 1800s, M. V. Portman, the British Officer in Charge of the Andamanese landed, with a large crew, on the island in hope of contacting the Sentinelese.

They found recently abandoned villages and paths, but the locals were nowhere to be seen.

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Historians who seek information on the centuries when Roman Britannia became Anglo-Saxon England run into too many dead-ends. This is not for lack of trying -- distinguished scholars have been researching every inch of England's history for the last three centuries.

The problem is a paucity of materials. On the Continent, the Franks, Goths and other Germanic kingdoms left written accounts, both from their viewpoint and from that of the conquered Romans who later absorbed them. But for England, there is very little: a few British sources like Gildas and Nennius that are often limited and sometimes simply wrong, the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle," now recognized by historians as a foundation myth for the royal House of Wessex (at least in this period) rather than a serious history, and a few monastic charters, which say much more about pious legends and property and much less about history than we would like -- assuming they are not later medieval forgeries altogether.

Thus, when one runs across a production like this, comprised of essays by many of the leading Anglo-Saxon scholars, it is cause for rejoicing. In the first section, three essays lay down valuable groundwork by noting that what the Romans and their successors in the Catholic Church saw as "kings" may have looked very different to the Anglo-Saxon observer. They are referred to as rex, regius, regulus, sub-regulus and thiudan, and it is usually not clear what the distinctions meant, when they meant anything.

But the meat of the book is the second section, which covers not only what Basset calls the Heptarchy, the four kingdoms still surviving when the Vikings came (Wessex, Mercia, East Anglia and Northumbria), but numerous old and in some cases very small entities who had their own lives before being swallowed up. Martin Welch points out that Sussex may have grown from small pirate states around Pevensey and Chichester that spread into the hinterlands and eventually merged as the British fell back, and John Blair theorizes that an equivalent statelet of one Frithuwold may have become Surrey, if that state was ever independent at all. Barbara Yorke tackles the enigmatic Jutes, who may have had two kingdoms, the Isle of Wight and the mainland province that became Hampshire, before being gobbled up by expansionist Wessex. Martin Carver shows how little we actually know about East Anglia in spite of finds like the famous Sutton Hoo treasure, which he dates to the East Anglian king Raedwald. In two separate articles, Kate Pretty and Margaret Gelling tackle the Magonsaete, a small state between Mercia and Wales that had at least three of its own kings, and Pretty suggests the lack of Anglo-Saxon artifacts may mean that it was not Anglo-Saxon as much as it was a group of British farmers and villagers who started paying "protection money" to a Mercian lord but otherwise went on living as they always had. Bruce Eagles, in an essay on the equally misty history of Lindsey (now Lincoln), argues that it may never have been a kingdom at all, but rather a society of Native American-like Fen tribes who were retrospectively given kings by churchmen as a way of explaining why the Church came to have an important presence in this area.

The most interesting essays to me, however, were those by Keith Bailey and David Dumville dealing with, respectively, Middlesex and the Middle Angles -- the former appear only in a few textual references, the latter only in a much-argued-over document called the Tribal Hidage and dated by Dumville to the period of Mercian expansion. In both cases, we seem to be dealing again with smaller tribal units, with names like Geddingas, Hicce, Lullingas and Cilternsaete, who never made it to kingdom status. Both essays argue that, just as the asteroids never formed a planet because of the disruptive influence of giant Jupiter, these groups never formed a state because, in the case of the Middle Saxons, the urge of surrounding states (mostly Mercia and Essex) to dominate London kept them from coalescing, and in the case of the Middle Angles, the push-pull exerted by Mercia and East Anglia had the same effect.

All in all, the book filled in some gaps that I have been unable to find information on in years of looking. The result is to confirm that in fact the more we find out about the early Anglo-Saxon period, the less we find that what we "knew" is in fact true. While it seems unlikely that we will find much more in the way of written sources, archaeology and other disciplines keep pushing back the boundaries by contributing bits and pieces, but it seems likely that a full picture of this most elusive period of British history may remain forever out of reach.

Maori of New Zealand

In Polynesian mythology, people, the elements and every aspect of nature are descended from the one primal pair, the Sky Father and the Earth Mother. It was for this reason that the ancient Maori identified themselves so closely with nature. Before felling a tree (so slaying a child of Tane Mahuta, god of the forest) they would placate the spirits. Searching for food they would not speak of their purpose for fear that the prey might hear and make good its escape.

In the beginning there was only the darkness, Te Ponui, Te Poroa (the Great Night, the Long Night). At last, in the void of empty space, a glow appeared, the moon and the sun sprang forth and the heavens were made light. Then did Rangi (the Sky Father) live with Papa (the Earth Mother), but as the two clung together their offspring lived in darkness. The Sky lay upon the Earth, and light had not yet come between them.

Their children were vexed that they could not see, and argued among themselves as to how night and day might be made manifest. The fierce Tumatauenga (god of war) urged that they kill their parents, but Tane Mahuta (god of the forests) counselled that they separate their father Rangi from their mother Papa and in that way achieve their object. Tane's wisdom prevailed, and in turn each of the children struggled mightily to prise the Sky from the Earth. Rongo (god of cultivated food) and Tangaroa (god of the sea) did all they could, and the belligerent Tumatauenga cut and hacked. But to no avail. Finally it was Tane Mahuta who by thrusting with his mighty feet gradually lifted the anguished Rangi away from the agonised Papa. So was night distinguished from day.

Heartbroken, Rangi shed an immense quantity of tears, so much so that the oceans were formed. Tawhiri (god of wind and storm), who had opposed his brothers in the venture, was fearful that Papa would become too beautiful, and followed his father to the realm above. From there he swept down in fury to lash the trees of Tane Mahuta until, uprooted, they fell in disarray. Tawhiri then turned his rage on Tangaroa (god of the sea) who sought refuge in the depths of the ocean. But as Tangaroa fled his many grandchildren were confused, and while the fish made for the seas with him, the lizards and reptiles hid among rocks and the battered forests. It was then for Tangaroa to feel anger. His grandchildren had deserted him and were sheltering in the forests. So it is that to this day the sea is eating into the land, slowly eroding it and hoping that in time the forests will fall and Tangaroa will be reunited with his offspring.

The creation of woman: When the participants lay exhausted and peace at last descended, Tane Mahuta fashioned from clay the body of a woman, and breathed life into her nostrils. She became Hine-hauone ('the Earth-formed Maid') and bore Tane Mahuta a daughter, Hine-titama ('the Dawn Maid') who in time also bore daughters to Tane.

But Hine-titama had been unaware of her father's identity, and when she found he was the Tane she thought was her husband, she was overwhelmed with shame. She left the world of light, Te Ao, and moved to Te Po, the world below, where she became known as Hinenui-te-Po ('Great Hine the Night').

The children of Tane were plentiful, and increased and multiplied, for death held no dominion over them.

The Mapping of North America Volume II

A list of printed maps 1671-1700

An essential reference work for collectors, dealers, institutions and researchers.

The Mapping of North America II continues on from the first volume in documenting the printed cartographic record of the discovery of the continent from 1670 to 1700. Much has been written on the printed word in relation to America, and many works exist on the cartography of it. None however has attempted to comprehensively detail every known printed map.

612 pages, 270 x 365 mm., bound in burgundy cloth with colour dustjacket. With 12 + 364 map entries, 12 colour plates and 392 black and white photographs. ISBN 978-0-9527733-1-3.

The Maui Cycle in Maori Mythology

The birth of Maui

Maui, fifth of his parents' sons, was born so premature, so frail and so underdeveloped that he could not possibly have survived. So his mother, Taranga, wrapped the foetus in a knot of her hair and threw it into the sea - hence Maui's full name of Maui-tikitiki-a-Taranga ('Maui, the topknot of Taranga'). For certain he would have died, but the gods intervened and Rangi, the Sky Father, nursed him through infancy.

As a grown child, Maui returned to confront his bewildered mother and to amaze his family with feats of magic.

The snaring of the sun

Not surprisingly, Maui's four brothers were jealous of the favouritism shown him by their mother Taranga, but when he offered to slow down the sun so that the days would be longer and they would all have more time to find food, they agreed to help.

Carrying the enchanted jawbone of his grandmother, Maui led his brothers eastwards, to the edge of the pit from which the sun rises each morning. There, as it rose, the brothers snared the sun with huge plaited flax ropes. As they held it still, Maui with the enchanted jawbone cruelly smashed the sun's face time and time again, until it was so feeble that it could but creep across the sky - and continues so to do to this very day.

Maui snares and beats the sun to slow its transit through the sky

The Fish of Maui

Maui's brothers, weary of seeing their younger brother catch fish by the kit full when they could barely hook enough to feed their families, usually tried to leave him behind when they went fishing. But their wives complained to Maui of a lack of fish, so he promised them a catch so large they would be unable to finish it before it went bad.

To make good his boast Maui carefully prepared a special fishhook which he pointed with a chip from the magic jawbone, and then hid under the flooring mats of his brothers' fishing canoe.

At dawn the brothers silently set sail, thinking they had managed to leave their brother behind, and only when they were well out to sea did Maui emerge. The brothers were furious, but it was too late to turn back. After they had fished in vain, Maui suggested that they sail until well out of sight of land, where they would catch as many fish as the canoe could carry. The dispirited brothers were easily persuaded, and Maui's prediction came true. But even when the canoe was so overladen with fish that it was taking on water and the brothers were ready to set sail for home, Maui produced his own hook and line and against their protests insisted on throwing it out. For bait, he struck his nose until it bled and smeared the hook with his own blood. As Maui began to chant a spell 'for the drawing up of the world' the line went taut. Though the canoe lurched over and was close to sinking, Maui grimly hauled all the harder and his terrified brothers bailed the more furiously.

Maui fishing up the North Island of New Zealand

At last Maui's catch was dragged to the surface and they all gazed in wonder. For Maui's hook had caught in the gable of the whare runanga (meeting house) of Tonganui (Great South) and with it had come the vast wedge of land now called the North Island of New Zealand, called by the Maori Te Ika a Maui, 'the Fish of Maui'.

Such an immense fish was indeed tapu (sacred) and Maui hastily returned to his island home for a tohunga (priest) to lift the tapu. Though he bade them wait till he return before they cut up the fish, Maui's brothers began to scale and eat the fish as soon as he was gone - a sacrilege that angered the gods and caused the fish to writhe and lash about. For this reason much of the North Island is mountainous. Had Maui's counsel been followed the whole island today would have been level.

In mythology the feat of Maui in providing land ranks only after the separation of Earth and Sky in the story of creation. According to some tribes not only is the North Island the 'Fish of Maui' but the South Island is the canoe from which the gigantic catch was made and Stewart Island its anchor-stone. Maui's fishhook is Cape Kidnappers in Hawke's Bay, once known as Te Matau a Maui, 'Maui's fishhook'. Throughout Polynesia the Maui myths are recounted and the claim is made by other islands that Maui fished them from the deep. This supports the theory that Maui may have been an early voyager, a creator-discoverer, who seemed to fish up new land as it slowly appeared above the horizon.

Maui tries to conquer death

Maui's final feat was to try to win immortality for mankind. Had not Maui tamed the sun? Could he not also tame the night of death? With an expedition, Maui set out to the west, to the place where Hinenui-te-Po, the goddess of death, lay asleep. To accomplish his aim, Maui was to enter her womb, travel through her body and emerge from her mouth. If he succeeded death would never have dominion over humans. With the bird who went with him Maui discussed the plans for his most daring feat, for which he would take on the form of a caterpillar, his magic jawbone making such transformation possible. But the sight of Maui as a caterpillar inching his way over Hine's thigh as she lay sleeping was altogether too much for the little tiwakawaka (fantail), who could not restrain a chirrup of delight. With a start Hine awoke, realised the plan and crushed the helpless Maui between her thighs.

So died Maui-tikitiki-a-Taranga, and so death remained in the world for ever more. You also are mortal - remember that, and mould your conduct accordingly during your brief time in this world.

The Coming of the Polynesian

Origin of the Polynesian

Linguistic, molecular biological and archaeological evidence has established that Polynesia was peopled from Asia. Mitochondrial DNA studies demonstrate that Polynesians and the aboriginal population of Taiwan share a common ancestor, and language evolution studies suggest that the origin of most Pacific populations lies in Taiwan, about 5200 years ago. As the population there expanded, people probably filtered east across the Malayan, Philippine and Indonesian archipelagos and Melanesia. This movement became increasingly isolated from its cultural origins, the culture it carried began to develop independently and recognisably differing cultures ultimately emerged. By about the time the movement reached Tonga and Samoa, perhaps 4,000 years ago, the 'Polynesian' culture may be said to have emerged.

Thor Heyerdahl has argued that the population movement from Asia in fact took place in a northerly direction, then swept east across the Bering Strait and finally reached the Pacific proper by way of the Americas. Central to this thesis is the presence throughout Polynesia of the kumara, a sweet potato native to South America, the distribution of which remains something of a puzzle. The kumara grows from a tuber and so could not have been borne by birds nor, it is clear, could the plant have survived being carried by sea currents across the ocean from South America to East Polynesia. It must have been carried by human travellers. Moreover, not only is the plant found throughout Polynesia, but it is also known by its South American name. Although Heyerdahl's celebrated Kon-Tiki expedition (1947) established that it was possible for Polynesia to have been peopled by way of the Americas, his theory has failed to win general acceptance. Kumara has been radiocarbon-dated in the Cook Islands to 1000 AD, and current thinking is that it was brought to central Polynesia circa 700 AD, possibly by Polynesians who had traveled to South America and back, and spread across Polynesia to Hawaii and New Zealand from there.


In time the Marquesas and later the Society Islands evolved as early centres of Polynesian culture. On one of the Society group, Rai'atea (west of Tahiti), Polynesian culture found its highest form. Many believe that it was this revered cultural centre that was 'Hawaiki', a place much venerated in tradition as the 'homeland' of the Maori people, for it is plain that Maori culture derives from East Polynesia.

The concept of 'Hawaiki', of a 'homeland' from which the forbears of each migratory group had come, is found throughout Polynesia and is applied to differing areas both within and without the region. It may simply have been a general way of describing the area from which the last movement had been made in the course of the settlement of the island groups throughout Polynesia.

To some Maori tribes 'Hawaiki' is a reference to the Cook Islands, possibly because their ancestors came to New Zealand from the Society Islands by way of the Cook group. Maori in the Chatham Islands have even referred to the South Island of New Zealand in this way.

It was on the base of Polynesian culture that the intricacies of Maori culture were structured. Indeed, throughout Polynesia there are common elements in language, legend and place names. The myth of the separation of Earth and Sky is generally constant, and the Maui cycle is common throughout the region.

The coming of Kupe

According to popular tradition (whose authenticity is at the very least questionable) it was the Polynesian voyager Kupe (fl. c. AD 950) who discovered New Zealand, a land he named Aotearoa (usually translated as 'land of the long white cloud' or 'land of mists'). In one of a variety of conflicting legends it is said that in 'Hawaiki' Kupe had murdered the carver Hoturapa and made off not only with Hoturapa's canoe, but also with his wife. Hoturapa's relatives sought vengeance and pursued the guilty pair who, in the course of a lengthy voyage, lived for some time in Aotearoa and named several of its features. Curiously, only some tribes have any traditions of Kupe at all. Those who do generally say that Kupe found the 'Fish of Maui' uninhabited and eventually returned to 'Hawaiki' to give the sailing instructions that, according to popular belief, were followed by migrating canoes four centuries later.

Toi and Whatonga

If Kupe encountered no tangata whenua ('people of the land'), according to popular tradition the next Polynesian voyagers said to have reached Aotearoa most certainly did. Whatonga (c. 1130-90?), so one version runs, was competing in canoe races off 'Hawaiki' when, in a sudden storm, his canoe was blown out to sea. His grandfather, Toi (fl. c. 1150), despaired of his ever returning and so set out to find him. In the meantime Whatonga is said to have returned to 'Hawaiki', to have found Toi gone and in turn to have set out to look for him. The story concludes with the pair being reunited at Whakatane (Bay of Plenty) in c. 1150. Those on Toi's canoe intermarried with local tangata whenua and settled at Whakatane to form the genesis of today's Ngati Awa and Te Ati Awa tribes. Those with Whatonga made their homes on the Mahia Peninsula. The chronology of these genealogies is surely totally unreliable.

Maori Chronology doubted

The Kupe-Toi-Whatonga chronology is based in present-day tradition and, with the 'Fleet' myth, is viewed with scepticism by most historians. However, some genealogies establish Kupe in the 14 C and so would have him living in Aotearoa right at the time that settlement seems to have been established, based on radiocarbon dating - see dating of the appearance of the polynesian rat, below. Toi is placed anywhere from 29 to 42 generations ago, and some conclude that not only were there two Kupe but there were also two Toi - Toi kai rakau, a native-born origin ancestor, and Toi te huatahi, a 'Hawaikian' who never came to New Zealand.

Some early students of the Maori distorted and even at times destroyed material that did not accord with their theories. The works of these historians have passed not just into European folklore but have been 'fed back' into Maori tradition. This is not to discount completely the value of Maori tradition as a clue to prehistory, but to query the status accorded some tradition as authentic Maori tradition.

Recent radiocarbon dating of rat-gnawed seeds seems to date the arrival of the first people in New Zealand as definitively around 1280, some 360 years before the arrival of European explorers (Abel Tasman, 1642) (Wilmshurst et al. PNAS 2010). The Pacific rat (kiore) cannot swim very far and hence must have arrived in New Zealand as a stowaway or cargo on polynesian canoes. The rat gnaw marks on seeds are unmistakable and radiocarbon dating of the bones of rats themselves also gives an earliest limit of 1280. This is consistent with other evidence from the oldest dated archaeological sites, some Maori whakapapa (genealogies), widespread forest clearance by fire and a decline in the population of marine and land-based fauna. Most whakapapa yield likely dates several hundred years earlier but they provide weak evidence at best.

Migration from East Polynesia

Tradition continues that two centuries after the expedition of Toi and Whatonga, the Society Islands (Windward and Leeward Islands, including Tahiti) had become so overpopulated that food shortages and war were inducing a number of Polynesians to migrate. In Maori tradition, a number of canoes made the journey to New Zealand, among them the Arawa, Tainui, Aotea, Mataatua, Tokomaru, Takitimu, Horouta, Tohora, Mamari, Ngatokimatawhaorua, Mahuhu and Kurahaupo. It is from these canoes, which some believe arrived in the 14 C, that most Maori claim their descent.

Early New Zealand historians gave rise to the concept of an organised 'fleet' setting sail for New Zealand, but this view has been completely discredited and is without foundation in Maori tradition.

Conversely, it has even been suggested that a single canoe with perhaps 30 occupants, of which half were women, could, with an annual increase of only one percent, account for a population in 1769 of the dimensions described by Cook. According to this theory a single canoe might have landed in Northland, New Zealand, from 'Hawaiki'. Over the generations the 'ancestral' canoes of Maori tradition might have set sail not from the Society Islands but from a Northland 'Hawaiki', and not to voyage across the Pacific but to skirt the New Zealand coastline.

That at least one canoe arrived from East Polynesia, either directly or indirectly, is beyond dispute (and if one could arrive, why not two?). Why it came remains a matter of controversy. Did each canoe which came deliberately set sail for New Zealand? Or did they come by chance over a span of up to three centuries, being blown off course while travelling between groups of islands?

Those who support the theory that migration throughout Polynesia was deliberate rather than accidental claim an extraordinary navigational ability for the Polynesians which would have enabled them to sail vast distances to reach minute destinations. Cook noted that 'the sun is their guide by day and the stars at night . (in a storm) they are then bewildered, frequently miss their intended port and are never heard of more.'

This suggests that the peopling of the farther islands of Polynesia such as New Zealand and Hawaii may have been accidental rather than deliberate - or the product of 'drift voyages' which took place when whole groups were forced to abandon their home islands and simply set sail for wherever the elements bore them. However, there is a considerable body of opinion and evidence to the contrary and the topic remains one of controversy. Maori tradition with its history of ancestral canoes generally opposes the theory of accidental settlement.

Wherever their starting point, some of the ancestral canoes are said to have travelled in pairs for the greater part of the journey, and may have been single-hulled canoes lashed together. This would have given greater stability for an ocean voyage, with the hulls separating for the hazardous business of making landfall, and would explain how the Tainui and Arawa could have arrived at the same place (Whangaparaoa, East Cape) at so nearly the same time that the tribes could argue as to which had arrived first. It would also account for the Aotea canoe's being close by to rescue those in the Kurahaupo when it was wrecked en route.

England, But New: How John Smith’s 1616 Map Helped Define America


In the mythology of the Americas, the English soldier John Smith is most famous for his association with Pocahontas, the Powhatan woman known for her interactions with Jamestown settlers. But he made another indelible contribution to what’s now the United States—he named the area of the country that stretches from Cape Cod up the coast of Maine. The region would later become a key part of the American narrative, the site of the first Thanksgiving. He called it “New England,” and the name stuck.

The map above, first published in 1616, marks the first time anyone called New England “New England.” Two years before, after being shut out of the leadership of Jamestown, and looking for a new foothold in the Americas, Smith joined an expedition that sailed up the coast of what was then called “North Virginia.” What he saw there sparked his colonial imagination. He could envision British settlements scattered along rivers, surviving on the rich fisheries, ample hunting, and potential farmland.

So Smith raised money to bring a party of settlers across the ocean, and in 1615 they set out, only to be quickly captured by pirates. After his release, Smith struggled to find further financing. When Pocahontas—who by then went by the name Rebecca Rolfe—planned a trip to London, Smith rushed to publish an account of his American experience, which included the New England map. “I would rather live here than anywhere,” he wrote.

It was an advertisement, a real estate brochure, of sorts. “The map conveys settlement as a sure bet,” writes historian Susan Schulten, in her book A History of America, in 100 Maps, published in fall 2018. But in 1616 the villages that dotted the map didn’t really exist. Smith let the then–Prince Charles (who would become king in 1626) swap in whatever he wanted for the indigenous names of places marked on the map. We still use a few of those names today—Cape Ann, the River Charles, Plymouth.

Before they set out across the Atlantic, the Pilgrims bought a copy of Smith’s map, although it’s unclear if they brought it with them, since they had intended to sail farther south. But they were blown to the area that Charles had called “Plimouth,” and they stayed there.

“A map of New-England, being the first that ever was here cut.” Norman B. Leventhal Map Center/Boston Public Library/Public domain

The New England that Smith imagined took form over the following decades, and in 1677 William Hubbard and John Foster published a homegrown map of the region (above). The settlers had just fought a war against the Wampanoag leader Metacomet (also known as King Philip), and the map is “the first that was ever here cut,” the creators note. It shows British settlements spreading through the Massachusetts Bay colony to the Connecticut River. It’s one of the only images left that New Englanders made in that era.

Smith’s map had left native tribes out altogether. The later map had to include them, as it was meant to show, in part, the conflicts settlers encountered. But Schulten points out that the native settlements are marked by trees, as if they’re part of the natural landscape. Whatever stories British settlers told about the “pristine” landscapes of “New England,” their maps reflected. To some extent, we still indulge in those myths today. The story of Thanksgiving, in its typical form, is about cooperation between settlers and the tribes who lived here already. But as these early maps indicate, colonists never saw the residents of this land as an important part of the story. They saw the land they wanted to make their own.

Indian Removal Act: The Genocide of Native Americans

Native American Headdress. Source: Chris Parfitt, Creative Commons.

Genocide is the systematic destruction of peoples based on ethnicity, religion, nationality, or race. It is the culmination of human rights violations. There are numerous examples of genocide throughout history, some being more infamous than others. For example, Hitler and the Jewish Holocaust is probably the most well-known case of genocide in modern history. There are other cases that are not as well known, especially in our American culture where, historically, we tend to focus on the atrocities of others and ignore our own. One such case is Native American genocide by European colonists, and later, the United States government. The purpose of this blog is to objectively examine a few of cases of genocide against Native American peoples, by European settlers and the United States government, and understand why they occurred.

Thanksgiving, a traditional holiday in the United States, would not have been possible without the Algonquian tribes that befriended early English and Dutch settlers in the New World. In fact, many early 17 th century European settlers died, in the first few years of colonization, due to starvation and disease. Turkey, pumpkin and Indian corn are three traditional foods of Thanksgiving were actually introduced to the Pilgrims by the Algonquians. Initially, some of these foods were foreign to the struggling European colonists. However, over the course of several years, the colonists learned how to survive in their new environment with the help of their Native American neighbors. The first Thanksgiving was a three-day harvest festival, with ninety-one “savages” in attendance, who gifted the Pilgrims with five freshly killed deer, as their contribution to the festivities. The Pilgrims were impressed with the deer, one noting that it would have taken them (the colonists) a week to hunt five deer, yet the “savages” accomplished this in one day (Heath 82). The Pilgrims viewed their Native American neighbors as “savages” due to ethnocentrism and a worldview based on natural law, or a natural hierarchy based on God’s design. This hierarchy is a Eurocentric philosophy placing the white man as superior and other races, such as, Black, Asian and Native American as inferior.

Source: Mike Licht, Creative Commons

In the following years, as the alliance between the colonists at Plymouth and their Native American neighbors grew, social conflicts began to erupt. The death of Captain John Stone was the first misunderstanding between the Pequot, a neighboring tribe, and the Puritans. There was a failure in justice, as the Puritans saw it, as they wanted the Pequot responsible for Jones’ death to face English law, rather than allow the Pequot to administer justice themselves. Also, one must take into account how the Pequot were viewed by the Puritans as “savages”. This affected how the Puritans interpreted the actions of the Pequot and their place in God’s plan. These views were first reinforced through ignorance of medical knowledge. The pandemic of 1617-1619 killed many Puritans as well as Native Americans, and served to reinforce a worldview based on religious mysticism rather than objective knowledge. Neither the Puritans nor the Native Americans understood how disease was transmitted. This lack of knowledge made it difficult to comprehend their susceptibility, due to a compromised immune system, to foreign microorganisms. The Puritans being affected by the New World microorganisms and the Indians succumbing to European microorganisms brought by the colonists fostered distrust, accusation, and death (Cave 15).

The Puritan worldview consisted of two parties: God’s party being white Satan’s party being dark, heathen and doomed. The New World was a spiritual battleground, and it is amazing that peace lasted as long as it did, with war being the primary vehicle of God’s deliverance and justice, in the Puritan mind. In short, the Pequot War was a war of misunderstandings and natural law, in which the Puritans were righteous and justified, while the Pequot were heathens, soldiers of Satan, and inhuman (Cave 18). The Pequot War lasted almost a year, from 1636 to 1637, with both parties being experienced warriors. In the end, the Pequot were defeated and this relatively short, small-scale conflict served to justify the killing of Native Americans by creating an image of untrustworthy savages that were plotting to destroy those doing God’s work in the New World. This became the bedrock of American frontier mythology (Cave 168).

The Pequot were not the last Native American tribe in New England to suffer what the Puritans believed to be divine mandated justice. The Narragansetts and the Wampanoags, once friends of the English in the early 17 th century, both discovered, before the end of that century, that the Puritan conception of God’s providential plan for New England left no room to assert Native American autonomy. Such assertions were an offense to the Puritan sense of mission. As the population ratio between the English and the Native Americans in New England shifted in favor of the English, the Puritans authorities became increasingly overbearing in their dealings with their Native American counterparts. Puritan Indian policy, from its inception, was driven by the conviction that if Puritans remained faithful to their covenant with God, they were destined to replace the Indians as masters of New England. By the end of the 17 th century, economic changes, such as the declining importance of the fur trade and the expansion of English agriculture and industry, effectively reduced the need for Indian commerce, further jeopardizing the status of Native American communities in New England (Cave 174).

The intolerance of Indian cultures reflected essential elements of the Puritan worldview as a struggle between heathen savagery and Christian civilization. Puritan ideology was founded on three premises, which later translated into vital elements of the mythology of the American West. The first was the image of the Native American as primitive, dark and of evil intent. The second was the portrayal of the Indian fighter as an agent of God and of progress, redeeming the land through righteous violence. And finally, the justification of the expropriation of Indian resources and the extinction of Indian sovereignty as security measures necessitated by their presumed savagery (Cave 176).

By the 19 th century, this mythology began to reflect itself within Unites States governmental policy, during the presidency of Andrew Jackson. The United States went through a major reorientation in race relations during this time. The growing abolition movement led the way to the sectionalism of the Civil War and the consequent emancipation of the slaves. This dramatic transformation in racial policy did not include the Native American tribes of the Southeastern United States (Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws and Seminoles), who were considered “the most civilized tribes in America” because of their adoption of the agricultural system of their white neighbors, including the institution of black chattel slavery (McLoughlin xii). By 1838, the Cherokees were forcibly expelled from their ancestral homeland and relocated to the Oklahoma territory, by way of what is now known as the Trail of Tears. The Cherokee tried to prevent this and maintain their sovereign “nation” by adopting a constitution, based on that of the United States, to govern their own land under laws and elected officials. At the same time, the sovereign state of Georgia was attempting to abolish the Cherokee Nation and incorporate the Cherokee under their own laws. Andrew Jackson became president in 1828 and one of his first priorities was to resolve this issue.

Jackson, being a slave owner and a renowned Indian fighter of the Western frontier, sided with Georgia, supporting states’ rights to supersede treaty rights. The issue was brought before the Supreme Court twice, once in 1831 in Cherokee Nation vs. Georgia and again in 1832 in Worchester vs. Georgia. Chief Justice John Marshall described the Cherokees as “a domestic, dependent nation” and he proclaimed the unconstitutionality of Georgia’s laws, asserting that federal authority overruled states’ rights regarding Indian treaties. However, Jackson had already persuaded Congress to pass the Indian Removal Act in 1830 that made it virtually impossible for any eastern tribe to escape ceding its land and moving to “Indian territory”, west of the Mississippi River (McLoughlin 2). It is worth noting that, in modern times, these acts would be violations of U.N. Charter, Article 1.2 which asserts, “To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace”.

Source: John Perry, Creative Commons

Thus, in 1838, the Cherokee were forced from their land and “escorted” west. The trip was estimated to take eighty days, but some of the contingents took almost twice as long due to inclement winter weather, unrelenting sickness because of exposure, and dangerous ice flows while crossing the Mississippi River. Before the Cherokee left on this epic trek, almost 1,500 had died from epidemics in the camps they were housed in another 1600 died on the journey. As a result of their weakened condition, along with the absence of housing and food, many more died soon after reaching their destination. The United States government had guaranteed supplies for the Cherokee’s new home, for a year after their arrival, but rations were hired out to private contractors who made extra profits by providing less than they had agreed to supply. Oftentimes, what they did provide was rotten meat and moldy corn and flour (McLoughlin 7).

In current times, the Dakota Access Pipeline represents another affront to Native American sovereignty and further marginalization of Native American peoples in this instance, the Sioux tribe located in Standing Rock, North Dakota. There are two primary issues the Sioux have against the pipeline: The pipeline will contaminate drinking water and damage sacred burial sites. Originally, the pipeline was designed to go through Bismarck, North Dakota but was rejected by the citizens there because they didn’t want to risk contaminating their drinking water. The ensuing Standing Rock protests that took place, after the pipeline was redirected through Sioux land, arguing they deserve the same rights and considerations as the citizens of Bismarck.

Throughout American history, the treatment of indigenous Native Americans has violated numerous articles of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These violations resulted in the loss of numerous Native American homelands, the Cherokee being only one example, and the genocide of numerous other smaller tribes since the beginning of European colonization. This is largely due to Eurocentric ideals, like the natural law of the Puritan worldview, which elevates the status of European peoples over that of indigenous, Native American peoples through a biased worldview. This mindset is so pervasive and powerful that it still prevails today, evidenced by modern films and television that paint Native American tribes as savage, ignorant and of ill intent toward the “white man”, and the policies of the current United States government. These governmental policies have resulted in the alienation and marginalization of Native American peoples throughout American history. These violations include the removal of Native Americans from their traditional homeland to reservations, oftentimes very far away from their ancestral lands, and in many cases, the genocide of Native American tribes altogether. The violations were masked in the form of “treaties” between indigenous tribes and the U.S. government, though these treaties were often a choice between the survival of a tribe or their complete and utter destruction. In short, the Native American tribes were never in a position, or held enough power, to ever guarantee a fair deal with the U.S. government in these negotiations. The result of this imbalance of power and lack of respect manifested itself in the form of genocide and the loss of human rights, and their homelands, for many indigenous peoples of North America.

Cave, A. A. (1996). The Pequot War. The University of Massachusetts Press.

Heath, D. B. (1963). A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth. Corinth Books, Inc.

McLoughlin, W. G. (1993). After the Trail of Tears. The University of North Carolina Press.