Seceding from the Sachemship: Coercion, Ethnology, and Colonial Failure in Early Historic New England
Author: Peter Jakob Olsen-Harbich, The New American Antiquarian
Comment: Linford Fisher, Brown University
This paper considers coercive political practices among early historic southern New England Algonquians and their historical function in the success of early English colonies. In the spring of 1623, the settlement of Wessagusset, a rag-tag band of starving would-be fur traders perched on the precarious northern edge of England's nascent American empire, collapsed in a bloody struggle with its Indigenous neighbors, the Massachusett. This paper asserts that the failure of Wessagusset occurred partially because its inhabitants, unlike those residing in Plymouth Colony, neglected to observe, understand, and diplomatically engage with the coercive political practices of the Algonquian sachemship they abutted. The majority of this paper serves to explain this coercive characterization of Algonquian politics through a reexamination of early historic evidence of corporal and capital punishment practices.
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