‘Our Beloved Kin’ and ‘Memory Lands’ Review: On the Trail of a Lost Northeast

Native Americans called the place Wôpanâak, or “the land where the sun is born every day.” The colonists called it New England, or “the English Israel which is seated in these goings down of the Sun.” Where the sun comes up or where it goes down, or as far east as a native person could conceive or as far west as a European could imagine, the large cosmic view or the small human perception: Perspective is everything in telling history, especially stories about war.

As Jill Lepore argued in “The Name of War: King Philip’s War and the Origins of American Identity” (1998), even the choice of what to call the conflict was fraught, and not just because it was imposed by the English winners. “King Philip” was a title the government of Plymouth colony bestowed, partly in derision, on the Wampanoag sachem Metacom (though he sometimes used it for himself). To personalize the conflict with a presumed leader’s name ignores the complex politics among often rivalrous Algonquian-speaking peoples, and makes the war a matter of a single man’s grievances rather than a result of political oppression and economic dispossession. King Philip becomes a literary type, the tragic vanishing Indian, the man who—like Tecumseh or Crazy Horse—epitomizes a savage (or is it noble?) way of life doomed to be replaced by a civilized (or is it savage?) European modernity.

This mythic view of Philip took shape in histories crafted after the war by clergymen such as Increase Mather and by military commanders (and land speculators) such as Benjamin Church. And it more subtly entrenched itself through the one book by a participant in King Philip’s War still read today, the captivity narrative of Mary Rowlandson, a Puritan clergyman’s wife whose account of her ordeals Mather shepherded to publication. Rowlandson’s work made the war a divine drama in which native people figure primarily as a test of a colonist’s religious perseverance, and hence of the perseverance needed for a settler society to replace Native Americans. Mythic Philip becomes a small contributor to a larger saga.

OUR BELOVED KIN

By Lisa Brooks

Yale, 431 pages, $35

MEMORY LANDS

By Christine M. DeLucia

Yale, 469 pages, $40

Two new books explore a very different view of the Anglo-Indian struggle. Lisa Brooks, a prominent scholar who teaches at Amherst College, offers “Our Beloved Kin: A New History of King Philip’s War.” Christine DeLucia, once Ms. Brooks’s student at Harvard and now an assistant professor at Mount Holyoke, gives us “Memory Lands: King Philip’s War and the Place of Violence in the Northeast.” Each book eschews grand narratives of European conquest and indigenous disappearance in favor of approaches that emphasize intimate scales and native points of view. Each deeply researched volume intensely focuses on specific localities—Ms. Brooks calls them “place-worlds,” Ms. DeLucia “memoryscapes”—that the author has personally walked and rewalked, contemplating what happened and continues to happen there.

These are not spots outsiders—or even insiders—will necessarily find resonant. “Never heard of King Philip’s war,” a Rhode Islander told a late-19th-century journalist searching for the sight of one battle, “guess you’re mistaken about a battle ever having been fought in this neighborhood.” As this exchange quoted by Ms. DeLucia reveals, keeping one’s distracted eyes open for larger meanings when an enthralled author delves into small details can be a tall order.

Read the full review by Daniel K. Richter in the Wall Street Journal.

Lisa Brooks’ Our Beloved Kin Thursday at GCC

our beloved kin cover lisa brooks

A lecture with Lisa Brooks, author of “Our Beloved Kin” : A New History of King Phillips War.

7 pm Thursday, February 22, 2018  |  Greenfield Community College, Stinchfield Lecture Hall

Note: 5pm book signing at World Eye Books in Greenfield, MA

Free and open to the public!

+++++

In Our Beloved Kin, Lisa Brooks recovers a complex picture of war, captivity, and Native resistance during the “First Indian War” (later named King Philip’s War) by relaying the stories of Weetamoo, a female Wampanoag leader, and James Printer, a Nipmuc scholar, whose stories converge in the captivity of Mary Rowlandson. Through both a narrow focus on Weetamoo, Printer, and their network of relations, and a far broader scope that includes vast Indigenous geographies, Brooks leads us to a new understanding of the history of colonial New England and of American origins. Brooks’s pathbreaking scholarship is grounded not just in extensive archival research but also in the land and communities of Native New England, reading the actions of actors during the seventeenth century alongside an analysis of the landscape and interpretations informed by tribal history.

Our Beloved Kin: King Philip’s War Informs Today’s Events

lisa brooks amherst our beloved kin

The story of King Philip’s War, which ended [340] years ago, may be central to the history of this place, marked in locations like King Philip’s Hill in Northfield, the Bloody Brook Battle monument in Deerfield, and even King Philip restaurant in Phillipston. The three-year armed conflict is largely blamed on attacks on colonial settlers by Wampanoags and other native “savages.”

But a book released this week by Amherst College associate professor Lisa Brooks, an Abenaki, depicts the prolonged war on a dozen settlements throughout much of the region as more complex. And it’s seen as the result of mistaken assumptions English settlers made about the native tribes.

What’s more, Lisa Brooks’ “Our Beloved Kin” (Yale University Press) is based on written letters and other materials written by those Indians, who are largely assumed to have been illiterate. And the creative, readable telling by this associate professor of English and American studies she describes as a relevant and timely interpretation, suggesting the plight of refugees and racial profiling.

Her history, which traces the interwoven paths of three characters — Wampanoag leader Weetamoo, who as a woman is less known than Metacomet (aka King Philip); James Printer, the persecuted Christian Nipmuc; and Mary Rowlandson, the Puritan woman whose own account of her capture in Lancaster is recast in this deeper interpretation.

Read the full review by Richie Davis in the Greenfield Recorder.

This article also appeared in the Hampshire Gazette on 1/25.

Native Insight: Local Scholars Offer Fresh New Look at an Old War

king philips war lithograph

…how could the timing of two new Yale University Press books by local scholars examining King Philip’s War be better? Both books are scheduled for a Jan. 9 release. One, by Amherst College historian Lisa Brooks — who may be familiar to readers for her previously authored “The Common Pot: The Recovery of Native Space in the Northeast (2008)” — is titled “Our Beloved Kin: A New History of King Philip’s War.” The other, by Mount Holyoke College historian Christine M. Delucia, is titled “Memory Lands: King Philips War and the Place of Violence in the Northeast.”

Both authors write from the authority of their own Native American lens, as both share Wabanaki roots and understand what West Coast poet Gary Snyder calls “The Old Ways” — a belief system under which all animate and inanimate objects are beings with palpable spirits. That includes lakes and ponds and streams, mountains and swamps and high, lonesome glacial-erratic boulders, beavers and bears and deer, insects and worms and underworld serpents with ominous rattling tails. Viewing the world through such a holistic lens, buttressed by deep oral history recited in song, dance and ritual performance around warm winter fires, puts a different spin on life, one that conflicts in a major way with the Christian way Europeans transported with them to the New World. It is this world-view that backbones Brooks’ and Delucia’s refreshing narrative and challenges conventional, accepted conclusions about KPW.

Both of these fresh, New-Age female scholars refuse to buy the tired documentary evidence supplied by the likes of old-standby colonial clergymen William Hubbard and Increase Mather, entrepreneur John Pynchon, or Narragansett-country colonial land-grab military officer Benjamin Church. The recorded histories from these primary sources are, in Brooks’ and Delucia’s opinion, those of conquerors publishing second-hand accounts that are, at the very least, biased if not totally invalid. Of course, these two young scholars are not the first veritable historians to challenge the long-accepted, often-repeated norms of KPW history. They’re just taking similar positions to previous chroniclers like Francis Jennings, Howard Zinn, Jill Lapore and others pejoratively called “revisionary historians” by more conventional colleagues and critics.

Read the review by Gary Sanderson in The Greenfield Recorder.

WNPR and Lisa Brook’s Forthcoming Book: Our Beloved Kin

our beloved kin lisa brooks book
Coming out on January 9, 2018 from Yale University Press – this looks amazing… A compelling and original recovery of Native American resistance and adaptation to colonial America.

With rigorous original scholarship and creative narration, Lisa Brooks recovers a complex picture of war, captivity, and Native resistance during the “First Indian War” (later named King Philip’s War) by relaying the stories of Weetamoo, a female Wampanoag leader, and James Printer, a Nipmuc scholar, whose stories converge in the captivity of Mary Rowlandson. Through both a narrow focus on Weetamoo, Printer, and their network of relations, and a far broader scope that includes vast Indigenous geographies, Brooks leads us to a new understanding of the history of colonial New England and of American origins. Brooks’s pathbreaking scholarship is grounded not just in extensive archival research but also in the land and communities of Native New England, reading the actions of actors during the seventeenth century alongside an analysis of the landscape and interpretations informed by tribal history.

Listen to a NEXT interview by John Dankosky on WNPR with author Professor Lisa Brooks about her compelling new work “Our Beloved Kin” (scroll halfway down).

Pre-order a copy here.

Lisa Brooks is associate professor of English and American studies at Amherst College. She is author of The Common Pot: The Recovery of Native Space in the Northeast.

Shoshanim’s Journey: Lisa Brooks on Friday, May 19th

lisa brooks shoshanim's journey

Sponsored by the Nolumbeka Project: 7 pm on Friday, May 19, 2017 at Greenfield High School, 21 Barr Avenue, Greenfield, MA.

Professor Lisa Brooks presents new research on King Philip’s War and Turners Falls, focusing on the spring of 1676, when the Nipmuc leader Shoshanim, of Nashaway, traveled toward the Connecticut River Valley on a diplomatic mission, which was halted by the violence at the traditional fishing falls and gathering place. This mission was part of the larger peace negotiations during the spring and summer of 1676, towards a treaty that never came fully to fruition. This new research raises crucial questions about how Puritan narrators, and even later historians, have portrayed the “end” of the conflict, and places the war in the context of Indigenous protocols of diplomacy.

Amherst College Hosts a Healing Fire for Survivors of Sexual Violence

amherst college healing fire gedakina

The Healing Fire Initiative for Survivors of Sexual Violence, their friends, families and allies. Sponsored in part by Gedakina.org.

Opening Ceremony 1:00 pm on April 13th

Fire will burn until 1:00pm on April 14th

People who come to the healing fire are welcome to make offerings to the fire.  Wooden shims and sharpies will be provided and you are welcome to bring letters and pictures of your own.  Amherst College is honored to partner with Gedakina Inc. in an effort to provide a space for healing with our campus community.  In 2002 Gedakina cofounded the Healing Fire Initiative for Survivors of Sexual Violence. The purpose of the Healing Fire Initiative is to offer survivors of sexual violence a welcoming and comforting place to break the isolation they may feel, build community with other survivors, advocates, and supporters, and begin or continue their healing process. This program is now a regional initiative with organizations and colleges/universities across the United States adopting this award-winning program.  The Healing Fire will begin with an opening ceremony at 1:00 pm onThursday April 13th, on the Freshman Quad (directly across from the Frost Library entrance.  The fire will be burning until 1:00pm on April 14th and will staffed by faculty, staff and crisis support center staff throughout the 24 hour period.  Please feel free to stay for any amount of time that feels right for you.  In respect for attendees we ask that no photography or social media include faces of people unless you have explicit permission.

“When I sit in the light of the Healing Fire, there are no voices that tell me I am to blame, that I am the only one, or that I deserve to be assaulted.  When I sit in the light of the Healing Fire, I see the many kind faces before me.  I hear their stories and feel the warmth and wisdom that we share.  There is a power hear tonight,  As this fire symbolizes the strength of survivors, it also symbolizes our passion, our righteous anger, our commitment and hope for a future where our children will be free  of abuse and violence.” – A quote from a Survivor who attended a Healing Fire in Burlington, Vermont

Five College NAIS: A Reading with LeAnn Howe and Susan Power

leann howe susan power five college NAIS

From gedakina.org:  please join us for a reading by LeAnne Howe and Susan Power in association with “Living Waters, Animate Lands,” the Annual Five College Native American & Indigenous Studies Symposium, April 6-8, 2017 https://www.fivecolleges.edu/natam/events
 
Friday, April 7, Cole Assembly, Converse Hall, Amherst College
Symposium, 9am-5pm
Reception, 6:30pm
Reading, 7pm
 
LeAnne Howe (MFA) is an enrolled citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Her first novel Shell Shaker (Aunt Lute Books, 2001) received an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. Equinoxes Rouge, the French translation, was the 2004 finalist for Prix Medici Estranger, one of France’s top literary awards. Evidence of Red (Salt Publishing, UK, 2005) won the Oklahoma Book Award for poetry and a Wordcraft Circle Award. Her most recent novel is Miko Kings: An Indian Baseball Story(Aunt Lute Books, 2007). Her latest two books Choctalking On Other Realities (Aunt Lute Books), a memoir, and Seeing Red/Hollywood’s Pixeled Skins: American Indians and Film (Michigan State University Press), a co-edited anthology of film reviews were both published in 2013. She is the Eidson Distinguished Professor of American Literature in the English Department at the University of Georgia, Athens. 
 
Susan Power (JD, MFA) is an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and a native Chicagoan. She is the author of three books, The Grass Dancer (a novel), Roofwalker (a story collection), and the new novel, Sacred WildernessThe Grass Dancer was awarded a PEN/Hemingway prize in 1995 and Roofwalker a Milkweed National Fiction Prize in 2002. Her short stories and essays have been widely published in journals, magazines and anthologies including: The Best American Short Stories of 1993, The Atlantic Monthly, The Paris Review, The Southern Review and Granta. Her fellowships include an Iowa Arts Fellowship, James Michener Fellowship, Radcliffe Bunting Institute Fellowship, Princeton Hodder Fellowship, USA Artists Fellowship, Loft McKnight Fellowship for 2015-16, and Native Arts and Cultures.
 
Sponsored by the Corliss Lamont Fund, the English and American Studies departments, the Frost Library Archives and Special Collections, and the Five College Native American and Indigenous Studies Program

Third Annual Five College Native American and Indigenous Studies Symposium April 6-8, 2017

the women elizabeth lapensee

Living Waters, Animate Lands

Traditional Ecological Knowledge:  Braiding Story, Skills and Sustenance with Hope for a Sustainable Future

SYMPOSIUM SCHEDULE

Thursday, April 6 (UMass Amherst Campus Center: Cape Cod Lounge)

6:30 pm Welcome Reception

7:00 pm Film: “The Spirit of Standing Rock”

Friday, April 7 (Amherst College, Converse Hall: Cole Assembly)

9:00 am Gathering, Welcome, Opening Ceremonies

9:30-11:00 Opening address and Animate Lands Panel

11:15-11:30 Break

11:30-1:00 Living Waters Panel

1:00-2:00 Buffet lunch for all participants

2:00-3:00 Roundtable Discussions – Speakers, FCNAIS faculty, participants

3:15-4:15 Roundtable Discussions – Speakers, FCNAIS faculty, participants

4:30-5:00 Summary Discussion and Closing (All)

6:30pm Evening Reception (Amherst College, Converse Hall: Cole Assembly lobby)

7:00pm Reading by LeAnne Howe and Susan Power

Saturday, April 8 (gather at Amherst College)

10:00-noon TEK plant walk

Featured Speakers

Fikret Berkes is Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba, and author of Sacred Ecology (Third Edition, Routledge, 2012)

John Banks is the Director of the Department of Natural Resources for the Penobscot Indian Nation and, as a representative of his nation, helped develop the  Penobscot River Restoration Project

Amberdawn LaFrance works for the Akwesasne Cultural Restoration Program, part of the Environmental Division of the Akwesasne/St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, which recently produced a Climate Change Adaptation Plan for the nation.

Natalie Michelle is a citizen of Penobscot nation and a Ph.D. Candidate in  Ethnobotany and Adaptive Management at the University of Maine, Orono.

With a dual background in art and marine science, Elizabeth James Perry works for the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribal Historic Preservation office.

Nicholas James Reo is a citizen of Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and Assistant Professor of Native American and Environmental Studies at Dartmouth College, where where he studies Indigenous knowledge and ecological stewardship on Indigenous lands.

LeAnne Howe is an enrolled citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. She writes fiction, poetry, screenplays, creative non-fiction, plays and scholarship that primarily deal with American Indian and Native American experiences.

Susan Power is an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and a native Chicagoan. She is the author of three books, The Grass Dancer (a novel), Roofwalker (a story collection), and the new novel, Sacred Wilderness.

Judy Dow is an Abenaki educator who specializes in sharing indigenous environmental knowledge with youth. A basketmaker and artist, she incorporates traditional ecological knowledge into her art and her teaching.

Go here for a full schedule and list of speakers.

Sponsored in part by Gedakina.org.

Living in the Ancient-Present (with thanks)

By Carmen Hathaway, Abenaki artist – As Above, So Below

I received an email yesterday, through the Five College Native American listserv, sent out by Professor Lisa Brooks  (Chair of the Five College Native American and Indigenous Studies Program). Included was an invitation to celebrate the work of the graduating seniors in the program. The dissertation work of Malinda Labriola was to be featured: “Living in the Ancient-Present: An exploration and application of Native American creations narratives and oral traditions.”

Living in the Ancient-Present. It stopped me in my tracks and it caught in my throat. It drifted up silently from a familiar place and looked me in the eye. It said nothing, in volumes, over and over again.

This is the place I find myself. This is the place that found me. I had no choice. It was not mine to choose. It was mine to listen…

I am drawn to John Trudell’s posthumous gift Time Dreams:

Straight talk
With ancestor memories
Free without judgment
Answers to questions
And feelings
Dream time
Is part of our pulse
Memories in the shapes
Of life
We are a part of that
The breath part

Our memories
Come from the earth
And return to the earth
In the reunion
Our pulse comes from the sky
And returns to the sky.

*****

It is all here. We are a part of it, we are what was and will be. It is a great responsibility, it is an honor and a gift. We are given some understanding, we are told a story. We try to listen closely, and put it in a safe place, to ponder and to safekeep. We learn, we know what is the right thing to do – it has always been this way –  we remember. It is good to celebrate the breath, the wind, the spirit. It is all here. We are here. Together, in the Ancient-Present.

N’mikwaldam. Pamgisgak.