History 248 Reading Guide

Native American Family and Community

  • James A. Brown, "America before Columbus," in Fred Hoxie, ed., Indians in American History (1988), 19-45.  (e-reserve).
  • Emerson W. Baker, “Finding the Almouchiquois:  Native American Families, Territories, and Land Sales in Southern Maine,” Ethnohistory 51.1 (2004), 73-100.  ProQuest


  • According to Brown, what factors shaped the diverse settlement patterns, agricultural practices, technologies, and cultures of Native Americans in North America?
  • By the time of European contact (sixteenth and seventeenth centuries), what were the most striking contrasts among the widely differing cultures that had evolved?
  • What are the mainlines of his analysis of North American cultural development prior to European colonization, and his argument about the nature of the process of development after contact?
  • How does Brown characterize the tribes of the northern and southern subregions of the Eastern Woodlands-the tribes along the Atlantic Coast that encountered the first colonists in the early seventeenth century? How compatible-or incompatible-were their cultures with Anglo- and Euro-American culture? Where were tensions likely to occur?
  • According to Baker, why have scholars had such difficulty coming to agreement about the tribal or group identities of the native coastal peoples west and south of the Kennebec?  What does Baker’s discussion about nomenclature and tribal divisions suggest about how “observers,” both in the past and the present, distinguished between groups?  Did native peoples use the same measures to determine allies and enemies?
  • What analysis does Baker offer about the consequences of tribal alliances and divisions in the early seventeenth century (the years preceding and contemporaneous with early settlement in northern New England)?
  • What conclusions about band identity, territory, and links between peoples does Baker draw from his analysis of the land transactions of Naguasqua’s children?  How does his discussion of the peoples south of Casco Bay further enrich his understanding and conclusions about territoriality and alliances?
  • How did the coming of Europeans and especially the English affect the economy, society, and polity of the Almouchiquois?  In what ways did King Philip’s War exacerbate those changes?  How did the Almouchiquois respond to the disruptions?
  • How do Almouchiquois family and tribal practices compare and contrast with English and European assumptions about family and community?

The contact of cultures in Maine

  • Map: Settlement of Maine, 1603-1699
  • Map: Settlement of Maine, 1603-1759 
  • Map: "Indian" Wars in Maine, 1675-1746
  • Map: Settlement of Maine, 1603-1896, and the agricultural margin in Maine.
    According to David C. Smith, "Maine's Changeing Landscape to 1820," (in Charles E. Clark, James S. Leaman, and Karen Bowden, eds., Maine in the Early Republic, (1988), p.20), "The upland edge of this frontier, except for Aroostook County, was climatically and agriculturally marginal, and as the American West was opened to settlement, much of Maine's marginal land would begin to revert to forest after the first twenty years or so of pioneer effort. Examples of the cycle include the towns of Madrid, Weld, Cambridge, Salem, Lexington, Concord, Exeter, Topsfield, Waite, and Kossuth, all of them retaining some residential population, but also numerous empty cellar holes, stone walls, and old-field timber--the fading symbols of dashed agricultural dreams."

Further reading:

  • Andrea Robertson Cremer, "Possession:  Indian Bodies, Cultural Control, and Colonialism in the Pequot War," Early American Studies 6.2 (2008), 295-345.  Project Muse
  • David S. Jones, “Virgin Soils Revisited,” William and Mary Quarterly 60.4 (2003), 703-742.  History Cooperative 
  • Theda Perdue, “Race and Culture: Writing the Ethnohistory of the Early South,” Ethnohistory 51.4 (2004), 701-723.  Project Muse or Academic Search Premier 
  • Daniel H. Usner, Jr., “American Indians on the Cotton Frontier: Changing Economic Relations with Citizens and Slaves in the Mississippi Territory,” Journal of American History 72. 2. (1985), 297-317.  JSTOR
  • Usner’s article contributes to the literature on the contact of cultures and the dynamics of interaction between Native Americans, African Americans and Anglo Americans. He examines early nineteenth-century contact in “new” regions that were contested rather than “unsettled.”  How does Usner describe the process of “settlement” in the Mississippi Territory and its impact on Native American economy, culture, and society? Has he in fact complicated the traditional narrative of the expansion of commercial agriculture and slavery?
  • How does his focus on Native American interaction and resistance revise our understanding of the process of expansion?