Continuity in the Connecticut Native American Population

Saturday, January 6, 2018
Atrium (Marriott Wardman Park)
Rachel Panasci, Central Connecticut State University
Title: Continuity in the Connecticut Native American Population

Background & Goals: Throughout the 17th century, Native Americans appear in Connecticut history on two distinct occasions. The first appearance is the 1637 Pequot War, which was a result of English Puritan settlers migrating from the Massachusetts Bay Colony to the Connecticut River Valley until they reached settlements of Pequot Indians. The second, King Philip’s War, lasted from 1675-1676, and is now commonly remembered as the last major effort by Native Americans to drive settlers out of New England. Thereafter mention of Native people drops out of popular history as if they disappeared. The theory of the Vanishing Indian, first articulated in the 1960s, states that in the 19th century white Americans created a narrative in which Native Americans were described as a declining race on the verge of extinction prior to the arrival of settlers in the United States. While it is not true that they vanished, it is true that there is a perception of the “vanishing Indian” that still engulfs the popular imagination today.

A preliminary search of Connecticut’s census in the 19th century proves that there were Native Americans still living in the state. In the 1850 U.S. Federal Census, 3 Natives Americans were counted in the CT census. However, by 1860 the number rose to 56, in 1870 to 168 and finally, by 1880, 209. My hope, given the opportunity, is to investigate what was going on in CT at this time to explain why the Native American population began to grow in Connecticut towns, to fill in the research gaps pertaining to these people who had not actually vanished at all and to further research the evidence that these Native Americans were working and living with white families as domestic servants and farm hands. My goal is to debunk a common myth and open up further research opportunities on an important part of Connecticut’s history.

Methodology: I will do a keyword search of census records, city directories and other public records to locate Native people and collect information about their occupations. Once I find them, I will go to the Connecticut State Library, town halls, and local historical societies to locate more information on the individuals and their communities.

Outcome: The outcome of this presentation will have two parts. First, an essay that will be submitted as a feature article to the Hartford Courant or Waterbury Republican. Further dissemination of this project will include its submission and presentation if accepted to two major conferences, the American Historical Association’s Undergraduate Poster Session and the Symposium for History Undergraduate Research at Mississippi State University. I will also be presenting my findings at the Connecticut State Universities annual Making History Conference at Western Connecticut State University in April, 2018 and URCAD at CCSU in May, 2018.

See more of: Undergraduate Poster Session
See more of: AHA Sessions