Snowshoe Country: Indians, Colonists, and Winter Spaces of Power in the Northeast, 1620-1727

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Snowshoe Country: Indians, Colonists, and Winter Spaces of Power in the Northeast, 1620-1727

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Title: Snowshoe Country: Indians, Colonists, and Winter Spaces of Power in the Northeast, 1620-1727
Author: Wickman, Thomas
Citation: Wickman, Thomas. 2012. Snowshoe Country: Indians, Colonists, and Winter Spaces of Power in the Northeast, 1620-1727. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: This dissertation is a political and environmental history of winter in the colonial Northeast during some of the coldest years of the Little Ice Age. Unlike conventional histories of Atlantic encounters and environmental change, which overwhelmingly concern the warmer half of the year, this dissertation asks how encounters and ecological change functioned in the colder half of the year. Indians and English settlers adapted differently to the vicissitudes of climate change in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, respectively creating winter spaces of power within the varied landscapes of the Maritime Peninsula. This dissertation takes a broad geographical view of the Northeast and incorporates political ecology into the history of early America, stressing the importance of conflicts over access to long-distance travel routes and wild resources, both along the coasts and in the vast uplands. Using captivity narratives, diaries, letters, treaty minutes, and war records, it recovers the ways that winter knowledge and winter technologies both inhibited and facilitated colonialism in the Northeast. Over the course of the seventeenth century, settlers transformed winter ecologies along the coasts and isolated indigenous people in cold conditions. In response, Native Americans increasingly spent longer winters in the interior uplands, dividing themselves into family hunting bands, drawing sustenance and power from wild environments that colonists could not reach, and launching winter raids upon vulnerable English towns. The last quarter of the seventeenth century, one of the coldest periods of the last millennium, presented comparative advantages to mobile Indians, whose snowshoes kept them afloat in times of deep and long lying snows. In the early eighteenth century, however, the English systematically adopted this same indigenous technology to use against Native Americans, disrupting the activities of family hunting bands and raiding parties. English patrols on snowshoes penetrated Native Americans’ winter hunting grounds as never before, and with this winter strategy, colonial leaders attempted to impose a new political ecology in the greater Northeast. Conquest of the northern uplands was incomplete, however, leading to slow and sparse settlement in the interior and leaving ample opportunities for indigenous people to return to their winter lands.
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:10288406
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