01 Uncovering Indigenous Worlds and Histories on a Bend of a New England River before the 1650s: Problematizing Nomenclature and Settler Colonial History, Deep History, and Early Colonization Narratives
The essay explores the often-ignored histories of the indigenous people who resided on the confluence of the Merrimack and the Concord rivers up to the 1650s. This place is characterized by a significant bend in the Merrimack River as it changes its southerly flow into an easterly direction. Today, the area includes the modern city of Lowell, Massachusetts, and its surroundings. While the 1650s saw the creation of a Native American “praying town” and the incorporation of the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s towns of Chelmsford and Billerica, it is the diverse and complex indigenous past before this decade which North American and global historians tend to neglect. The pre-colonial and early colonial eras, and how observers have described these periods, have shaped the way we understand history today. This essay problematizes terminology, looks at how amateur historians of the 19th and early 20th centuries have shaped popular perceptions of Native Americans, and explores how researchers have told the history before the 1650s. The materials available to reconstruct the history of the region’s Native Americans are often hard to find, a common issue for researchers who attempt to study the history of indigenous peoples before 1500. Thus, the essay pays special attention to how incomplete primary sources as well as archeological and ethnohistorical evidence have shaped interpretations of this history and how these intellectual processes have aided in the construction of this past.