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Diana d. Wall


colonialism; historical archaeology; Native Americans; race


This dissertation focuses on how the Native Montauketts of eastern Long Island, New York, negotiated the forces of colonialism and capitalism between 1750 and 1885, a well-documented period when the Montaukett people's identity was challenged by the growing strength of the 'vanishing Indian' narrative. This project includes a critical analysis of previous anthropological research for decolonization to recognize the role anthropology has played in the construction of Native cultural identity, and to propose a new narrative. This is accomplished by investigating the historicity of colonialism, deconstructing the categories of difference that were established and re-established to accommodate colonial policies, and highlighting the power dynamics of capitalism. This dissertation therefore disrupts and replaces the narrative of the 'vanishing Indian' with a new narrative of survivance that illuminates the historical processes that impacted the construction and maintenance of Montaukett cultural identities. Historical sources are critically reviewed, and archaeological collections re-investigated for clues to indigenous Montaukett lifeways during rapidly changing social, economic, and political conditions. In particular, the archaeological collections from two homes at Indian Fields, a Montaukett habitation site, provide an intra-site, diachronic comparison against a complex economic, social, and cultural backdrop between 1750 and 1885. Montaukett survivance at Indian Fields was informed by indigenous strategies for subsistence, exchange, and social reproduction that were well-established in the pre-Columbian era. While the earlier household at Indian Fields demonstrates greater continuity in indigenous foodways, craft production, and discard patterns, the later household shows evidence of a greater struggle to demonstrate Native identity during a time of unavoidable economic and social change. The data from the Indian Fields site are also compared with documentary sources from Freetown, a multicultural neighborhood in nineteenth-century East Hampton. This regional analysis emphasizes the local and extra-local opportunities for work, the multiple possibilities for access to goods (local and non-local), networks of kin and social organization, and the social conditions of economic production, consumption and exchange. I argue that the social and economic networks established by Montauketts were central to their ability to survive the consequences of settler colonialism (which include dispossession, migrations, racialization, tribalization, and detribalization). At the local level, this project produces a more accurate understanding of Native history, and the present-day Native conditions that may exist as consequences of the colonial experience. In addition, this research adds to the dialogue of colonial processes and experiences in a global context.