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Welcome to Stolen Relations: Recovering Stories of Indigenous Enslavement in the Americas. This community based project, housed at Brown University, is a collaborative effort to build a database of enslaved indigenous people throughout time all across the Americas in order to promote greater understanding of the historical circumstances and ongoing trauma of settler colonialism. Please note that this site is under construction, and the database does not yet have a public portal. We are actively working on this project, however, and and are looking for volunteers and scholars to contribute materials. We invite you to visit our About page to learn more about the project and how to contribute.

Image: “Return of Indians,” Mosquito Shore registry of enslaved Indians, 1777. CO 123/31/125. The National Archives, UK.

About

The concept:

Stolen Relations (formerly the Database of Indigenous Slavery in the Americas) is a community-centered database project that seeks to illuminate and understand the role the enslavement of Indigenous peoples played in settler colonialism over time. As we scour the archives, we are seeking to document as many instances as possible of Indigenous enslavement in the Americas between 1492 and 1900 (and beyond, where relevant). Long overlooked by scholars and almost completely unknown to the wider public, the enslavement of Indigenous peoples was a persistent and destabilizing aspect of settler colonialism that tore apart communities and families and aided settler colonial expansion. The enslavement of Native Americans was a hemispheric phenomenon, perpetrated by every European colonial power in their invasion of the Americas. Scholars now estimate that between 2.5 and 5 million Natives were enslaved in the Americas between 1492 and the late nineteenth century – an astonishing number by any measure (even compared to the approximately 10.5 -12 million Africans who were brought as slaves from Africa in this same time period).

Our project seeks to recover the stories of individuals as well as educate the public on the reality of these processes. We are focused primarily on New England for now, and are working in close partnership with approximately thirteen regional tribes, nations, and communities. While this project seeks to bring greater understanding to the past, it is important to recognize that these Indigenous nations are still here, in New England and all across the Americas, and have vibrant communities and cultural traditions. They, too, have oral histories regarding settler colonialism, displacement, indigenous enslavement, and ongoing survival into the present that need to inform our understanding of the past; archival materials alone are insufficient. In combination with tribal input, DISA will allow the slow centralization of biographical information related to enslaved indigenous people and place it online where historians, researchers, students, tribal members, and families can use the information to reconstruct histories, chart networks, and make connections in ways that have never before been possible. These are hard realities and difficult histories, but they need to be told fully so we can start to be more honest about the history of this country and think more clearly about how to make amends moving forward. 

We are grateful for our partnerships with our tribal collaborators, as well as with the Center for Digital Scholarship at Brown, as well as the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice.

Timeline:

We are currently applying for grants and hope to have a public-facing prototype in 2022.

How to contribute:

In this early phase, the database is not yet public. We are working with our tribal partners and a team of researchers to identify, enter, and interpret relevant historical and oral historical materials. We are looking to partner with individuals and institutions who are willing to send materials they have or join our research team to input materials directly. Please see our Contribute page or contact Linford D. Fisher to learn more.

Acknowledgements

Stolen Relations has been generously funded and supported by the following entities:

Center for Digital Scholarship, Brown University Library

Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, Brown University

Native American and Indigenous Studies Initiative, Brown University

Office of the Vice President for Research, Brown University

Population Studies and Training Center, Brown University

Social Sciences Research Institute, Brown University

People

The Stolen Relations project involves the following people:

Core team:

  • Linford D. Fisher, Associate Professor of History, Brown University (Principal Investigator)
  • Ashley Champagne, Digital Humanities Librarian, Center for Digital Scholarship, Brown University (Project Manager)
  • Lydia Curliss (Nipmuc), PhD student, University of Maryland (Community Outreach Coordinator)
  • Birkin Diana, Digital Technologies Developer, Brown University Library (Programmer)
  • Patrick Rashleigh, Data Visualization Coordinator, Center for Digital Scholarship, Brown University
  • Zoe Zimmermann, Undergraduate Student, Brown University (Research Assistant Coordinator)

Tribal Community Collaborators (partial listing)

  • Ken Alves, Chief, Assonet Band of Wampanoags
  • Sandi Brewster-Walker, Montaukett Indian Nation
  • Natasha Gambrell, Eastern Pequot
  • Alma Gordon, Sonksq, Chappaquiddick Wampanoag
  • Faries Gray, Massachuset-Ponkapaog Tribe
  • Cheryll Toney Holley, Chief, Nipmuc Nation
  • Liz Coldwind Santana Kiser, Councilwoman, Chaubunagungamaug Nipmuck
  • Alexis Moreis, Chappaquiddick Wampanoag
  • Meagan Running Deer Page, Councilwoman, Pocasset Wampanoag Tribe
  • Ryan Page, Tribal Council Chairman, Pocasset Wampanoag Tribe
  • Jim Peters, Executive Director, Massachusetts Indian Affairs; Mashpee Wampanoag
  • Paula Peters (Mashpee Wampanoag) 
  • Lorén Spears, Director, Tomaquag Museum, Narragansett
  • Marissa Turnbull, Mashantucket Pequot
  • Tall Oak Weeden (Pequot and Wampanoag)
  • Ray Williams, Chappaquiddick Wampanoag

Research Assistants

  • Benjamin Burke, high school research intern
  • Kimonee Burke, PhD candidate, Brown University (Narragansett)
  • Anjali DaSarma, MA candidate, Brown University
  • Om Gupta, post-secondary research assistant
  • Gavin Kim, high school research intern
  • Maiah Letsch, MA candidate, Utrecht University, Netherlands
  • Grace Miller, undergraduate research assistant, Brown University
  • Elliana Reynolds, undergraduate research assistant, Brown University
  • Anushka Saxena, high school research intern
  • Andrew Simpson, undergraduate research assistant, Brown University
  • Maggie Wang, undergraduate research assistant, Oxford University

Academic Advisors:

  • Tony Bogues, Director of the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice and Asa Messer Professor of Humanities and Critical Theory, Brown University
  • Alan Gallay, Lyndon B. Johnson Chair of American History, Texas Christian University
  • Rebecca A. Goetz, Associate Professor of History, New York University
  • Rae Gould, Executive Director, Native American and Indigenous Studies Initiative, Brown University (Nipmuc)
  • Walter Hawthorne, Professor of History, Michigan State University
  • Jane Landers, Professor of History, Vanderbilt University
  • Jason Mancini, Director, Connecticut Humanities
  • Greg O’Malley, Associate Professor of History, UC Santa Cruz
  • Marjory O’Toole, Little Compton Historical Society
  • Emily Owens, Assistant Professor of History, Brown University
  • Brett Rushforth, Assistant Professor of History, University of Oregon
  • Nancy van Deusen, Professor of History, Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada

Past Research Assistants and Contributors

  • Sreen Alibeg, undergraduate research assistant, Brown University
  • Juan Bettancourt-Garcia, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, Brown University
  • Jacob Cousin, School of Public Health, Brown University (Oglala Sioux)
  • Claire Fishman, undergraduate research assistant, Brown University
  • Ian Foster, Free University of Berlin
  • Daniel Genkins, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, John Carter Brown Library
  • Olivia George, undergraduate research assistant, Brown University
  • Brooke Grasberger, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, Brown University (Graduate Student Coordinator)
  • Amanda Kazden, MA candidate, Public Humanities, Brown University
  • Lindsay Lake, undergraduate research assistant, Brown University
  • Marley-Vincent Lindsey, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, Brown University (Research Assistant)
  • Ingrid Mader, undergraduate research assistant, Brown University
  • Amitav Narayan, high school intern
  • Ishan Narra, high school internEmily Pierson, PhD candidate, Brown University
  • Tess Renker, PhD candidate, Brown University
  • Sophia Saker, undergraduate research assistant, Brown University
  • Atessa Savitt, undergraduate research assistant, Brown University
  • Heather Sanford, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, Brown University (Graduate Student Coordinator)
  • Harry Seabrook, undergraduate research assistant, Brown University
  • Samuel Skinner, undergraduate research assistant, Brown University
  • Michael Simpson, graduate student research assistant, Department of History, Brown University
  • Theodore Vial, undergraduate research assistant, Brown University
  • Gwenyth Winship, undergraduate research assistant, Brown University