Stolen Relations (formerly the Database of Indigenous Slavery in the Americas) is a community-centered database project funded by Brown University and the National Endowment for the Humanities 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, Stolen Relations 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 various Brown departments and centers listed below.
In August 2022, we received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and hope to have a live prototype in late 2023.
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.
Stolen Relations has been generously funded and supported by the following entities:
Brown University Library
Center for Digital Scholarship, Brown University Library
Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, Brown University
Department of History, Brown University
Native American and Indigenous Studies Initiative, Brown University
National Endowment for the Humanities
Office of the Vice President for Research, Brown University
Population Studies and Training Center, Brown University
Social Sciences Research Institute, Brown University