Date of Award

12-1-2012

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Historical Archaeology

First Advisor

Heather B. Trigg

Second Advisor

Stephen W. Silliman

Third Advisor

Stephen A. Mrozowski

Abstract

Southeastern Connecticut in the 19th century represented a setting in which Native Americans living on reservations were residing in close proximity to Euro-American communities. The Mashantucket Pequot, an indigenous group who in the 19th century resided on a state-overseen reservation, and their Euro-American neighbors both utilized local and regional resources in order to achieve their subsistence goals. This thesis seeks to explore the differences and similarities of the subsistence practices employed by these two groups. It further seeks to examine the centrality of forest landscapes to both Mashantucket and Euro-American subsistence, and to interpret the importance of the reservation to indigenous identity maintenance.

A comparative paleoethnobotanical analysis of two 19th-century households, one of them a reservation Mashantucket Pequot homestead and the other a Euro-American one, is used to achieve these goals. Charred macrobotanical material, specifically seeds, nutshell, and wood, recovered from discrete features at these two archaeological sites were processed, examined, quantified, and interpreted in order to access facets of both groups' practices. After placing the sites and the results of botanical analyses in local and regional historical contexts, conceptual issues of identity, labor participation, and subsistence informed an overall intepretation of indigenous and Euro-American subsistence practice during this period.

The results of this research revealed that Mashantuckets and Euro-Americans were, for the most part, utilizing different subsistence practices in order to achieve similar subsistence goals. By utilizing a combination of traditional and novel strategies, Mashantuckets navigated and mitigated both the difficult physical and complex social landscapes in which they lived. Mashantucket Pequots were more willing or more compelled than their Euro-American neighbors to adaptively change their strategies in order to preserve many of their long-term traditions and, most importantly, continue their presence on the reservation.