Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Historical Archaeology

First Advisor

Stephen A. Mrozwoski

Second Advisor

Stephen W. Silliman

Third Advisor

Nedra K. Lee


This project examines the negotiation of identity among the Nipmuc inhabitants at the Sarah Burnee/Sarah Boston farmstead in Grafton, Massachusetts. An indigenous family passed the household down for generations, and their material remains reflect their lived experiences while navigating a long-term colonial entanglement. The project’s artifact assemblage has a dominant presence of materials dating between 1790 and 1830 when Sarah Burnee and Sarah Boston lived at the household.

After the American Revolution, a rapid cultural transformation characterized by a rise in consumerism, industry and labor, as well as the cult of womanhood occurred. Mass publications espousing a philosophy of domesticity for women inundated New England. Clear gendered expectations and separate spheres were also established, leading to the inclusion and exclusion of women within their communities according to the adherence of these values. However, the cult of womanhood excluded people of color and lower-class status altogether. For native women like Sarah Burnee and Sarah Boston, the racism and exclusion they likely endured from their EuroAmerican community meant their Native identity was provided a space to persist. In addition, it meant they could create alternative forms of Native identity that aided in their culture’s survival.

This thesis examines an assemblage of dress, adornment, and sewing materials from the household. It reflects on the history and genealogy of the family as they lived in a tribal environment, an Indian praying village, an encroaching colonial community, and in Grafton. The project analyzes their clothing as an expression and strategy that they used to negotiate their gender and status with a general artifact analysis. Additionally, a spatial and statistical analysis determines whether or not there is evidence that the residents participated in the social discourse surrounding domesticity through their production and consumption activity. Furthermore, a cross-site comparison between the Hassanamisco Nipmuc and Eastern Pequot looks at the different ways indigenous consumed such materials during the same period but in different locations. In the end, this project contributes to an understanding of agency and identity, and change and continuity, among the indigenous who surrounded and constructed themselves with the material culture of an Anglo society.


Free and open access to this Campus Access Thesis is made available to the UMass Boston community by ScholarWorks at UMass Boston. Those not on campus and those without a UMass Boston campus username and password may gain access to this thesis through resources like Proquest Dissertations & Theses Global or through Interlibrary Loan. If you have a UMass Boston campus username and password and would like to download this work from off-campus, click on the "Off-Campus UMass Boston Users" link above.