Seeing the Forest and the Trees: Tracing Fuel Use and Landscape Change on the Eastern Pequot Reservation 1740-1850
Date of Award
Open Access Thesis
Master of Arts (MA)
Heather B. Trigg
Stephen W. Silliman
David B. Landon
Gathering fuel wood was a regular chore for most people throughout time and certainly was a part of life for people living in 18th- and 19th-century Connecticut. During this period, the landscape was being altered due to rapidly expanding agriculture and, by circa 1850, would be at the peak of deforestation. During this period, the Eastern Pequot, a Native American nation in North Stonington, were living on their reservation (established in 1683) in a colonial environment and dealing with timber theft, a reduced land base, overseer control, and the overall environmental changes occurring in Connecticut. This thesis examines the charred wood found at four Eastern Pequot sites occupied from the 1740s to the 1850s, with a focus on what fuel use tells us about their interaction with the land at a household level over time, including if they could access and use high-quality fire wood, how they collected wood, and if they were affected by the deforestation taking place across Connecticut.
My research contextualized the tree taxa found by reviewing the environmental condition of Connecticut during this period, as well as the archival documents derived from the Eastern Pequot’s interactions with the state and overseer system. I ranked taxa by abundance and compared those ranks, and I assessed the use of the Principle of Least Effort by comparing the wood to the historical forest composition as ascertained by witness tree data. My interpretation of the charred wood found at these sites was that the Eastern Pequot were still able to access high-quality firewood at least through the end of the 18th century. The last site examined provides a different picture than the first three, and could indicate either a “least effort” fire, that the reservation was deforested, or that wood supplied to the reservation (derived from elsewhere) shows the deforestation of Connecticut. This research may help us better understand strategies for acquisition that are part of the everyday life of a community and how people negotiated the intersection between environmental resources and the social, political, and broader environmental aspects of colonialism.
Herring, Kalila, "Seeing the Forest and the Trees: Tracing Fuel Use and Landscape Change on the Eastern Pequot Reservation 1740-1850" (2017). Graduate Masters Theses. 428.
Archaeological Anthropology Commons, Indigenous Studies Commons, Social and Cultural Anthropology Commons