Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Jonathan M. Chu

Second Advisor

Maria John

Third Advisor

J. Cedric Woods


This thesis analyzes the historical, legal, and cultural dimensions and processes of land exchange between the Pawtucket-Pennacook and English colonists of Massachusetts Bay Company/Colony, in the seventeenth century. A close reading of colonial archives, reveals political and socio-economic factors, which initially motivated the Pawtucket-Pennacook to trade, share their homelands and ally with the English, forging a brief middle ground period. Through re-interpretation of legal documents and colonial sources, this study illustrates how the Pawtucket-Pennacook attempted to maintain sovereignty and territorial autonomy over Native spaces, which became some of the earliest colonized places in Massachusetts Bay. This research updates and adds to the historiography on Native/Anglo land use, tenure, deeds and legal relations in greater Essex County, Massachusetts, which has received little scholarly attention in the past century, despite its significance as one of the first locales of cross-cultural interaction and territorial transaction.

A careful re-examination of seventeenth century Native/Anglo land records and court cases, demonstrates that the Pawtucket-Pennacook were not merely victims of English conquest or trickery, but gained early intelligibility of colonial laws and actively asserted their rights, in an attempt to resist displacement through adaptive, hybrid legal, and land exchange practices. Re-analysis of these property negotiations and legal disputes, illuminates Native agency, and resiliency, in strategies of accommodation (cooperation), litigation (legal redress) and mobilization (relocation/removal), used by Pawtucket-Pennacook Sagamores and communities, who persisted in the wake of settler colonialism, dispossession and relations of increasingly uncommon ground with the English, within and beyond Massachusetts Bay.