Date Awarded

Fall 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)




Brett Rushforth

Committee Member

Joshua Piker

Committee Member

Fabrício Prado


In reexamining the early colonial history of Eastern Long Island, this thesis combines archaeological, archival, published records, and oral historical sources to explore the relationship between property, coercion, and sovereignty among the Algonquian-Ninnimissinuok and English settlers of New England. It begins with an overview of historical and contemporary models of political economy among Native groups in the pre-contact and pre-settlement era Northeast, emphasizing the importance of neo-evolutionary anthropology as an instructive corollary to more traditional functionalist and evolutionary theories of Native political economy. Special emphasis is placed on passages from classical ethnographic sources that gesture towards coercive and meaningful inequality within Algonquian societies. Subsequently, the relationship between usufruct forms of property ownership, territorial sovereignty, and kinship is analyzed in detail. Focus is placed on the historiographic tension created by the ownership of resource use-rights by multiple kinship lineages and the simultaneous possession of territorial sovereignty by Algonquian polities. Attention is then turned towards the early colonial New England context and the incorporation of Eastern Long Island Algonquians into the nascent English tributary chiefdom following the Pequot War. Focus is placed on the particular connection between sovereign authority and the preeminence of a single lineage of sachems among Eastern Long Island Algonquians, who ruled over a cohesive polity known as the Paumanack ("Land of Tribute"). Turning towards the English settlement of Long Island, it is argued that the planting of English colonists proceeded as Long Island sachems surrendered partial use-rights over those resources least essential for the reproduction of their authority. Confronted directly is the notion that English settlers and Algonquian sachems misunderstood one another's concepts of property ownership from within a usufruct/fee-simple binary. An emphasis is placed on conceptualizing English 'property' acquisitions, and those resources retained by the Long Island Algonquians after 1636, as necessarily limited due to the English Empire's overarching demand for sovereignty. The work concludes with an analysis of coercion within the Paumanack and local customs of lineage and inheritance, which are argued to be cognatic with a preference for patrlineage.



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