Two of the most famous Native Americans in early colonial history may well have met in London. Matoaka, nicknamed Pocahontas, who lived near the Jamestown settlement in Virginia and Tisquantum, better known as Squanto, who greeted the Pilgrims in Plymouth, Massachusetts, were apparently living near other in the English capital in late 1616. Pocahontas and Squanto were both part of a small and complexly entwined commercial community of merchants, sea captains, and maritime entrepreneurs, whose ventures spanned the globe. The two Native Americans were kidnapped in America within a year of each other and eventually came to England, where they were welcomed enthusiastically. Although there is, as yet, no documentation to prove that such a meeting took place, circumstantial evidence suggests that they met when they were staying only a few hundred yards down the street from each other in the homes of men with interlocking business interests. Although the histories of Jamestown and Plymouth are usually treated as separate chapters in most narratives of American history, they were closely linked. Continue reading →
Coll Thrush, Indigenous London: Native Travelers at the Heart of Empire (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016).
Wander through the Museum of London’s rich galleries, glowing with relics and rites of Roman Londinium, and you’ll spot scraps of the city’s wall half-strewn along the route. Burned in bits or eaten by age, the red-and-white brick arches splay out like the broken teeth of empire, grinding a crooked grin in today’s cityscape. Amid the tidy exhibits and visitors’ whirl, it’s a graphic reminder of what London was and how it has weathered so many centuries’ toll. But, as Coll Thrush’s Indigenous London asks us, “The audience of a museum is always / another sort of collection…Indigenous objects, Indigenous eyes—/ Who sees and what is being seen?” (p. 135). For the scholar rescuing clues from the built environment, the wall raises a complex set of research queries: Who passed through the city limits, and why? How did diverse travelers experience urban life at a sensory level? What did it mean for indigenous visitors to sample London? And how can we expand the historical canon of voices who tell that story in the early modern era? Continue reading →
Today Coll Thrush speaks with The Junto about his most recent book, Indigenous London: Native Travelers at the Heart of Empire, which examines that city’s history through the experiences of Indigenous travelers—willing or otherwise—from territories that became the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. A graduate of Fairhaven College at Western Washington University and the University of Washington, Coll Thrush is Professor of History at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver in unceded Coast Salish territories, and affiliate faculty at UBC’s Institute for Critical Indigenous Studies. He is the author of Native Seattle: Histories from the Crossing-Over Place, which won the 2007 Washington State Book Award for History/Biography, and was re-released as a tenth-anniversary second edition in early 2017. He is also co-editor with Colleen Boyd of Phantom Past, Indigenous Presence: Native Ghosts in North American History & Culture. His article “City of the Changers: Indigenous People and the Transformation of Seattle’s Watersheds” was named Best Article of 2006 by the Urban History Association, and his article “Vancouver the Cannibal: Cuisine, Encounter, and the Dilemma of Difference on the Northwest Coast, 1774-1808” won the Robert F. Heizer prize for best article of 2011 from the American Society for Ethnohistory. During the 2013-2014 academic year, he was a visiting fellow at the Institute for Historical Research of the University of London and an Eccles Centre Fellow in North American Studies at the British Library. After the completion of Indigenous London, Coll will return to writing about the Northwest Coast of North America with a book project entitled SlaughterTown, a history-memoir examining trauma, memory, silence, and landscape in Coast Salish territories and his hometown of Auburn, Washington—formerly known as Slaughter. Continue reading →
We’ve covered Columbus Day here at the blog before. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to distill academic rage and indignation into something short, pithy, and easily conveyed to undergraduates. I tend to resort to YouTube clips when I’m feeling particularly shouty. So I’d like to issue a call: what videos do you use to teach Columbus Day (or other prickly issues)? Please include a link and a short description of the video + how you use it. Continue reading →
It’s been another marvelous week for early American history. First, we saw the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. As John Fea notes, the exact wording of the speech has been causing trouble; Barack Obama has been accused of refusing to read a crucial passage. The AP’s Allen G. Breed investigated the various drafts of the speech and, with help from Martin P. Johnson, discussed their significance to American journalism. On SNL, though, Mr. Jebediah Atkinson had harsh words to say about the address.