Points of Conflict vs. Points of Contact Essay

931 Words Apr 2nd, 2015 4 Pages
Points of Contact vs. Points of Conflict

In attempting to construct a narrative about a particular group of people, historians sometimes encounter difficulty in getting beyond either the characteristics with which members of the group might use to identify with one another or the characteristics that outsiders of the group might use to identify the group’s members (characteristics such as race, ethnicity, class, nationality, etc…). Such a challenge is compounded for the historian studying Colonial America, as North American Indian groups in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries did not leave the kinds of written sources usually needed to write extensive narratives about Indian economic, political, legal, and cultural practices. Of
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For example, Alfred A. Cave’s “Who Killed John Stone? A Note on the Origins of the Pequot War” remarks that “since the payment of wampum in Algonkian custom was a means of atoning for murders as well as obtaining the protection of a stronger power,” Pequot sachems who sent wampum to Boston after Stone’s murder in 1634 probably (and mistakenly) thought they had provided the proper legal remedy for Stone’s death (517). Likewise, in Evan Haefeli’s article on “Kieft’s War and the Cultures of Violence in Colonial America,” the author notes that “the war’s worst killing began with a clash of methods for dealing with murder” (23). While New Netherland officials operated with conceptions of a legal framework in which those in authority enjoyed some degree of police powers within their jurisdiction, the local sachems “did not have coercive power over their people” (26). We later gain even more insight into the legal and political expectations of the Indians around New Amsterdam when, following a brief period of peace, they again waged war against the Dutch because “too many people had been killed in the massacres for Kieft’s meager presents to satisfy the sachems” (30). Here, then, were instances in which the degree of difference

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