Sunday, December 28, 2008

Red Man Dispossessed

How did the Indians at Stockbridge, Massachusetts lose their land? That question is addressed by Lion Miles in an article that appeared in the New England Quarterly in 1994 and was later re-printed as part of a book called "New England Encounters." The title of his article, "The Red Man Dispossessed: The Williams Family and the Alienation of Indian Land in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 1736-1818," reveals who the true villians were in the process.

The article is largely summed up when Miles states "Ephraim Williams, his son Elijah, and designing European traders cheated the Indians out of their land"(on page 75). The period of time which Miles refers to as "the great land grab" didn't begin until after Jonathan Edwards was no longer the missionary. John Sergeant [Sr.], Edwards and Timothy Woodbridge, the schoolteacher, advocated for the Indians, ensuring that the great land grab didn't begin until the end of the 1759. (But, as you may also read in Miles' article and elsewhere, Edwards, Woodbridge, and John Sergeant each also received sizable parcels of land when the mission town was being set up.)

There was a court system in place that was supposed to protect the Indians from fraud, but unfortunately, Miles explains, as the Sheriff of Berkshire County, Elijah Williams, had a conflict of interest. His purchases of Indian land made him "a very wealthy man"(page 70).

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