Readings & Assignments

 “I hope to completely revise the way I teach early American history by using the site as a way to look at pre-contact life, patterns of colonization and early New England life.”

NEH Summer Scholars will receive required readings, including the book “Captors and Captives”  prior to the workshop and will be asked to read them before to arriving in Deerfield. They will be asked to obtain “The Unredeemed Captive” on their own.



Topic: An Introduction to “Place” An early evening gathering at the summit of mount sugarloaf provides stunning, panoramic views of the broad agricultural landscape of the mid-Connecticut River Valley that people have called home for over 9,000 years.  In this landscape colonial peoples lived on the edge of empire.  We can imagine small English settlements nestled by the Connecticut River on ancestral Wôbanaki (Abenaki/Pocumtuck) homelands, attracted by what is to this day prized as some of the world’s most fertile soil. The view to the west encompasses much of the Pocumtuck homeland where generations planted, fished and gathered, and where they traded with European newcomers–Dutch, English, and French.

Readings: Teachers will read chapters from William Cronon’s seminal work, Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists and the Ecology of New England.  This interdisciplinary study illuminates how human agency by Native peoples and English settlers transformed the landscape.


Topic: Between Empires: Colonial New England An introduction to the multicultural social, political, and economic context that placed Deerfield at the crossroads of international conflict at the turn of the 18th century. Beginning with an over-view of the Raid of 1704 and its tactical elements, Professor Kevin Sweeney will address the roots of the conflict that involved English, French, Kanienkehaka (Mohawk), Wendat (Huron), and Wôbanaki (including Pocumtuck) people, and how the Raid was part of the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714) and an ongoing struggle for domination of North America by England and France. This centuries-old European rivalry helped to fuel parallel wars with the Wôbanaki and alliances with the French among northern Mohawks and Hurons.

Readings: Captors and Captives discusses Native, French, and English perspectives on the 1704 Raid on Deerfield and places it in its social, political and economic colonial context. Scholar essays: “Explanations”; “English Colonization”; “European Land Use and the Transformation of the Northeast” from the Raid on Deerfield: The Many Stories of 1704 website; and “Furnishing the Frontier” guide to the Flynt exhibit.


Topic: Alliance and Conflict: Colonial and Native Perspectives Professor Margaret Bruchac, a Wôbanaki and scholar, (University of Pennsylvania) will provide an overview of early Native history, including the important understanding that indigenous peoples were and are separate nations and cultures. Professor Bruchac’s lively discussion of Native American 18th c. culture and lifeways will help participants better understand Native perspectives of interaction among Native groups and Europeans. The discussion will include spiritual beliefs, economic and political world views, and gender roles and their impact on events, including those preceding the Deerfield Raid and its aftermath.

Readings: Colin Calloway’s The Abenakis and the Anglo-French Borderlands discusses the wide range of relationships Abenakis maintained with both English and French people that often countered wider Anglo-French imperial tensions.  Scholar Essays: (“Explanations”) from the 1704 Website; “English Puritanism”; “Epidemics and Social Disorder”; “French Catholicism”; “French Colonization”; “Native Diaspora and New Communities”; “Native Land Use and Settlements in the Northeastern Woodlands”; “Schaghticoke and Points North: Wôbanaki Resistance and Persistence.”


Topic: “Traveling in contested territory”: Field Excursion Teachers, staff and the lead scholar will  travel by bus four miles to the Peskeompskut archaeological site which, for generations was a gathering place where Native people fished at a large falls on the Connecticut River. In 1676, during Metacom’s War, the Natives suffered devastation in a pre-dawn attack by the English militia from Deerfield on Peskeopmskut, with 300 Native elders, women, and children killed. This brutal attack was one of several that left a legacy of hostility among Native peoples, setting the stage for the Raid of 1704. Dr. Kevin McBride, Peskeomskut Site Archaeologist, assisted by the site’s project director, will provide an overview of the project – a collaboration of 6 Native nations, recently funded by the National Park Service.  Traversing the rugged landscape of the ancient Native encampment along a deep ravine on the trail believed to be the original Native pathway; Dr. McBride and site staff will share highlights of the site and what it reveals about the lives of Native people at this time.

We will then travel to The Fort at No. 4, a living history site at a restored English fort in Charlestown, New Hampshire. Fort No. 4 was one of a line of forts constructed to defend English settlements from attack by the French and Native allies in the decades following the Raid on Deerfield. Wendalyn Baker, director of Fort No. 4, will share insights into the frontier experience for civilians living in a fortified community, as well as strategies for using historical sites to teach the colonial period.

The day also features an introduction to the discipline of historical archaeology. Drawing on his work in creating field experiences for educators and K-12 students, archeologist Aaron Miller will lead hands-on analysis of artifacts from a nearby Fort in tandem with documentary evidence.  Such artifacts reveal settlers responses to the perceived French and Native threat as they strove to maintain their “Englishness” while struggling to survive on the frontier.

Readings: The introduction and chapters 6-8 of The Line of Forts: Historical Archaeology on the Colonial Frontier of Massachusetts, by Dr. Michael Coe provide context for our field day explorations.


Topic: Slavery and Captivity in Early New England Professor Joanne Melish, (University of Kentucky) will explore categories of unfreedom in the complicated social landscape of early New England.  She will discuss early enslavement of Native people in New England as a consequence of 17th c. conflicts with European settlers; the emergence of the Atlantic slave trade and the arrival of enslaved Africans in New England; and resulting North American and global commercial relations and competitions.  The lives of Parthena and Frank, slaves known to be living in Deerfield in 1704, bring this topic to life.

Evening program: Teachers will gather for a tavern meal of colonial foods, period music, song, and dance. Teachers will learn the integral role of the tavern in colonial communities, through taste, touch, and fun.  They will examine period artwork, sing, and dance to live colonial music, and read the rules and regulations governing this important town institution.

Readings: “Slavery in a New England Town” essay in PVMA’s Guide of Deerfield African American Sites; and Joanne Melish’s essay “Slavery and the Slave Trade in Colonial New England”.


Topic: Captivity and Legacies Professor John Demos (Yale University) will share his research into the experience of one of the most famous captive stories of the Deerfield Raid. His popular book, The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America was the first sustained scholarly effort to trace and interpret the captivity of Eunice Williams (1696-1785), the daughter of Deerfield’s minister, and its impact, not only on Eunice and her two families (Mohawk and English) but also the meaning and legacies of this event into the present day.  Following Professor Demos, Professor Margaret Bruchac will return to share Native perspectives on themes of captivity and bridging of cultures in the 18th c. and beyond. Eunice and her Native husband made several visits to her English brother, also a former captive, and her 19th century descendants visited their “Deerfield cousins”.  These visits were remembered as family history and were shared by Elizabeth Sadoques, a descendant of Eunice, with the PVMA in 1922.  Contact between the families and communities has continued to the present day.

Readings: John Demos’, The Unredeemed Captive, tells the compelling story of Eunice Williams as a micro-history of English, French, and Native conflict and reconciliation.  Margaret Bruchac’s “Revisiting Pocumtuck History in Deerfield” offers evidence of the Pocumtuck people’s presence in 17th, 18th, and 19th c. Deerfield and points to the historical erasures that have obscured our understanding of the indigenous history, and how this legacy has persisted into the 21st century.