A Statement of the Case of the Narragansett Tribe of Indians as Shown in the Manuscript Collection of Sir William Johnson, Now in the Custody of the Honorable Secretary of State of New York at Albany
Newport, RI: Mercury Publishing, 1896.
Newport, RI: Mercury Publishing, 1896. First edition. Original printed wraps rebacked in cloth. Measuring 230 x 145mm. Collating complete in 70 pages and including all five unpaginated folding maps at front. Offsetting to front and rear wraps with chipping and loss to edges of both; evidence of amateur tissue repair to verso of front wrap. Occasional chipping and closed tears to margins, not affecting text; else unmarked and clean. A scarce survivor documenting the historian James N. Arnold's work to support the Narragansett peoples in reclaiming land, it is scarce both institutionally and in trade. OCLC reports 18 copies at libraries, and it has appeared only once at auction (over a century ago, in 1910). No other examples are currently on the market.
Following decades of complex conflict and interaction between white European settlers and the Narragansett peoples indigenous to the region now called Rhode Island, the foundation of the U.S. brought major changes. "The state abolished the position of Sachem, the traditional tribal leader, and took over the affairs of the Tribe with a five-man council in 1792. However, tribal members continued to recognize the Sachems and traditional leadership" (Narragansett Indian Tribe). As settlers infiltrated the land, bringing farming and livestock practices that disrupted Narragansett food sources and reduced tribal lands, the Narragansett peoples faced pressure not only to conform to Waumpeshau (white man) religious and social norms but also to acknowledge and pay Waumpeshau debts created by white Americans' disruption of resources. "By the end of the 18th century, the reservation area had been reduced to 15,000 acres. In 1790, the U.S. Congress introduced and passed the Non-Intercourse Act, which prohibited the taking of Indian lands as payments for debts incurred. However, the intention of this Act was ignored in the 19th century when the State of Rhode Island...illegally 'detribalized' the Narragansett Tribe without federval sanction during the period of 1880-1884" (Narragansett Indian Tribe). Through these actions a white Assembly was put into place that was to operate as guardian to tribal interests, ensuring that any use or sale of land provided proceeds to tribal leaders and peoples.
Resistance and reaction to Rhode Island's action is documented in the present 1896 publication. Here, the self-trained historian and genealogist James Newell Arnold (1844-1927) utilizes the surviving letters of several key 18th century figures, including Sir William Johnson (1715-1774) the first Superintendent of Indian Affairs, to argue that those colonial and U.S. representatives involved in early transactions with the tribe "each showed intentional fraud, or carelessness, or willful ignornce in allowing a state of affairs to continue" through which tribal lands were taken and disposed of without tribal consent. It was on this groundwork that the 19th century theft was committed by the State. "Those papers," Arnold asserts, "show conclusively that the Assembly were in full information of the subject and, as guardians, were knowing to the unlawful disposition of this Indian inheritance." Presenting maps and letters as well as legal analysis, Arnold calls upon the State and Federal government to acknowledge and correct these wrongs.
**A portion of proceeds will be donated to the Narragansett Indian Tribe ** (Item #5376)