Mashantucket Pequot Museum Library and Archives Blog

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Explore Inuit Art

This winter, the Mashantucket Gallery hosts an exhibit of Inuit art from the Heard Museum, Arctic Spirit (December 27 – February 28), which showcases traditional and contemporary art by the indigenous peoples of the Far North. Visitors are encouraged to learn more about this topic through the Museum’s Research Library. We highly recommend the following select titles from our collection.

Arctic spirit: Inuit art from the Albrecht Collection at the Heard Museum / Ingo Hessel. (Research Library – Stacks E 99 .E7 H43 2006)
This handsomely illustrated catalog is a perfect complement to the exhibition of the same name. Visitors will find especially enlightening the artists’ interviews printed within.

Inuit art: an introduction / by Ingo Hessel; photography by Dieter Hessel; with a foreword by George Swinton. (Reading Room- Browsing Collection REF E 99 .E7 H493 1998)
Here is an excellent primer on the various arts of Inuit culture. Touching on sculpture, carving, textile weaving and the graphic arts (drawing, printmaking, and painting), this amply illustrated book provides an overview for those new to the subject. Attention is given to the historical development of these arts and their relation to the broader Inuit culture.

The Inuit imagination: Arctic myth and sculpture / Harold Seidelman & James Turner. (Reading Room – Browsing Collection E 99 .E7 S45 1994)
Combining images of contemporary Inuit sculpture with traditional stories and songs, the author’s demonstrate how closely the art and mythology of the North are interrelated.

Nuvisavik: the place where we weave / edited by Maria Von Finckenstein. (Reading Room – Browsing Collection REF NK 8998 .U66 N88 2002)
A documentation of the exhibit of the same name, this catalog is an informative and visually attractive showcase for the work of the Pangnirtung Tapestry Studio of Baffin Island. The exhibit was produced by the Canadian Museum of Civilization, which was the first touring exhibition of Inuit weaving. Full color images are complemented by a collection of essays which help place the works within their cultural context.

Eskimo masks: art and ceremony / Dorothy Jean Ray; photographs by Alfred A. Blaker. (Research Library – Stacks: E 99 .E7 R28 1967)
Written in 1967, this well researched work presented the topic of Eskimo masks as a comparatively under-represented area of study in Native Alaskan arts. A wide range of diversity is revealed within this single art form: from tiny finger masks to nearly full-body coverings; from realistic portraits to fantasy visions. The authors endeavor to show these mask as an integral part of Eskimo ceremonialism.

Songs in stone [videorecording]: an arctic journey home / Triad Film Productions; directed by John Houston; produced by Peter d’Entremont; written by John Houston and Geoff LeBoutillier. (Video Cabinets VID E 99 .E7 S663 1999)
Shot principally on Baffin Island in the wilds of the Canadian Arctic, this film pays tribute to the sculptors and printmakers of Cape Dorset, providing a sensitive and detailed look at their work.

For even more resources, a bibliography of library materials on Inuit art has been created and is available in the Research Library. The Libraries and Archives are free and open to the public during Museum hours. Contact the Research Library for more information about our resources, 860-396-6897.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Question & Answer: Wampum

An occasional feature, where we post some of the interesting email questions we receive.

Question: I am trying to find out how to make wampum. I have collected the necessary shells and would now like to find a book, article, or some other source to guide me through the process. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

Answer: Thanks for contacting us. First I recommend looking at our Wampum Bibliography . The material listed there will give you some background on the history and cultural uses of wampum.

The best source we have on wampum beadmaking is found in:
Orchard, William C. Beads and Beadwork of the American Indians. Museum of the American Indian Heye Foundation. New York. 1975.

This text is also available online as part of the Universal Library Project hosted at Internet Archive:

See the chapter on titled Wampum which includes not only a discussion of the tools used and illustrations of the bead making process, but also valuable historical and cultural information.

As far as the process for belt weaving, a great description of the process can be found on pp.51-55 of:

Morgan, Lewis Henry and Herbert Marshall Lloyd. League of the Ho-dé-no-sau-nee Or Iroquois. Dodd, Mead and Company, 1901.

Available online from Google Books:
The most common width was 3 fingers or the width of 7 beads, the length ranging from 2 to 6 feet. In belt-making, which is a simple process, eight strands or cords of bark thread are first twisted from filaments of slippery elm, of the requisite length and size; after which they are passed through a strip of deerskin to separate them at equal distances from each other in parallel lines. A splint is then sprung in the form of a bow, to which each end of the several strings is secured, and by which all of them are held in tension, like warp threads in a weaving machine. Seven beads, these making the intended width of the belts, are then run upon a thread by means of a needle, and are passed under the cords at right angles, so as to bring one bead lengthwise between each cord and the one next in position. The thread is then passed back along the upper side of the cords, and again through each of the beads; so that each bead is held firmly in its place by means of the two threads, one passing under and one over the cords. This process is continued until the belt reaches its intended length, when the ends of the cords are tied, the end of the belt covered and afterwards trimmed with ribbons. In ancient times both the cords and the threads were of sinew.
Email your questions to: reference [at]

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Giving Thanks: Thoughts on Native Thanksgivings from the Children’s Library

November…Native Americans…Thanksgiving Day…Why do these terms seem to go together? Native people and their stories should not be relegated to the fall season-whether in curriculum, text books or storytimes. Not only do the original inhabitants of this land give thanks many times throughout the year, they and others have created a growing body of children’s literature which can and should be read throughout the year and across the curriculum.

“It is our view that, with the possible exception of classroom visits by American Indian people, excellent children’s literature is the most effective way to counter deeply held stereotypes and help children focus on similarities among people as well as cultural differences. The literature serves as a catalyst to extend related activities into other areas of the curriculum.”

Lessons from Turtle Island: Native Curriculum in Early Childhood Classrooms, by Guy W. Jones (Hunkpapa Lakota) and Sally Moomaw, published by Redleaf Press, 2002, p.xii.

To assist people in finding “excellent literature,” the Children’s Library has lists of many books written by American Indians, about themselves and their lives. These materials are important as they provide teachers, parents and children with more accurate information about the cultures, values and beliefs of many tribal nations and people. The books and videos present information not only about the importance of celebrations to Native communities today, but also about the depth and significance of traditional Native gatherings.

Powwows and socials are among the Native American gatherings held throughout the United States and Canada when people come together to celebrate their common heritages and unique cultures. Whether large or small, indoors or outside, powwows are celebrations with dancing, food, crafts, contests, family and friends. Summertime gatherings such as Strawberry Thanksgiving and the Green Corn Festival draw Native people together after having been separated by a long winter. Fall brings harvest celebrations and winter is a time for storytelling. Native American seasonal celebrations play an important role in the reaffirmation of cultures, traditions and communities both in the past and today. We recommend using books on our online bibliographies, including Selected Materials about Native American Thanksgivings, to expand knowledge and understanding of Native cultures.

Teachers, here are some books which will help you update your lesson plans about thanksgiving celebrations and encourage use of Native American materials every month of the year.

Many Thanksgivings: Teaching Thanksgiving-Including the Wampanoag Perspective. The Boston Children’s Museum, 2002.

1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving, by Catherine O’Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac (Abenaki). National Geographic Society, 2001.

Thanksgiving: A Native Perspective, by Doris Seale (Santee/Cree), Beverly Slapin and Carolyn Silverman (Cherokee/Blackfeet). Oyate, 1995.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

That Bloody Question

The Research Library reference desk gets its fair share of unusual requests, as I'm sure any other library does. One of our strangest questions is also a recurring one. Within the past eight months I have been asked three times, "Can I get my blood tested at the library?" They mean a test for DNA analysis in order to prove Native American ancestry. The notion that you could get your blood tested at a library seems slightly less incredible when you consider the high frequency with which we receive questions related to personal genealogical research. Still, I am so taken aback each time I am asked, that I felt pressed to research the issue, if only to arm myself with some knowledge the next time I get the question.

Local genealogy resources

First, to address the issue of our genealogy resources, while the MPMRC library collections have not been developed to support this type of research, we do have a small collection of materials that could help a beginner get started: You may download our bibliography here. Visitors researching family histories from the vicinity of New London County are welcome to use our microfilm collections of census, vital, and land records from this locale. Please contact the library for more details about these records. Most often, we refer patrons with serious genealogical inquiries to the Connecticut State Library or Mystic, Connecticut's Indian & Colonial Research Center, where they have more resources and trained genealogists on staff to help.

Genetic genealogy

Back to the blood test question, genetic genealogy has been a rapidly developing field since breakthroughs in the late 1990's. It was popularized with the publication of Bryan Sykes' The Seven Daughters of Eve in 2001, and since then a number of commercial enterprises have sprung up offering services by which individuals can genetically verify their ancestral origins. Family Tree DNA, self-described as the first and largest, claims to have "the largest DNA databases in the field of Genetic Genealogy with 216831 records", but there is also, GeneTree, and DNA Heritage, among others. Prices for most of these tests appear to range from $100-$200.

No blood required

According to the International Society of Genetic Genealogy, "Commercial DNA testing companies utilize saliva/buccal cell sampling via swabs and various other collection containers." A typical DNA kit contains a Q-Tip type cotton swab, some instructions, and a return envelope.

What can the test tell you?

These companies get their results from matching your DNA structure against those of other samples in their database. Again from ISOGG, "If there are any matches in the database of the testing company, it will show the people you match. Depending upon the company you test with, other information may be made available to you, like your ethnic origin, [including] Native American ancestry." Test results also typically include certificates, charts, graphs, migration maps of ancestors, and in the case of Native Americans, a map of tribal origins.

For more information see:

International Society of Genetic Genealogy's FAQ:

Jobling, Mark; Chris Tyler-Smith (Aug, 2003). "The human Y chromosome: an evolutionary marker comes of age" . Nature Reviews Genetics 4: 599–612. Nature Publishing Group.

Shriver, Mark D. & Rick A. Kittles "Genetic Ancestry and the Search for Personalized Genetic Histories." Nature Reviews. Genetics (2004) 5:8: 611-18.

Genetic Genealogy on Wikipedia:

Update 5/29/2005: We continue to find interesting articles on this topic online. Please see our bookmarks at

Friday, October 17, 2008

Discovering Online Historic Documents

Primary source documents play a key role in researching Native American-colonial interactions in early American history. Todays researchers have the advantage free, immediate access to primary source material. In this blog post, we will explore some of the free primary source repositories available online, and highlight some of the sources most relevant to the study of early Native American history in Southern New England.

Works published in the United States before 1923 are said to be in the public domain and may therefore legally be reproduced, republished and distributed in any form. Fortunately there are many institutions with the resources, either onsite or cooperatively, to not only digitize the original material, but also to provide the platform for entire web-accessible digital libraries. These may be academic institutions (such as University of Nebraska-Lincoln's "Digital Commons"), government agencies ("American Memory" from Library of Congress), cooperative non-profit ventures (Internet Archive or Project Gutenberg), or,as in the case of Google Books, a commercial enterprise adding value to its signature product.

Using the aforementioned digital repositories, I have located some of the primary source documents that are most frequently referenced here at the museum, in relation to early Native-colonial interactions in Southern New England. In doing so, I have found it best to diversify the search across several different sites, as you will encounter gaps in one collection that will be made up for in another. Also, learning the differences in user interfaces across different platforms reveal some to be more useful than others, depending on your personal search habits and expectations. For example, while keyword searching across titles is a common feature to all, Google Books has the advantage of results returned in a general Google search; and the Internet Archive and Project Gutenberg texts are described with Library of Congress Subject Headings for those accustomed to searching by these headings in library catalogs.

Another feature to look for and take advantage of is the availability of full text keyword searching. I recently used this feature to find a reference to Cantantowit, a figure in Algonquin folklore, which was remembered to be mentioned in the Roger Williams' A Key Into the Language of America- but where? We found it much more quickly by searching the digital text, than we would have thumbing through pages. Note that some PDF documents are not searchable, so alternatively look for an ASCII text version (ASCII documents can be opened in common desktop applications like Microsoft Word or Notepad).

The following is a list of primary source documents available online which directly support the focus of the Mashantucket Pequot Research Library, selected from a representative sample of different hosting sites. Of course, all of these sites may be used to broaden the scope to other topics in Amercian History, or other fields of study.

Sources consulted in the creation of this article

Stanford University Libraries - CopyRight and Fair Use Overview. Chapter 8: Public Domain

Primary Source Sites on the Internet

Repositories of Primary Sources

How the Open Source Movement Has Changed Education: 10 Success Stories

Internet Archive

Project Gutenberg

Google Books

Digital Commons at University of Nebraska - Lincoln

The Colonial Connecticut Records Project

Friday, October 3, 2008

Question & Answer: Iroquois Tattoos

As an occasional feature, we will post some of the interesting email questions we receive.

Question: I am currently writing a novel that focuses on the role the Iroquois played in the American Revolution. Consequently, I want to include as many accurate details as possible about the Iroquois of that time. One of these concerns Iroquois tattoos. What designs would have been common and were there more likely areas of the body to be tattooed? Any help you could give me with these questions would be greatly appreciated.

Answer: Thanks for contacting us. This passage, mentioning an Iroquois warrior’s thigh tattoos, is famously quoted in the article Sinclair, A.T. “Tattooing of the North American Indians“ (American Anthropologist 1909/11, No. 3, p. 362-400):

“Near this place we surprised the Captain General of the Iroquois, surnamed Nero by our Frenchmen who have been in their country, because of his notorious cruelty. This in time past has led him to sacrifice to the shade of a brother of his, slain in war, eighty men, burning them all at a slow fire, and to kill sixty more with his own hand. He keeps the tally of these on his thigh, which consequently appears to be covered with black characters.” --Source: The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, Vol. XLVIII. Lower Canada, Ottawas: 1662 — 1664.

You should also take a look at the famous "Four Indian Kings" portraits painted by John Verelst in 1710 which show historically accurate Iroquois facial and body tattoos. (A set of prints are part of the MPMRC's archival collection, though images of them can also be found online- here's one resource.) The four "Kings” were sachems representing the Five Nations Confederacy of the Iroquois (Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga, and Mohawk) who visited Queen Anne's court to ask for military assistance against the French.

For an historical and cultural analysis of the paintings, see the following two articles from MPMRC's CrossPaths magazine.

Campisi, Jack. “More Than Meets the Eye: John Simon’s Engravings of the Four Kings.” Cross Paths Fall 2002:4,10-11.

Cook, Stephen. “The Art and Material Culture of the Four Indian Kings Paintings.” Cross Paths Fall 2002: 5, 12.

I hope this information is of some help and good luck with your novel.

Email your questions to: reference [at]

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Reading Circles at MPMRC, Summer 2008

Over the summer, the Research Library hosted two book discussion groups featuring works by Native American authors. We would like to thank all those who participated for making these events a success.

Our next Reading Circle will be held on October 18 from 2:30-4 pm, when we will focus on Louise Erdrich's The Painted Drum. The discussion will be led by Lynne Williamson, director of the Connecticut Cultural Heritage Arts Program at the Institute for Community Research. To register, call (860) 396-6897.

Below are some pictures of the two previous Reading Circles. If you missed them, both sessions have been recorded to audio CD and may be listened to in the Research Libary.

Joyce Vincent, Associate Director of Native American Student Services at UMass Amherst leading the discussion on Sherman Alexie's Indian Killer.

Ron Welburn, UMass Amherst, discussing Bowman's Store by Joseph Bruchac on August 13, 2008.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Resources for Researching Indian Law

(Adapted from: Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, Office of the Secretary of the Tribal Council,

This is a brief summary of the tools and resources available for researching decisions of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court and Court of Appeals and the Tribal laws. In addition, this guide contains information and suggestions on researching other tribal court decisions and Federal Indian law in general.

Mashantucket Pequot Tribe
Tribal Laws
The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Laws presently are published by the Tribal Court in a set containing the general laws, the Probate Code and Rules of Court. Our call number: REF KF8228.P53 A5

The laws are also available online at . This web site is updated as new laws are enacted or amendments to existing laws are made. The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Laws can also be accessed through the web site of the State of Connecticut’s Judicial Branch at

Tribal Court Decisions
The decisions of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court and the Court of Appeals are published in the Mashantucket Pequot Reporter (call no. REF KF 8228 .P53 A43), a multi-volume set updated 4 times a year. The decisions are also available for your reference at the Tribal Courthouse and at Connecticut State Libraries, including the Courthouse libraries in New London and Norwich.

Another source for obtaining Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court decisions can be found online at . Versus Law offers a subscription-based database which allows keyword and phrase searching for tribal court decisions, including decisions from the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and the Mohegan Gaming Disputes Court.

Some of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court decisions also can be obtained through the State of Connecticut’s Judicial Branch at

Additionally, the National Tribal Justice Resource Center website offers links to
various tribal laws and decisions, including some of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court decisions .

Other Tribal Courts and Laws
The Indian Law Reporter (call no. REF KF 8201 .A3 I5), is a monthly publication with a subject index, that collects cases concerning Indian law and Tribal law from federal, state and tribal courts from 1975 through the present.

The Native American Law Digest (call no. REF KF 8203.1 .N38) is another resource for obtaining Tribal Court decisions. The Digest is a monthly publication that summarizes legal
decisions and discusses legal developments in the Native American community.

Decisions and laws from other tribes can be obtained through the Tribal Court Clearinghouse at and from the National Tribal Justice Resource Center website at . These websites provide information concerning tribal court decisions, tribal codes and constitutions for Native American and Alaskan Native tribal
justice systems, along with links to other resources such as federal and state laws, Indian Law Reviews, supreme court decisions, and pending federal legislation.

Federal Indian Law
There are several treatises and casebooks concerning Federal Indian Law. The leading treatise in this area is Felix S. Cohen’s Handbook of Federal Indian Law (call no. REF KF 8205 .C6 1982). Some other good references are William C. Canby’s American Indian Law in a Nutshell (REF KF 8205 .Z9 C36 2004) and Cases and Materials on Federal Indian Law, published by Thompson/West (call no. REF KF 8204.5 .G47 2005)

Native American Report (Research Library - Serials Stacks) is an independent news source on Native American issues that covers legislative updates, litigation, federal news, the Federal Register, and funding opportunities.

In addition to searching via Internet, computer-assisted legal research services such as Westlaw (fee-based) are available. Westlaw provides access to federal and state cases, statutes, and administrative regulations through searchable databases. Specifically, Westlaw has a database called Native American Law in which cases, statutes, and rules can be accessed, as well as law reviews and periodicals relating to Indian law. Title 25 of the United States Code (25 U.S.C.) and Title 25 of the Code of Federal Regulations (25 C.F.R.) contain the majority of federal statutes and regulations concerning Indians.

Another source for receiving updates on current legal issues in Indian Country can be found
at various web sites, including and .