Christine DeLucia first arrived at the Newberry as a participant in the 2011 Spring Workshop in Research Methods, an annual program organized by the Newberry Consortium in American Indian Studies (NCAIS). This three-day workshop helps graduate students working in Native studies and related fields develop the skills necessary to conduct critical archival research.
“Archives often were made with colonial intentions,” DeLucia explains, “but [today] we are approaching them with different questions.” These questions include asking what isn’t in the archive as much as what is, and critically examining how archival scholarship can be informed by other disciplines to fill those gaps and amplify previously unheard voices.
Just months after her workshop experience, DeLucia returned to the Newberry for a 2011 fellowship. She was conducting research for what eventually became her award-winning book Memory Lands: King Philip’s War and the Place of Violence in the Northeast, published in 2018. This project took twelve years from start to publication and included research visits to more than 150 archival and museum institutions, as well as long drives, hikes, and canoe trips to relevant sites.
Memory Lands employs an unconventional place-based methodology to reconsider the violent seventeenth-century conflict known as King Philip’s War. Fought across what is now known as New England between 1675 and 1678, the war takes its name from the English title of Pokanoket Wampanoag leader Metacom, who led an alliance of Indigenous Algonquian tribes against encroaching Euro-American settlers and their Native allies. Although the Algonquian alliance won a string of initial victories, the alliance was ultimately defeated, paving the way for further Euro-American expansion into the Northeast.
The violence devastated Indigenous and settler communities alike. However, the voices of the latter have dominated northeastern histories, entrenching narratives that position the Pilgrims as the heroes and that minimize Algonquian experiences and continued presence.
To shift the focus to Indigenous voices, Memory Lands grounds itself in specific places affected by the war, from Boston to Bermuda. It’s an approach that DeLucia says is informed by “Indigenous methodologies [that] often center place as a key pathway to knowledge.” By focusing on places rather than on narratives based on linear time, DeLucia is able to better highlight Indigenous memories and meanings and to present alternatives to the Pilgrim-centric narratives of “progress” that have dominated popular and scholarly discourse for centuries.
Memory Lands is DeLucia’s first book and a great read for all audiences. (You can find a signed copy in the Newberry’s collection.) It is also exemplary of her scholarship. Throughout her research and teaching, she seeks to “build stronger understandings of Indigenous peoples—past and present—and the complex relationships they have developed with place, heritage, and colonization.”
It’s no wonder, then, that in 2018 while working on her second book—an exploration of Native American, African American, and colonial relationships in Revolutionary War-era New England—she returned for a second fellowship.
The Newberry, DeLucia explains, is a unique place that provides scholars “the freedom to read and write in a very broad way… The archive is such an amazing thing, but it’s only a part of a wider constellation of resources.”
At the Newberry that constellation includes its world-renowned collection and library staff as much as other fellows, public program attendees, seminar participants, personal researchers, and you, the donors who make it all possible. Thanks to the support of donors like you, DeLucia not only had extensive access to the collection, a dedicated carrel to work in, and the financial support necessary to devote herself to study, but also the human support of a thriving community that’s just as invested in bringing the archive into conversation with the present as she is.
Your support let DeLucia use her free time to sit in on workshops, watch films at the First Nations Film and Video Festival, and explore topics outside her specialty—all of which strengthened her research projects, directly and indirectly.
Even lunch breaks became a time for scholarship and inquiry. DeLucia fondly recalled many spontaneous lunch breaks taken with Dr. Doug Kiel, a citizen of the Oneida Nation and an Assistant Professor of History at Northwestern University. Like DeLucia, Kiel was conducting research in the Newberry’s collection. Lunch became a time to discuss their projects, developments in their field, and events coming up in the Chicago area.
“It’s really important for me to meet scholars and communities in other places,” DeLucia emphasized when speaking about her time at the Newberry, adding that Chicago has “a lot going on in Native studies… all good things and really energizing.”
Her time at the Newberry and in Chicago informs more than just her scholarship. Back at Williams College, where DeLucia is an Assistant Professor of History, she directed a student interested in researching Indigenous involvement in the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition to Simon Pokagon’s “The Red Man’s Greeting,” a birchwood booklet in which the Potawatomi leader criticizes Fair organizers’ refusal to recognize the area’s original inhabitants. An original printing is preserved in the Newberry’s stacks, 127 years later, and has now been digitized. (Take a look at Digital Newberry.)
Another resource DeLucia found at the Newberry was the D’Arcy McNickle Center for American Indian and Indigenous Studies. The McNickle Center is one of the Newberry’s four research centers and encourages use of the Newberry’s collections in American Indian and Indigenous studies to improve the quality of what is written about American Indian and Indigenous peoples and assist American Indian tribal and Indigenous historians in their research. Through the McNickle Center, DeLucia made connections with Native groups throughout Chicago and the Midwest, academic and non-academic alike.
Dr. DeLucia will be back at the Newberry this July to co-teach the 2020 NCAIS Summer Institute with Dr. Katrina Phillips, an enrolled member of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe and a historian at Macalester College. This year’s institute focuses on “Collaborations and Contestations: Past, Present, and Future Transformations in Indigenous Material Culture, Art, and Performance,” and will bring together graduate students from across North America to engage in the type of intensive research and training that first drew DeLucia to the Newberry back in 2011.
Fellows, librarians, researchers, students, and staff. Public programs, exhibitions, digital resources, and workshops. All of the things that Dr. DeLucia loves about the Newberry and all of the things that make it a place of community, inquiry, and exploration are here because of you. You make it a place that people like Dr. DeLucia keep coming back to. Thank you.
This story is part of the Newberry’s Donor Digest, Winter 2020. In this newsletter the Newberry shares with its donors exciting stories of the success and innovation made possible by their generosity. Learn more about supporting the library and its programs.