Dispossession: Indigenous Land Loss in Plymouth Colony with Dr. Jeremy Bangs

The laboriously inscribed, ink-stained title deeds tell the story the colonists wanted them to tell: the legal acquisition of thousands of acres of land, defensible in British law and their own ideas of legality. Deed expert Dr. Jeremy Bangs, author of numerous works on land sales, offers us his unparalleled knowledge of early New England, the land sales and title deeds that ended in almost complete Indigenous dispossession. Click here for an 85-minute video of his presentation by the Partnership of Historic Bostons on October 8, 2022 in which Sowams Heritage Area Coordinator Dr. David Weed poses a question in the chat about the replacement of the tribal name “Pokanoket” with “Wampanoag” (see lower left photo) at 1:03:22 in the video.

Lance Young (above, left), Sachem of the Nemasket Nation, introduces Dr. Bangs (above, right), former curator of the Leiden Pilgrim Documents Center, chief curator of Plimoth Plantation, visiting curator of manuscripts at Pilgrim Hall Museum, and visiting distinguished professor of art history at the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, before becoming director of the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum in 1997. His book, Indian Deeds – Land Transactions in Plymouth Colony, 1620-1691, presents 400 transcribed deeds documenting the transfer of land from sachems to the colony and then to individual colonists, preceded by an analytical introduction of 225 pages discussing the historical circumstances of native land loss.

In this presentation, Dr. Bangs explores the forces that led, regardless of the ethics of individual legal transfers, to what was ultimately an almost complete loss of Native land in Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts. (Above, left and center) Dr. Bangs worked with hundreds of Plymouth Colony documents that had not previously been researched which revealed that the Pokanokets and other tribes had a clear concept of land ownership.

Strangers and Pilgrims, Travellers and Sojourners – Leiden and the Foundations of Plymouth Plantation (2009) studies the Pilgrim congregation and colony from its origins in England and development in The Netherlands to its early years in New England.

He shows us his new research, maps of Plymouth showing the steady and devastating transfer of land from Native people to colonists, including ma showing the Massasoits Osamequin and Philip’s Pokanoket territory in yellow (left and middle map, above) and the Sowams area (above, right).