Dr. Charlotte Carrington-Farmer, Assistant Professor of History at Roger Williams University, in Bristol, Rhode Island, examines various aspects of Native American life, including the time before the colonists arrived and the immediate impact of colonization. Her talk was presented in conjunction with the exhibition Art and Industry in Early America: Rhode Island Furniture, 1650–1830 at the Yale University Art Gallery on September 30, 2016.
Using an ethnohistorical approach and a range of sources—including written documents, oral traditions, and surviving artifacts, Dr. Carrington-Farmer began her talk with maps of tribes throughout America before colonial settlement.
Following an explanation of a variety of Indigenous origin stories, Dr. Carrington-Farmer went on to describe colonial views of the effect of the epidemics of 1616-1619 that killed up to 90% of the tribal populations in New England.
Dr. Carrington-Farmer concludes by discussing how Roger Williams viewed the Native population both before and after the King Philip War of 1676-1678. Even as the colony (and later the state) of Rhode Island tried to write indigenous peoples out of the official record, indigenous agency and identity persisted in the region through the 17th and 18th centuries.