QUERY: Recommendations for literature on indigenous American history in the Chesapeake region

Helen  Kilburn's picture

Dear all, 

I hope you are well.

I am currently working on some research into Roman Catholic missions amongst indigenous Americans in the Chesapeake at the point of contact in the seventeenth century. My focus is belief, spirituality and religious practice but I am interested in moving beyond the "true conversion" paradigm towards what Vine Deloria Jr. describes as recognising the inherent, constant processes of renewal within indigenous belief systems. For this reason, I am interested in learning more about belief amongst the Chesapeake first nations, especially at the point of contact. Ideally, I would like to read more about religious belief as it is remembered and understood in the indigenous tradition rather than presented in colonial sources. However, until now I have struggled to find very much literaure on this topic. I would therefore be grateful if anyone could point me in the right direction. Thus far, I have:

Alice Ferguson, Henry Ferguson. The Piscataway Indians of southern Maryland (1960).

Helen Rountree -- a number of publications on indigenous Americans in Maryland and Virginia.

C A Weslage -- a number of publications on the Nanticoke. 

Stephen R. Potter, Commoners, tribute and chiefs. (1993)

Michael Humphries, Principal tribes of the Algonquian language stock found in Maryland along the Chesapeake Bay region. (1979)


Thank in advance. 

Dr. Helen Kilburn. 

Hi Helen,
I would look into work by Malinda Maynor Lowery and also the very recent dissertation of Ashley Minner - UMD, who works on the Lumbee who migrated from NC to Baltimore.

Psyche Williams-Forson, PhD
Associate Professor and Chair
Department of American Studies
1328E Tawes
University of Maryland College Park
College Park, MD 20742
301-405-6931 or 301-405-1354

Dear Helen,

In addition to the sources mentioned above (Malinda Maynor Lowery's work is phenomenal!), here are some classic studies of Indigenous sacred traditions in the Chesapeake region during the colonial era:

Patricia Galloway, ed., Southeastern Ceremonial Complex: Artifacts and Analysis (1989)

Charles Hudson and Carmen Chaves Tesser, eds., Forgotten Centuries: Indians and Europeans in the American South, 1521-1704 (1994)

Gregory Waselkov, Peter Wood, and Tom Hatley, eds., Powhatan's Mantle: Indians in the Colonial Southeast (1989/2006, 2nd ed.)

Here's an excellent example of how Indigenous communities tell their own stories in their own words: Linwood Little Bear Custalow and Angela L. Silver Star Daniel, The True Story of Pocahontas: The Other Side of History (2007).

Another way to get around the silences and biases of colonial sources is to think about space. Here's a scholar who does that: Matin Gallivan, "Powhatan’s Werowocomoco: Constructing Place, Polity, and Personhood in the Chesapeake, C.E. 1200–C.E. 1609." American Anthropologist 109.1 (2001): 85-100. DOI: 10.1525/AA.2007.109.1.85.

Good luck with your project!

Allison Margaret Bigelow
Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese
University of Virginia, en la tierra del pueblo Monacan

Dear Allison and Psyche,

Thank you both very much for your recommendations! They are most helpful and I truly appreciate you taking the time to help me with this research.

Thanks and kind regards,