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Collection Scope and Content Note

The Stockbridge Indian Papers

In June 1979 a delegation of Native Americans from the Stockbridge-Munsee Historical Library Museum spent a week at the Huntington Free Library surveying its manuscript collection of Stockbridge Indian Papers. In many ways this visit represents the full circle that interest in this collection, which documents Stockbridge Indian history from the late 1700s through the first decade of the twentieth century, has taken since the Library began to acquire historical documents from the Stockbridge and other sources in the 1920s. Miss Mabel Choate, a wealthy Stockbridge, Massachusetts resident, was the original donor, giving the majority of the papers identified as the "Quinney", "Tousey", or "Miller" collections to the Museum's budding Library. Other documents were purchased from collectors, notably Paul Warner, who obtained examples of Stockbridge material culture for the Museum, as well.

Anthropologists were also interested in this eastern Algonquian group now living on a reservation in Wisconsin. Alanson Skinner, who worked for the Milwaukee Public Museum and the Museum of the American Indian, studied the Stockbridge and collected artifacts for both institutions. And information about the Stockbridge Indians began to appear in Museum of the American Indian publications, starting with the reproduction of A Letter from the Revd Mr. Sergeant of Stockbridge, to Dr. Colman of Boston (Boston, 1743; reprinted May, 1929) from a document in the private library of Thea Heye, wife of the founder of the Museum. Articles also appeared in Indian Notes, the Museum's quarterly publication, around this time. Museum staff members F.W. Hodge and W.C. Orchard authored "John W. Quinney's Coat," and librarian Ruth Gaines wrote "The Stockbridge Conversion" in 1929 and 1930 respectively. The last Museum publication about the Stockbridge to appear was Report on the Oneida, Stockbridge and Brotherton Indians, 1796, by Jeremy Belknap and Jedidiah Morse (Indian Notes and Monographs, Misc. no. 54, 1955). This publication was taken directly from a manuscript included in the original Choate donation. It was edited by Edwin K. Burnett, the assistant director of the Museum, whose interest in developing the Library's collection of Stockbridge papers spanned many years.

Over the years members of the Museum staff increased their involvement with the documentary history of the Stockbridge people by sharing information with other individuals interested in this group. Foremost among these was Roy Robinson, a Chicago resident whose collection of early Stockbridge documents was greatly envied. He corresponded first with director George Heye in 1929, and stayed in contact with the Museum until his death in 1970, when he was writing to Frederick Dockstader, the director of the Museum at that time. Most of his contact, however, was with Edwin Burnett, with whom Robinson maintained an ongoing correspondence about Stockbridge issues as they were reflected in both collections for more than two decades. All efforts to obtain his collection for the Museum Library, however, were to no avail.

Arrangement of the documents has occupied Museum and Library staff throughout the years. Under Burnett's supervision they were carefully annotated, arranged in chronological order, and stored in individual folders during the 1940s. Even though the Library did not obtain Robinson's collection, annotations of his papers were interspersed throughout the Library's own listing, alerting researchers that these documents were extant, if not available. At some time a card index was prepared of all the personal names appearing in the collection. (Unfortunately, it was not unearthed in time to include it in some form in the microfilm edition; it can, however, be consulted at the Library).

The People From Stockbridge*

When representatives of the Stockbridge-Munsee Historical Library Museum Bernice Miller, Dorothy Davids, Margaret Raasch, and Louis Cornelius visited the Huntington Free Library in the early summer of 1979, they came to survey tribal documents which reflect the travails undergone over the course of 200 years by the Native Americans now known as Stockbridge. Presently residing on and around a reservation near Bowler, Wisconsin, the Stockbridge peoples originally came from the Hudson River area in New York, as well as nearby areas of Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. In the mid-1700s various Mahican groups gathered in an area on the upper Housatonic River to hear the sermons of missionary John Sergeant, who established the mission village of Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Along with increasing numbers of Hudson River Mahican were individuals from the Housatonok, Wapping, Wyachtonok, and other Connecticut groups. Sergeant opened a school, preached to his parishioners in the Mahican tongue, and translated several religious works into that language. His assistant in these translations was John Quanakaunt or Quinney, the first of a family which was to play a pivotal role in the history of the Stockbridge people.

Colonial wars depleted and dispersed the Algonquian groups in the Northeast. The Mahican and other tribes residing at Stockbridge sided with the colonists in conflicts during the 1750s and '60s, but loyalty did not protect them from encroachment into their area by White settlers looking for fertile land to farm. Some Stockbridge were persuaded to sell their individual land allotments, and soon they were a minority in their own village. Assistance from the colonial government was not forthcoming, and at the end of the Revolutionary War loyal Stockbridge, who had fought fearlessly for the Patriots, found themselves reduced in number, deprived of land, and living in a village now controlled by White residents. They decided to accept the invitation of the Oneida Iroquois to move to a tract on Oneida Creek in New York, adjoining the Brothertown Indians from coastal New England, a tribe whose movements would parallel those of the Stockbridge for the next century.

Resettlement in New Stockbridge, New York was completed by 1783 and the residents settled down to farming, hunting, attending church (John Sergeant, Jr. was now missionary to the Stockbridge, and had moved to Oneida County with his Mahican parishioners), and educating their children at the mission school. Acculturation, however, began to take its toll and the community split into factions, a problem which would continue to plague it throughout the years. Simply stated, some of the community wished to retain Mahican customs and language, which translated into rejecting White culture and leadership; others, like the Chief Sachem, Hendrick Aupaumut, saw the future of the Stockbridge Nation aligned with that of the Whites. He spoke strongly against alliance with Shawnee chief Tecumseh's anti- White confederacy, using the prestige of the Mahican to serve as an intermediary between the new United States government and midwestern Indian tribes.

Aupaumut, a strong leader, while in favor of continuing his people's adherence to Christianity and education, felt that it would be necessary to move west to escape the influence of both unruly Whites on the frontier, and traditional Oneida nearby. He investigated an offer by the Miami Nation who had permanently reserved part of their territory in the Midwest for their Mahican allies, but delayed taking action on the matter until the end of the War of 1812. The move west to the Miami's area began in 1818 with fewer than 100 Stockbridge, who were accompanied by New Jersey Delaware. When the group reached the White River in Indiana, however, they found the Delaware and Miami residents of the area had been forced to sell the land. Eventually missionaries, commissioned by the War Department, purchased land in Wisconsin for the Stockbridge from the Menominee and Winnebago, and in 1822 John W. Quinney led a group from New Stockbridge, New York to the Fox River in Wisconsin. They were joined by the Indiana wanderers, and in 1829 the last of the New Stockbridge Indian population left New York for Wisconsin and other locations. By 1831 there were over 300 Stockbridge, Delaware, and Munsee Indians living on the Fox River.

Relocation was by no means over for this group, whose members had moved at least twice since the end of the Revolution. First, the Menominee and Winnebago tribes decided they wanted their land back, and the Stockbridge community was moved again-- this time east of Lake Winnebago, where they were joined by Munsee from Canada. The Brothertown established a village near those of the Stockbridge and Munsee. The factionalism which had plagued the Stockbridge in New York resurfaced due to government policies on both the state and federal levels, resulting, for some, in yet another move. Kansas was the next location for some of the more traditional Stockbridge and most of the Munsee, who were attempting to escape White encroachment.

Removal of dissident conservative Stockbridge to Kansas provided only a brief respite for the Wisconsin residents. In 1843 an Act of Congress awarded citizenship and individual land holdings to the Wisconsin Stockbridge, Munsee, and Brothertown Indians. The Brothertown accepted, ending their relationship as a tribe with the federal government. The Stockbridge group split on the issue into the Citizen Party and the Indian Party. These factions would dominate Stockbridge local and national politics for the next fifty years. This period also saw the last relocation of the Stockbridge and incorporated Munsee, who moved once again, after a 1856 treaty with the Menominees, to Bartelme and Red Springs townships in Shawano County, Wisconsin. Some of those Stockbridge who had elected to become citizens did not move.

From their first removal from Massachusetts to New York, until the dawn of the twentieth century, the movements of the Stockbridge were in large part determined by government treaty and policy. By the time they settled in Mohheconnuck (the Stockbridge name for the Shawano County reservation), more than a half dozen treaties had been negotiated between these Native Americans of Mahican origin and the U.S. government. The confusion introduced by both policy and relocation played havoc with internal Stockbridge political structures. The Stockbridge response was consistently to meet these challenges in ways which would allow the group to maintain its integrity--no small accomplishment given the factions within the Stockbridge community and the plethora of conflicting government policies. Early Stockbridge leader Hendrick Aupaumut had set the precedent of conciliation with the white U.S. government while separating the nation from undesirable white influences. During the nineteenth century it served the community well, and the leadership chosen by the Stockbridge implemented this policy with the sophistication expected of political leaders in any arena.

The Stockbridge papers document the challenge faced by those Stockbridge and Munsee chosen to lead the community though a morass of local and national issues. They were confronted by the often conflicting goals of improving the quality of life for the individual families in the community while ensuring the survival of the community as a distinct Native American group. The success of these leaders is demonstrated by the Stockbridge today, who are now undertaking the task of collecting and interpreting records of their past and present.

*Much of the chronology related in this discussion was adapted from Bruce Trigger's Riding on the Frontier's Crest: Mahican Indian Culture and Culture Change. Any problems of interpretation are, of course, my own. mbd.


Brasser, Ted J. Riding on the Frontier's Crest: Mahican Indian Culture and Culture Change. National Museum of Man Mercury series, Ethnology division, no. 13 (Ottawa, 1974).

Belknap, Jeremy and Jedidiah Morse. Report on the Oneida, Stockbridge and Brotherton Indians, 1796. Indian Notes and Monographs, misc. series no. 54 (l955).

Gaines, Ruth, "The Stockbridge Conversion," Indian Notes, vol.8, no.1 (Jan., 1930), p.39-52.

Hodge, Frederick W. and William C. Orchard, "John W. Quinney's Coat," Indian Notes, vol.6, no.4 (Oct., 1929), p. 343-351.

A Letter from the Revd Mr. Sergeant of Stockbridge, to Dr. Colman of Boston. Boston: Rogers and Fowle, 1743. Reprinted 1929.

Mochon, Marion J., "Stockbridge-Munsee Cultural Adaptations; Assimilated Indians," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 112, no. 3 (June, 1968), p.182-219.

Ronda, Jeanne and James P. Ronda, "As They Were Faithful: Chief Hendrick Aupaumut and the Struggle for Stockbridge Survival, 1757-1830," American Indian Culture and Research Journal, vol. 3, no. 3 (1979), p.43-55.

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