Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Treasures of the State Library for May, 2010 - Reports on Native Americans in Massachusetts

The State Library owns many materials about Native American life and culture in the Commonwealth. Among the special holdings of the library are two reports from the 1800's concerning Native Americans in Massachusetts. The Reference Department has had several requests for these, and they are being added to our electronic repository.

In 1827, the Massachusetts House of Representatives Report Number 68 was published. It speaks "on the condition of the Native Americans and Descendents, in this Commonwealth." This document focuses not only on the "census" of Indians in the state, but also reports on their schooling, on land issues, and suggests a system of government which would include a "Guardian" appointed by the Governor as well as an "overseer" chosen by the Indians themselves. The General Court also passed a law in 1827 assuring that 300 copies of the report were printed and that copies were distributed to those discussed. This document will be available electronically very soon.

A second report is from 1871 and is entitled:

Report of the Commissioner appointed to complete the examination and determination of all questions of title to land, and of all boundary lines between the individual owners, at Gay Head, on the Island of Martha's Vineyard.

This piece begins with a beautiful discussion of the area of Gay Head and its geology. It reports on religious aspects of the area. Land ownership and land boundaries, very significant historical concerns, are addressed. The appendix provides its main component, a detailed census of the area. Often known as the
"Pease Report" its main author was Richard L. Pease, the Commissioner appointed to compile the study.

Pamela W. Schofield
Reference Department