Exploitation and Survival: Indigenous Americans and the Commercial Whaling Industry

Part of: Society for Historical Archaeology 2014

Native American engagement with commercial whaling connects to broader questions about the social impact of extractive industries on indigenous communities from 1492 to #idlenomore. Subsistence whaling had long existed among coastal societies in the northeast, Pacific Northwest, and Arctic when English settlers commoditized the hunt in the 17th century. Transoceanic voyages in the 18th and 19th centuries simultaneously employed indigenous people whose terrestrial resources were decreasing and depleted whale populations vital to Arctic subsistence. Archaeological concerns with colonial landscapes, ecological change, and indigenous dispossession must include Native negotiations of capitalism in maritime contexts. We invite studies of whaling as an adaptive strategy and a catalyst for cultural exchange and identity formation. We also welcome perspectives from community archaeology and revitalization movements on the discourses of whaling as environmental degradation vs. cultural survival.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-6 of 6)

  • Documents (6)

  • Colonial Encounters and Colonial Economics: Entangled Pequot role shifting in 1620-1770 New England (2014)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only William Farley.

    Recent scholarship has revealed that colonial entanglements starting in the early seventeenth century forced New England’s indigenous polities to renegotiate their modes of subsistence in order to maintain their group and individual identities. This paper explores the means by which one particular group shifted their economic strategies to meet new challenges presented them by early encounters with Dutch and English settlers. The Pequots, who in the 1620s dominated much of southern New England,...

  • From Time Immemorial: Indigenous Whaling Past & Present on Alaska’s North Slope (2014)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Anne Jensen.

    Bowhead whaling has long been the organizing focus of coastal North Slope Iñupiat culture. In 1848 Thomas Welcome Roys took the whaling vessel Superior north of the Bering Strait, and things changed dramatically for the Inupiat. In the 1870s and 1880s, Inupiat and Yankee whalers worked together and blended Yankee gear with their traditional techniques of shore-based whaling. Commercial whaling persisted in at least minimal fashion until the early years of the 20th century.However, subsistence...

  • Global Network, Native Node: The Social Geography of a New York Whaling Port (2014)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Emily Button Kambic.

    Whaling ports in the nineteenth century were nodes in multiple networks, where the global maritime economy overlapped with regional indigenous landscapes, and residential and occupational sites became locations of cultural encounter. How did the material spaces of ports structure and reflect these dynamics of movement and exchange? What specific forms of cross-cultural interaction did ports foster, and how did Native Americans negotiate this cosmopolitanism in material ways? I consider these...

  • The Indian Mariners Project at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum (2014)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jason Mancini.

    The Indian Mariners Project explores the history of and ongoing relationship between Native people and the sea. A principal goal of the project is to create and share with public, school, and academic audiences a series of digital maps revealing the dynamic social networks and global traveling histories of American Indian mariners during the 19th century. This project research is grounded in a rich and accessible archival record relating to the active commercial Yankee whalefishery and Indian...

  • Into the Deep: Montaukett whaling in the 18th and 19th centuries (2014)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Allison Manfra McGovern.

    Historians agree that Native American whalemen from New England were sought for employment in whaling, but disagreement remains on the social and economic impact that whaling had on indigenous lifeways. Debt, coercion, and indentured servitude were frequent conditions of indigenous whaling, but the social and economic opportunities that whaling offered to Native Americans were recognized early on and motivated many men to participate voluntarily. The diversity of indigenous experiences is a...

  • Serendipity and Industrial Labor Development: Indigenous Labor in the Western Arctic Commercial Whaling Industry (2014)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Mark Cassell.

    In the late 19th-early 20th century, the American commercial whaling industry in the western Arctic developed an industrial labor force of Iñupiat Eskimos to conduct and support shore whaling in north Alaska. Remuneration for Native labor took the form of foodstuffs, trade items, and productive resources such as boats and harpoons. For common Iñupiat Eskimos, independent acquisition of these material goods could provide the means to become a whaling captain, an umialiq, and operate their own...