Stolen Relations: recovering stories of indigenous enslavement in the Americas

Scholars have long emphasized the relationships between the kidnapping, transportation, and enslavement of indigenous peoples from Africa and the rise of global capitalism, demonstrating the ongoing impacts of an enslaved population on US society, the economy, politics, and culture. Perhaps the most well-known of this line of research is Eric Williams' Slavery and Capitalism. 

Recent historical scholarship has focused on the enslavement of Indigenous peoples across the Americas. As historian Kevin Waite writes in the Atlantic Monthly, "Early travelers to the American West encountered unfree people nearly everywhere they went: on ranches and farmsteads, in mines and private homes, and even on the open market, bartered like any other tradable good. Unlike on southern plantations, these men, women, and children weren't primarily African American; most were Native American. Tens of thousands of Indigenous people labored in bondage across the western United States in the mid-19th century." 

Indigenous community collaborators and university researchers recently launched Stolen Relations: Recovering Stories of Indigenous Enslavement in the Americas. "Stolen Relations (formerly the Database of Indigenous Slavery in the Americas) is a community-centered database project that seeks to illuminate and understand the role the enslavement of Indigenous peoples played in settler colonialism over time… Our project seeks to recover the stories of individuals as well as educate the public on the reality of these processes." Supported by a National Endowment for the Humanities grant, the project is currently focused on New England, working with thirteen tribal nations and communities. 

If you are interested in settler colonial studies, check out this blog. In you are interested in supporting this work, click here. For more on slavery of indigenous people in the U.S. West, see Kevin Waite's, West of Slavery: The Southern Dream of a Transcontinental Empire (University of North Carolina Press, 2022), winner of the 2022 Wiley-Silver Prize from the Center for Civil War Research, and Finalist in the 2022 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize. For a shorter essay and bibliography on this topic, see Andrés Reséndez's essay "Perspective: The Other Slavery", published by the Smithsonian.