Cover image for Colonial intimacies : Indian marriage in early New England
Colonial intimacies : Indian marriage in early New England
Plane, Ann Marie, 1964-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Ithaca, N.Y. : Cornell University Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xv, 252 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E78.N5 P53 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



In 1668 Sarah Ahhaton, a married Native American woman of the Massachusetts Bay town of Punkapoag, confessed in an English court to having committed adultery. For this crime she was tried, found guilty, and publicly whipped and shamed; she contritely promised that if her life were spared, she would return to her husband and "continue faithfull to him during her life yea although hee should beat her againe...."These events, recorded in the court documents of colonial Massachusetts, may appear unexceptional; in fact, they reflect a rapidly changing world. Native American marital relations and domestic lives were anathema to English Christians: elite men frequently took more than one wife, while ordinary people could dissolve their marriages and take new partners with relative ease. Native marriage did not necessarily involve cohabitation, the formation of a new household, or mutual dependence for subsistence. Couples who wished to separate did so without social opprobrium, and when adultery occurred, the blame centered not on the "fallen" woman but on the interloping man. Over time, such practices changed, but the emergence of new types of "Indian marriage" enabled the legal, social, and cultural survival of New England's native peoples. The complex interplay between colonial power and native practice is treated with subtlety and wisdom in Colonial Intimacies. Ann Marie Plane uses travel narratives, missionary tracts, and legal records to reconstruct a previously neglected history. Plane's careful reading of fragmentary sources yields both conclusive and fittingly speculative findings, and her interpretations form an intimate picture, moving and often tragic, of the familial bonds of Native Americans in the first century and a half of European contact.

Author Notes

Ann Marie Plane is Assistant Professor of History at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

American Indians did not disappear from Colonial New England, but they did have to adapt to English rule. Plane mines Colonial legal records to demonstrate that marriage is a metaphor for explaining the relationships between the different cultures. In trying to control Indians, colonists anticipated most future US-American Indian policies--reservations, supremacy of English law even when Indians used English models, assimilation, arrogation of the right to interfere in Indian domestic issues, punishing Indians for Indian cultural behaviors, and the ironic result of an assimilation policy that fostered segregation. Indians struggled with English ideas about marriage (particularly the quaint concepts of monogamy, faithfulness, and marriage in perpetuity) and tried to avoid being submerged among the equally marginal peoples of color. Indian marriage was a means of maintaining Indian identity in the face of challenges to separate identity. Case studies support the author's conclusions and provide examples of real people trying to adjust to a foreign order. Recommended for undergraduate Indian and Colonial history collections. G. Gagnon; University of North Dakota

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. viii
Prefacep. ix
Prologuep. xvii
Introductionp. 1
1. "Amongst their nation"p. 14
2. "My heart did love the having of two wives"p. 41
3. "They had made a Law against it"p. 67
4. "In their Families"p. 96
5. "They ... take one another without Ceremony"p. 129
6. "At the Marriages of their Sachems"p. 153
Conclusionp. 178
Abbreviationsp. 183
Notesp. 185
Indexp. 245