John L. O'Brien, Register 
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Title - Native American Deeds
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Introduction Narrative
   
  BACKGROUND TO THE PROJECT
     


It was during the restoration of the earliest record books  (Salem Deeds (1640- 1701) and digital conversion of the Ipswich Deeds (1638- 1696) that certain land transfers and other records came to view that stood apart from the rest.  These were records of transactions between the Native American Indians and the English settlers during the early colonization period of Essex County.  As the research for this project got underway, it was discovered that the subject of Native American Indian history in Essex County had been conspicuously lacking from traditional history books. Boxford lawyer/historian, Sydney Perley, first addressed the subject of Indian deeds   in a 1913 documentary. He was a prolific historian with an uncanny vision for those facts and details, which might someday be of interest to "history buffs", and therefore he offered the Essex County Indian Land Titles as a focused reference. In his unique style, he documented their existence, citing each when possible to the Book and Page reference at the Salem Registry of Deeds.

Today, Perley's valuable reference work, published by the Essex Institute in Salem, is not well known. This project will build upon it, not only to bring the subject to light once again, but to substantially expand its perspective.   Since Perley’s effort, additional Indian Deeds have been identified in the archives of the Registry of Deeds. There is a growing interest in Native American Indian history, especially focussing in New England at the point of European contact.  It has been generally accepted that traditional 17th Century accounts of this period fall into two categories:  1) those Puritanical records which document accomplishments of the English in 17th century America and 2) those other early descriptions of the Native Americans, as observed by those early explorers and visitors, who fell in love with America, as "presented by the New England landscape". 

Examples of the first category include works by: John Winthrop, Ipswich's Rev. William Hubbard, and Increase & Rev. Cotton Mather.  Members of the second category include works by: French explorer Samuel de Champlain, Captain John Smith, William Wood, Roger William, the "unprincipled adventurer" Thomas Morton (whose merciless ridicules must be filtered), and finally Daniel Gookin (Mass Bay Colony's Supt. Of Indian Affairs).  An out of period account, the 19th century work of Samuel Adams Drake can be aligned with the credibility of the second category.   The style of the latter group is distinguished by the fact that they wrote for the benefit of their fellow countrymen, without bias or without taking "defensive" positions (as taken by the Puritans whose agenda was to conquer the land).  They also chose kinder and non-offensive terminology calling the Natives either "Indian" or "Aberginians" (this is Wood's term for Pennacooks, Passaconaways, and other tribes in northern Mass. and southern N.H.), not "Savages".  Their physical descriptions of the people and their lifestyles have been accepted as more credible than the Puritan descriptions.  

  Since Sydney Perley’s effort, this subject has been visited from many new perspectives shaped by other disciplines including anthropology, archeology and ecology.  We found some of those 20th Century "contemporary" views represented in the works of Frank Speck, Charles Willoughby, Warren Moorehead, Ripley Bullen, Sherbourn F. Cook, Alden Vaughan, Gordon Day, William Cronon, Frances Jennings, and Peter Leavenworth.    These references are particularly valuable when contemplating the broader issues associated with the inter-cultural conflict attached to the transfer of land between the Native American Indians and the Colonists.  Such points of view have been integrated into this project to better prepare readers for a fuller consideration of the meaning and content of the "Native American Deeds" themselves.  All published references used in this narrative are listed in the back of each section.