Indian New England Before the Mayflower

Howard S. Russell

In offering here a highly readable yet comprehensive description of New England’s Indians as they lived when European settlers first met them, the author provides a well-rounded picture of the natives as neither savages nor heroes, but fellow human beings existing at a particular time and in a particular environment. He dispels once and for all the common notion of native New England as peopled by a handful of savages wandering in a trackless wilderness. In sketching the picture the author has had help from such early explorers as Verrazano, Champlain, John Smith, and a score of literate sailors; Pilgrims and Puritans; settlers, travelers, military men, and missionaries. A surprising number of these took time and trouble to write about the new land and the characteristics and way of life of its native people. A second major background source has been the patient investigations of modern archaeologists and scientists, whose several enthusiastic organizations sponsor physical excavations and publications that continually add to our perception of prehistoric men and women, their habits, and their environment. This account of the earlier New Englanders, of their land and how they lived in it and treated it; their customs, food, life, means of livelihood, and philosophy of life will be of interest to all general audiences concerned with the history of Native Americans and of New England.

Paper: $24.95 | E-book: $22.99
ISBN-13: 9780874512557
Pages: 296 | Size: 6 in. x 9 in.
Date Published: June 1, 1983


  • First rate . . . should be required Thanksgiving Day reading.

    Boston Globe
  • This is an extremely useful book which one returns to again and again as a reference work. Its scope is the broadest, taking in every aspect of Indian life as the early explorers and the colonists found it, from personal appearance and characteristics to diet and agriculture, social organization, and intertribal relations. In addition, the reader learns a great deal about the New England environment, its plants, natural resources, and forest composition, and how it was shaped by the Indians. Russell many times over fulfills his goal of dispelling 'the all too common notion of native New England as peopled by a handful of savages wandering in a trackless wilderness'.

    New England Quarterly
  • The author has used many original sources, including very rare notes and observations made during the initial contact period between Europeans and the Indians of New England. The book is rich in illustrations and maps, and should be appreciated by both professionals, students and the general reader.

  • The picture [Russell] offers is one of a settled, intelligent people, supplying themselves with the necessities of life, and with considerable to spare. It is the sort of daily life that historians need to know, but rarely write themselves . . . It is the fullest and most reliable treatment that I know.

    Journal of American History

About the Author

Howard S. Russell

Howard S. Russell had a lifelong interest in New England’s earliest inhabitants, dating back to boyhood discoveries of occasional Indian artifacts in his family’s plowed fields. This led him over the last half century to a systematic examination of every account left by early explorers and observers, every reference in regional or local histories or archaeological writings; to discussions with informed persons; and to making numerous visits to Indian village sites and museums. From this wide …

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