In recent years, a number of scholars, researchers, and tribal members interested in Native people in the American Northeast have noticed problems with the current state of resources on the topic. Most obvious is a general lack of published primary source materials, despite the existence of thousands of relevant documents. Equally problematic is access to these original materials. Individuals needing to use such items are required to visit a number of repositories, mostly across the region. Archaic or poor quality handwriting, or the restrictions placed on worn and fragile papers can further hinder the researcher’s task, making it time-consuming and costly.
Several institutions that have significant primary source collections on Native communities in the American Northeast have organized into a cooperative endeavor called The Indian Papers Project at Yale University to address these problems by publishing an electronic database known as The Native Northeast Portal. The Portal represents a scholarly critical edition of New England Native American primary source materials gathered presently from the partner institutions into one robust virtual collection, where the items are digitized, transcribed, annotated, and edited to the highest academic standards and then made freely available over the Internet, using open-source software. By providing annotated transcriptions, the Project’s editors provide the Series users with useful information within a well-researched and balanced context necessary to understand the complexities of the historical record. Thus, the Portal offers students, educators, researchers, Native American tribal members, and the general public, visual and intellectual access to significant historical knowledge for the purposes of teaching, scholarly analysis, and research. In doing so, the Portal furthers the Project’s mission and the missions of its cooperative partner institutions to encourage new scholarship and promote a greater understanding and appreciation of New England’s earliest culture among a broader segment of the general public. The Project’s staff is based at Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut.
Image: Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett (Schaghticoke) 1833-1908, First U.S. Ambassador of Color. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.