Who We Are
The Native Northeast Research Collaborative (formerly The Yale Indian Papers Project) is an inclusive digital humanities endeavor that engages tribes, scholars, educators, students, and the general public in the study of the Native presence in the Atlantic Northeast.
The Collaborative accomplishes its mission through a number of "common ground" programs and initiatives that seek to bring together voices of many stakeholder communities with those in academia.
With tribal partnerships extending throughout New England, New York, and the Mid-West, the Collaborative represents an innovate model of intercultural cooperation that brings research on Northeastern Indians into the 21st Century.
To recover and provide greater access to the history of the Indigenous people(s) of the Atlantic Northeast for the purposes of research, teaching, scholarly analysis, museum exhibits, storytelling, and community-based projects
The Collaborative recovers and publishes a historical documentary record of Indigenous peoples in the Native Northeast in a way that decolonizes the archives and scholarly methods. It works especially with and through tribal communities connected to the greater Southern New England region on several programs and initiatives that promote social justice.
The Native Northeast Portal
Primary source materials by, on, or about Northeast Indians from repositories around the world are digitized, transcribed, annotated, reviewed by the appropriate contemporary descendant community representatives, and brought together with scholarly annotations and tribal commentary into one edited digital collection. The freely-available Portal currently contains thousands of primary resource records associated with scores of Native communities.
Educational Outreach Initiatives
The Collaborative promotes its educational mission through research consultations, classroom presentations, and teacher workshops, providing information to inspire a new generation of scholars to pursue careers in the Humanities or be enlightened by the Native world around them.
Tribal Engagement Initiatives
Historical documents and the stories they tell can be repurposed for tribal community needs. The Portal's resources have been applied to several reservation archaeological investigations, cultural programs, repatriation efforts, and museum exhibits.
Native American Internship Program
Designed to engage individuals in the processes of a digital humanities project, the Internship Program offers community scholars the opportunity to recover the Indigenous historical record in various ways: transcribing, annotating, managing databases, and creating community-based stories.
Mukurtu Northeast Hub Initiative
The initiative is part of a national outreach designed to provide training and support for users of the Mukurtu content management system in this region with a particular focus on engaging with and fostering collaborations between Native communities and the cultural heritage institutions that hold materials relevant to those communities.
In the past nine years, the Collaborative's ongoing Common Ground Programs and Initiatives have
•Digitized, transcribed, annotated, and made available thousands of previously unpublished primary documents to assist hundreds of scholars and historians in the creation of books, articles, dissertations, class research papers, exhibits, curricula, stories, and tribal projects
• Empowered a dozen Native communities to manage, share, and exchange their digital heritage in culturally relevant and ethically-minded ways
• Supported at least seven tribal research projects, helping to build capacity, affirm sovereignty, and enhance cultural programs
• Engaged Native and international scholarly communities in discussions about a shared Atlantic World history
• Promoted the mutual respect and reciprocity between the academy and Native communities as embodied in the Protocols For Native American Archival Materials
The need for a new approach to the study of the Indigenous presence in the American Northeast arose several years ago from conversations between historians and members of several of New England’s tribal communities who were working on various efforts -- academic scholarship, cultural revitalization, archaeological investigations, museum development, federal recognition research, or land management.
The discussions revealed, as a common and urgent concern, a need for access to reliable primary source material on the area’s Native peoples. With the documentary record being highly fragmented and widely dispersed around the world, attempts to view the documents were prohibitively time-consuming and costly.
At that time, the working group contemplated a scholarly editing project that would gather records and publish them in printed volumes. However, understanding the cost and limitations of printed editions, the group soon turned to the new technology of the Internet in the form of a searchable documentary archives that could reach a larger audience at a more reasonable expense.
In 2003, the chairs of Yale’s History Department and American Studies Program agreed to support a plan to create a New England Indian scholarly editing project at the University. Project organizers refined the proposed features of the digital archives by conducting surveys of numerous potential users. An exploratory committee asked faculty, graduate and undergraduate students in American Studies and History from Yale and other universities, various New England tribal members and elders, visiting scholars to Yale’s Native American Pathways conferences, and teachers from the Connecticut Historical Society’s Teaching American History Program what they would like to see from such a resource.
The results indicated that not only was there a demand for information on New England Native Americans but that prospective users expected four things: a method of doing research more effectively, access to primary sources of New England Indians, a reliable source of accurate information, and the prospect of new perspectives on Native peoples in the region. Educators on all levels expressed the hope that access to the wealth of information would inspire a generation of young scholars to pursue careers in the humanities, or at least be enlightened to the Native world around them. Educators also stated their belief that in today’s informational age, to reach this audience, the Project should create a set of modern, computer-based tools that kept pace with emerging Web technologies.
In building its intellectual infrastructure, Project editors sought out interested Native historians and tribal representatives as advisors, consultants, and potential editorial collaborators. At the same time, they met with several members of the Faculty of History at the University of Cambridge and an editor of the London-based History of Parliament Trust to discuss a working relationship between the Project and a number of British scholars interested in the intersection of Native American Studies, American History, and British/Atlantic History. Having British and Native American scholars work with Project staff addressed two principal concerns: first, the need to enlarge the scope of the study of New England Indians from the conventional province of local history to a discussion of national and global importance and second, the critical need to include the perspective of Native American and Commonwealth scholars, voices missing in former studies of New England Indians.
The Project secured a home office at the Lewis Walpole Library, a department of the Yale University Library in Farmington, Connecticut, and financial support from the Library’s endowments in the summer of 2008. The Project’s advisory board and editorial council met the following fall to establish short and long-term goals, cooperative partnership agreements, a work plan, and editorial guidelines.
In 2010, the Project received a Scholarly Editions and Translation/We the People grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities that supported the editorial processing of primary source materials relating to the Native peoples of Connecticut during the American colonial period, from first contact to 1783.
Subsequently, its funding from the NEH was generously renewed in 2013 and 2016 with additonal financial awards from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and (with Harvard's Digital Archives of Native American Petitions in Massachusetts Project) the the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation/The Council on Library and Information Resources to include documents from Connecticut up to shortly after the Civil War and from Massachusetts's earliest founding to a similar postbellum mark.
After almost six years in Farmington, Connecticut, the Project moved to a new base of operations at the Yale Divinity School during the Winter of 2013-14. The presence of the Project in New Haven provided the Yale community with greater access to the Project and its resources, as well as additional collaborative opportunities with the faculty and students of the Divinity School and with the editors at the Jonathan Edwards Center. It also served as base from which the Project could continue to serve scholars, educators, students, tribal communities, and the general public.
In 2015, the Project began a collaborative relationship with Washington State University's Mukurtu CMS, participating in its Mukurtu Shared initiative. Two years later, through the Mukurtu Hubs and Spokes: A Sustainable National Platform for Digital Community Archiving initiative, it became one of five regional outreach and training centers for community-based archiving.
In the capacity as the Mukurtu Northeast Hub, editors of the Project began an intensive outreach program with eight Massachusetts tribes, establishing community-based committees to review cultural heritage content for sensitive information and to provide opportunities for the inclusion of the Native voice in all of the scholarly discussions.
As the Yale Indian Papers Project became more recognized, it also became clear that its name was problematic. The collection was more than papers about Native Americans held at Yale University, and had nothing to do with papers written by Yale's Native students. In an effort to resolve the ambiguity and to characterize the cooperative nature of the work, editors changed the name of the endeavor to the Native Northeast Collaborative.