By Jean M. OBrien
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Additional info for Firsting and Lasting: Writing Indians out of Existence in New England
It is interesting to note, however, that even places that had not yet come into being while these conﬂicts were being waged sometimes connect their history to one or both of them, either because earlier, larger borders of places would have connected them, or because the migration of combatants or their descendants brought them to newer places, or because narrators deemed these events as pivotal in the story they had to tell of modernity’s origins. All of these themes speak to the issue of puriﬁcation—of distinguishing between nature and culture.
30 Taken together, such depictions suggest that the very institution of home life properly ordered by gender never existed prior to the arrival of the English. If they couldn’t match Plymouth’s precise catalog of ﬁrsts, other places could still replicate the practice of ﬁrsting by merely qualifying events as ﬁrsts for that particular locality. 31 And the ﬁrsting script mutated constantly, as particular localities chose different ﬁrsts to note, though the most common included ﬁrst settlers, births of ﬁrst white children (especially males), ﬁrst marriages, ﬁrst town meetings and town officers, ﬁrst meetinghouses and ministers (numbered on into the present), ﬁrst divisions of land, ﬁrst newspapers, ﬁrst schools, ﬁrst bridges, mills, and other public works that symbolized modernity.
6 Indian peoples reaped the riches of the northeastern woodlands in seasonally mobile and gendered economies that embraced female agriculture and gathering of wild foodstuff with male hunting and ﬁshing in the interior and coastal waterways. Dense networks of trade connected them to each other and to Native peoples from elsewhere. Common group ownership of the land helped deﬁne Native senses of identity and of place, and a complex usufruct system whereby needs shaped land usage without conveying outright ownership of the land to individuals.