Proposal and Bibliography

I’m pasting below the original 250-word proposal I submitted to Native American and Indigenous Study Association conference organizers. I expanded on this somewhat to fit the requirements for 298’s Proposal and Bibliography assignment, which students can find in the Files section of Canvas or access via the Resources page on this website.


Title: A Montauk on trial: Race and the limits of sexual power in 17th-century New York


In March of 1668, New York’s Court of Assizes indicted “Nangenutch alias Will an Indyan for a Rape upon the body of Mary the wife of Jno [sic] Miller.” On finding him guilty of attempted rape, it ordered him publicly whipped and sold into the Leeward Islands “that all Indyans may bee deterred to attempt the like.” John A. Strong has pointed out that the trial reinforced emerging patterns of dependence that subjected the Montauk to English legal jurisdiction, political influence, economic dominance, and cultural pressures.[1] But Nangentuch also acted in a context in which English hegemony impeded traditional means of performing native gender and status identities, even as cultural exchange reshaped those identities.


This paper uses court records to analyze the racial and gender implications of Nangenutch’s trial. It argues that Nangenutch’s actions in the assault, and the explanations he provided for his behavior, constituted an attempt to exercise sexual power. Sharon Block has demonstrated that social and economic relations allowed some men to imbue sexual force with the appearance of consent, and that legal processes delineated those who could claim such power from those who could not.[2] The trial’s outcome denied Nangenutch’s claim to the power inherent in the status of America’s white English patriarchs, defining him instead as a “bawdy” Indian unable to complete “any masculine Ejection.” “Will” might have lived and worked in an English household and found himself in colonial courts, but his trial affirmed his limited participation in colonial New York’s English community.


[1] John A. Strong, “The Imposition of Colonial Jurisdiction over the Montauk Indians of Long Island,” Ethnohistory 41, no. 4 (Fall 1994): 561-590.

[2] Sharon Block, Rape and Sexual Power in Early America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *