Archive of Indigenous Slavery

There is no way to measure the impact of slavery upon the Indigenous people of the Americas. Yet, it is known that many millions of people were captured and bound. While the practice predated the arrival of Europeans in the Americas, and would continue across tribal communities for centuries, Indigenous slavery expanded in unimaginable ways following the arrival of Columbus in 1492.

Records that reveal these experiences currently exist in archival repositories around the globe including legal cases, censuses, letters, last wills, newspapers, photographs, and church records, such as baptisms, marriages, and burials. Museums steward tapestries, pottery, and more that also reflect Indigenous slavery. Individuals and families also hold personal records, objects, photographs, and remarkable stories about their ancestors. Collectively, all these archival imprints and cultural expressions encompass the indelible stories of people, places, moments in time and, when drawn together, reflect a unique story of both the brutality suffered and the resilience of those that passed through it.

The objective of Native Bound-Unbound is to create a centralized digital repository centered on the lives of the enslaved Indigenous people across the Americas. As it develops, the initiative will also serve as a platform for activating this collection, transforming the data and content into digital exhibitions, chronologies, and new types of cartographies featured in a public website, as well as films, performances, and other in-person engagements. Inspiring new forms of creative expression and advancing new scholarship, the initiative will serve as a major source for educators, scholars, storytellers, and artists.

Recovering these stories is especially critical, however, for descendants, for whom this history has been quieted over the years by whispers as much as by silence, unknown perhaps but still held in an aching consciousness. In this way, the project holds the potential for transcendence and healing.

Full site coming in 2024.