Going into this program, I started to think about what kind of ways I would be able to create some digital history of my own in the foreseeable future. This is in part due to the incorporation of digital history into the PhD program, but primarily due to my involvement as a Digital History Fellow at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (RRCHNM). I realize that this blog itself constitutes a form of digital history as I discuss the readings and any tools or materials possibly relevant to myself or my classmates. However, after reading this week’s articles, I find even that fact, which I would have said a week ago without doubt, even up for debate. My reflections on these readings do nothing to further research or the field in any way. I am not proposing anything new that can be used or interpreted. Regardless, I am a historian engaged on the web and that is an important start.
Of course, having grown up in the digital age, I have been engaged on the web for well over a decade. I have experience, as most my age do, with social media of different types, email, search engines, and research through online journals. My online presence without a doubt exists. What kind of presence is it though? Is it one of a scholar looking to advance research and answer interesting arguments? Not yet. My online presence seems infantile to me now. Is Facebook and LinkedIn all I want people to see of me? Certainly not. The idea of cataloguing my research online excites me. With enough outreach to the community, I will hopefully be able to take advantage of the web the way Tim Hitchcock did. He was able to receive feedback from the scholarly community to improve his article. Ideally, myself and my peers will be able to do the same but with our scholarly research. Perhaps we can use it for others to point us towards tools or sources we did not know exist. An even better use, in my opinion, is engaging the community in a discussion about our work and requesting feedback.
Despite the various sources saying that digital history needs to be more than a reiteration of something that can be said in print, I believe that is a good place to start for where we all stand as students. Examples in “Exploring the History Web” prove that is not a bad beginning. Although on a different scholarly level, Edward Ayers’ Valley of the Shadow website started out as a means to catalogue resources for his book. With any luck, and if done correctly, we all could create a website that can be useful to other scholars looking to do research in the same field.
Exploring the Pamunkey
For the activity section, I chose to focus broadly on the Pamunkey Tribe of Virginia. I am coming into the Phd program with only my bachelor’s degree and a general interest in Native American history. Last week, while getting to know the staff at the RRCHNM, Megan Brett was telling me about how the Pamunkey Tribe had just recently received federal recognition. I thought it was interesting that this was just now happening, so I’ve decided to take a deeper look, perhaps exploring dissertation interests.
Since my search was broad, my results were as well. I started out with a simple Google search of Pamunkey and was immediately surprised and delighted with my findings. One of the first results is the official Pamunkey Tribe website (www.pamunkey.net). The site is currently under construction, but it still offers two tribal statements. The first statement defines qualifications for membership and the second denies claims of a man by the name of Crown Prince Emperor El Bey Bigbay (or William McRae) being a member of the tribe. They also include a list of websites not associated with them. I am currently thinking about pursuing research on fraudulent claims to tribal membership and the effect that has on the tribes and their image. This idea also links back to my Decolonizing Museums class with Joe Genetin-Pilawa where he briefly mentioned a woman who had advocated for Native American rights for years as a Cherokee woman, only to recently be uncovered as a fraud.
I also found some possible sources through accessgenealogy.org, also found through a basic Google search. Their section on the Pamunkey (http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/pamunkey-indians-of-virginia.htm) provides a good place to start for someone like me who is not going into this with vast prior knowledge of their tribe or their history. From a brief look at the site, I believe the quick access to their works cited will prove most useful.
Through my searches, I saw the Pamunkey Indian Museum and Cultural Center mentioned multiple times. Hoping this too would have a separate website, I went out in search of it. When I first discovered they did not have their own website, but rather a Facebook page, I was disappointed. However, links on their page led me to two articles discussing the federal recognition.
Next, I explored what h-net.org had to offer after reading about it in this week’s readings. With a general search of Pamunkey, there are not any results from the past decade. Looking at a few of the entries, though, I already discovered useful information. Books by Helen Rountree are mentioned twice as a must-read for Pamunkey research and one of the scholars suggests a trip to the Library of Virginia to look through the “Van Schreeven Index,” which references official documents in the British Public Records Office. Based on seeing the useful responses others have received on the site, I definitely see myself using this source no matter what subject I end of pursuing for my dissertation.
On the Nation Museum of the American Indian’s (NMAI) website, they have an article of an interview with Kevin Brown, current chief of the Pamunkey Tribe. It is thanks to sources like this I will be able to gain a brief inside look without visiting the reservation. Of course, this subject cannot fully be researched without trips to the reservation over the next few years.
Through the Journal of American History Website Reviews, I found at least two website that will prove useful. The first is Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties and the second is Papers of the War Department. Both are valuable sources for federal documents all organized conveniently in one place. The first I am not sure I would have found without this website, or at least not so easily. The second, I have only heard of before from staff at the RRCHNM, as this was one of the Center’s projects. Either way, I am grateful to the website for organizing all these digital sources and reviews of them in one place.
Lastly, I found a link to the announcement of recognition of the Pamunkey by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. This document was found through an advanced Google search of the Pamunkey that led me to an article on the npr website which discussed, as many websites and articles have been I noticed, the federal recognition. Inside the article, the document is linked. I love the internet.