Fluid Identities: Native American Whalemen At Sea

A UConn history professor discusses the shifting racial ideologies that shaped the lives of Native American seafarers in the 19th century.

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By the 19th century, New England dominated the world in whaling. Native Americans constituted a large portion of the whaleship crews, and their labor provided vital income for their economically marginalized reservations. Some spent decades at sea, during the course of which they encountered diverse peoples across the oceans.

In a new book, Native American Whalemen and the World: Indigenous Encounters and the Contingency of Race (University of North Carolina Press 2015), UConn history professor Nancy Shoemaker explores the the differing definitions of who was “Indian” and how “Indians” behaved in the variety of situations in which Native American seafarers found themselves at home, aboard ship, and around the world.

Listen to Shoemaker discussing her book here:


Interview courtesy of the University of North Carolina Press.