NEH Impact: Expanding Access to Northeast Native American Histories

The Native Northeast Research Collaborative (NNRC) is a vast digital humanities project that engages tribes, scholars, educators, students, and the public to preserve, curate, and study Indigenous peoples and communities in the Atlantic Northeast. Over the last eleven years of their operation, NNRC’s digitization efforts have helped to publish materials spanning three centuries, addressing an urgent need for reliable primary source material on the Northeast region’s Indigenous peoples. With an NEH CARES grant, NNRC and the Mashantucket Pequot Museum & Research Center created On Our Own Ground: Pequot Community Papers, 1813-1849. Grant funding allowed the project to hire editors, editorial assistants, and community scholars from the Eastern Pequot and Mashantucket Pequot communities, who then transcribed, edited, annotated, and published a series of 19th century documents that shed light on the everyday lives of Eastern and Mashantucket Pequot people in Early Republic Connecticut.

As part of our NEH for All initiative, we partnered with NNRC to survey the On Our Own Ground community scholars about what they gained from their participation. One-hundred percent of On Our Own Ground community scholar respondents agreed they “found the experience of being a Community Scholar a valuable use of [their] expertise,” and 86 percent of respondents agreed they “take pride in the work [they] were able to accomplish collaboratively through this project.” In qualitative reflections, many respondents wrote about gaining a deeper understanding of, respect for, and inspiration from their ancestors. One person wrote: “I learned a lot but most importantly at a time where I felt like giving up in the fight for recognition with my people, I’ve found strength in my ancestors' fight to keep us here.” 

NNRC’s digital archives have been pivotal in expanding academic, advocacy, and cultural heritage work in the Atlantic Northeast. Survey results suggest that the On Our Own Ground project will continue this legacy. Looking forward, 100 percent of respondents agreed “this project will open opportunities for conversations with other tribal communities.” One respondent wrote that “greater access through this digital project to historical documents and commentary from tribal scholars is very beneficial to the tribal community as well as the academy and the general public. Instead of being excluded from telling the story of our people, we are included which provides a more true and accurate historical account.”

The NNRC portal remains free and open to the public. You can explore the documents and annotations, learn more about their ongoing initiatives, and find ways to support their work by visiting their website

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