Dr Charlie Hall (University of Kent)
Research Administrator, ‘Beyond the Spectacle’
While the ‘Beyond the Spectacle’ team is comprised primarily of scholars and practitioners of history, literature, art, and museum studies, in many ways it is actually geography which provides the unifying strand to our research. In order to present a truly compelling picture of Native North American presence in Britain over the past 500 years, as we seek to do, the question of ‘where’ is as important as questions of ‘who’, ‘why’ and ‘when’. It is therefore necessary to locate that presence in a conventional geographic sense, to ground it in the co-ordinates of a map, thus allowing us to set the scene for the stories which every Native person who has travelled to Britain has to tell.
It is certainly true that each and every one of these stories is very intimately linked to a place or, more often, to a series of places, across the British Isles. And it is these places which are so central to the accounts of Native North American visitors to, or residents in, Britain. They serve as more than just a backdrop to these accounts – often providing creative inspiration, topics for discussion, and an opportunity for greater understanding and cultural exchange. Geography may serve to highlight the distance Native North Americans have travelled to reach Britain, but it can also emphasise familiarity and affinity, through a shared landscape and global environment.
One of the challenges facing the ‘Beyond the Spectacle’ team as part of this process is how to present this material in a genuinely interesting and visually stimulating way. This is in fact two separate challenges, as there are two different types of information we are seeking to map out. The first is to give a sense of the number and, perhaps more importantly, the geographic distribution of Native North Americans in Britain across our period of study. The second is to use maps to tell stories by showing routes and generating visual depictions of travel narratives. As we are still only taking our earliest steps with this facet of the project, our attention has been primarily directed towards the first of these two challenges.
The aim is to present an initial visual representation of Native North American visitors to the British Isles and to show, among other things, that these visits did not take place solely in London, or even solely in large cities, but rather throughout the United Kingdom. Every region has its own heritage of Native travellers and it is often in these places, away from the high drama and mass attention of the capital, that it is easiest to look beyond the spectacle and to see how Native people interacted with different local communities, especially in places which perhaps lacked the diversity and cosmopolitanism of major urban centres.
Our first map (the link to which can be found below) has been built using Google Fusion Tables – a free online app, still in its ‘experimental’ phase. Despite this, the functionality is excellent and while it lacks the sophistication to generate more complex geographic representations, it is the perfect tool for turning raw data into a clear and interactive digital map. Currently the map features the first 45 data-points, nearly all of which represent a distinct individual or group (though some do appear more than once). These range from Native performers with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show who posed at both Land’s End and John o’ Groats during the show’s 1904 tour, to members of the American Indian Movement who travelled to Derry to show solidarity with the Irish Republican cause in 1985.
Included within this data are the stories of preachers, educators, performers, artists, soldiers, children, diplomats, activists, ‘criminals’ and many others. There are individuals whose notoriety has come to overshadow their reality, such as Pocahontas, and there are others whose stories are just as interesting, if not more so, but who have remained in historical obscurity, such as Pegahmagabow – a prolific First World War sniper and the most decorated First Nations soldier in Canadian history, who spent time recovering from a leg injury in a Bristol hospital in 1916. The earliest data-point dates from 1616 while the most recent dates from 2016 – a 400-year span encompassing an incredible breadth of experiences.
This map is, however, more than just a showcase of the research the ‘Beyond the Spectacle’ team have completed so far. It is also a public call to arms. As our project progresses, we will develop this map further and add many more, including those, as mentioned, which will follow certain individuals or groups over a longer period. Some of the data we need for this mapping can be found in archives or from conversations with existing contacts within the Native community but our hope is that the public can help us to uncover stories from their local area and create maps which truly demonstrate the variety and scope of Native North American presence in Britain over the past 500 years.
See our first map here.
To complete this map and the others we plan to make, we need your help.
If you have any information (stories, images, artefacts, recollections, etc.) about Native North American visitors to Britain, please do get in touch and help us put your village, town or city on one of our maps – email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
23 responses to “Mapping Native American Presence in Britain”
Interesting. Is there any chance you’d be willing to share the photograph with us? It’s hard to say exactly who they were without seeing it. The 1890s saw two things – both a number of different groups of people from around the world being put on display at places like Crystal Palace, and many Native Americans touring Europe with Buffalo Bill’s (and others’) Wild West shows.
I have a photo from Crystal palace in the 1890s of native Americans who were exhibited for the public to view. I have not found out any details about them. If you know who they were, I’d love to know more.
I know my ancestor John Thomas Snr. Sent his eldest daughter to Britain circa 1780. He was a Factor for HBC in Cumberland House Saskatchewan Canada and then to York Factory. Can anyone help me locating anyone with this lineage
Sorry for my rather belated response, but to all those here who are Native and looking to connect, do contact LeAndra Nephin. If you haven’t already come across her, LeAndra is UmoNhoN from Nebraska and has lived in the UK for over a decade. She coordinates a network of people called Natives in the UK. She’d love to hear from you, I know. I’ve asked her if I can share her social media links, so here they are:
Twitter – @lalaneph
Instagram – @umonhon_proud
Facebook – LeAndra Hallowell Nephin
Omg I honestly thought I was the only one. I’m plains cree from Alberta, Canada. I’ve lives in the UK for 10 years now. Feel free to add me to your facebooks. I’d love to get a group of us together.
My husband has visited England (North Staffordshire). He is full-blood enrolled Apsaalooke, or Crow. I am English.
Greetings. I am living in S.E. London with my English husband, and I am originally from Winnipeg. My birth parents were – Cree, and Saulteaux. I have always thought that I was the only Canadian Indigenous person here. Who knew?
This is so interesting. I am first nations Ojibwe from Canada. I am from a small town in Ontario, and part of the Batchewana band of first nations. I am living in England now with my husband who is english. But all my family on my fathers side are full blood native american and on my moms side, it was her mom who are all full blood native american. Ever since moving here, I have wondered if there were any other Native Americans living in the U.K, or if I was the only one. So it will be exciting to learn more.
HI ,im not native American but im from Southampton and for many years there has been a Native American family living here i dont know what tribe they are from and its been a while since i see them they would play music and sing but also played there own music sold items that there tribe used i will have to find them and get one of the to contact you also we used to have the Military Hospital for the first world war where most where brought back the Hospital was knocked down many years ago but the chapel survived and has been turned into Museum there is also very large war graves near where the Hospital was it was called Netley Victoria Hospital i will go to the local archives and look up to see what i can find for you
My elderly Uncle has had a lifelong interest in Native American history. He and my Aunt have visted the Wyoming area every year for many years and made strong connections there. Several years ago they were made honary Cheyenne. They live in West London and he has built an extension to house his Native American memorabilia. I came across this blog as he was interested in finding out if there were any Cheyenne in London/England.
I’m a First nations Ojibwe, my family moved over to England and now I’m studying in London would love to connect with others. I find your work extremely fascinating its interesting to see more research put into natives.
I find this an interesring subject. Are there eny english acceny native americans in rhe UK. There are many different nationalities there who have the ream english accent. I am ojibway of scottish decsent as well. From the Mckinney clan
This work you are doing is just brilliant ! I have no Native American connections but I find this so interesting. Thank you.
Hi my name is Steve I live in Oxfordshire, I’m First Nations Native American, my tribe are from Monterey California Olhone/ Costanoan-Esselen Nation I’m a enrolled member, my grandfather was a full blood Native American who served during the Second World War , I go to America a lot to meet up with my family I can trace my native family back to 17 th centre, there are not many left of my tribe , and I would love to meet up with people , I no a lot about the history and the lies of history, my email is Steven.email@example.com
I am a registered Choctaw from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, born in Oklahoma and living in Bristol, UK now, I would love to connect with other natives here 🙂
My sister and I traced our heritage thinking we were Irish, to find our we are Native American, taken to England, ancestry. Trying to trace the path.
Thanks for your comment and your interest in the project. We often work closely with Border Crossings and share interests in many of the same areas. I have added your name to our mailing list so we can keep you up to date.
I am off Native American Indian decent born in the UK and am excited to see the work you are doing. I am an educator and writer, dedicated to exploring my ancestry and the tribal ways.
I am a member of firstname.lastname@example.org, also regularly attending events at Canada house.
I would love to connect others like yourselves doing works of this kind and with Native American Indian Ancestry, do let me know if you have and advice or links
Great work please keep me informed of any events
My mother Fay Land LRSM. ATCM was born in Winnipeg.
She moved to Vancouver when she was 4
She was a child prodigy on piano and played on the radio.
She came to London on her 18th Birthday to marry my Dad . Then settled in Wales
She died in 2009
I have a friend who has lived and worked in UK as an Actor, poet, comedian.
It was either his Grandfather or Great grandfather who traveled and worked in the Buffalo Bill Show. His family member was a Heyoka Medicine Man of the Sioux nation.
I too have Comanche and Apache ancestry and live in Greater London.
Thank you for this – it sounds very interesting indeed. If you could send any extra information (including the photo) to email@example.com that would be greatly appreciated. We will of course keep you posted of any further details we are able to find out about Moses Carpenter from our end.
We have a Mohawk buried in the cemetery near me in Middlesbrough. He was called Moses Carpenter & I can give you a little info inc a photo of his grave