From Moshassuck to Providence: Indigenous Dispossession, Erasure, and Survivance in a Settler Colonial City

Patricia E. Rubertone, PhD

Professor of Anthropology

Brown University


Settler colonial cities as the apex of modernity draw attention to the expropriation of Indigenous land and the erasure of Indigenous bodies and histories. Yet, the enduring presence of Indigenous people in settler colonial cities exposes the failures of settler colonialism to accomplish its goal of elimination. Indigenous people existed in plain sight when settler towns were established in North America and today when most reside in cities, though they were and are largely invisible. The conditions of their presence on the urban landscape illustrates the continuing racialization of space and the spatialization of race. The tactics, discourses, and contexts of dispossession have changed over time but have not given way to less violent practices of domicide. Providence, a modest-size Northeast city having the third-largest Native American population in the U.S. by the end of the first decade of the 20th century serves as case study to examine municipal policies of spatial removal and symbolic violence aimed at Indigenous erasure and Indigenous people’s persistence.   

Wed May 29th 2024, 12:00 - 1:00pm
Patricia Rubertone