Murder and Indigenous Justice in Early America


Covered with NightIn the winter of 1722, on the eve of a major conference between the Five Nations of the Haudenosaunee (also known as the Iroquois) and Anglo-American colonists, a pair of colonial fur traders brutally assaulted a Seneca hunter near Conestoga, Pennsylvania.

Though virtually forgotten today, the crime ignited a contest between Native American forms of justice ― rooted in community, forgiveness, and reparations ― and the colonial ideology of harsh reprisal that called for the accused killers to be executed if found guilty.

In Covered with Night: A Story of Murder and Indigenous Justice in Early America (Liveright, 2022), historian Nicole Eustace reconstructs the attack and its aftermath, introducing a group of unforgettable individuals ― from the slain man’s resilient widow to an Indigenous diplomat known as “Captain Civility” to the scheming governor of Pennsylvania ― as she narrates a remarkable series of criminal investigations and cross-cultural negotiations.

Taking its title from a Haudenosaunee metaphor for mourning, Covered with Night ultimately urges us to consider Indigenous approaches to grief and condolence, rupture and repair, as we seek new avenues of justice in our own era.

The book also covers the resulting cross-cultural debates about the nature of true justice and the eventual creation of a treaty agreement at Albany, New York in September of 1722 that still stands today — the oldest continuously recognized Indigenous treaty in Anglo-American law.

Eustace will share work from her book Covered with Night at the New York State Library on January 26, 2024 from noon until 1 pm.

For more information including a list of upcoming programs, including webinars, events, and onsite genealogy walking tours visit the State Library’s website.

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