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Justice in a New WorldNegotiating Legal Intelligibility in British, Iberian, and Indigenous America$
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Brian P. Owensby and Richard J. Ross

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781479850129

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479850129.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM NYU Press SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.nyu.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of NYU Press Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NYSO for personal use.date: 19 September 2021

Defending and Defrauding the Indians

Defending and Defrauding the Indians

John Wompas, Legal Hybridity, and the Sale of Indian Land

(p.89) 3 Defending and Defrauding the Indians
Justice in a New World

Jenny Hale Pulsipher

NYU Press

As Jenny Pulsipher recounts, the mid-seventeenth-century Nipmuc Indian John Wompas familiarized himself with both Native and settler concepts of land tenure, distribution, and sales, becoming adept at switching opportunistically between them in his career as a speculator and (untrustworthy) intermediary. Wompas emerged out of a world where Natives used English law to defend their land rights, while colonists deployed Indian law to deny those rights. He outstripped his contemporaries in his skill at drawing on his Native identity to obtain land, then manipulating English law to sell and record this land, and later switching to Indian norms to evade obstacles put in his way by colonial authorities. By drawing on both Native and English legal practices, Wompas aimed to make land transactions intelligible to both sides, thus increasing the chances that sales would be accepted.

Keywords:   Indian law, Nipmuc, John Wompas, legal practices, land rights, English law, land transactions

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