7:30 pm (Berwick Academy)
Come and join Dr. Neill De Paoli as he explores the career of John Gyles, one of Maine's leading Anglo-Indian interpreters and negotiators during the turbulent first half of the 18th century.
Sponsored by the Old Berwick Historical Society, the program coincides with the 300th anniversary of Berwick’s formation when it separated from Kittery in 1713, and is part of a year-long series of public historical talks and walks under grants from Kennebunk Savings and the Maine Humanities Council.
“John Gyles’ story reveals a man challenged by his upbringing as a Puritan and often conflicting roles as an interpreter/cultural mediator and provincial military officer,” said DePaoli.
“He was a ‘culture broker,’ an individual who regularly and comfortably moved between two or more worlds.”
With 35 years of experience as a historical archaeologist, De Paoli most recently has led the historical society’s Old Fields Archaeology Project, to uncover the origins of the Spencer-Goodwin property in South Berwick, where a tavern likely stood around 1700, with a garrison nearby.
DePaoli has directed archaeological projects in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. He is an adjunct professor at Southern Maine Community College and has devoted most of his career to the study of English settlement and Anglo-Indian and English-French relations in early northern New England.
For the last 15 years, he has been studying the career of John Gyles, one of Massachusetts’ leading Anglo-Indian interpreters during the 18th century. De Paoli’s research has revealed details about the life of a former Indian captive who rapidly established himself as one of the province’s leading interpreters and a critical player in peace and trade negotiations between the English and the Wabanaki of Maine and New Hampshire.
“John Gyles was part of a small group of English interpreters based in Maine during the late 17th and first half of the 18th-centuries,” De Paoli explained.
“Studying his career provides a window into the growing challenges New England’s interpreters faced as cultural mediators with the region’s Native Americans during the first half of the 18th century.”
With the spread of European settlement throughout North America, the colonial governments of British North America, New France, New Netherlands, and New Spain took advantage of men and women such as John Gyles and their knowledge of their own culture and those of others as they bridged the cultural divide that separated these disparate groups.
On December 23, 1726, the General Council of Massachusetts awarded Captain John Gyles a pay increase as an interpreter in recognition of his “good services for many years and his present usefulness by his great knowledge of Indian affairs & customs.” The Council was recognizing Captain Gyles for his nearly three decades of service as an interpreter for the government of Massachusetts. He continued in this capacity until mid-century.