Department of History

‘Stolen Relations’ Spotlight: Zoe Zimmermann ’22.5

Zoe Zimmermann '22.5, a History and Early Modern World concentrator, began working with Professor Linford Fisher the summer after her second year at Brown.

While she mainly hoped to do archival research, Zoe found herself immersed in Stolen Relations — a tribal collaborative database project aiming to understand settler colonialism and its impact through the lens of Indigenous enslavement and unfreedom. The project is led by Associate Professor of History Linford Fisher, and is robustly supported by the Center for Digital Scholarship (CDS) at Brown University Library. In this spotlight interview, Zoe tells us more about her role with the project: 

"My introduction to Stolen Relations was fairly unexceptional: I wanted to do research over the summer after sophomore year, and I liked early American history, so I reached out to Dr. Fisher to get involved in what he was working on. 

Even though I mainly wanted to do archival research to help with his book, the pandemic pushed me into working primarily on his database project. At the time, I had no idea how significantly this would impact my undergraduate experience! But of course, as they say, you come for the resume credentials but you stay for the valuable mentorships, captivating research questions, and meaningful community engagement. 

Over the course of the past two and a half years, I've documented instances of Indigenous enslavement from hundreds of historical sources in contexts ranging from New England to California and spanning the late 15th to early 20th centuries. Eventually, I was hired to manage the team of RAs, and have now mentored dozens of high schoolers, undergraduates, and graduate students and have collaborated with many of the project's Indigenous community partners who are interested in learning more about their nation's histories. 

My work on this project has inspired a passion for digital humanities and a dedication to protecting the rights and sovereignty of contemporary Indigenous nations. Now, I am writing my thesis about Indigenous history and am taking CS courses to better understand how the database operates (something I never in a million years thought I would do!). 

In the future, I plan to stay in the field of history (I am currently applying to grad schools) and continue utilizing digital history to advocate for Indigenous rights."

Learn about the Stolen Relations Project and Professor Linford Fisher's work

Visit the Stolen Relations Project website