Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"Compact History" of the Mohicans

An ambitious project was started a while back by Lee Sultzman. The idea was to write "about 240 compact tribal histories." Although I doubt that he's finished 240 histories, the ones that Sultzman did write are well done and in the spirit of the internet, he asks us, his readers, for feedback.

The first paragraph of the "History" section that Sultzman has on the Mahicans [Mohicans] is consistent with everything that I've read and consistent with the idea that it was not missionaries, but rather another European industry that brought on the downfall of the Mohicans and other once-mighty Native nations.

Throughout the 1500s, European sea captains rode the Gulf Stream north along the east coast of the United States on their return to Europe. It became common practice to add some last minute profit to their voyage by stopping enroute to capture native slaves. For this reason, many coastal tribes became hostile to the pale-faced men from the big ships, but the Mahican lived well-inland and had no such experience. Employed by the Dutch East India Company to search for the Northwest Passage (a fabled shortcut to China), Henry Hudson sailed through the Verrazano strait and entered the Hudson River in September, 1609. For the reasons mentioned, the Wappinger on the lower river proved hostile, but Hudson continued upstream until stopped by shallow water near the Mahican villages just below Albany. The Mahican were not only friendly but eager to trade. Hudson exhausted his trade goods and returned to Holland with a cargo of valuable furs which immediately attracted Dutch merchants to the area. The first Dutch fur traders arrived on the Hudson River the following year to trade with the Mahican. Besides exposing them to European epidemics, the fur trade destabilized the region, and rather than prosperity, it brought the Mahican death and destruction.

Click here to continue reading.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Lost Tribes and the Louisiana Purchase

I have already explained what the lost tribes theory is, and the role it played as a motivator to missionaries as part of their millenialist worldview. But would you have ever thought that Thomas Jefferson gave the lost tribes theory some thought before going ahead with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803?

As you may have learned in school, Jefferson was known for his intelligence, being not only the 3rd president of the US, but also an inventor, a scientist and more. In regards to religion, he was a Deist, and didn't think of God as being active in the course of human history. But he gave the lost tribes theory some consideration.

After trading with Indians in the southern colonies for forty years and observing their speech and practices, James Adair returned to London where his book, History of the American Indians, was published in 1775. Adair devoted hundreds of pages to specific evidence which he believed proved that American Indians were lineal descendants of the Israelites. Many whites living in the thirteen colonies believed Adair and felt that finding the lost tribes and rebelling against Britain were part of a divine conspiracy that would bring on the millenium.

So Thomas Jefferson had to decide if the American Indians really were as central to salvation history as many believed, or were they, as Richard Popkin writes, "just people," who would have to "find their place or role in a secular world, not in a fanciful voyage to the Holy Land"?

In an article in Eighteenth Century Studies, Harold Hellenbrand determined that Jefferson asked John Adams his opinion about the lost tribes theory and they ultimately agreed that "Adair's evidence was superficial and inconclusive"(Popkin, page 79). As a result, Popkin concludes: "The Louisiana Purchase was for Jefferson a commitment that the United States would develop as a secular redeemer nation, solving the problems of mankind by reason and science, and not as part of scriptural history."

For Further Reading:
  • Popkin, Richard "The Rise and Fall of the Jewish Indian Theory," a chapter in Hebrew and the Bible in America, Shalom Goldman, Editor. University Press of New England, 1993.
  • Hellenbrand, Harold. "Not 'to Destroy But to Fulfil': Jefferson, Indians, and Republican Dispensation," in Eighteenth Century Studies, 18 (1985).

Natick Dictionary

James Hammond Turnbull (1821-1897) was a philologist (which means he studied languages). He didn't work directly with Algonkian-speaking Indians, but was fortunate to have the chance to "deciper rough phonetic accounts" passed down from the 1600's and 1700's (source). (Undoubtedly John Eliot's Natick Bible was used.)

If you're not already familiar with any Algonkian languages, but want to learn one or more, the Natick Dictionary might be the best place to start becasuse words are translated both from Natick to English, and also from English to Natick. Turnbull is given credit for being the first white scholar to understand how highly systematic the Algonkian languages were [are].

Although recently reprinted by the University of Nebraska Press, the Natick Dictionary was originally printed by the United States Government Printing office about six years after Turnbull's death and that edition can now be found online thanks to Google.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Algonquians of Schaghticoke

In a recent post, I mentioned something about a village called Schaghticoke that (according to Patrick Frazier) was inhabited by refugees from various Algonkian nations. Not long after that post hit the net, I got a message from one of the Schaghticoke Indians, a man who identified himself as Mickey. I spoke with him this morning on the phone and the history which he told me about is better taken from the Schaghticoke Indian Reservation's website than from my notes.

As you know, this blog is about Christianity in the Algonkian tribes, so I asked Mickey if he is a Christian. I don't remember what he said, but it wasn't "yes" and it wasn't "no" either.

There is a stereotype held by some non-Christian Indians that Christianity is "the white man's religion" and nothing more than a tool of oppression. But then there are people like Mickey, who, although they are not members of a Christian church, understand that the Algonkian Indians were spiritual people before whites came to Turtle Island (America) and most of the ones who became Christians did it to maintain their spirituality.

According to Mickey, Algonquian means "All become One," and he and his people are doing what they can to put a stop to all kinds of segregation. This strikes me as being different from other Indian communities that I know of. Often in the course of trying to preserve an Indian community, the downside is that outsiders don't always feel welcome.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Red Man Dispossessed

How did the Indians at Stockbridge, Massachusetts lose their land? That question is addressed by Lion Miles in an article that appeared in the New England Quarterly in 1994 and was later re-printed as part of a book called "New England Encounters." The title of his article, "The Red Man Dispossessed: The Williams Family and the Alienation of Indian Land in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 1736-1818," reveals who the true villians were in the process.

The article is largely summed up when Miles states "Ephraim Williams, his son Elijah, and designing European traders cheated the Indians out of their land"(on page 75). The period of time which Miles refers to as "the great land grab" didn't begin until after Jonathan Edwards was no longer the missionary. John Sergeant [Sr.], Edwards and Timothy Woodbridge, the schoolteacher, advocated for the Indians, ensuring that the great land grab didn't begin until the end of the 1759. (But, as you may also read in Miles' article and elsewhere, Edwards, Woodbridge, and John Sergeant each also received sizable parcels of land when the mission town was being set up.)

There was a court system in place that was supposed to protect the Indians from fraud, but unfortunately, Miles explains, as the Sheriff of Berkshire County, Elijah Williams, had a conflict of interest. His purchases of Indian land made him "a very wealthy man"(page 70).

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas at Shawano County, 1858

When they came to what is now Wisconsin, the Stockbridge Mohicans were an agricultural people, but after they lost their land on the east shore of Lake Winnebago, the next move was to a part of Shawano County, where most of the land was too swampy and rocky to farm. The treaty of 1856 that created the Shawano County reservation was welcomed by the Citizen Party, but many in the Indian Party protested it by refusing to move.

Jeremiah Slingerland, whose life story will be spelled out in future posts, was one Indian Party member who didn't participate in the protest. Slingerland and his wife, Sarah, were the tribe's schoolteachers, and Jeremiah had a number of irons in the fire, he farmed, preached, and was active in tribal politics. (I don't refer to him as "Reverend Slingerland," since he was not ordained until many years after he graduated from an eastern seminary.)

On December 25th, 1858, Jeremiah Slingerland wrote a letter to his Aunt, Electa (Quinney) Candy (she is another person who will be featured in future posts). The letter is largely about politics: members of the Indian Party were trying to purchase land from their "Uncles," the Oneidas. He tells also of tough times, saying that Benjamin Doxtator is "about blind from drunkenness." A truer indicator of poverty, however, is his description of the school. Slingerland tells his aunt that "My school is in progress tho, not so many attend as in the fall because many can't get shoes - the agent will send up a box of them tho, to furnish the school children."

The Slingerlands adopted a number of children who didn't make it into adulthood. At the age of seven, they also adopted "Teaspoon" Davids, aside from him none of their children reproduced. The Christmas Day letter seems to be the only evidence of a "Franky" Slingerland, here's what it says:

"Today is Christmas and our little Franky is five years old - A Merry Christmas to you."


"Franky wants me to say to Aunt this is his birth day and is five years old."

The letter is contained in the John C. Adams Papers at the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Thelma Davids Putnam

Algonkian church history would be incomplete if it were not for Thelma [Davids] Putnam (1901-1993).

As a Stockbridge Mohican elder, Thelma Putnam was satisfied with Rev. J.N. Davidson's tribal history, except that his account ended in the 1890's - just about the time when the Stockbridge Mohicans seemed to go from Calvinist to Lutheran. So Ms. Putnam (or "Aunt Thel" as some people still refer to her today) took up the task of writing an updated tribal church history.

A photo from page 18 of her book --->

A descendant of the Millers and Yoccums on her mother's side and David Naunauneekanuk on her father's side, Thelma Davids was born in 1901 (Davids Family Genealogy). She grew up in the town of Red Springs, just across the road from the Lutheran mission. As a result, she "grew up with personal knowledge of and [was] a personal friend of many of the pastors, teachers, and employees of the Lutheran Mission" (Putnam, page 2).

Reflecting back in her later years, Thelma Putnam was realistic enough to understand that not everybody had loved the mission the same way that she did, but the descriptions she gives us of her childhood memories leave no doubt that the mission church was the center for "all social life" for many of the Stockbridge Mohicans (page 15).

As her nephew, Steve Comer, tells it, Thelma Davids was the first Stockbridge Indian he knew of that "went off the Rez and made her name in the world." When Thelma Davids was growing up it wasn't common for rural people (not just Indians but also whites) to attend high school. But Thel attended and graduated from Milwaukee Lutheran High School and went on to serve as a missionary/teacher to the White Mountain Apache Indians in Arizona.

<----After returning to Wisconsin, Thelma married Steve Putnam. They raised eight daughters and one son.

Nobody that I had a chance to ask was able to confirm this, but Thelma Davids Putnam appears to have followed in the footsteps of the German-born Rev. Francis Uplegger, who began his ministry in Shawano County, and later became the "Director of the Lutheran High School in Milwaukee" and missionary at the White Mountain Apache Reservation (page 31).

While there was one mission church at Stockbridge, Massachusetts in the 1700's (and it was supported by wealthy and powerful people overseas), the situation was very different in the 1900's. In the twentieth century, a number of small, scattered Indian congregations sprang up in Shawano County. The credit for preserving the history of those congregations goes to Thelma Putnam. Her book, Christian Religion Among the Stockbridge Munsee Band of Mohican Indians (written in 1978 and self-published) tells of the many comings and goings of ministers and their families. It also tells in detail how various church communities lacking financial resources began without the benefit of a church building and met in people's homes, the cook shack from an old logging camp, the tribal headquarters, and even in a converted saloon.

The book is for sale ($15) at the Arvid E. Miller Memorial Library-Museum.

A Nation of Statesmen

There really isn't a complete and definitive history of the Stockbridge Mohicans, but A Nation of Statesmen by James Oberly (University of Oklahoma Press, 2005) is arguably the closest thing to it. The book's subtitle, The Political Culture of the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohicans, 1815-1972, is a tipoff that Oberly's focus is on politics and I agree that politics was a huge focus of the Stockbridge people - more than religion was - during that period of time. As I have mentioned in previous posts, the Stockbridge Mohicans were bitterly divided into a "Citizen Party" and an "Indian Party" for generations. It is a conflict that has been addressed by others before. But Oberly, a professor at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire, does a good job of fleshing out the bigger picture of how the Citizen Party leaders were allied with Democrats in Washington, while the Indian Party leaders were allied with Republican legislators.

Something that I haven't mentioned yet, is that between about 1895 and the mid-1930's, the Stockbridge Mohicans were not recognized as a political entity. But thanks to their political leaders, the Stockbridge-Munsee Community was the first Native nation to re-organize under the Indian Reorganization Act. A Nation of Statesmen also chronicles that remarkable piece of history.

You can compare these maps from Oberly's book to the ones in my post "Wisconsin's Past and Present."

Oberly's book also has appendices which contain documents such as relevant treaties, acts of Congress, etc.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Church of the Wilderness

A phrase in a poem written by John Greenleaf Whittier (a Massachusetts Quaker) in the 1800's has stayed with the Stockbridge Mohicans to this day. "The Preacher" was the name of the poem and J.N. Davidson used the phrase "church of the wilderness" as the title of the first chapter of his history of the Stockbridge Nation. Here's part of the poem:

In the church of the wilderness Edwards wrought,
Shaping his creed at the forge of thought;
And with Thor's own hammer welded and bent
The iron links of his argument,
Which strove to grasp in its mighty span
The purpose of God and the fate of man!
Yet faithful still, in his daily round
To the weak, and the poor, and sin-sick found,
The schoolman's lore and the casuist's art
Drew warmth and life from his fervent heart.

Today the Lutheran Church of the Wilderness is one of two active Lutheran churches on the small Stockbridge-Munsee reservation.

Intro to Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards was the most famous person to ever preach to the Stockbridge Mohicans, in fact, he was so influential in early American history that I had to read one of his sermons in a literature class in the public high school I attended. "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" was the name of the sermon.

Edwards made more than just a cameo appearance in Algonkian church history: After John Sergeant died, Edwards was chosen as the next missionary at Stockbridge [MA], serving there from 1751 to 1757. Despite the "fire and brimstone" stereotype we have of Rev. Edwards, a few historians are now recognizing that he did some really positive things for his Indian charges. In fact, the sermons about sin that caused such great anxiety in white churchgoers weren't the same sermons that he preached to the Stockbridge Mohicans. I promise more about Edwards in later posts.

The Stockbridge Iroquois?

In the last few decades, many of the Stockbridge Mohicans have gone from shortening the name of their people from the "Stockbridges" to the "Mohicans." Of course, there are reasons for this. First of all, the word "Stockbridge" couldn't have been picked by Indians. The name "Stockbridge" was taken from an English town with that name. And now that Indians can be proud of being Indians, why not refer to themselves by an authentic Indian name?

Now I'm going argue that the name "Stockbridge Indians," though not as romantic as "Mohicans," is more historically or genealogically accurate. It is a rather simple argument, really. Many of the Indians that joined the Stockbridge community over the years, were non-Mohicans. It began with Algonkians that had lived among or been politically influenced by the Mohicans since the 1600's. These groups would include (probably the Schaghticoke's and) the Wappingers. In 1756 the remnant of the Wappingers, numbering 227 souls, joined the Stockbridge community. At that time there were probably only about 200 Stockbridge "Mohicans," but the community became larger by taking on the Wappingers.

Then of course, there are the Munsees, they are not Mohicans. There are the Brotherton Delawares (but they might not have many descendants left among the Stockbridges). And the Gardner family were Narrangansetts.

So far, I've only mentioned other Algonkians, but there were also Indians from Iroquois nations who joined the Stockbridge community. The treaty of 1856 included language that encouraged the Munsees and all other Indians that were still in New York State to settle in the new Stockbridge-Munsee reservation. Some of the New York Iroquois took the government up on this. J.N. Davidson (page 44) says he was told that Senecas, Onondagas, and Cayugas, "about eighty in all," joined the Stockbridge community in the 1850's.

There were also escaped slaves and others with African blood marrying into the Stockbridge community, and white people, what about the white people?! There is a lot of German and other white blood among those who are members of the Stockbridge community. Maybe they could call themselves the Stockbridge Tri-racial Community - If you can think of something more genealogically accurate than that, please let me know.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Prospectus: Brothertown

David J. Silverman, a history professor at George Washington University, has been working on a book about the Brothertown Indians over the last few years. In 2006 Silverman allowed Rich Church, a Brothertown, to share his book prospectus over the Brothertown listserv. A few days ago, Silverman gave me permission to quote from the prospectus and added that the book will be in stores and libraries by the fall of 2009 if not sooner. The title will be Brothertown: American Indians and the Problem of Race. Here's a few quotes:

"One of the striking features of Brothertown, New Stockbridge, and the Oneidas, is that these Indian communities met almost every demand placed upon them by white authorities: they adopted Christianity,literacy, the English language, male plow agriculture, and eventually, even private property. yet, wherever they moved, state, federal, or territorial governments did everything they could to force the Indians out yet again....there was nothing the Indians could do to persuade authorities that Indians deserved a place in the republic."

"Indians across the Northeast began regarding themselves as America's true Christians, because , after all, it was they who shared everything they had with one another despite their trials. By contrast, the Indians cast whites as indelible hypocrites."

Silverman also says that the first generation of Brothertowns was interested "not the least of all, [in] forming a new town in which they could ban all Indians who had married African Americans or who descended from such marriages."

That may sound politically incorrect, but the Brothertowns were trying to preserve what was left of their Native culture. Furthermore, they knew that if somebody had any African blood, they would be treated as Negroes, which was even worse than being treated like Indians.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Sergeant Preached "in Indian"

Although John Sergeant [Sr.] met the Housatonic Mohicans and spent time with them in the autumn of 1734, he had to return to Yale and complete his duties as a tutor there. In order to learn the very different (that is to say difficult) Mohican language, Sergeant took two boys back to Yale with him. They were Konkapot's nine-year-old son and Umpachenee's eight-year-old son (this is often mentioned and I think first noted by Samuel Hopkins).

Nowadays, of course, it is understood that missionaries will speak the language of the people that they are ministering to. This wasn't an expectation back in the 1700's, but in the course of speaking through interpreters, John Sergeant understood that he wouldn't be able to connect with his flock without learning their language. In August of 1737 he proudly recorded "I preach'd in Indian" in his journal (as quoted in Hopkins, 60).

In the introduction to his history of the Stockbridge Nation, J. N. Davidson gives us the beginning of Sergeant's "Prayer Before Sermon,"

"Oe Taupaunnumeauk pohtummauwaus, maukhkenun, quauwauntum, wouk knoi Keyuh keshehtouwaunoop wauweh ohquauntum, wouk kaukhhunnouwauntunnun mauweh ohquolekeh."
I would guess that this is a translation of an existing Calvinist prayer, but Davidson doesn't actually say so.

Wisconsin's Past and Present

Wisconsin's Sesquicentennial was celebrated in 1998 with the publication of Wisconsin's Past and Present: A Historical Atlas (University of Wisconsin Press). The Wisconsin Cartographer's Guild (author of the book) managed to simplify the coming of the New York Indians to Wisconsin in the graphic below (page 7 in the book). I wish they hadn't referred to the Brothertown nation as "Brotherton," and some of the years given could be debated, but overall the map is accurate enough.

The purpose of this second map (also on page 7) is to diagram lands lost by the Menominee, an Algonkian Nation that once covered much of Wisconsin. The Stockbridge and Brothertown Reservations of the 1830's on the east shore of Lake Winnebago are outlined - they were a carve-out of Menominee lands. In 1854, the Menominee Nation signed a treaty which gave them a rectangular reservation (approximately in the center of this map) and only two years later, the Stockbridge Mohicans' new reservation was another Menominee carve-out.

This map shows Wisconsin in 1998. Reservations are denoted by a dull purple color - they include the Lac Courte Oreilles, Bad River, Lac du Flambeau, Menominee, Stockbridge, and, of course, the Oneida reservation (the Oneidas also came from New York but they spoke an Iroquois dialect). Maybe you can also see the Red Cliff Reservation which looks like a thick line on the shore of Lake Superior. The Mole Lake Sokoagan Band has such a small reservation that it doesn't show up on this map. Also the Forest County Potawotami and the Ho-Chunk (formerly known as Winnebago) have checkerboard land holdings that are impossible to depict on this kind of a map.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Women's Preaching

After spending time with the Oneidas, Brothertowns, and others, Dorothy Ripley returned to New Stockbridge, New York towards the end of August, 1805. At least two clergymen were visiting John Sergeant (Jr.) on that day and Ms. Ripley overheard one of them saying that if she had "Come to teach them to knit and sew it would be very well"(page 110). According to Ripley's journal,"Catherine Quachemut, an Indian sister, "was so "grieved at the incivility of the missionary who opposed women's preaching" that she wrote Ripley a letter and walked eight miles to deliver it.

That letter starts out as a very conventional confession of Christian faith and then proceeds to address the issue of female preachers:

"I fully believe that thou art sent by the great and good Spirit into this part of the world to do good to thy fellow creatures, to preach the gospel to every kind of people; and although many people are led to believe that it is not the duty of women to preach, still I pray God that thou mayest not be discouraged, there being many infallible proofs in the scriptures of women labouring in the gospel; one great encouragement is our Lord Jesus appeared to a woman first after his Resurrection" (pages 117-118).

After several more lines of sisterly well-wishing, Catherine Quachemut signed her name and wrote Neyuh Dinnaukomuh [which means "I will do it"], New Stockbridge, 8th mo[nth] 1805 (page 118).

That same day the other Stockbridge women dictated another letter to Captain Hendrick:

"Dear sister,
We the poor women of the Muheconnuck [Mohican] nation, wish to speak a few words to you, to inform you, that while our forefathers were sitting by their ancient fire-place, about eighty years ago, our father, Rev. Sergeant's father, came amongst them with the message of the Great and Good Spirit."

The letter went on to describe the esteem they had for John Sergeant Sr. and the compassion with which John Sergeant Jr. had towards their "dismal situation." The letter continues:

"Sister, While we were sitting by the side of our fire-place here, we saw you coming, and when you opened your mouth we believed you was sent by the Great and good Spirit to visit us (poor natives of this Island.) We feel thankful to Him that he has put such a love in your heart, that you was willing to undertake such a long and tedious journey on purpose to deliver His message to us... Sister, In behalf of the rest of our women, we now heartily thank you for your kindness and for the pains you have taken to visit us."

The letter continued on with more pleasantries and Captain Hendrick listed Lydia Suhquawkhuh (wife of Hendrick), Catherine Quaquwchon, Elizabeth Maukhtoaquawusquch, Catherine Quinney, and Eve Knohtcaunmeau as the authors. John Sergeant [Jr.] gave Dorothy Ripley his horse and ten days later she was on a sloop back to New York City.

The Bank of Faith

The Bank of Faith and Works United contains Dorothy Ripley's journal during her mission trip to the New York Indians in 1805. On August 12 she first preached in New Stockbridge:

"I went to their church, which is distinguished by a steeple, that you can see some distance off. It is a neat, clean, wood building, with glass windows, and a handsome entrance, having a gallery all round excepting where the minister sits.... The Indians, fantastically dressed, sung a psalm feelingly, which moved my passion of love, so that I wept tears of joy. After this [Rev.] Serjeant [sic] prayed in Indian, then in English, and gave out a second psalm, which was sung as the other admirably. The minister then read part of the fourteenth chapter of Mark, which Captain Hendrick, a Chief, read also in Indian; and I was at the liberty to preach to them, and had Captain Hendrick to interpret for me as long as I thought proper.... When I came out, many Indians gladly took me by the hand, which affectionately I saluted after the same manner, knowing One God was our Father, redeemer, and Sanctifier of all"(101-102).

The Bank of Faith and Works United has been reprinted (I think in 2007) and is also available online.

Who Was Dorothy Ripley?

I just looked Dorothy Ripley up on Wikipedia and it says that she was an Enlishwoman who "spent thirty years in the United States trying to secure better conditions for slaves." It also says that she may have been the first woman to ever address the Congress of the United States. But the Wikipedia article doesn't say anything about Ripley's acitivity in the course of Algonkian church history.

Like Samson Occom, Dorothy Ripley is a hero because she managed to have a career as a preacher at a time when mission societies rarely gave any kind of support to anybody that wasn't a white male. In an upcoming post, I'll describe how Ripley preached to the New York Indians, including the Stockbridges and Brothertowns, in 1805. (I'm also going to keep the title of her book under wraps for now - so it can be the title of the upcoming post.)

I chose five verses of a poem Ripley wrote that appear to illustrate her life:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Western Abenaki Dialect

From the Smithsonian Libraries Blog, here's a post about the western Abenaki dialect.

This is the Algonquin dialect once spoken in the area between what is now Montreal and what is now Quebec City.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Collected Writings of Samson Occom and Other Book Recommendations

Books -->

discussed on another blog:

Searching the blogosphere, I came upon some book recommendations that are highly relevant to Algonkian Church History.
The books include the following:

  • On Our Own Ground: The Complete Writings of William Apess, a Pequot

  • The Collected Writings of Samson Occom, Mohegan: Literature and Leadership in Eighteenth-Century Native America

  • To Do Good to My Indian Brethren: The Writings of Joseph Johnson 1751-1776

  • The Tutor'd Mind: Indian Missionary-Writers in Antebellum America
Paul Harvey is the author and Blogmeister.

The State of Christianity at New Stockbridge: Fall, 1787

It is well known that a split in the Stockbridge tribal church occurred as a result of a falling out between Samson Occom and John Sergeant Jr. But it is seldom said that the two men were allies, if not friends, for a long time before their falling out. They both had a legitimate claim to being the minister to the Stockbridge Mohicans and although we can't know for sure what their disagreement was about, I think Harold Blodgett was correct in saying it had something to do with "doctrinal differences." I'll explain why I think so in another post. On the other hand, Sergeant did have some advantages on account of being a white man. As I said, both men had legitimate claim to ministering to the Stockbridges, but I don't think the brand new Society for Propagating the Gospel Among the Indians and Others in North America (SPGAIONA?) even considered appointing Samson Occom. In an October 25th, 1787 letter, John Sergeant was appointed to live and work among the Indians at New Stockbridge and to receive 50 Pounds Sterling as salary.

In another letter, written by a Mr. Wigglesworth to a Mr. McFarlan on November 13, 1787, the following account of the state of Christianity at New Stockbridge, New York is given:

More than twelve families regularly maintain the worship of God morning and evening; and catechize their Children with as much Propriety as is done by more civilized People among them. On Lord's days, when they have no Preacher among them they assemble together for Religious Worship. Besides Singing, praying and [illegible] together on religious subjects, some portion of the scriptures and other books of piety are read by those who can understand the English language and translated into Indian. Some of them are so fully appraised of the importance of religious Instruction that they [illegible] and their Future prosperity will greatly depend on the Continuance of a Missionary among them.

Maybe Wigglesworth didn't know that some of the tribal leaders had recently invited Rev. Occom to be their minister. Over the next nine months, Rev. Sergeant and Rev. Occom carried on a cooperative ministry. Their falling out is something that I'll save for a later post.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Occom's Most Remarkable Sermon

The reference book, Notable Native Americans provides us with a good two-plus page biography of Rev. Samson Occom. It tells about his most famous sermon. Moses Paul was an Indian who, after being thrown out of a tavern, "enacted revenge on the first person to emerge"(page 295). Paul requested that his execution sermon be preached by Samson Occom and such sermons in those days attracted a lot of people, including Indians and white authorities (lawyers, etc.). The book describes the situation Occom was in:

" Indian preacher having to preach a sermon for a condemned Indian on the topic of sobriety to whites and Indians that, from a rhetorical standpoint, demanded formidable skills of balance in referring to the effects of alcohol; he realized how the English used strong drink to weaken the spirit of his people"(295).

Occom quoted scripture first, then addressed Moses Paul, then the whites, and finally reminded the other Indians present of the seriousness of the sin of drunkenness.

I think I read somewhere that this sermon marks the first time that an Indian's intellectual property was published and Notable Native Americans calls the printing history of this sermon "phenomenal." In a period of eight years it went through ten printings!

Occom's descendants migrated to what is now Wisconsin in the 1820's. To a large extent, the Brothertown Indians are now scattered throughout the country, but nevertheless, Fond du Lac, the nearest city to their old reservation, serves as their capital. I talked to one of the Brothertown elders over the weekend. He told me that a few of Occom's descendants still live in Fond du Lac and, ironically, the family business lately has been tavern keeping.

----Today, almost three years after that post was written, it received its first comment from Diane Sampson who says that "only a small percentage" of Occom descendants in Fond du Lac make their living from tavern keeping.

Well, Diane, I hope you didn't take offense at what I wrote, it was not meant as an insult, but I'm sorry for having made it seem that many, most, or all of the family was involved in the hospitality business. Thank you for correcting my error.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Mohican Catechism

So you want to know about Algonkian language? This is the Mohican dialect spelled out in the English alphabet. "Pohtommawwaus" is translated as "God," (one of only two or three Mohican words that I've memorized).

There are a few whites as well as a committee on the Stockbridge-Munsee reservation working on reviving the Mohican language and I've heard that Christian documents like this one are their only written sources for doing it. They also have taken some cues from the Munsee/Mohican Indians in Ontario, but of course, Munsees are Delaware (or Lenape) Indians and didn't necessarily use the same pronounciations as the Mohicans did. So how do you pronounce a Mohican word? One Indian told me that there are disagreements.

The Mohican catechism includes the following Calvinist documents and Biblical passages: The Assembly's Shorter Catechism, Dr. Watt's Shorter Catechism for Children, the 3rd Chapter of John, the 5th and 7th Chapters of Matthew, and select Psalms. The translation took place in the 1810's. In a letter to the Mohican News (10/15/2005), Lion Miles noted that while John Sergeant, Jr. got credit for the translation, it is most likely that three Stockbridge Mohican boys attending the mission boarding school in Cornwall, Connecticut did a large amount of the work. The boys were John N. Chicks, Jacob Seth, and John Newcome.

Thanks to the Wisconsin State Historical Society, the Mohican Catechism is now online.

Friday, December 12, 2008

As They Were Faithful

I finished up yesterday's post by saying that I doubted if the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians would be around today if not for the success of John Sergeant Sr.'s mission work. If you know me, you know that I'm not saying that all the credit for a whole tribe's survival is thanks to one white man. Too many Native nations didn't survive the European invasion intact and it wasn't because one tribe was "better" than another. Rather the amount of devastation the fur trade did to each group of Indians probably depended more on laws of geography than anything else. The coastal Algonkians were the most devastated by the fur trade and the Iroquois (e.g. Oneidas and Mohawks), being farther inland, had time to make a more gradual adjustment to the fur trade.

A scholarly article by James Ronda and Jeanne Ronda is relevant to this discussion: "'As They Were Faithful': Chief Hendrick Aupaumut and the Struggle for Stockbridge Survival, 1757-1830."(American Indian Culture and Research Journal 3:3 (1979) pages 43-55). A recurring theme in that article is a comparison between Captain Hendrick and Tecumseh. While Captain Hendrick was the first non-white diplomat employed by the United States, Tecumseh was an enemy of the United States. Captain Hendrick described himself as "the front door" through which Christian missionaries could access what were then known as "the western tribes," in the Ohio River Valley. He also promoted "civilization" to the Delawares and other Indians.

Tecumseh was trying to promote Indian survival by attempting to bring the tribes together against the United States. But Captain Hendrick saw it differently. In a speech to the Delawares recorded in John Sergeant Jr.'s Journal, Captain Hendrick explained

All the [Indian] nations who thus rejected civilization and Christian religion, and embraced the wicked practices of the white people were poor and finally became extinct from the earth. But, on the other hand, all the Indians who accepted the offer of the good white people were blessed. So far as they were faithful, they prospered, and the remnants of them remain to this day.

The Rondas point out a few other things: Captain Hendrick wasn't naive, he knew that his people weren't getting a fair shake from the white government. But his work on behalf of the United States gave him the opportunity to lobby for compensation for the tribe's service and losses in the Revolutionary War (the treaty of 1795 finally did that). And finally they tell us that Captain Hendrick Aupaumut's place in American history deserves more recognition. I agree.

Brothertown Exhibit

The Fond du Lac [WI] Public Library had an exhibit about the Brothertown Indians recently (above).

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Historical Memoirs

Samuel Hopkins was one of the Commissioners of Indian Affairs acting on behalf of the New England Company (see my post of 11/19/2008) and in that capacity, he was one of the ministers who approached Konkapot and Umpachenee about the possibility of starting a mission on the Housatonic River. The Commissioners hired John Sergeant to be the first missionary and he served from 1734 until his death in 1749.

In 1753, Samuel Hopkins' book, Historical Memoirs was printed (an abridged version came out in 1972). It actually has a title that is probably longer than this post so far, and it is about the early days of the mission. Hopkins had access to something we don't have - John Sergeant Sr.'s journal. That alone makes his book important.

Sergeant was 39 when he died and he was a minister just as Hopkins was a minister.... do you know what I'm getting at? It was only natural for Hopkins to edify or aggrandize Sergeant. (Maybe this was more because of racial/cultural issues than about Sergeant's early death.) Laura M. Smith in her book The Poor Indians (page 153), says that Sergeant "seems to disappear before the reader's eyes as Hopkins relates the story of [Sergeant's] life."

So was John Sergeant Sr. a saintly hero as Hopkins portrays him, or an evil agent of anti-diversity as some modern idealogues may tend to portray him? Do we know enough about him so that he is more than just a Rorshach test of our own sentiments? Maybe we do. It is clear that Christianity got off to a strong start in John Sergeant's mission work with the Mohicans and other Algonkians and we know that his converts were fond of him. I'm inclined to think that if it was not for the success of John Sergeant Sr.'s ministry, the Stockbridge Mohicans would not be here today.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Muh-He-Ka-Ne-Ok is online

Muh-He-Ka-Ne-Ok: A History of the Stockbridge Nation was written by John Nelson Davidson, a Presbyterian minister, and published in 1893. It was supposed to be the first of a series of short studies on various ethnic groups associated with Presbyterianism in Wisconsin. Of course, Davidson got a little carried away with the Stockbridge Mohicans, some of whom were model Presbyterians at a time when there were hardly any white people in what is now Wisconsin. Like Electa Jones, Davidson has his shortcomings as an historian. Nevertheless, our picture of Algonkian church history is more complete thanks to his work.

btw: "Muh-He-Ka-Ne-Ok" is Davidson's spelling for Muhhekunnuk, the name the Mohicans used for themselves and their homeland in their own language which is roughly translated as "people of the waters that are never still" (I've heard a number of different translations so I say it is "roughly translated.")

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Stockbridge Past and Present

"Miss Electa F. Jones," a white Calvinist and resident of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, worked on a history of that town for two years and it was published (in 1854 by Samuel Bowles in Springfield, MA) after her death. While facsimile reprints of Jones' book can be purchased, it probably isn't the kind of book that anybody would read straight through. Nevertheless, Stockbridge Past and Present or Records of An Old Mission Station certainly contains some gold nuggets of information for people who are interested in the Stockbridge Indians in both Massachusetts and New York and the white town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts up until about 1850. I am grateful to Jones for describing details of worship and other church matters that I haven't found elsewhere. Here's an example:

Feb. 3d, 1811, a very interesting concert of sacred music was given by the Indians of New Stockbridge [NY]. The choir, consisting of 60 or 70 Indians, "dressed in their best," and one playing on a flute, marched about half a mile to the church, where the procession opened for the entrance of the clergy. About 100 whites and 200 Indians were supposed to be present. The sermon was preached by one of the neighboring ministers and the performances gave universal satisfaction.
"This remarkable attention of my people, to improve in the art of singing, says Mr. Sergeant [Jr], "has had a good effect to call the people together; a seriousness has appeared in the minds of some, together with a reformation of manners. The Singing Master has much advanced the cause of religion among this people."

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Bat Creek Stone and the Lost Tribes

I haven't spent much time telling you about what first turned me on to Algonkian church history. To make it simple, I have some connections to Shawano County, Wisconsin, and, while going about my business, I heard about the Stockbridge Bible, which I'll venture to say is the most historic relic of Native Christianity in the Great Lakes states, if not in the entire midwest.

Just as the Stockbridge Bible was, for some time, the focus of my research, the Bat Creek Stone was the focus of Lowell Kirk's research. The Bat Creek Stone was found inside an ancient burial mound in Tennesee and the controversy surrounding it has been mostly about whether it was inscribed with Cherokee writing or Hebrew writing (the Cherokee alphabet was invented by Sequoiah in 1821). Another possibility, says Lowell Kirk, is that the Bat Creek Stone was a forgery.

I still have other relics to tell you about. My own position on the Lost Tribes Theory changes as I study it; I never believed that we will find any of these ancient tribes intact today, but did some Semitic people come to this continent before Columbus and incorporate themselves into the Algonkian nations? What do you think?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Stockbridge Story

In the early 1980's, three residents of Calumet County, Wisconsin, wrote and published a book called The Stockbridge Story. It was, of course, a book about the history of Stockbridge, Wisconsin, and since one of the co-authors, Elaine Doxtator Raddatz, is a Stockbridge Mohican, this book has information about that tribe that (until now) doesn't appear to have been repeated elsewhere.

In the book, Raddatz points out (and this is consistent with what academic historians have written) that "[s]everal trips over seven years were needed to accomplish the complete resettlement of the tribe from New York to Wisconsin"(page 17). The first band to leave New York State, of course, was John Metoxen's band (see my post of 11/19/08). In 1822 another band "loaded their covered wagons at New Stockbridge, N.Y., and hitched them up to teams of oxen and headed west"(page 16). Raddatz then tells us a remarkable thing that happened to those travelers:

In White River Territory of Indiana, where Metoxen's contingent had stopped about four years earlier, they sat with their brothers, the Delaware. Here, they were pursued by hostile Indians, who understood neither the English the Stockbridge spoke, nor their reason for dressing like the white man. By this time - after generations of association with the white man - the Stockbridge had lost much of their Indian culture.

I've talked to Elaine Doxtator Raddatz over the phone, and I don't think she was able to give me any specifics about that incident. It is just one more example of "civilized" Indians not having an easy time fitting in with other groups of people.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Was Umpachenee Chief Sachem?

Konkapot and Umpachenee were the leaders of the two Housatonic Mohican villages in 1734 when two ministers approached them with the offer of a mission. At that meeting, the ministers conferred British military commissions on the two men and they subsequently become known as Captain Konkapot and Lieutenant Umpachenee. Konkapot may have gotten the better title because he was older than Umpachenee, or maybe it was because they already knew Konkapot was interested in Christianity.

Konkapot said he wanted the mission so the children could learn to read and he asked John Sergeant to Baptize him and also asked for a Christian marriage. Furthermore, he was what the Calvinists really wanted, an "industrious" Indian (by the 1740's he owned his own barn).

Meanwhile, Umpachenee was one of a few, or maybe even the only Housatonic Mohican who chose not to attend John Sergeant's ordination ceremony. The binges or benders that he went on - it is suggested by Nancy Lurie, former curator at the Milwaukee Public Museum - may have been a form of protest against the British influence. Umpachenee was a Christian too, but he seems to have preferred Moravianism to Calvinism. Clearly, the whites of Stockbridge [MA] preferred to treat Konkapot as a leader instead of Umpachenee.

Patrick Frazier is one historian who suggests that Umpachenee was the Chief Sachem in Stockbridge's early days (see pages 9, 56, and 254 of The Mohicans of Stockbridge). He married the daughter of "King" Etowaukaum at a time when matrilineality was not observed like it once was, so being the son-in-law of a former Chief Sachem at least gave him some influence. But, of course, having the favor of whites in a time and place where whites were gaining in number and power gave Konkapot influence.

I once received a message from Lion Miles in which he asserted that Konkapot was the Mohican Chief Sachem while the tribe was in Massachusetts. Why? He didn't really say why, but rather said he was skeptical becuse it was the Moravians who wrote that Umpachenee was "King of the Mohicans"(see Frazier, p. 254, footnote 63).

So who was Chief Sachem of the Mohicans in the 1740's? I think it remains an open question.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Stockbridge Mohican Church History Timeline: Part III

Once again, this timeline is based on many sources and I'm willing to back up any of it if you're in doubt.

1892: Henry Sprague approaches Rev. Francis Uplegger about supplying a Lutheran preacher. Others, including William C. Davids, also approach the Lutherans. Rev. Theodore Nickel of Shawano, a German immigrant, agrees to preach to the Stockbridge Mohicans, making it the first time he has preached in English.

1899: Rev. Nickel purchases 20 acres on Mission Lake for Immanuel Mohican Lutheran Church. The mission project is adopted by the organization now known as the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod.

1902: The Lutherans start a school

1907: The John Sergeant Memorial Presbyterian Church is organized.

1908: A dormitory is built for the Lutheran school. A variety of Wisconsin Indians attend the boarding school.

1930: In a transaction that would become controversial when other Stockbridge Mohicans learned of it, the John Sergeant Memorial Presbyterian Church sends the tribal Bible and communion set to Mabel Choate's museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts in exchange for $1000.

1933: The Great Depression forces the mission boarding school to close its doors. Classes continue for local children.

1936-1937: The Old Stockbridge Presbyterian Church is organized. The John Sergeant Memorial Church ceases to exist.

1944: The new tribal government supports the Lutheran Church in the Wilderness.

1958: The mission school closes its doors.

1977: The Stockbridge Bible Church is established by Rev. Gordon Shepard, himself a Stockbridge Mohican.

1978: Tribal elder Thelma Putnam writes Christian Religion Among the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians.

1984: Local churches celebrate 250 years of Christianity for the Stockbridge Mohicans.

1991: Ten delegates travel to Stockbridge, Massachusetts where the two-volume Stockbridge Bible is finally returned to descendants if the Indian Congregation it was given to in 1745. Celebrations are held at a parking lot on Highway 29 and at the tribe's Bingo Hall.

1990's:[?] Under the direction of Clarence Chicks, the Lutheran Mission is restored and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

2006: The communion set that was sent to Massachusetts with the tribal Bible is returned to the Stockbridge Mohicans by the Trustees of Reservations.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Stockbridge Mohican Church History Timeline: Part II

This timeline is based on a multitude of sources. Ask me if you want documentation for anything:

1773: John Sergeant [Jr.] takes on the mission work in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

1782: Ninety innocent Christian Indians are massacred in Gnadenhutten, Ohio by a renegade frontier militia.

August, 1787: Tribal leaders call an old friend, Rev. Samson Occom, a Mohegan Indian, to be their minister in New Stockbridge, New York.

October, 1787: John "Sergeant [Jr.] - also an old friend - is appointed by a new mission society to live and work at New Stockbridge.

July, 1788: A dispute between Rv. Occom and Rev. Sergeant splits the Stockbridge Mohicans into two churches.

July 1792: The result of Rev. Occom's unexpected death is a reunited church.

August, 1805: Having traveled across the Atlantic, Dorothy Ripley, an Englishwoman not connected with any church body, preaches to the New York Indians. She is especially well received by the women of New Stockbridge.

1818 to 1829: A period of western migration. Deacon John Metoxen is the leader of a new church organized with Rev. Sergeant's help. The Stockbridge Mohicans conduct their own worship services when no missionaries are around.

1824: John Sergeant [Jr.] dies at New Stockbridge, NY.

Circa 1826: Tribal leaders write a letter asking that a missionary be sent to their new location.

1828: Having already replaced Sergeant in NY and visited the tribe on the Fox River (what is now Kaukauna, WI), Jesse Miner moves his ministry to what is now Wisconsin.

1830: Calvin Colton, a Presbyterian minister, observes that the Stockbridge Mohicans treat their tribal Bible with reverence.

1830 - 1848: Cutting Marsh replaces Miner as missionary. After a honeymoon period of a few years, the Indians find Marsh to be rather stern and stubborn. Marsh found it difficult to stay out of tribal politics which became very contentious in the last 11 years of his tenure.

1833: John Metoxen, John N. Chicks, two other Stockbridges and Cutting Marsh conduct a mission trip to the Sauk Indians in and around Davenport, Iowa.

1833-1834: Tribe moves to what is now Calumet County [WI].

1837-1839: A faction of the tribe breaks away from Marsh's church and holds their own Baptist services. Eventually this group emigrates to what is now Kansas under the treaty of 1939.

1844: Wesson Miller, a Methodist circuit rider, holds a revival meeting in Jacob Chicks' barn. Some members of the Citizen Party leave Marsh's church to become Methodists.

1845: Jeremiah Slingerland - a Stockbridge Mohican - graduates from Bangor Theological Seminary. He moves back to Stockbridge, Wisconsin Territory, and takes on the work of schoolteacher and assistant to Rev. Marsh.

1848: The Indian Party makes a treaty to move west of the Mississippi, Citizen Party members are on their own. After much conflict between Marsh and Slingerland, Marsh leaves his post and dissuades the mission society from supporting Slingerland's ministry.

1850 - 1857: The Indian Party stays put and pays Slingerland and two white ministers to preach.

1856: A treaty brings the Indian Party and the Citizen Party, plus remnants of other tribes - especially Munsees - together on a new reservation in Shawano County [WI].

1857: Jeremiah Slingerland and his wife move to the new reservation. Worship services ae held in their home.

1859 - 1863: Jeremiah Slingerland preaches in the town of Shawano before the first white minister comes to town.

1866: More than twenty years after graduating from the seminary, Jeremiah Slingerland is finally ordained as a Presbyterian minister.

1867: After conducting their worship either informally, or in cooperation with the Methodists, the Stockbridge Mohicans finally have their own Presbyterian church again.

1881: Stephen Gardner and others attend Roman Catholic midnight mass on Christmas Eve on the Menominee Reservation. Under Gardner;s leadership, Roman Catholicism gains a foothold among the Stockbridge Mohicans for the fist time.

1884: Rev. Slingerland dies and the Presbyterian church fades without his leadership.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Stockbridge Mohican Church History Timeline: Part I

If you want to verify the accuracy of this post, the best source to check is Patrick Frazier's The Mohicans of Stockbridge.

May, 1734: Konkapot and Umpachenee are approached by two ministers who suggest the Mohicans accept a Christian mission.

July, 1734: A four-day council of the Housatonic Mohicans is held to decide whether or not to welcome a mission

October, 1734: The Housatonic Mohicans meet John Sergeant, their 1st missionary. Poohpoonuc is baptized, making him the first member of the church.

February, 1735: Roughly 200 Mohicans attend a national council hosted by Umpachenee. Approval is conferred upon the mission.

August, 1735: Forty-three Mohicans attend the ordination of John Sergeant. When asked if they want Sergeant to be their minister they rise in unison to show their approval.

1739: The town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts is incorporated.

1740-1741: Hannah Umpachenee and Mary Konkapot, two of the leaders of the new religion, die of tuberculosis.

1744: Kaunaumeek Mohicans (converts of David Brainerd) move to Stockbridge.

1745: The Prince of Wales' personal chaplain gives the Indian congregation a magnificent Bible.

1749: John Sergeant Dies at age 39. One historian (Davidson) claims he baptized 182 Indians.

1751-1757: Jonathan Edwards is the missionary. The French and Indian War rages. The Williams family tries to take Stockbridge land and government participation from Indians. However, the takeover is limited, thanks to Edwards' advocacy.

1758- 1770's: Bad Times
*Stephen West is the minister at Stockbridge, but he does not concern himself with the Indians spiritual or temporal needs. Instead, he appears to only be concerned about "sin" and excommunicates all Indians from his church.
*Historian Lion Miles refers to this period in time as "the great land grab." The unscrupulous Williams family, and a few others, cheat Indians out of their lands. More and more whites settle in Stockbridge.
*Out of frustration, problems related to drunkenness and alcoholism increase.

Nova: Where Are the Ten Lost Tribes?

My last two posts were about the lost tribes theory.
The NOVA people at PBS produced a program on that topic:
Where Are the Ten Lost Tribes?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tour of the American Lakes

Calvin Colton was an ordinary minister during the 1820's and then two things happened which changed his career path. First his voice failed, making preaching no longer possible, the other was that his wife died, making adventurous wilderness travel an option. So Colton headed out to what was called the Northwest Territory, now Wisconsin, to make observations which he recorded in Tour of the American Lakes, and Among the Indians of the North-west Territory, in 1830: Disclosing the Character and Prospects of the Indian Race (Re-printed by Kennikat Press in 1972).

Colton's report of the Stockbridge Mohicans and his description of their tribal Bible made it clear that he believed in the lost tribes theory

I saw a Bible yesterday, safely kept in a sort of ark, at their place of worship, (a remarkable relic of Hebrew custom), printed at Oxford, England, in 1717, of the largest and finest type I have ever seen.... It was transported with the tribe [from MA] to the state of New York; - and for aught I know, with all the sacerdotal solemnities of their Hebrew fathers, in ancient days..... Their reverence for this volume and for the ark which contains it is almost superstitious (pages 187-190).

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Hope of Israel

In my post on November 20th, I explained the significance of millenial thinking (or "millenialism") to the mission enterprise in "the New World." I ended that post by saying that part of the motivation for converting Indians to Christianity was based on a belief that it would bring on the second coming of Christ.

What was the basis for such a belief? That, of course is too huge a question to answer fully here, but, for some, it had something to do with the Lost Tribes Theory, or the belief that the American Indians were descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.

The Encyclopaedia Judaica, a highly respected reference work, asserts that "the legend of the Ten Lost Tribes is one of the most fascinating and persistent in Judaism and beyond it"(page 639). The article's author, Louis Isaac Rabinowitz later adds:

Special interest is attached to the fantastic traveler's tale told by Aaron (Antonio) Levi de Montezinos who, on his return to Amsterdam [Netherlands] from South America in 1644, told a remarkable story of having found Indians beyond the mountain passes of the Cordilleras who greeted him by reciting the Shema [prayers taken from Deuteronomy and Numbers]. Among those to whom Montezinos gave his affidavit was Manasseh Ben Israel, then rabbi of Amsterdam, who fully accepted the story, and to it devoted his [book] Hope of Israel (1650, 1652), (page 640).

In future posts, I will present to you quotes from various documents showing that Christian missionaries and American Indians themselves subscribed to the lost tribes theory well into the 1800's. In fact, I have corresponded with one Native American who still subscribes to it.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sketch of the Brothertown Indians

The "Sketch of The Brothertown Indians" was written in 1855 by Thomas Commuck, a member of that community. It was initially published in the Wisconsin Historical Collections in 1859. In the first sentence, Commuck makes it clear that he believes that his tribal government had made the right decision in the 1830's when they chose to accept citizenship and allowed their reservation to be divided into parcels for private ownership.

Today's Brothertowns continue to be an organized community, still not recognized as Indians by the United States government. However, the Brothertowns, whose headquarters is now in Fond du Lac (WI), have been trying for a long time to become "re-recognized," and federal agencies are now giving it some serious consideration. A government anthropologist was sent to Fond du Lac a few weeks ago to gather data.

The Citizen vs. Indian controversy is complex enough that I really want to be careful to avoid making any generalizations about it. At least for some period of time, many of the Brothertowns felt that Citizenship was the right choice for them. Meanwhile, their neighbors, the Stockbridges, were divided more-or-less evenly on the Citizen vs. Indian controversy and their political in-fighting was so bitter that it nearly destroyed that Native nation. I would say that the Brothertowns now wish their ancestors had kept their tribal recognition, but, I bet the way they look at it now is that their ancestors shouldn't have had to choose between being recognized as citizens and recognized as Indians. And who can blame them for that?

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Mohican Ten Commandments

"The Mohican Ten Commandments" is not the title of an actual document, but it refers to something much like the Ten Commandments in the oral history of the Mohican Indians that was put in writing by Captain Hendrick Aupaumut. Three different fragments of Aupaumut's complete history have been put together and published as part of American Indian Nonfiction: An Anthology of Writings, 1760s-1930s, edited by Bernd Peyer (University of Oklahoma Press, 2007).

Maybe it isn't right for me to refer to Aupaumut's statements as "Commandments," because he introduced them in this way: "The Head of each family - man or woman - would...waken...their children and teach them, as follows"(page 66).

Each admonishment, or "Commandment" if you will, consists of a paragraph, but I'll shorten them so they fit into my post:
"My Children - you must remember that it is by the goodness of [God] we are preserved through the night...."
"My little Children, if you see an aged man or woman on your way doing something, you must pity on them, and help them instantly"(page 66).
"My little Children- you must be very kind to strangers...."
"My Children- again listen. You must be honest in all your ways."
"My Children- you must never steal anything from your fellow men...."
"My Children - you must always avoid bad Company."...
"My Children- you must be very industrious."...
"And further, my Children- when you grow up, you must not take wife or husband without the consent of your parents and all relations."...
"My Children- at all times you must obey your Sachem and Chiefs"(page 67).

Obviously, these points are overlapping, but not the same as the Commandments that were given to Moses in the 20th chapter of Exodus. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that Captain Hendrick Aupaumut believed that the traditional Mohican ideology was compatible with Christianity.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving....a little historical perspective

Marge Bruchac, is an Abanaki Indian and a professional museum consultant. A few months ago I received something she wrote in 1998 and posted to some kind of online community in 1999. She called it "Thanksgiving and Giving Thanks in New England" - a little historical perspective (I'll try to find a link so you can read the whole thing). Here's some of what she had to say:

For centuries, all the Algonquian Indian peoples of New England have practiced rituals of feasting and giving thanks throughout the year, in every season, for every harvest [including Maple sugar harvest, strawberry harvest, and squash harvest]. Native beliefs and customs of hospitality called for sharing with relatives and strangers including the Pilgrims.

Bruchac informs us that the people that we call "Pilgrims" actually referred to themselves as "saints," because they were Separatists (see my previous post for an explanation of Separatism). In fact, they didn't call any feast they enjoyed a "Thanksgiving." According to Bruchac, that term wasn't used by whites until the 1800's. Nevertheless, a feast shared by Pilgrims and Indians really did happen. Bruchac acknowledges that "Massasoit and 90 warriors showed up to eat and drink," and although she tells us that 19th century "romantics rescripted [sic] the past to suit their fantasies," I still think there must have been something special about what most Americans now refer to as "the first Thanksgiving."
Why else would we continue to celebrate it for so many years?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Revivals, Awakenings, and Reform

Parts of William G. McLoughlin's book, Revivals, Awakenings, and Reform: An Essay on Religion and Social Change in America, 1607-1977 (University of Chicago Press, 1978), have helped me to understand the nature of Algonkian church history and the broader movement of frontier Calvinism. In a previous post, I mentioned that a focus on Old Testament law encouraged a sense of guilt. Furthermore, that background of guilt and anxiety enhanced the conversion experience which Calvinists (Puritans, Congregationalists, Presbyterians) understood to be an outward sign that one was predestined for salvation. In fact, McLoughlin wrote that it was not unusual for a conversion experience to be "overwhelming in its power, transforming in its result, and ecstatic in the sense of relief it provided"(43, 63-65).

Well, if conversion experiences were really "all that" (and they certainly were for some people), there were people that felt so special for having their conversion experience that they didn't want to belong to a church which included those who might not be predestined for salvation. Those people became known as Separatists.

Anyway, you may be saying to yourself, "what does McLoughlin's book have to do with Algonkian church history? " A lot. McLoughlin explains that those who suffered more tensions and repressed rage against society were more deeply relieved by their conversion experiences and as a result, emotional conversions made frontier Calvinism popular among the poor, Black slaves, women, children, and Indians (page 75).

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Blue-eyed Indian

Aside from some of the standard stereotypes and assumptions, most non-Indians really don't know much about today's American Indians. But occasionally something will happen that brings them attention from the media. In 1992, a remake of the movie The Last of the Mohicans (based on the novel by James Fenimore Cooper), prompted a reporter for the Troy [New York] Record to interview Steve Comer, the only enrolled member of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians who lives in the Mohican's ancestral homeland.

The article that resulted from Daniel Lorber's interview of Comer ran under the title "RENSSELAER COUNTY'S LAST MOHICAN: 'Blue-eyed Indian' Last of Line to Walk in Ancestor's Footsteps"(October 11, 1992). (Steve notes that his eyes are "technically Hazel," but appear to be blue at times depending on the lighting.) Newspapers really aren't the best place to get a summary of centuries of tribal history, but this particular article - thanks to Comer's knowledge and Lorber's reporting - is better than most.

Stockbridge Mohicans have told me that as they travel the country and tell people that they are Mohicans they are often told by those people that they no longer exist. Comer spoke to that: "In spite of everything, we've survived, and we want people to know we have survived. We lost our language, our history, our lifeways, but we didn't lose our Indian-ness."

Currently Steve Comer is an Archaeology student working on his PhD and active in promoting a wilderness skills demonstration that will be part of the 400-year commemoration of Henry Hudson's voyage up the river that was home to the Mohicans, but later named after Hudson. I'm grateful that he has appreciated my research into the history of his tribe.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Indians of Lenapehoking

Titles and names of groups can be confusing or misleading. One example: The Stockbridge-Munsee Indians. In spoken communication, people often don't realize that there is a hyphen between the words "Stockbridge," and "Munsee," so they make the reasonable, but incorrect assumption that the Stockbridges are a band of Munsees. Actually, of course, they are Mohicans, (or, arguably, they are amalgamated Algonkians). But who are the Munsee Indians?

A book that appears to be written for middle school students, The Indians of Lenapehoking (1985, Seton Hall University Museum) by Herbert C. Kraft and John T. Kraft addresses our question. The people who once lived in an area that included all of New Jersey, plus much of the land surrounding it, once called themselves the Lenape, or "the ordinary people." In the 1600's the English began calling them the Delaware Indians (page 2). (The Mohicans believed they were descendants of the Delawares and referred to them as their "grandfathers.")

According to Kraft and Kraft, "two related but distinct" groups of Indians made up the Delawares. Those living north of the Raritan River spoke a Munsee dialect, while those south of the Raritan spoke a Unami dialect (page 2).
(Map courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons)

The question of how the Stockbridge Mohicans became the "Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians" is too complex for me to get into now. Suffice it to say that the "Munsee" part doesn't refer to the Brotherton Indians, it refers to other Delawares that joined the Stockbridges later on.