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.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Brothertown, New York, 1785-1796

Although Samson Occom is the most famous of the Brothertown Indians, he was not their most powerful leader, in fact, in the last year or two of his life he moved to New Stockbridge (about six miles from Brothertown). Brothertown would not have been established if David Fowler, a Montauk, had not established a relationshhip with the Oneidas in central New York State. After that, Joseph Johnson, a Mohegan, was the most influential in bringing the amalgamated nation of Algonkian remnants together. Few historians have taken the time to focus on the Brothertown Indians, which makes an article I located in New York History (vol 81, no.4, October, 2000, pages 457-492) particularly valuable. "Brothertown, New York, 1785-1796," was written by Anthony Wonderly and its title is perhaps modest, because Wonderly gives some ink to who the Brothertowners were before they came together and finishes up with a brief discussion of their emmigration to what is now Wisconsin.

The Brothertown Indians came from at least six different tribes, including Montauketts, Narrangansetts, Niantics, Pequots, Mohegans, and Tunxis (the "Farmington Indians").
The challenges that Wonderly identifies, include 1) dealing with white encroachment, 2) adjusting to an agricultural economy from an economy that was still based to a large extent on gathering clams and oysters, and finally 3) the "sectarian competition" between tribal subgroups who were either Methodist, Baptist, Separatist, or Presbyterian (476).

Wonderly's impression, and he is probably correct, is that the challenge of growing their food as whites did was particularly significant. He suggests that the Brothertown Indians often went hungry and it was their poverty that gave white farmers from New England an opening to move in and lease the Indians' land. Please read the article if you want to know how things unravelled from there. (I suggest you ask your library to get it for you as an interlibrary loan, I don't think it is on the web.)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Occom's "Short Narrative of My Life"

Samson Occom wrote a brief (26 pages) autobiography in 1768 and a much-briefer one (only one page) in1765. His motivation for writing (historians believe), had something to do with his preaching tour of England and Scotland, in which people were puzzled over the reality that an Indian could actually be both educated and "civilized" according to white standards. If a man could preach and behave that well, they wondered, could he have ever been a true "wild" Indian?

Thus Occom's autobiography begins: "I was born a Heathen and brought up in Heathenism, till I was between 16 & 17 years of age, at a place called Mohegan, in New London, Connecticut... My parents livd a wandering life, for did all Indians at Mohegan, they Chiefly Depended upon Hunting, Fishing & Fowling for their living and had no connection with the English, excepting to traffic with them in their small trifles."

Occom acknowledged that preachers sometimes came into the area, but they did not appeal to him until "When I was 16 years of age, we heard a Strange Rumor among the English, that there were Extraordinary Ministers Preaching from Place to Place and a Strange Concern among the White People." As Bernd Peyer explains in a footnote, Occom was describing what is known to history as " 'the Great Awakening,' a massive religious revival which began in Europe around 1720 and then spread along the entire English-speaking Atlantic seaboard during the 1730's and 1740's."

Given the remarkable person Samson Occom was, I can guarantee more posts to come about him. His autobiography is on the web. [Bernd Peyer's background notes are found in American Indian Nonfiction: An Anthology of Writings, 1760s - 1930s, (University of Oklahoma Press, 2007). ]

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Puritan Mind

We won't fully understand the "Red Puritans," until we understand the white ones. I will now quote from Herbert Wallace Schneider's The Puritan Mind (University of Michigan Press/Henry Holt, 1930) in order to set up posts yet to come.

According to Schneider, "The Puritans, searching the scriptures for texts relevant to their own particular needs, soon discovered the general similarity between them and the ancient Israelites. The Lord had obviously chosen them, as he had the children of Israel, to carry out his plans for the redemption of the world. They had been driven from their homes...for the sake of building a promised land..... The Puritans' constant preoccupation with the Old Testament and Mosaic law was...the natural turning for comfort and counsel to a people who seemed to have undergone a similar experience"(26).

He adds,"The belief in their divine election in a great work soon ceased to be a mere faith and came to be regarded as an empirical fact"(27).

The scrict laws that gave meaning and comfort to that culture also, of course, brought a sense of guilt to its members. This vague guilt was one of the key ingredients in the conversion experience, the outward sign that God had chosen an individual for salvation. More on that in future posts.

Schneider's comments clue us in also on the motivation of missions. This is not to say that missionaries and their supporters were not concerned about saving individual Native souls, nor to say that they didn't care about the Indians' temporal needs, but there was also something else. The conviction that God chose them for "a great work," came from Biblical passages related to the coming of the Millenium. Some thought the second coming of Christ would be brought about by the conversion of Native nations.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Panoplist, (October, 1818)

If you know the history of the Stockbridge Mohicans, you know that they had to make a number of moves. Very briefly, I will mention the plan to move from New York State to the White River of Indiana. Essentially, a promise made to the Stockbridges by Thomas Jefferson was not honored by those who came after him, including William Henry Harrison, the governor of Indiana Territory (and an "Indian fighter"). As a result, only one Stockbridge band stopped off at Indiana and only for a few years.

Anyway, John Metoxen was the chief or headman of the band that left New York and headed for Indiana in 1818. Of course, in those days, that part of the country was a wild frontier, but Metoxen's band was able to take a short break from their travels in a little town in Ohio. A clergyman met them there and described the experience in a letter to the editor of The Panoplist, (the October 1818 issue of the mission publication). Here's what he said:

They "arrived in September on their way to White River, Indiana, stopped over the Sabbath, asked to attend a meeting, [and] asked if the Lord's Supper would be administered and expressed great joy and inquired if they could be admitted. On questioning them it was found their Chief and others were regularly formed into a [Calvinist] church. Their credentials and appearance gave a satisfactory evidence of their piety. A number of them attended the public worship dressed in Indian habit and six came forward to the communion table. They conducted with the utmost propriety and solemnity and some were bathed in tears. When a Psalm was named they all took out their books and turned to it. It was the most interesting day ever in this place."

He continues, "On Monday I visited them and then conversed and prayed with them and never was more kindly and cordially received. I found that a large proportion of them had Bibles and could read. The Chief had a Scott's Family Bible. They also had other religious books."

Whenever I hear somebody say that Indians are "spiritual but not religious," or that they "just went through the motions" in order to receive handouts from missionaries, I think of a few documents, one being that letter in the Panoplist. Probably the best place to get a photocopy from The Panoplist would be through the Congregational Library in Boston, call them at (617) 523-0470.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Occom's Preaching

Samson Occom is unquestionably one of the biggest heroes of Algonkian Church History. According to Colin Calloway (New Worlds for All, 1997), there were 133 Christian Indian preachers in the thirteen colonies before they claimed independence from the British. But of course, there is a difference between being a "preacher" and successfully going through the rigors required for ordination.

In 1759, Samson Occom, a Mohegan, was the first Indian to be ordained as a Presbyterian minister (by the Presbytery of Suffolk). There is so much to say about Rev. Occom, not only did he shatter many stereotypes, but he also preached a famous execution sermon, achieved fame and raised a fortune in a preaching tour of Britian and Scotland, and led a collection of Algonkian Christian remnants to form a new Indian nation called Brothertown. Each of these achievements deserves its own post on the blog.

One of Occom's biographers described his preaching:

"He was prone to dwell in the fashion of his time upon the peril of the soul. He gauged the success of his pleading by the tears he produced, by the degree to which auditors were aroused to fright and alarm over the terrible question of salvation. His chief aim was to arouse the conviction of sin" (Samson Occom, by Harold Blodgett, 215).

Monday, November 17, 2008

Brotherton Reservation

After John Eliot himself, one of the most famous missionaries to the American Indians was David Brainerd. In the 1740's, Brainerd found the Delaware Indians at Crossweeksung, New Jersey open to his preaching and willing to become Christians. But since ownership of the land there was in dispute and since the soil was more fertile 15 miles away, Brainerd acquired another tract of land there which became the mission town of Bethel in 1746. Brainerd died in 1747 at the age of 29.

About ten years after Brainerd's death, it became clear that white settlers were about to move into the area. To prevent this from happening, Stephen Calvin, a New Jersey Delaware who served as Bethel's schoolteacher, as well as other chiefs and a coalition of white Presbyterians and Quakers got together and influenced the New Jersey colonial government to purchase over 3000 acres in the pine barrens. "Brotherton," was the only Indian reservation in the history of New Jersey.

By 1801 there were less than 100 Delawares left on the Brotherton reservation. Captain Hendrick Aupaumut of the Stockbridge Mohicans (then living in New York State) had already invited the Brothertons to join his people in a letter he wrote in 1793. Several other letters were sent back and forth and petitions to the government of New Jersey were also written. The petition they wrote in 1801 was acted on with the state selling the Brotherton's land in order to pay for their transportation to New Stockbridge, New York. A subsequent treaty made the Brothertons legally a part of another small Indian nation, the Stockbridge Mohicans.

The primary documents and some of the background that I have discussed here were compiled in a little book edited and published by Richard S. Walling (ISBN 0-9768719-3-9). The title is Brotherton Reservation & Weekping - Coaxen A Documentary History: The Betrayal of the Indigenous People of New Jersey. (Clinton A. Weslager and Herbert Kraft have also written books about the Delaware Indians that briefly address the Brothertons.)

Click here for other posts featuring the Brotherton Indians.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Stockbridge-Munsee Cultural Adaptations

Around the same time that Ted Brasser was doing his Mohican research, another anthropologist, Marion Mochon, also conducted field research among the Stockbridge Mohicans. His work was published in the Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, (vol 112, no.3, June, 1968) under the title "Stockbridge-Munsee Cultural Adaptations: "Assimilated Indians." Mochon's work is not available over the internet, but - with possible exceptions, including - I hope - this blog, it is more accurate than what you'll find about Stockbridge Mohican history on the web. By only being available in an academic journal, Mochon's work appears to have been neglected by most people who study Algonkian history as a hobby.

I think the real weakness - if it can be called that - of Mochon's paper is that it ends in the 1960's. On the one hand, I believe he was correct to observe that the tribe was "so highly acculturated as to approximate the conditions of assimilation"(p.182). But on the other hand, things have changed. Where there was shame in being Indian, there is now pride. A nationwide "Native pride" movement began just a few years after Mochon's research was published. And so the acculturation process was reversed. Members of the Stockbridge-Munsee Community have often visited other Algonkian tribes (or nations) to learn how to be "more Indian."

I'm getting off the track, I picked up Mochon's work this morning because I remember that somewhere he described the Stockbridge-Munsee as an "amalgamated" community of Christian Algonquin people. So there is agreement with Brasser and others that the people who understandably like to call themselves "Mohicans" have a genealogical background that consists of a number of (or perhaps many) Algonkian-speaking tribes.

Mochon also observed that the Stockbridge-Munsee were a community held together both by ties of kinship and ideology, with Christianity being part of that ideology (as was care for the natural environment and sharing of material wealth within the community).

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Riding the Frontier's Crest

There's more to the Algonkian Church History Blog than comparing the mission philosophies of various church bodies. This blog is also about more general Algonkian history questions, like "who are the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians?"
"who are the Brothertown Indians?" and
"who were the Brotherton Delawares?"

I think Christianity was an important element in the history of each of these communities.

Anthropologist Ted J. Brasser worked for a place in Ottowa, Canada that in the 1970's was called "The Museum of Man." Brasser wrote a book about the Mohicans which was part of a Museum of Man series (published by the National Museums of Canada in 1974), it is called Riding the Frontier's Crest: Mahican Indian Culture and Culture Change. (Ethnologists usually prefer to spell and pronounce it "Mahican" instead of "Mohican.") In Brasser's Appendix (p. 65-73) he gives us a "Chronological List of Mahican Locations."

Brasser's list is complex, but I can make a few generalizations about it. There were many moves, and there were several bands or villages of Mohicans in the 1600's and 1700's. The travels of most of the bands wind up in non-Mohican communities, often either an Algonkian or Iroquois community but Brasser even makes an attempt to follow "Meztizos," which he notes were locally known as "Bushwackers, Pondshiners, Basketmakers," or "Jukes."

Here's how we might sum up Brasser's list: while most of the Mohican settlements bacame remnants that joined larger Native communities, the Stockbridge Mohicans - despite the diseases, war, and other hardships that American Indians faced - held their own and even adopted non-Mohican individuals, families, and larger non-Mohican remnants (certainly the remanants of the Brotherton Delaware of New Jersey are one example).

The support of Christian mission societies was one of the biggest reasons for non-Mohican Indians to join the Stockbridges as they "rode the frontier's crest."

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friends and the Indians

Did you know that Quakers call themselves "Friends"? Rayner W. Kelsey's book about Quaker mission work is called Friends and the Indians, 1655-1917. I'm making it a point to mention the Quakers now because they were very different from the Puritans/Calvinists. The Quakers were consciously doing what I mentioned in yesterday's post: their goal was to help Indians adjust to a world that was much changed as a result of the ongoing European invasion. The Quakers weren't the "preachy" type, they preferred to lead by example.

Because the Quakers did much of their mission work among the Iroquois and other non-Algonkian Indians, much of their work is not relevant to Algonkian Church History. Nevertheless, in 1795, The Quakers helped the Stockbridge Mohicans build a sawmill (in their village of New Stockbridge, New York). Captain Hendrick Aupaumut, one of the tribe's most important leaders, began corresponding with the Quakers in that same year and they later donated farming implements and blacksmith tools to the tribe. Furthermore, they helped the Stockbridges build a gristmill, and sent three of their girls to Philadelphia where they learned to read and write, as well as how to spin wool into cloth (source: Mohican News Jan. 15, 2006 article by Lion Miles). While it might not have made much of a difference, the Quakers attempted to advocate for the New York Indians when unfriendly whites encroached upon their lands (this is from an article by Densmore). Finally, and perhaps most significantly, when a smallpox epidemic came into the area, the Quakers sponsored the vaccination of about 1,000 Oneida (Iroquois), Brothertown, and Stockbridge Indians (Kelsey, 116).

Are you wondering if the Quaker approach was appreciated? Apparently it was. Colin Calloway in Crown and Calumet, quoted a British subject who observed that the Quakers were the only group of whites that Indians looked up to.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The New England Company

A quote from William Kellaway highlights the difference between the Moravians and the Puritans: he wrote that "Puritanism was no religion for the illiterate." As a result, the Indians that lived in Stockbridge, Massachsetts from the 1730's to the 1780's received a better education than most white children that lived in the colonies, or at least it was better than the education of frontier whites. (Although it was generally understood then that school was for boys, not girls, the school at Stockbridge [MA] was for boys and girls.)

Anyway, as I've said before, the Stockbridge Mohicans accepted Christianity voluntarily. More specifically, they accepted an offer from the Commissioners of Indian Affairs, men mostly from Boston who were doing the legwork for a philanthropic mission society in London known by a number of long names, but later known more simply as "The New England Company."

William Kellaway's The New England Company, 1647-1776: Missionary Society to the Indians, was written over a hundred years ago, then reprinted by Barnes and Noble in 1962. Early in the book, Kellaway explains the Puritan mission philosophy: "The idea of the heathen receiving the grace of God while still in a savage state was inconceivable to the Puritan mind"(8).

There was no such thing as "diversity" then like we know it today. By teaching Indians to live according to white ways, the British believed they were doing the Indians a great service. And although today we believe in "diversity," the reality then was that white settlers were moving into the area and there was already a lot less game in the forests...the fur trade had already changed the Mohican economy and other parts of their society by the time they accepted their first missionary.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Moravians, Tennent's Viewpoint

Gilbert Tennant, a Calvinist minister->

Sometimes when you hear a person's opinion about a group of people, you learn something not only about that group, but also about the source of that opinion, by that I mean the biases of the person, and sometimes also the biases of the group they belong to. Such it was with Gilbert Tennent, an Anglo-American Calvinist (or we might call him a Puritan) minister, whose observations about the Moravian Christians speak volumes.

Tennent observed that the Moravian way had great appeal to "young persons, Females, and ignorant People who are full of affection"(quoted in Wheeler, 2000, 275). What a mouthful!

As Patrick Frazier put it, Moravianism was "a religion more of the heart than of the head."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Living Upon Hope

Rachel Wheeler is a professor of religious studies and associate editor of the journal Religion and American Culture. As part of her requirements for receiving a PhD. from Yale University, she wrote a thesis that compares the Calvinist Mohicans at Stockbridge, Massachusetts with their Moravian tribesmen in neighboring villages.

Living Upon Hope: Mohicans and Missionaries, 1730-1760, is available via interlibrary loan. However, this summer, professor Wheeler came out with a book with a similar title: To Live Upon Hope: Mahicans and Missionaries in the Eighteenth Century Northeast (Cornell Universioty Press). I cannot tell you for sure how much overlap there is between the two titles, since I have not yet read the new book.

Anyway, at the risk of oversimplifying a PhD thesis, here's the essential diference between the Stockbridges and their Moravian tribesmen: By accepting a Calvinist mission, the Indians at Stockbridge were allying themselves with the powers of colonial Massachusetts. They still got the short end of the stick, but at least they remained for about 50 years before moving west. Meanwhile, the Moravian Mohicans took on a form of Christianity so different from Puritanism that it was illegal throughout much of colonial America. Moravian Indians, both Mohicans and Delawares, were, of course persecuted and victimized even more than the white Moravians. It didn't stop until the whole village of Gnadenhutten was massacred in the 1790's.

That is an oversimplification, because I said nothing at all about spiritual/religious differences. That will have to come later.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Were Indian Conversions Bona Fide?

Experts will tell you that controversy is one of the ingredients of a popular blog. Well, considering that my topic is about race, religion, culture, and ideology, I know there will be plenty of potential for controversy. Some people have already disagreed with some of my posts to online forums. They weren't always nice about it either.

I've done some careful research over the last few years and I think I understand some of the criticisms, but I also know that my critics have dismissed me way too easily... That's part of my motivation to put my thoughts and findings out here on my very own blog.

James Axtell, a history professor at the College of William and Mary, also came up against some critics when he made a twenty-minute presentation at a 1986 conference held by The American Society for Ethnohistory. He described his audience that day as "to put it nicely, skeptical"(100). But the experience motivated him to write a 21-page chapter for his book After Columbus: Essays in the Ethnohistory of Colonial North America (Oxford University Press, 1988). The chapter is called "Were Indian Conversions Bona Fide?"

History professors are supposed to try to be objective, but Axtell clearly felt that his peers weren't treating the subject of Indian missions objectively:

[this paragraph is a quote from page 101]
"In much of the recent historiography of colonial missions, the conversion of Indians to Christianity has received a poor press. In the past fifteen or twenty years, historians and ethnohistorians of both Protestant and Catholic missions have cast aspersions of the quantity, quality, and longevity of native conversions to the intrusive religions. They have sought not only to deflate the numerical success of the colonial missionaries but to ridicule their cultural goals and methods and to minimize their spiritual results. The effect of all this debunking has been to paint the missionaries either as evil tools of imperialism or as naive fools, and their Indian neophytes as hapless victims of clerical oppression or as cunning Br'er Rabbits of the forest."

I welcome your comments.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Red Puritans

I'm still in the process of giving you an idea of what this blog is about. You've probably guessed that I am especially interested in the Stockbridge Mohicans, but there are other Christian Algonkians that this blog is about. One such group of Indians is one I haven't mentioned at all yet, the Christian Indians before King Philip's War. (If I remember correctly, King Philip's War occurred in the 1670's.)

During that period, John Eliot was credited for being "the Apostle to the Indians," and with the help of some of the natives, he did translate the Bible into an Algonkian dialect. (It was printed circa 1660.) But at least some scholars believe that reports of his success were greatly exaggerated.

Neal Salisbury's article "Red Puritans: The 'Praying Indians' of Massachusetts Bay and John Eliot," (printed first by William and Mary Quarterly, 31 (1974) pages 27-54) may come across as rather anti-Christian, to some, and it did to me when I first read it. But I've read it a few times and I've concluded that there is no doubt that Eliot's 14 villages of converts were left very vulnerable. They had to dress like whites and live away from other Indians, in fact, they had to live on the outskirts of white settlements. It should be no surprise then that those villages were devastated by war and some of those Indians were even sold into slavery (not by missionaries, of course). The bottom line of the British's early attempt at mission work is that any success Eliot or other missionaries had was short lived, not only because they took Indian culture away from the Indians, but also because they made them so vulnerable to the destructive forces of the colonial period.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

ABCFM Papers

The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, known as the ABCFM for short, was the philanthropic mission society that supported the Stockbridge Mohicans from 1828 to 1848. In fact, the ABCFM supported many missionaries throughout the world over a period of...I don't know, I think they were established around 1810 and probably lasted about 100 years. Anyway, in my post yesterday, I mentioned primary sources. The ABCFM Papers are primary sources that I have been using in my research. They are kept at Harvard's Houghton Library and people like me that live too far away from Harvard can get microfilm of the ABCFM Papers via interlibrary loan. Most of the ABCFM Papers that concern the Stockbridges consist of correspondence to and from the Rev. Cutting Marsh, missionary to the tribe from 1830 to 1848. But at times some of the Indians would come into conflict with Rev. Marsh and when that happened, the Indians - as individuals or as a group - would take the time to write their own letters to the ABCFM.

In his last years as the missionary, Rev. Marsh's effectiveness was compromised, due partly to his own personality, but also as a result of bitter partisanship within the Stockbridge Nation. Marsh had once hoped that Jeremiah Slingerland, a member of the tribe studying to become a minister, would take his place. Slingerland did return to his people and the two men had something like a honeymoon period, but they eventually came into conflict and Marsh asked the ABCFM not to support Rev. Slingerland as his successor.

One of the things that Marsh objected to was that Slingerland had taken sides in the ongoing tribal partisanship, something that he had struggled with himself. As the small Stockbridge Nation split into two parties, the ABCFM not only decided not to support Rev. Slingerland, but they withdrew their support to the tribe altogether.

If you're wondering about the nature of the conflicts, Marsh's ideas about Rev. Slingerland, and how Christianity managed after the ABCFM pulled its support, stay tuned, because I've been working on a paper about it.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Mohicans of Stockbridge

Who are the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians? That question can be answered in a number of ways, but the genealogically and historically accurate answer is so complex as to never have been completely addressed systematically either by one author or a series of authors. Nevertheless, if you do want a historically accurate answer to that question, I think the place to start is with Patrick Frazier's 1992 book, The Mohicans of Stockbridge (University of Nebraska Press).

Being a librarian at the Library of Congress, Frazier had access to lots of old documents (what historians refer to as "primary sources"). In its review of The Mohicans of Stockbridge, Choice Magazine noted that Frazier's work in primary sources "deserves praise for its insights into the uncharted waters of eighteenth century Indian history."

There are so many important things in Frazier's book that I'm sure I will come back to it again and again in future posts. He did a really good job of summarizing how the fur trade devastated eastern Algonkians. The coastal Algonkians were devastated first, of course, and by the 1730's, as the British were moving into what is now western Massachusetts and some of the Mohicans had already moved into the Ohio River Valley, other Mohicans were doing their best to make it in their homeland.

Frazier explains how the remaining Massachusetts Mohicans accepted a Christian mission, and for my research, the fact that their conversion was voluntary is very important. It is well known that there were times when major church bodies teamed up with the federal government to enforce mandatory boarding school [educations] that were so very harmful to Indian families. But the Algonkian Church History blog is not about mandatory boarding school mission activity, it is about the Algonkians who chose Christiantity for themselves. The Stockbridge Mohicans weren't the only ones to do so either. In future postings, I will be writing about the Brotherton Delawares, the Brothertowns, the Moravian Mohicans, and probably others too.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Last Algonquin

The New York Times praised The Last Algonquin as a "beautiful and affecting story - a quest, a mythic adventure and journey." You might not be surprised that it has a sad flavor, what else would you expect from the autobiography of somebody who, while still a boy, found himself the last of his people, and after trying to live amongst whites, realizes that it cannot be done. And so Joe Two Trees lives out the rest of his life as an Indian, alone for many years, finally, as an old man, geting the chance to tell his story to a young boy scout. Theodore Kazimiroff, the son of that boy scout, managed to remember the story and many insights that go with it. The
Chattanooga Times called Kazimiroff's book a "deeply moving chapter in the saga of the American Indian."

One reason that I chose to write about The Last Algonquin in the second entry of this blog is that it is a good read, even for people who don't consider Native American Studies to be their hobby. But even more importantly, I have chosen it in order to clarify my subject material and the title of the blog.

Right after the table of contents, Kazimiroff addresses the issue of spelling. He notes that his own personal choice of "Algonkian" would be closest to the pronounciation that his father used, making it probably our best guess of the way Indians once pronounced it. However, as often happens with words from oral cultures, there are other possible spellings. "Algonquin" is probably the most common, and, as such, it was the spelling that Kazimiroff was persuaded to use in the title of the book.

So I've chosen "Algonkian" as the spelling of a word which denotes the largest Native North American language group, a group that is made up of many tribes or nations, including (and I will only include a few here) Ojibways, Menominees, Pequots, Narrangansetts, Massachusetts, Delawares, Potawatomies, and even Cheyennes. That's right, western Indians as well as those from the eastern seaboard and the Great Lakes area spoke Algonkian dialects.

Now you're starting to get an idea of what the Algonkian Church History website might be about.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Stockbridge Bible

The Stockbridge Bible is not only the starting point for my blog, it also seemed to be the starting point for my interest in Algonkian Church History. (After giving it some thought, however, I remembered that I'd been interested in this kind of thing since I was in 3rd or 4th grade, but I started doing serious research decades later.)

The result of my research on the Stockbridge Bible is a paper that was published in The Book Collector (the world's foremost authority on old and rare books) in their Spring, 2007 issue (vol. 56, issue 1). The paper is ostensibly about book history, but in explaining the movements and ownership disputes of the Stockbridge Bible, I had to explain a lot about the history of the owners of the two volumes, the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians.

Here's some of the main points of the paper that I wrote:
* During King George's War - one of a series of wars in which the French and the British vied for Native allies - a two-volume Bible that had been printed by John Baskett in London in 1717 was dedicated to "the Indian Congregation" at Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
*The Indians took care in transporting their tribal Bible all the way to their present homeland in Wisconsin.
*For a sixty year period the Stockbridge Bible was in white hands.
* It is now kept in the Tribe's museum on their reservation in Shawano County, Wisconsin.

Stay tuned, in the future I may "reprint" the paper on this blog.