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.

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