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.

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