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.


Anonymous said...

I am a descendant of Samson Occom, and only a small percentage of his descendants in Fond du Lac are involved in "tavern keeping."

Diane Sampson

Jeff Siemers said...

Thank you Diane,

I added something to the original post the set the record straight.