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.

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