Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Seal of the Massachusetts Bay Colony: "Come Over and Help Us"

As James De Jong and other authors have observed, the official seal of the Massachusetts Bay Colony (see above) depicted an Indian who was saying "come over and help us." I will not bother to repeat what others have observed that that statement may represent in terms of ethnocentricity. Instead, I want to point out, as De Jong does (on page 32 of As the Waters Cover the Sea), that "come over and help us" is a Biblically inspired statement. It comes from Acts 16:9:

And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: There stood a man of Macedonia and prayed him, saying 'Come over to Macedonia and help us.'
The point is not whether or not the American Indians ever asked for missionaries, instead, the point is that the Massachusetts Bay Colony was incorporated under the pretense of helping the native Algonkian-speaking people, or at least it was founded under the pretense of converting those natives to the Christian religion.

Although there were exceptions (notably John Eliot's work and the towns of "praying Indians"), the tone that was set in colonial New England was more about improving the whites' standard of living than about mission work. Here's what Patrick Frazier said about this topic:

Converting the American natives to Christianity had ostensibly been the principal aim of the Massachusetts Bay settlement, according to the charter of 1628. A century later some believed that this aim had been forgotten. Solomon Stoddard, a respected clergyman, suggested in 1723 that recent epidemics, Indian wars, and Indian alliances with the French might be signs of God's anger with the English for failing to spread the gospel among the natives (The Mohicans of Stockbridge, page 18).

1 comment :

Gail Harrison Donovan(Brooke) said...

Hi. I am Gail Harrison Donovan Chairman of the Schaghticoke Indian Tribe of Kent,Ct. I like the way Mickey described the history of the reservation in Kent and how the indians did have along hitory associated with the area of Kent and the white people. We have been on this reservation for many years and have a sound background as the Historic Schaghticoke Tribe, my father and his mother and her parents occupied the rez. for many moons. It is a pleasure to read positive opinions about our tribe. In Friendship Brooke (Tribal Chairman of SIT.