Monday, December 5, 2011

Leif Erikson and the Possibility of Christianity in America circa 1000 A.D.

This statue of Lief Erikson is located near the state capitol building in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Thanks to my recent posts about the Walum Olum, Algonkian Church History has a new set of readers. If I understand their views correctly, it appears they claim that the Lenape Indians became Christians during one of the voyages of Leif Erikson (or possibly during a visit from other Norse Greenlanders). Although the Walum Olum supports such a belief, the Walum Olum wasn't written before the 1700's so we'll have to look at other sources.

Two primary sources tell us about Lief Erikson: The Saga of Erik the Red and The Saga of the Greenlanders.

According to chapter 5 of The Saga of Erik the Red (see this English translation) Leif Erikson was sent by Norway's King Olaf to take Christianity to Greenland. Later, in chapter 11, the Greenlanders come upon people paddling "hide-canoes." It strikes me that these people are much more likely to have been Inuit [Eskimos] than Lenape. And nowhere is it claimed that issues of religion were discussed.

I wasn't able to find a translation of The Saga of the Greenlanders on the web. According to various sources, this saga includes some description not only of Leif Erikson's voyages, but also those of his two brothers, his sister, and a man named Thorfinn Karlsefni. I have not found any discussion of The Saga of the Greenlanders which claims that any of the voyages were used to bring Christianity to the Native Americans, instead I'll wait for my readers to contribute that evidence.

It seems so far that the evidence for Christianity on Turtle Island in "pre-Columbian" times is rather flimsy. Using the two sagas as their guides, scholars have tried their best to identify the location of the Viking settlement known as Vinland, but, according to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography,

It must be said that both sagas are too vague, too confused, and too brief in their accounts of the course followed by the Icelanders to Vinland, of the geographical and topographical features, of the flora and fauna, and so on, to enable positive identification. Even the passage in the Saga of the Greenlanders on the length of day in Vinland, which at first sight would seem very helpful, has proved a broken reed. Its interpretation involves highly technical definitions and astronomical calculations, leading to such great diversity of opinion that, on the basis of the passage, Vinland has been located as far north as 58°26´N and as far south as 31°N, or even Florida. Each scholar has had to juggle the narratives, assume copyists’ errors, supply missing details, and so on, in order to make his favourite locality fit the meagre details the sagas provide. By such means Vinland has been located as far south as Florida, as far north as Hudson Bay (where the climate is assumed without evidence to have been much warmer in the year 1000 than at present) and as far inland as the Great Lakes. Helge Ingstad has even suggested that there existed a North and South Vinland, the latter on the New England coast and the former in Newfoundland.
So without knowing where Vinland was, I think it would be difficult to claim that a particular tribe or Native nation was brought to the Christian religion by Norwegian explorers.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

More About the Walam Olum

In my last post I conceded that the Walam Olum (also known by other spellings) is not regarded as an authentic Delaware or Lenape document by most scholars. And given that document's history, we'll never know its exact origins.

However, a long-neglected scholarly article that appeared in the Texas Journal of Science in 1955 explains that the content of Constantine Samuel Rafinesque's 1836 translation could have come from Delaware spiritual leaders in the late decades of the 1700's. The article, "The Walum Olum of the Delaware Indians in Perspective," was written by William Newcomb Jr. and appeared on pages 57 - 63 of volume 7 of the Texas Journal of Science.

Although a Google search will take you to a number of articles that conclude the Walam Olum is a fraud (see my previous post), Newcomb's article is not available online. However, this is no reflection of any lack of scholarship on his part. Therefore, I will use his research to explain to you why the content of the Walam Olum may come from authentic Delaware voices dating long before Rafinesque's translation was ever published.

Newcomb's general opening comments are also relevant to Algonkian Church History:

The Walam Olum consisted of a creation myth, a deluge [flood] myth, and what purported to be the subsequent history of the tribe. The mythology was consistent with Algonquian mythology in general....(page 57).

(On the other hand, Newcomb concludes that the Walam Olum's account of historic Delaware migrations was not consistent with that described by observers like Heckewelder and Zeisberger.)

Anyway, Newcomb sets the stage for the Walam Olum by telling us that by about "1750 prophets and messiahs began to appear among the Delware, and they continued to appear sporadically until 1812 (page 59)." According to the prophets, proper ritual action among the Delaware people would reverse the trend of cultural disintegration and collapse that white contact had brought about.

The earliest and most successful prophet, of whom we have knowledge, was known as the Delaware Prophet or the Imposter. His career reached its zenith about 1762 (Peckham, 1947:98; Heckewelder, 1881; 293). This man had received in a vision instructions from the Great Spirit on how to restore his people to their former state.... His teachings were made concrete by a number of symbolic figures painted on a tanned deer hide. Replicas of this map were made, some on paper, and were sold by the Delaware prophet. Some of the purchasers in turn seem to have become minor prophets (Heckewelder, 1881: 293). Parkham (1910; 215) recounted Pontiac as saying, however, that: 'A prayer, embodying the substance of all that [the prophet] had heard, was then presented to the Delaware. It was cut in hieroglyphics upon a wooden stick, after the custom of his people; and he was directed to send copies of it to all the Indian villages'(page 60).

Newcomb concludes that both Heckewelder's account and Parkham's quoting of Pontiac "are correct" and he notes that the period in which prophets existed among the Delaware Indians coincides with the period of time in which the Walam Olum "might well have been produced"(page 60).

Bottom line: "The Delaware were acutely conscious of their past and were desperately trying to revive it." So Newcomb concludes that it would be perfectly "natural" or even "inevitable" that

some Delaware, perhaps one of the prophets, would symbolize by pictographic recordthe traditional myths and legends of his people? The myths and legends would, of course, be based upon or derived from, the traditional tales, but the emphasis and perhaps even their content would be changed to suit the conditions of the age (page 61).

I think that today's scholars are making a mistake when they are dismissive of the Walam Olum. On the other hand, some people who claim to be well-educated have tried to prove that specific things happened hundreds of years ago based on the Walam Olum. That is probably a much bigger mistake.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Walum Olum: Authentic or Fake?

The image you see below is an artist's interpretation that borrows heavily from the Walum Olum. This particular pictograph and the words that go with it illustrates a creation story that is similar in some ways to the creation story in the Book of Genesis.

First of all, what is the Walum Olum?

The necessary background is provided in this quote from Steven C. Harper (page 18):

In 1822 an eccentric natural history professor at Transylvania College, Constantine S. Rafinesque, reportedly inherited a pictographic Lenape history, the "Walum Olum," from a mysterious Dr. Ward, who received it for treating Delawares in Indiana. Rafinesque learned Lenape from the dictionaries of Moravian missionaries and translated the "Walum Olum" which he published in 1836.

In recent years the Walum Olum (sometimes known as the Red Record) has also been published on the Sacred Texts website.

The Walum Olum comes up occasionally in my research and I've noticed that while some have claimed it to be a fraud, others quote from it as if it is an ultimate authority. Well, which is it?

An authentic sacred text or a fraud? The answer is.....

The same as the answer to many historical questions: we don't know for sure.

I'm going to have to admit that most people think it is a fake. For evidence on that see the Archaeology Magazine website. According to that site the Walum Olum is "Hokum."

So it goes without saying that the Walum Olum - by itself - should not be used to prove things. (Unfortunately, this is being done by people who claim to be educated.)

I consider the Walum Olum to possibly be authentic based on what I read today in Steven C. Harper's book. The rest of this post is based on a few things that Harper has to say.

One of the best known historians of the Delaware people, C. A. Weslager "admired [the Walum Olum's] consistency with archaeological and ethnographical accounts" (according to Harper, page 19, this was covered in pages 77-79 of Weslager's Delaware Indians).

Of course, just because it gives an accurate picture of the Delaware people doesn't mean that it was created by the Delawares before white contact as some claim.

Could the Walum Olum possibly be an ancient text?

[This paragraph was written on November 15th, 2011]
My reading of Steven Harper (I borrowed his book and no longer have access to it) led me to believe that the Walum Olum might possibly be an ancient text. However, the only evidence Harper gives of this is a 1955 article in the Texas Journal of Science. I have a copy of that article and it will be the topic of my next post.


Harper, Steven C. (2006) Promised Land: Penn's Holy Experiment, the Walking Purchase, and the Dispossession of the Delawares, 1600 - 1763. Bethlehem, PA: Lehigh University Press.

Newcomb, William W. Jr., "The Walum Olum of the Delaware Indians in Perspective," Texas Journal of Science, Volume 7 (1955), pages 57-63.

Weslager, Clinton A. (1972) The Delaware Indians: A History. Bruunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

ACH Book Recommendation: Chief Bender's Burden by Tom Swift

Even if you are a baseball fan, you might not have heard of Charles Albert "Chief" Bender. In fact, I doubt that many of today's baseball fans know much about the so-called "deadball era."

In those days, Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics (or "A's") were regular participants in the World Series. The team featured the then-famous $100,000 infield (a lot of money to pay four players back then) and two Hall of Fame pitchers, Eddie Plank and "Chief" Bender, a White Earth Anishinaabeg from Minnesota.

Strip away the baseball content from this book and you have pretty much the same theme as Algonkian Church History: Indians denied their native ways took on white ways - and, for the most part, they succeeded in doing so. On the other hand, the title: Chief Bender's Burden: The Silent Struggle of a Baseball Star is spot-on.

Tom Swift researched Bender's life carefully and found that he volunteered to attend Carlisle. As you may know, there were times when Indian children were rounded up and forced to leave their parents. But after finishing up at one boarding school, Charles Albert ran away from home and was glad to see the "recruiters" from Carlisle. Unfortunately, Bender went to boarding school willingly after literally getting kicked by his father (who, I should probably mention, was white). Whatever role Bender's mother had in his upbringing was pretty much summed up by the fact that she didn't have much of a connection with Chalres Albert.

Later it was the manager and part owner of the Philadelphia A's, Connie Mack, who became a father figure to his young star pitcher. I enjoyed reading about some of the aspects of baseball then that are very different from how things are today. How did fans follow the scores back then? I'll give you a hint, they weren't sent to your Blackberry or reported on ESPN's Sportscenter, I'll let you get the real answer from the book.

Anyway, Swift pulled up a bunch of reports or stories about things that may or may not have happened. My favorite, if true, could have been the reason why 1914 was Bender's last season in an A's uniform:

[Mack] sent Bender, his bright pitcher with the eagle eyes, to New York to scout the Boston Braves. But, according to one version of the story, while Bender was supposedly in New York, Mack ran into him on a Philadelphia street corner.

"I thought you had gone to look over the Braves," Mack said.

Bender shrugged him off. "What's the use of wasting a perfectly good afternoon looking at a bunch of bush league hitters?" (page 209)
For more, see the book's page on the University of Nebraska Press' website.

You can buy the book and read several reviews at

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Name of the Stockbridge Mohicans

The photo below was taken at The Great Mohican Pow-Wow in Ohio. I include it here once again to underscore that many of the "original" Mohicans migrated to the Ohio River Valley long before the Stockbridge Mohicans came together in Massachusetts.

I've already written two posts on this subject. Those posts received more comments than I usually get and all they really covered was the confusion surrounding the name of the tribe known in this blog as the Stockbridge Mohicans.

In The Mohicans and the Stockbridge Mohicans I argued that a historical change in the makeup of the "Mohican" people makes it confusing to use the same name across all historical periods. Then in The Mohicans and the Mahicans I argued that there really isn't an accepted distinction between those two different forms of the word "Mohican." Recently I've given the Mohican/Mahican issue further thought, and decided that those two different spellings which are the same except for a single vowel, should not, in my opinion, represent different meanings because the difference in pronounciation is so small. It seems to me that the difference in pronounciation between "Mohican" and "Mahican" is smaller than the variations in pronouncing practically any single word by two people with different regional accents. So not only is the Mohican/Mahican distinction not well known or observed, but, in my opinion, it wouldn't end the confusion even if it was known and observed by many people.

Like I've said before, a group of people can call themselves whatever they want. Nevertheless, after taking the time to point out problems with the status quo, I figure I might as well offer what I think is the best solution. Let the tribe and everybody else ignore this post if they want, but I might as well put it out there.

If it comes down to one word, most of the tribe likes to call themselves "Mohicans." One exception was a man who posted a comment to the Mohican Seven forum saying he prefers "Stockbridge" because it is more historically accurate. I use "Stockbridge Mohicans" as the name of the tribe because the people identify with the word "Mohican" and the word "Stockbridge" makes it clear which Mohicans they are.

So there you have it, the tribe from about 1740 to the present should - in my opinion - be called the Stockbridge Mohicans.

A reader of my Mohican/Mahican post said he thought the original Algonkian languages can tell us a lot about what name or names a tribe should take for itself. If he was onto something, then we might want to call the pre-Stockbridge Mohicans the "Muhheconnew" people and call their land or their old nation the "Muhhecunnuck." There are other possible names to use for the pre-Stockbridge Mohicans, one would be the "Aboriginal Mohicans."

Anyway, I'm content to think that I've said enough about this topic.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Mohicans and the Mahicans

The beautiful scene below was "borrowed" from the official website of the Stockbridge-Munsee Community (they are usually referred to here as the Stockbridge Mohicans).

In July, my post "The Mohicans and the Stockbridge Mohicans" was intended to raise the issue of how current and historical tribal names have brought about a lot of confusion. Or, to be more precise, names by themselves don't necessarily generate confusion, but a tribe that is made up of remnants of various tribes may want to be careful in what they choose to be called.

Comments that were posted to that post have raised a possible solution. In particular, a tribal elder - she uses "Maaliish" as her screen name - used the words "Mohican" and Mahican" in different ways - without explaining the difference. Well, I think the difference for that tribal elder is based on something that James Oberly (2005, page 5) wrote:
Anthropologists say that the term "Mohican" characterized the seventeenth century union of three groups of Indian villages in what is now the Hudson River Valley of New York State: the "Mahicans," the Wappingers, and the Housatonics.
From that passage it may seem that the term "Mahicans" is now only used for the original 'full-bloods' as it were, while the word "Mohicans" is only used to describe the modern tribe that includes the descendants of "Wappingers" and "Housatonics."

But I don't take Oberly literally there. I mean, do you really think that "anthropologists" went to the trouble of defining a distinction between "Mahican" and "Mohican"? Even if anthropologists came to an agreement on the proper use of those words, do you believe that a critical mass of ordinary people (like you and I and members of the tribe) have changed their speech to properly reflect the pronounciations and meanings that were coined by those anthropologists?

I give James Oberly a lot of credit for addressing the issue that I raised in "The Mohicans and the Stockbridge Mohicans" and I don't blame him for making it seem like it was already addressed by anthropologists. He needed to address it but didn't have the time to bother writing whole paragraphs on it like I did.

Furthermore, I give Maaliish a lot of credit for using Oberly's distinction. But that is exactly my point: Except for a few people who remember what Oberly wrote on page five, I'm afraid to say the distinction doesn't exist.

I have promoted James Oberly's book here in the past and I really don't see what I'm saying now as negative. In my experience, something that is mentioned once in a book seldom changes our language.

But if the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians really wants to stop the confusion, it can be done. It can be done (partly) by addressing the issue in the tribe's newspaper. It can be done (partly) by addressing it at the tribe's museum. And it can done (partly) by addressing the name issue legally the next time a new tribal constitution is written. Since I haven't been keeping tabs on the tribe lately, maybe this kind of thing is already being done. If so, I'd like to hear about it.

And maybe I'm just a raving lunatic. I mean, I like things to be clear. A lot of other people - on this issue and other issues - don't seem to mind if the waters are muddied. What do you think?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Headline: United States Fails in Honest Attempt to Help New York Indians

Native American activists have made the claim that the United States intentionally pitted the Menominee Indians against the New York Indians that wanted to emigrate to their country in the 1820's. I can see that. But as more research has been done and the details are spelled out more clearly by historians, I think it is more accurate to say that the United States government was just too sloppy, unorganized, and maybe even too incompetent to properly broker a legal arrangement between the two parties.

James Duane Doty was the federal judge who served as legal counsel on behalf of the Menominees in the Council of Butte des Morts in August, 1827. At issue then were the negotiations that had been made between the various tribes in 1821 and 1822. Doty would later go on to be the second Governor of the Wisconsin Territory (1841-1844) and the fifth Governor of the Utah Territtory (1863-1865).

In my last two posts, I have already made the point that in order to make a proper treaty, the official leaders of the parties involved must be present. And although you'd think that was something more basic than Diplomacy 101, somehow, despite the fact that the Menominees didn't have an official leader, treaties were still produced and signed.

I've mentioned the treaties made in 1821 and 1822 before (see "Negotiations and Arrivals" and see "Ellis Describes More Negotiations"). Those documents, of course, gave the Brothertown, Oneida and Stockbridge Indians the opportunity to move to what is now the state of Wisconsin. However, for good reasons, the two treaties were never ratified by Congress. According to the Milwaukee Public Museum, the opposition to the treaties from both the Menominee and the Ho-Chunk (or "Winnebago") Indians was what prevented their ratification. Congress somehow sensed that something was wrong back then, and thanks to the work of Brad Jarvis, The Brothertown Nation of Indians, we know a lot more about it.

Jarvis' sixth chapter (pages 179-215) is about the negotiations between the Wisconsin Indians and the New York Indians. The chapter title is "A Tedious, Perplexing and Harassing Dispute," if you've already read my NY Indian Removal series of posts I think you'll be able to read it without finding it tedious or perplexing.

How was the United States sloppy or even incompetent in assisting the New York Indians in purchasing land from the Wisconsin Natives? This quote may give you a good idea:

The United States had sent Charles Trowbridge, a young government surveyor, with the 1821 New York Indian delegation in order to keep a report of the council. Trowbridge's report...illustrates much of the confusion in the negotiations. Upon arrival in Green Bay the contingent from New York found both the agent and the interpreter absent. Despite the fact that the lack of a translator would prove difficult in negotiating a land cession, the New York Indians decided to proceed anyway (Jarvis, pages 198-199).
And later, Charles Trowbridge "stepped outside of his role as an observer and tried to convince the Ho-Chunks to cede the Menominee lands in place of the Menominee." (That's right, Trowbridge asked the Ho-Chunks to give away something that wasn't theirs to give.)

To say the least, the negotiations started off on the wrong foot.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Another Reason Why the Menominees had no Official Chief from 1818 to 1827

In my previous post I described a nine-year period in which the Menominees were without an official leader. The source I was using put an emphasis on how both Oshkosh and Josette were young and got along with each other and weren't in any hurry to take charge of the tribe for those reasons.

But after giving it some thought, I now suspect that both Oshkosh and Josette were deliberately avoiding the polical spotlight because it was in the best interests of the Menominee people at that time to be unorganized.

As you may recall, the old chief, Tomah, had been an ally of the British. Tomah's death in 1818 coincided with the time when the Menominees had to accept the reality that the British were no longer in the picture.

I may have to back up and explain how this was a problem. The western theater of the War of 1812 was Indian Country and it was the last of a number of wars the Menominee Indians were on the wrong side of. Of course their numbers had also been reduced by the usual onslaught of European diseases. With British troops finally out of the area, the United States ceasefire policy was to acquire Indian land via purchase. (Military force, it was decided, would cause too many hard feelings.) . So although there weren't enough Menominee warriors left to defend their large territory, they must have known that the biggest threat to their land would be to have an organized government with a central leader. In other words, both Oshkosh and Josette avoided their opportunity of coming to power, because they knew that by doing so, they would only speed up the process of making arrangements for much of their land to be sold to the United States.

In my next post, I'll discuss how the Menominees' "chieflessness" affected the New York Indians as they prepared to come to the "Green Bay" area of what was then known as Michigan Territory.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Oshkosh The Brave: An Old Book About the Menominee Chief and his Family

I came across a little book about the Menominees recently. The Foreward is by Roy Oshkosh, who claimed to be the "Nominal Chief" of the tribe that was in the process of being terminated in the 1950's.

As Oshkosh The Brave: Chief of the Wisconsin Menominees, and His Family was published in 1954 it became, according to Roy Oshkosh, "the finest work of portraying the true life of my ancestors and our people, which was fast becoming a lost chapter in American history."

The author, Phebe Jewell Nichols, apperently a white woman, was the wife of Angus T. Lookaround, a Menominee. Ms. Nichols/Lookaround (she uses both last names within the book) acknowledges that most of the book first appeared as articles in the Oshkosh Northwestern (in case you didn't know, the Northwestern is a newspaper based in the city of Oshkosh, Wisconsin).

According to Oshkosh The Brave:

The old Menominee Chief Tomah died in 1818. The tribe had no leader or, you might say they had two emerging leaders, Josette who was Tomah's son, and Oshkosh, a young man who was also mentored by Tomah. The two young men got along well and the tribe went through a period of mourning the old chief before choosing a new one.

While Tomah had been an ally of the British, the new chief would have no choice but to deal with the United States. Although there were a few minor Menominee chiefs that were persuaded to sign agreements with the US government in the years after Tomah died, the documents didn't amount to much because the minor chiefs really didn't have the Menominee people behind them.

By the 1820's General Lewis Cass was both Governor of Michigan Territory and the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Nichols/Lookaround describes it this way:

The Menominees would have to eventually give up their domain, and Cass wanted it as painless and legal as possible. He called for a treaty making meeting at Butte des Morts in 1827.

One thing about treaties is that you have to have the leaders of both parties sign a treaty and this, of course, cannot be done if one of the parties doesn't have an official leader. So General Cass spent three days talking with the Menominee people, essentially trying to determine if the next chief should be Oshkosh or Josette.

And that is how Oshkosh was chosen to lead the Menominee people through some of their toughest times.

Phoebe Jewell Nichols [Lookaround] knew Reginald Oshkosh, the grandson of the historic chief.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Mohicans and the Stockbridge Mohicans

The word "Mohican" in the names of this park and other places in Ohio, reflects the fact that Mohicans were leaving their homeland and moving into the Ohio River Valley as early as the late 1600's.

By 1740 most Mohicans had disappeared from the Hudson River Valley. In fact, many of them had been living in the Ohio River Valley for generations. Over time, these "western" Mohicans intermarried with tribes like the Miami, the Delaware, or possibly with frontier whites. Ultimately, they did not maintain their Mohican identity.

Meanwhile, back in their homeland, the once-mighty Mohican nation was struggling to survive as a result of the changes brought about by over one hundred years of white contact. The fur trade brought about a dependence on white goods, problems with alcohol, an increased competition with other Native nations for resources, bloodier warfare, and, of course, devastating European-imported diseases like smallpox.

So by the 1740's, changes in both the natural environment and the surviving population resulted in the once-mighty Mohican nation being spread out in small, scattered communities.

The history of the Stockbridge Mohicans began when two Mohican villages along the Housatonic River in what is now Massachusetts, decided to accept a Christian mission. The residents of those two villages got more than they bargained for: instead of just teaching a new religion and teaching the children to read, the Indians' British neighbors imposed the structure of white culture upon them. Most notably, the two villages were soon gathered into one town which the British called Stockbridge.

The popularity of Stockbridge, Massachusetts - for both religious and non-religious reasons - made it the Council Fire - in other words, the capital city - of what was left of the Mohican Nation. However, it bears noting that many of the Indians that joined the Stockbridge community were Wappingers or other non-Mohican Indians.

Or were they?

The way some people now use the term "Mohican," anybody who is descended from the Stockbridge Indians is a Mohican, so it doesn't then matter if your ancestors were Naragansetts or some mix of Algonkian-speaking refugees: As long as you are descended from the Indians of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, New Stockbridge, New York, and/or Stockbridge, Wisconsin, you can call yourself a "Mohican."

And why not?

My point is not to prevent a group of people from calling themselves whatever they want, but rather to end the confusion and the talking past one another that often results from cases like this where one word means two different things.

Or do I have it completely wrong?

You tell me.


Dunn, Shirley. (2000) The Mohican World, 1680-1750

Frazier, Patrick. (1992) The Mohicans of Stockbridge

Sultzman, Lee. Mahican History

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Menominee Memorial Erected

The Menominees have erected a memorial for their veterans at a park in Keshena.

Click on the photo for a better view:

Let's not forget that when America goes to war, the Native Americans are putting more than their share of young men and women in harm's way.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Brothertown Nation of Indians - A Highly Recommended Book

Brad Jarvis' recent (2010, University of Nebraska Press) book The Brothertown Nation of Indians: Land Ownership and Nationalism in Early America, 1740-1840, received a very positive review in the April, 2011 issue of Choice Magazine. The reviewer, Lawrence Hauptmann, placed it in the "Highly Recommended" category.

Jarvis also gets a "thumbs up" from me simply for referring to his subjects as the "Brothertowns," instead of the "Brothertons." (Some academics prefer the latter name despite that fact that it is also the name of an entirely different tribe of Christian Algonkians.) Anyway, I also like the fact that Jarvis bothers to deal with the Brothertown Nation's time in what is now Wisconsin instead of just focusing on their days in New York State among the Oneidas.

There is a quote (page 6) in the introduction to Professor Jarvis' book which you may find to ring true with things I've been saying here:

"Christian themes of redemption and self-empowerment also resonated with people marginalized by colonialism."

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Unintended Consequences of Education at Wheelock's School

The University of North Carolina Press recently (2010) published a collection of scholarly writings by various authors under the title Native Americans, Christianity, and the Shaping of the American Religious Landscape. The book includes a chapter by Rachel Wheeler, "Hendrick Aupaumut: Christian Mahican Prophet," and another by David J. Silverman, "To Become a Chosen People: The Missionary Work and Missionary Spirit of the [Brothertown] and Stockbridge Indians, 1775-1835." (Silverman, or, more likely, the editor of the book, likes to spell it "Brotherton," which adds to the confusion over which tribe of Christian Algonkians he is referring to.)

My attention, however, was drawn to a piece called "Print Culture and the Power of Native Literacy in California and New England Missions" by Steven W. Hackel and Hilary E. Wyss (pages 201-224). It was partly about Moor's Charity School which essentially came about after Samson Occom proved to be a particularly successful pupil of Eleazar Wheelock. Rev. Wheelock (pictured here) saw his success with Occom as an opportunity to start a school.

Unfortunately, Wheelock was not one of the truly good missionaries who always had the Indians' own best interests in mind in all of his work. According to Hackel and Wyss, Wheelock believed teaching young Indians to read and write would turn them "into docile figures eager and willing to work under the watchful supervision of white missionaries." However, "none of his students in fact turned out that way"(page 216). Wheelock's attitude could well explain why he took the money Samson Occom raised in Britain to start the historically white institution known as Dartmouth College.

Instead of striving to please Wheelock, their white master, here are some of the things Hackel and Wyss tell us that the student's of Moor's Charity School accomplished with their education:

  • Hezekiah Calvin forged a pass for a slave (and was imprisoned for it).

  • Samson Occom wrote "petitions for a variety of Native communities."

  • Joseph Johnson, after leaving the school, gave up drinking and became a schoolmaster.

And, (also according to Hackel and Wyss, page 218), the Brothertown community itself would not have coalesced without Wheelock's school.

The graphic above is a painting by Joseph Steward (1753-1822). It is kept in the Hood Museum of Art.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Mohicans of Pachgatgoch: As told by Moravian Missionaries

The diaries of thirteen Moravian missionaries were recently translated (from German) into English. These translated diaries, along with a 73-page introduction, six appendices, and various other sections, were published by the University of Nebraska Press in 2009 under the title Gideon's People: Being a Chronicle of an American Indian Community in Colonial Connecticut and the Moravian Missionaries Who Served There. Corinna Daily-Starna and William A. Starna translated and edited the nearly 700 pages that make up a two volume set.

As far as the blogoshere is concerned, I've been beaten to the punch on this one. A Febrary 19, 2010 post to the Religion in American History blog by Linford D. Fisher was titled "The View from Pachgotgoch (or, Why Moravians Are Still Sexy)".

If Linford Fisher's post wasn't enough to convince you to read all 690-plus pages of Gideon's People, I'll just have to tell you a few other things about it.

Q: Who was Gideon?
A: Gideon was the headman of the village of Pachgatgoch, a unique community in the sense that it was a community of Christian Indians not organized by the missionaries (this is explained in the introduction, page 60).

Q: Is there any data in this book that I can use for genealogy?
A: Any of the Appendices might be helpful to you. they are, as follows:
Appendix 1 --> page 437: Catalogus of the Indian Congregation in Pachgatgoch
Appendix 2 --> page 447: Names Compoiled by Augustus Gottlieb Spangenberg
Appendix 3 --> page 451: Catalogus of Baptized and Unbaptized Indians in Pachgatgoch
Appendix 4 --> page 461: Lists and Correspondence
Appendix 5 --> page 523: Biographical List; and
Appendix 6 --> page 537: the Gazatteer (a list of geographical names)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

King Philip's War: One of the Bloodiest in American History

Above: An artist's conception of King Philip's War

According to Daniel Mandell's new book (page 134), King Philip's War was "the bloodiest war in American history in terms of its proportionate effect on a region." Of an estimated population of 80,000 people, almost 9,000 were killed, two-thirds of them were Native Americans. As Mandell tells it (on page 135), the six thousand Indian deaths resulted from combat, disease, and hunger. Furthermore, another two thousand Indians left New England as refugees; and "about one thousand were sold into slavery and certain death in the West Indies."

So, if we can be callous enough to look at the big picture of all of that misfortune, we might say that the upshot of King Philip's War was that Indians became a significantly smaller and weaker minority in New England in a short amount of time.

Nevertheless, as you have seen elsewhere in this blog, Native communities did survive in various ways. And, just as before, religion played a role. According to Mandell, "Christianity became an even more significant aspect of Indian life" after the disastrous war. He specifically mentions the Mohegans, Niantics, Pequots and Narragansetts who "formed their own churches, and developed a host of talented and famous Native preachers." As you may already know, Mandell has the Brothertown Indians in mind when he makes this statement.

Monday, February 14, 2011

King Philip's War by Daniel Mandell

A map of New England in the "Praying Indians" era.

As one of its reviews on states, if you read one book about King Philip's War, it should be Daniel Mandell's. King Philip's War: Colonial Expansion, Native Resistance, and the End of Indian Sovereignty (published by Johns Hopkins in 2010) is both well-researched and readable.

As you might imagine, the thing about it that has interested me the most (so far) came under the heading "Christian Indians." Here are a couple brief excerpts:

The process by which many Wampanoags, Massachusetts, Nipmucs, and Pennacooks embraced the English God and culture was driven by the devasting epidemics and other massive changes to their world. Indians and Puritans similarly believed that the supernatural world worked in everyday occurrences, and both groups saw recent events as evidence that Jehovah had overcome the native gods and that survival required adoption of the English God. Roxbury minister John Eliot stepped into this psychic gap after learning the Massachusett language, preaching that Indians could find salvation by shedding heathenish ways and adopting Puritan disciplines in order to breathe the rarefied Calvinist air (pages 39-40).

...Native converts wore their hair like the English and forswore many old habits, from religious ceremonies, to body greasing, to demonstrate their ability to walk the Christian path of righteousness (page 40).

Mandell also writes of how the first 'praying town' of Natick came about through the partnership of John Eliot with Waban, head of the Massachusett village of Nonantum.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Munsees in Wisconsin: We'll Keep Trying Until We Get it Right

I have already written a few posts in which I have focused on the Munsee element in the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians now residing in Shawano County, Wisconsin. It is a topic that is so complicated that I am resolved to keep trying until I get it right.

You might say that the Munsees were a 'political football' during the nasty citizen vs. Indian partisanship (and, of course, federal Indian policies of those times tended to encourage that kind of factionalism).

Diplomats in Buckskins (right) shows that The Stockbridge Mohicans weren't the only tribe that sent delegations to Washington asking the government to change their policies.

If you have read James Oberly's A Nation of Statesmen, you have a good idea of how strings were pulled in Washington D.C. for the Indian party when the Republicans were in power and for the Citizen party when the Democrats were in power. The result was a complicated mess of conflicting realities contested between various sub-groups of Indians.

It was an Indian party goal to exclude the Munsees. As a result, members of the Indian party, their lawyers, and other advocates worked to portray the Munsees as outsiders. There certainly was a time when outsiders were welcomed into the Stockbridge community, but you may remember that was stopped with the Quinney Constitution of 1837. (You may also remember that the arrival of a band of Munsees from Canada is one of the events that led John W. Quinney to write that constitution.)

And so we have documents that tell us that there are no Munsees living among the Stockbridge Mohicans. Actually, I think that there were times when the Indian party was largely successful in getting rid of all the other Indians that sought to be part of the tribe. As a result, Indian party documents that claim that few if any Munsees were around might be accurate. I really do have my doubts about the numbers of Munsees that today's Shawano County Indians are descended from. That is a viewpoint that I advanced in a post in my New York Indian removal series in the spring of 2009.

I'm grateful that Jeremy Mohawk submitted a comment to that post recently. Mr. Mohawk stated that he is a descendant of the New York Munsee rolls of 1839 and that (including his wife, three sons and a daughter) his family "still" lives on the Shawano County Reservation. However, I imagine that if we asked Jeremy Mohawk if his Munsee ancestors had ever left the rez, he would admit to gaps of time where they had to leave. He also said "alot of folks up here have Munsee lineage, well most do." As a matter of fact, I have observed that many or perhaps even most tribal members I know personally do claim to be part Munsee. How can we reconcile that with some of the Indian party documents?

Well, we will keep on trying until we get it right. And by "we," I mean that I don't think I can add or change much without the help of further genealogical data from tribal members.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Mohican Language: Is it Worth it?

I see that Lion Miles' Mohican Dictionary is posted on Debra Winchell's History's Faces blog (look for it in the upper right-hand corner). Just a casual look at the document convinces me that he worked very hard at compiling that dictionary. More than 90 percent of the dictionary is an "English to Mohican" section, with many English words having several Mohican pronounciations.

As a layperson I have only a fuzzy understanding of all the problems involved in compiling a dictionary of a language that was not spoken for several decades as well as being a language that was already changed by white contact by the time people began to interpret or translate it. The result of those (and other) problems is that Lion Miles' dictionary - an attempt at accurately re-creating Mohican - is too complex for ordinary people like you or I to use as a guide in learning Mohican.

But, you know, that is okay. Tribes and independent groups of Indians get together for language camps and that social context is really the best place for adults to learn a language.

Jim Northrup (pictured) organizes the annual Nagaajiwanaang Ojibwe Language Camp in Sawyer, Minnesota.

The language controversy among the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians (if I understand it correctly) is that the Lenape (or Delaware/Munsee) language is being learned along with some Mohican words. For many, including the tribe's Language and Culture Committee, this is good enough. But others feel that the uniqueness of the Mohican language is being kept from being fully realized by that way of teaching.

Rainer Posselt is one tribal member in the latter camp. In his comment to one of my earlier posts he expressed his disappointment that the Language and Culture Committee is essentially teaching Lenape but calling it 'Lenape-Mohican.' As Posselt says, "just tell us it is Lenape, you don't have to lie."

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The "York Tribe" in Indiana

<-- Yorktown, Indiana today.

Andy Olson, a reader from Indiana, contacted me a few months ago to tell me about his research of the New York Indians in Indiana. Although he was asking for some help with his project, I have also been able to learn things about the New York Indians from him, most significantly that the allied Brothertown, Stockbridge and Munsee Indians may have stayed in Indiana for longer than historians realize. Back in the 1820's they were known as "the York Tribe" and the modern town of Yorktown, Indiana (located in the Muncie metro area) is named after their settlement. (Of course, "Muncie" is one of the ways that "Munsee" used to be spelled.)

Andy Olson writes that he is part of the Kilgore family which owned a farm just outside of Yorktown from 1825 to 2002. And there was a " Kilgore family legend passed down" in the family that suggested that "David Kilgore [Olson's great, great, great grandfather] made a 'pact' with a departing 'York Indians' chief that neither Kilgore nor any of his descendants would disturb a burial ground on his property."

That is where it began for Andy Olson. He has now read a lot of papers at the Indiana Historical Society.

As you may remember, by the time the Stockbridges and other New York Indians made it to Indiana's White River, that land had already been purchased by the federal government for white settlement. While tribal petitions to re-designate the land did not accomplish their goal, the bureaucrats of the day at least left us with a record of New York Algonkians (men only) that were settled in the White River area as of 1819. This list is provided here courtesy of Andy Olson:

Jonas Littleman, Nicholas Jourdan, David Abrams, Johiakim Youcum, Jonas Thompson, John Littleman, Cornelius Aaron, Jehoiakim Abram, Sampson Pauskemp, Thomas Hickman, James Joshua, Henry Sukhukowrooh, Joseph Pewauqkuewheek, Abram Konnookhauthe, Cornelius Doxstater. David Neesonnuhhuk, John Baldwin, Abram Kauwaukheck, Daniel Aupehiheukum, John P. Konkpot, Aaron Nohsowwaunmut, Absalom Quinney, Isaac Littleman, [and] Sampson Owwohthemmauq.