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.