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“Praying Indians”

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  1. “Praying Indians”

  2. English missionary work had differing aims to that of the French French saw conversion as part of the ‘civilizing’ process English needed and wanted to ‘Destroy the Indian to create the man’ They therefore had little or no interest in Native American culture Comparatively few cases of ‘successful’ conversion

  3. New England • “As for these poor Indians, they have no principles of their own, nor yet wisdome of their own”

  4. Elliot born August 1604, Widford, Essex, England Graduated Jesus College, Cambridge Entered ministry Beliefs led him to leave England for “New England” in 1631 Initially served in Boston as a teacher And then Roxburyas a teacher and minister

  5. Elliot mainstay of local religious population • Part of group who examined, excommunicated, and banished Anne Hutchinson in 1630s

  6. During the 1630-40s Massachusetts Bay colony • Criticized for not bringing Christianity to the native population • Part of claimed aims of company

  7. Response Bring the native population into first “Indian Reservations” Known as Praying towns Lead player John Elliot Nantick 1651 By 1670 over 10 Eventually 14 in total

  8. As mentioned • ‘kill the Indian to free the man’ • Elliot thought that Indians • “must have civility before they can rightly enjoy visible sanctities in ecclesiastical communion”

  9. October 28 1646 • Elliot preached first successful service to a Native audience • One week later • General Court of Massachusetts passed laws that • Forbade Indians from worship their own gods • Assigned ministers to preach to them • Approved the purchase of land • “for the incouragement of the Indians to live in an orderly way amongst us”

  10. Each town Elected their own leaders • “approved by a superior authority” Had a legal code • Drawn up by Elliot 5 shilling fine for ‘idleness’ Ordered families to live in a single spot Forbade women to cut hair short or men to grow their long Forbidden to tell lies

  11. Elliot did begin to learn the language • And created “Indian Bible” in 1661 • Interestingly for the next 100 years only bibles printed in America were for Natives • But only to instruct them initially • After all they were all living in Sin • They had lessons in English also

  12. Potential converts were Isolated from the broader community within the towns Also isolated from their own community Instructed that all trust must be placed in God not in the world Self worth found in isolation from others Rather than kin and community networks

  13. Basic aim of the towns To create English men and women To bring the ‘savage’ into the fold of the ‘civilized’ Two problems with the whole idea 1) the English would never admit them as equals 2) the natives in the praying towns never ‘bought in’ to Elliot’s and the Puritans plan

  14. So why did the Indians go into the towns? • Did they, as they the English believed, recognize the superiority of English way? • If not what was their motivation ?

  15. First we have to consider the timing Missionization began only after Puritans had carried out a war of extermination against the Pequot in 1637 and Begun a war of attrition against the Narraganset Suggests a cost benefit decision For benefit of • Protection • Food • Shelter Willing to pay the cost of • Submission

  16. Secondly we must consider geography • Towns were initially placed on traditional trails • Also Elliot began on the Atlantic seaboard and moved westward • Behind English military power

  17. But beyond the most basic needs how much did the ‘Praying Indians’ actually submit To what degree did they retain a sense of native autonomy?

  18. To Pray or not to Pray, that is the Question

  19. Cultural & political autonomy in the “Praying towns” Five main areas which display native autonomy 1) degree of oversight 2) political succession 3) degree of freedom of movement 4) instances of ‘back-sliding’ from Puritan documents 5) political and military alliance in later conflicts

  20. Degree of Oversight May 26, 1647 General court ordered that magistrates should meet in each town once a quarter But also that “the Indian Sachems shall have libertie to take order in the nature of Summons or Attachments to bring any of their own people to the said court” “if they see of occasion”

  21. Political Succession “care was taken by the general court of the Massachusetts, at the motion of Mr. Elliot, to appoint some of the Prudent and most pious Indians in every Indian village… to be rulers and magistrates amongst them, to order their affairs both civil and criminal”

  22. Demonstration of Inheritance in Praying Town

  23. freedom of movement The Massachusetts government saw the Indians as a buffer between them and ‘hostile Indians’ They armed ‘praying indians’ This allowed natives from the towns to leave the towns with their weapons • In defense But Government had not control of what happened after they had left town

  24. ‘back-sliding’ In “affaires of ecclesiastical polity, they come on but slowly” • John Elliot, 1654 “Satan has so emboldened them that this winter there hath been paw-wawing again with some of them” • John Elliot, 1650

  25. political and military alliance Talking of Metacom’s War (King Phillip) 1675 Of the Praying Towns ‘being raw and lately initiated into the Christian profession; most of then fell off from the English and joined the enemy in the war’ Suggesting that commitment had not been total but, simply expedient