Maya and Aztec

Ancient Mesoamerican civilizations

Boundaries have remained behind: the period of integration (1650-1800)

Category: History

The prominent feature of the third period of historical changes in the life of Indians to the north and to the east of the river Delaware was their acquaintance with Protestantism. It is not surprising that the earliest activity of missionaries among Indians failed. The American Indian culture was still absolutely untouched, and Indians kept adherence to their beliefs and customs. Missionaries were a success only where early contacts of the white people with Indians destroyed the cult of natives.

In all colonial documents of XVII century the desire to introduce Christianity to Indians could be seen. The colony near Massachusetts Bay even ratified the coat-of arms on which the Indian with the open hands was pictured as if saying: « Come and help us ».

Puritans located themselves in the area where from epidemics the most part of local population was lost. Staying alive Indians were powerless to resist both to colonizers, and to stronger neighbor American Indian tribes. It also predetermined John Eliot’s success when he began the missionary activity since 40s of XVII century. Puritans and Virginia colonists came to an agreement that before turning Indians into Christianity they need « attaching to civilization ». Therefore from the very beginning of the process of colonization of American Indian children began to be placed into English families. « Familiarizing with civilization » meant transformation of the Indian into the anglicized puritan identified completely with the English society. Such colonizers’ “care” of Indians, as always, had been caused by material benefit, namely an opportunity to get cheap servants. With the same purpose American Indian women and children taken slaves by the white people during collisions with Indians, were distributed to colonists. Later American Indian children according to the law should get compulsory education of the English language.

But really activity of missionaries began only when such people as John Eliot and Thomas Mehju1, learnt one of American Indian languages and began to live with Indians. To finance missionary activity, in 1649 in New England the Society on distribution of the gospel and other missionary organizations was founded. On the grounds got by missionaries, separate settlements for « praying Indians » were created with the view of their protection against prospective temptations to sin. However attempts of missionaries to create such detached communities caused displeasure of both the white, and the Indians. Internal management of these missionary settlements was in hands of the leader elected by Indians; of Indians were both a religious instructor and a policeman. To support in Indians ‘respectableness ‘, every day they were edified on the questions of Christianity. Also schools were created, and Indians began to be trained in various crafts.


1 John Eliot and Thomas Mehju – were puritan missioners known for their zeal in the middle of XVII century, which started foundation of special settlements in the missionary lands for converted Indians – ‘The Praying Indians’.


Moreover, Puritan ideas of “good behavior » were embodied in a lot of interdictions for Indians. Every month leaders managed court at which fine civil cases of local residents were taken into discussions. Nevertheless other affairs were passed through colonial city councils with which once in three months courts were arranged. By 1674 such fourteen settlements of ” praying Indians’ had been created in the area of residing Nimpuk tribes and Massachusetts and like in the territory of the Nauset tribe, on cape the Code and on nearby islands. During the period between 1653 and 1721 36 books of the religious contents had been translated and published in local American Indian languages.

However even during the best times of existence of missionary settlements the neighbor white colonists treated quiet inhabitants with mistrust. The coexistence of a colony and a mission inevitably led to creation gardianship over Indians. « Praying Indians » on the one hand, were exposed to rough supervision of colonizers; on the other hand, they were despised and hated by other American Indian tribes. Leaders of tribes were against missionary activity as it undermined their authority among subordinate Indians especially acted and deprived of incomes. War of “King Phillip” struck a crushing blow on « praying Indians ». From 4000 of newly-converted in Christianity in 1674 only 2500 persons had survived by 1698. Many of them, certainly, were lost, but many had joined the Indians adjusted hostilely against distribution of Christianity.

By the end of XVII century the attitude of colonial authorities to Indians began to change. The fear of Indians passed away and gave place to charity concerning American Indian minority. Coastal Indians turned to wards of local authorities who were compelled, to take measures for their protection. In colonial documents there are records about cancellation of sale of the lands allocated under reservations, about assignment of white supervisors in every reservation and other decrees on guardianship.

White colonists in opinion of Indians looked less attractively, than colonial authorities as with the advent of colonists Indians lost their lands and prestige. During the XVIII century the system of reservations gradually falls into decay, and colonial authorities were satisfied with support of work of missionaries and the minimum of guardianship to avoid conflicts.

In case of occurrence of any conflicts Indians usually carried the entire fault. The escalating number of laws was designed for further restriction of a public and economic life of Indians. The constant tendency of this period was falling number of the American Indian population. Indians opposed to violent assimilation and messages as far as it were possible, that way of life which had been familiar to them for a long time. It led to occurrence of reservation cultures and to a lot of other changes.

The war of “King Phillip” was frequently considered as the end of the first period of missionary work in New England, ended with a failure. However in Massachusetts four settlements of ” praying Indians » continued to exist long time. But more important was that missionary settlements on cape Code and nearby islands there was almost no influence of the mentioned war. In some respects it was an area representing a link between existence of « praying Indians » and activization of activity of missionaries after 1734. Missions of cape Code accepted many « praying Indians » as during the war of “King Phillip”, and after it. The high death rate of local Indians  forced missionaries to investigate the southern part of New England in the beginning of the XVIII century with the purpose of creation there new missions.

Except for the tribe of Mohegan’s, Indians of New England rather favorably concerned missionaries, and the activity of the last began on Rhode Island and in state of Connecticut. Here again social and economic conditions of life of Indians served as a criterion of their attitude to Europeans. As a result of a skilful policy of the leader Mohegan’s managed to keep the traditional way of life till the 40s of XVIII century. Compared to Mohegans the majority of other American Indian tribes influenced all destructive forces united against Indians during this period. Mogauki-Iroques people were paid deep attention by the French church activity, threatened thus Mohicans’ connection of these tribes with Englishmen. Missionary activity among these tribes was a failure till 1730s.

New rise of missionary and philanthropic activity, probably, had connection with the movement of « Great awakening »2, captured all Western Europe between 1730 and 1760. Missionaries of this period were extremely capable preachers, they could force to cry and ask the parishioners about pardon of sins. Surprisingly missionaries were able to achieve « experimental religion » success among Indians. One of the most known Indians inverted in Christianity, was Samson Okkom from the Mohegan tribe. His successful missionary activity led to the creation of Eliazar Wilock School which became progenitor of Dartmut College. Pupils of this school were dispatched in all areas, and Okkom himself worked among Indians of Long Island.

By this time whale hunting already played a huge role in the life of coastal Indians, though many of them were violently entangled with duties to force them to leave for the sea. The part of Indians had undergone enslaving and they were forced to work on farms and in the big estates of the white.



2 ‘Great awakening’ is a religious movement in Western Europe (1730-1760)


Comrades of Indians in this bad luck were Negro – slaves. The attitude of colonizers both to Negroes and to Indians was identical which promoted rapprochement of these two races. Shortage of women among Negroes even more strengthened this process. It frequently happened that coming back from whale hunting with American Indian sailors, Portuguese’s and other “foreigners” settled among Indians. However the laws forbidding missed marriages carried the form of racial discrimination towards Negros and Indians.

Saint Okkom understood that conditions of life of coastal Indians became less favorable for missionary activity and that they could lead only to further disintegration of American Indian communities. Together with several other American Indian missionaries he insisted on resettlement of American Indian tribes to the West. Two hundred and fifty Indians from Connecticut, Rhode Island and Long Island responded to the invitation of Iroques –Oneida Indians and in 1775 created a settlement on the territories of the last, which received the name of Brother City. The war of independence forced them then to search for a refuge in American Indian settlement Stockbridge in the western part of Massachusetts.

Stockbridge Community was formed because missionaries were interested in its occurrence as Mohicans, so, since 1734. Growing settlements in the valley of the river Hudson and eviction of Indians led to the fact that in 1675 the rest of Mohicans was united with Woppingers and Hausatoniks. The leader of the tribe of Mohicans carried out the role of the main Sahem in this some kind of late confederations, In 1734 Saint John Sergeant had made contact to the rests of the Hausatonik tribe numbering fifty people.

With the consent of the leader of Mohicans the missionary post under name Stockbridge was founded. The Indians living at a significant distance from the post were moved closer to strengthen the influence of missionaries. Sergent read prays in the local American Indian language and translated some religious works. Among the first people whom he turned into Christianity there were local leaders and their families, besides special attention was paid to training of sons of American Indian leaders. Children of other Indians were trained also by the white teacher. Moreover, some English families were an example of good behavior and trained Indians in various kinds of occupations and crafts.

But in the process of development of missionary activity in this area counteraction to it grew on the part of living here local white colonists. For this reason the existence of the Moravian mission working among Mohicans on coast of the river Hudson, for example, was stopped. As a result many Indians in 1746 followed Moravian brothers to Pennsylvania. Others joined the group in Stockbridge, after the old main Sahem died the tribe of Mohicans and the management passed over to the newly converted Indians. That attention which in due time missionaries gave to « leading families », paid back – all subsequent leaders actively participated in the church and religious life.

In 1750 the number of Stockbridge inhabitants increased up to 250 people. Among them there were Mohicans, Woppingers, Mannabeseks, Wiantonoks. Under the influence of Europeans Indians began to be engaged in agriculture and build simple houses. The land which had been earlier usually in general use now was divided between heads of families.

However employment in agriculture did not bring expected results. Indians preferred to conduct the traditional facilities. Growth of the white population steadily conducted to losing land by Indians. Many men – Indians were lost during wars between the Frenchmen and Indians, and also during the American Revolution3. Once brilliant prospects of missionary work gradually faded.

Colonizers all over again have discharged Indians of the municipal government, and then in general expelled them from Stockbridge. Together with Indians from Brothertown almost 420 Stockbridge Indians lodged in 1785 among Iroques-Oneida, and later, in the beginning of XIX century, they moved to Wisconsin.

In XVIII in, at coast there were some more missionary settlements and their history in many respects resembled the history of Stockbridge. Though for a long time missionaries – natives still carried out the work among Indians who had not been covered with this activity earlier, religious heat gradually passed. By 1800 in New England, to the south from the river Merrimac, no more than 3500 Indians and about 550 people on coast of New York and New Jersey remained. Only blood Indians among these groups disappeared.

Changes in American Indian culture of this period were most intensive. Under influence of activity of missionaries the whole system of values and foundations of Indian life got in a strip of tests. Traditional norms and representations of Indians had already been weakened by unsuccessful attempt to keep cultural and political independence of the American Indian society.

Proceeding reduction of population had caused simplification of structure of ceremonies. The most complex rituals  disappeared first as now among members of the tribe there were both adherents of old traditions, and Christians. Efficiency of religious influence on the social structure had lost the force. Loss of trust to old religion was showed in an inattention to observance of ceremonialism which had been left in the past more and more.


3 The War of Independence in America in 1775-1783


However some religious beliefs of Indians nevertheless found place in new conditions. The leaders inverted in Christianity began to play a predominating role in again entered rituals. During service they like the enthusiastic audience, were betraid to mysticism. But, undoubtedly, a more important fact is that many Indians considered Christianity as certain Messianism, directed against the white and informing to Indians magic knowledge which could remove the danger menacing to their existence. Missionary activity among Delawares preceded their religious movement of revival (Nativism).

Many traditional customs disappeared, as they had practically lost the value and had remained as “empty” forms without contents. The representations connected to sorcery, had mixed up with similar representations – European and African ones in origin.

Acceptance of Christianity meant also radical reorganization of the whole life of the American Indian society. The scattered big long communal houses had given an up the place to groups of one-family wigwams. As the result of support on the part of missionaries the position of proselite leaders had become even stronger.

Some traditional functions of the leader were kept in new conditions of the organization of the American Indian society. Marriage connections of leaders were still limited to the group of families of elite. Though the size of the tribute to the leader had decreased it had not disappeared at all. The leader was able to read and write and conducted agriculture better.

However Indians, his fellow tribesmen, did not hurry up to follow his example. They preferred to be engaged, if it was possible, in hunting and fishery and leased the land to white farmers. American Indian women had kept the authority at the decision of family problems. Matrilineal account of an origin and inheritance of the ground was supported by fear losing the right on residing in reservations as a result of a marriage with a stranger or births of the child from a stranger. Except for marriages of Indians with Negroes – slaves, marriages with the white took place as well. In both cases, as a rule, Negroes and the white married American Indian women.

The Influence of missionaries affected American Indian languages. Wide use of the religious literature published in the Massachuset dialect, and efforts of missionaries “to improve” American Indian languages had affected them, especially in the form and style of writing. Many Indians spoke two languages, and the significant number of foreign words was included in their dictionary. As a result of it there was a disappearance of their native language among coastal Indians by the end of XVIII century gradually.

The facilities in reservations were given basically to women as men had been occupied with work for the white and frequently long they were away. Women looked after small kitchen gardens and the cattle. However their more important occupation was manufacturing craft products, which Indians sold to the white.

The basten baskets made by them testify the diligence of the Indian women. It is most probable, that this craft was borrowed from the Scandinavians living on the coast of the river Delaware in about 1700, and then, fifty years later, Moravian Indians transferred it to the Indians of the river Hudson and Connecticut area.

From now on the specified craft starts to be distributed quickly in the area where coastal Algonkins lived. The elements of ornament included in American Indian craft and clothes, testify their origin from the European folk art. Indians in settlements sold not only baskets, but also wooden spoons, cups, brooms, wooden boats. Europeans began to use the American Indian sorcerers treating exclusively by grasses. In turn they got acquainted Indians with the European herbs.

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