The Church in New England Indian Community Life:

A View from the Islands and Cape Cod

David J. Silverman

In September of 1767 a great meeting took place at the Wampanoag village of Mashpee on Cape Cod, drawing together “the Indians of Martha’s Vineyard, and the neighbouring Indians on the Continent,” as well as some English committeemen from Boston. On the first morning, everyone filed into Mashpee’s one-room public building, seated themselves on the benches, and assumed a posture of “gravity” appropriate to the serious matters at hand. The natives’ leaders went before the assembly and then launched into a time-honored ceremony marked by ritualistic, metaphorical sayings in the Wampanoag language and symbols of the Indians’ connection to one another and to the spirits. Only after this rite was completed did a buzz of less formal activity begin, as small groups of Indians and Englishmen met to talk business, discuss politics, catch up with old friends and relatives, and of course, negotiate the terms of land deals.

On the surface, this Mashpee meeting resembled the great eighteenth-century treaty conferences associated with imperial crossroads such as Johnson Hall or Detroit, but appearances can be deceiving. The Wampanoags’ stately language and ritual were not about native politics; they were an annual celebration of what missionary Gideon Hawley called the “Great Sacrament,” or Lord’s Supper. The building in which the people gathered was not a council house, but a large square-framed church, and the delegates were not sachems, but congregants, led by Mashpee’s pastor, Solomon Briant, and the minister of Aquinnah (or Gay Head) on Martha’s Vineyard, Zachariah Hossueit. This was indeed a Christian event, and yet much more. The sideline discussions allowed Indians from throughout southeastern Massachusetts to renew their ties to one another, and to match stories and strategies about their endless grievances against the colonists. The presence of colonial ambassadors from the natives’ missionary sponsor, the New England Company, encouraged Wampanoags to petition for much-needed resources: several villages lacked ministers; Briant needed religious books and debt relief; the natives of Yarmouth and Herring Pond thought different men should distribute their annual allotment of company supplies. Other requests were more overtly political. Hossueit wanted the Company men to tell their superiors, members of the Massachusetts elite, that the Vineyard Indians’ colony-appointed guardian was illegally leasing out Indian land. Native islanders, Hossueit made clear, “desired . . . that they might have no more guardians.”1

As this account suggests, the Church played a multivalent and principal role in offshore Wampanoag community life, reinforcing the Indians’ village, tribal, and colonial ties, and providing an institutional framework in which to address issues often unrelated to religion. Moreover, its centrality extended beyond what might be called the “golden age” of New England Indian missions before King Philip’s War, well into the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. By performing so many critical functions over such a long period, the Church helped communities such as Mashpee on Cape Cod and Aquinnah, Christiantown, and Chappaquiddick on Martha’s Vineyard to remain Indian places long after natives were supposed to have disappeared from southeastern New England.

This telling both complements and contrasts with recent scholarship. Current histories emphasize that Indians were pushed into Christian missions by English coercion, as well as pulled towards them, first by colonial promises of sheltered land and military protection, and second by Christianity’s explanation of a world upturned by epidemic disease and Machiavellian politics. Historians also agree that these enticements were illusory. After King Philip’s War, Englishmen steadily chipped away at the boundaries of mainland praying towns such as Natick, Punkapoag, and Hassanamisco, economically exploited the Indians, and eventually drove most of the dispirited natives west or into the company of the wandering poor. In the end, conversion postponed Indian dispossession but it could not halt it.2 Kathleen Bragdon’s and James Ronda’s analyses of Christian Indian communities on Martha’s Vineyard somewhat temper this interpretation. These scholars found that for centuries Christianity gave the island Wampanoags’ leading families skills and structures that upheld their authority, and offered the broader native population a safe forum in which to maintain selected traditions.3 This essay builds upon Bragdon and Ronda’s larger point—that in important ways Christianity promoted native identity—by arguing that the Church’s role in colonial diplomacy, local society, and inter-village networking facilitated the survival of the longest-lasting, most geographically-distinct native communities on the Cape and islands, and even of the Wampanoag tribe itself. Furthermore, in contrast to current histories emphasizing the declension of Indian churches, this essay submits that, in Wampanoag country, their importance expanded over time. Such an assertion should not be read as a challenge to the idea that the mission was a constituent part of colonial expansion and led to the weakening of native self-determination. Rather, it serves as an addendum: the multifunctionality of native churches gave Indians their best chance of remaining peacefully on some of their lands while maintaining a sense of local and tribal identity, despite living in a region increasingly dominated by whites.

The Church’s rise to prominence in offshore Wampanoag community life began in the earliest days of English settlement. Thomas Mayhew Jr., launched missionary work on the Vineyard in 1643, and with a dedicated core of native assistants, spread the Word across the island with remarkable speed. By the mid-1660s, Christian services took place in every native community on the island, and by 1674, all but one of the Vineyard’s three hundred or so Indian families called themselves Christian.4 They were led by fifty Indian visible saints, divided into six meetings, and served by ten Indian preachers. And they were not alone in the region. In 1669, Cape Cod missionary Richard Bourne reported that the Indians of Mashpee “and other places neere adjoyning they are Generally Praying Indians,” while on the outer Cape “there is some praying Indians & App[e]areth great inclination to receive the knowledge of God & forsake their former wayes.”5 By 1673, missionary visits to Nantucket by Mayhew and his Indian converts had convinced ninety of three hundred Indian families to adopt the Christian faith and gather together in a recognized church.6 In all, approximately 3,400 Indians from the Cape and islands had entered the fold by the mid-1670s.7

The Church made one of its earliest and most important contributions to the long-term survival of offshore Wampanoag communities by brokering peace with the English during King Philip’s War. It was able to assume such a role because the praying Indians had adopted several Christian community institutions and were enforcing a Christian standard of behavior that advertised their intention to live peacefully alongside the colonists under a single faith. As early as the 1650s, Indian ministers, ruling elders, and teachers on Martha’s Vineyard began actively discouraging sins such as drunkenness, theft, Sabbath breaking, and falling out with one’s neighbors, which they knew offended not only Jehovah, but the English too. Yet eventually Indian converts reached the same conclusion as their fellow English Congregationalists, that without the support of civil officers, church authorities could not produce a godly society. Accordingly, beginning in 1671, each native village held elections for three magistrates to enforce Christian law, with appeals passing from the Indians’ own courts to colonial justices. Cape Cod natives launched a similar initiative in 1675. The native courts were an integral part of the Christianizing program, since magistrates enforced biblical law and demanded that transgressors recognize and confess their sinfulness. Whether from the pulpit or the bench, Wampanoag officials with titles recognized by native and newcomer alike were enforcing a moral code to which both communities aspired.8

Aside from the Indians’ religious interest in suppressing sin, what made this new order successful was that most of the new moral police hailed from the natives’ elite families and thus were entitled to deference. As the Chappaquiddick sachem Seeknout explained to colonial authorities, “we have desired that your Order should come to us, rather than your Officer.”9 In Experience Mayhew’s 1727 collection of biographical sketches, Indian Converts, at least six of nine Indian magistrates were members of a sachem’s family or served as a sachem’s counselor, while a minimum of sixteen out of thirty church officials claimed elite genealogy.10 At the same time, church figures dominated the Wampanoags’ political ranks. Not only were Vineyard sachems Mittark, Wobamog, and Tawanquatuck leading Christians, but in 1675 nine of Mittark’s ten counselors held church positions such as preacher, deacon, or magistrate.11 Indian political leadership and church leadership had become all but indistinguishable, meaning that Wampanoags who made decisions affecting war and peace were unlikely enemies of the English.

Church leaders governed the islands through the tense days of King Philip’s War. The most important native figure in wartime was Japheth Hannit, reputed among the Indians to be blessed by God. Before Japheth’s birth around 1638, some four years before Englishmen moved to the Vineyard, his mother, Wuttununohkomkooh, had lost six infants to death. She attributed Japheth’s life to an anonymous spirit’s offer of mercy, and once Mayhew Jr., began preaching the Gospel, she was convinced that Jehovah was the source of this miracle. Subsequently, she and her husband were among the earliest converts. When the Mayhews opened an Indian school in 1651, the parents immediately enrolled thirteen-year-old Japheth, and by adulthood he had learned to read and write both Wampanoag and English. At age thirty, Hannit gave a public narrative of his conversion that allowed him to become a full member of the Indian church; afterward he was elected Chief Indian Magistrate in the natives’ new court system. Later in life he entered the ministry and won acclaim for proselytizing to mainland Indians, including the Narragansetts and Mohegans. His widely recognized accomplishments and upstanding character made Hannit an obvious choice to serve during King Philip’s War as “captain” of the newly formed native militia with the added responsibility “to observe and report how things went among the Indians.” To “his Faithfulness in the Discharge of this Trust,” wrote Matthew Mayhew, “the Preservation of the Peace of our Island was very much owing, when the People on the Main were all in War and Blood.”12

English missionaries such as Thomas Mayhew Sr., were equally valuable to the peace.13 Since 1642, Mayhew had been a force in native affairs as the island’s sole proprietor and the colonists’ chief magistrate, but his influence reached its peak when he took over the island mission in 1657 following the death of his son. The Indians showed respect for his work and status by asking him in 1670 to become one of their pastors, an offer he declined. After the Indians created formal courts, Mayhew enlarged his already substantial power base by consulting with the natives on their choice of magistrates and ruling on their appeals. “The Governor,” as he was known, demonstrated a light touch in all of these capacities. He tolerated native customs within the boundaries of Christianity and showed rare sensitivity towards native understanding of the sins that brought them before his bench. He determined that peace on an island where Indians vastly outnumbered colonists depended upon inter-cultural relations based on persuasion rather than force, and that Christianity was essential to that influence. “The temporall sword is good,” Mayhew wrote to John Winthrop Jr., “the spirituall is longer & more sharpe.”14 When war broke out on the mainland and Vineyard Englishmen clamored to disarm the local Indians, Mayhew boldly accepted his Indian converts’ counterproposal that they be employed in the island militia. He even extended this offer to the praying Indians of Nantucket. His confidence showed foresight, since island Wampanoags steadfastly turned in Philip’s men who sought refuge with them, and both Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket escaped the mainland’s carnage.15 Information relating to the war years on Cape Cod is sparser than that for the Vineyard, but extant evidence makes it abundantly clear that the Cape Wampanoags’ Christianity was equally vital to their peace with the colonists. Upon receiving word of Philip’s uprising, Cape Indians immediately procured men to fight alongside English forces and renewed their 1671 submission to the New Plymouth colony. Their pledge envisioned “that wee noe more be strangers and forraigners, but by the grace of Christ revealed in the gospell wee hope to be of the household of God.”16 Lest the colonists question the Indians’ sincerity, before their campaigns during King Philip’s War, Wampanoag militiamen gathered at the house of missionary John Cotton Jr., and insisted that he preach to them.17 They knew that, aside from risking their lives in battle against Philip, there was no greater proof of their commitment to the English.

The importance of Christianity to peaceful cross-cultural relations was not lost on mainland Wampanoag war refugees, who initially supported Philip, but later turned on him in exchange for Plymouth’s quarter.18 Fresh memories of the conflict’s horrors convinced these battered survivors to remodel themselves on the praying Indians of the Cape and islands. To that end, mainland Wampanoags hosted missionary visits from native islanders Japheth Hannit and Thomas Sissetom, recruited a handful of Vineyard religious figures to join their communities, and entered the shelter of the Church.19 As early as 1689, Increase Mather described Saconet as “a great Congregation.”20 Nine years later, mainland Wampanoags had organized into four meetings with at least 240 attendees, an array of Indian and English preachers and teachers, and schools that were producing a remarkably literate population.21 What the colonists found especially striking was that these natives had been “under none, in a manner, but Indian-Instruction.”22

The mainlanders’ conversion reintegrated them into a greater Wampanoag community that was increasingly based upon church networks rather than sachem marriage alliances. By the early eighteenth century, Wampanoags boasted approximately thirty congregations with “some thousand of souls.”23 Experience Mayhew observed Cape Cod Indians moving to Martha’s Vineyard expressly to join island congregations.24 At the same time, Wampanoags from the shores of Buzzard’s Bay and the inner Cape gathered to hear the preaching of missionaries John Cotton Jr, and Richard Bourne; even larger crowds attended major church events such as ordinations and the Lord’s Supper.25 The Church was more than a protective cocoon against colonial expansion or a mediating institution between natives and newcomers. For the first time since the beginning of the Mayhew mission in the 1640s, both mainland and offshore Wampanoags had a ritual basis for gathering together, a common faith, and a shared leadership structure.

Like John Eliot’s mainland missionary charges, offshore natives gathered into Christian reserves to protect their land; on the Cape and islands, however, this movement was as much an effort to limit the sachems’ territory as it was a response to English demand.26 In 1669, Keteanummin, sachem of Takemmy (today’s Tisbury and West Tisbury), alienated a huge swath of land to four island colonists, evoking such protest from his followers that “Mr. Mayhew had hard work to quiet the matter.” Ultimately, the common Indians consented to the sale, but only after the sachem guaranteed them a permanent square mile of ground, contingent upon their upholding “god his wayes.” Thirty years later Keteanummin tried to renege on his promise, but a group of natives led by minister Isaac Ompany, assisted by missionary Thomas Mayhew Jr.’s son, Matthew, battled him on the ground and in the courts until he acknowledged his earlier grant. In both crises, the Church provided Christiantown with alternative leaders to the sachem and links to English power brokers in law and government who could raise the “paper barriers” Indians needed to lay collective claim to the land. The Christiantown grants contributed to the natives’ retention of their village in Tisbury until the late nineteenth century.27

Mashpee became an Indian reserve through similar means. In 1665, missionary Richard Bourne convinced inner-Cape sachems Weepquish and Tookonchasm to cordon off land for the praying Indians and agree that none of it was to be alienated without the converts’ unanimous consent. Plymouth confirmed this agreement in 1680, adding for emphasis that the Mashpee Indians’ land “was to be perpetually to them and their Children.” It is no coincidence that throughout the eighteenth century, Mashpee, despite its own struggles to fend off the English, served as a place of refuge for Indians whose communities lacked such protective agreements. Nor is it a coincidence that Mashpee remains an Indian place to this day. As the Mashpees themselves noted in 1752, they alone were supposed to enjoy their reserve “as long as Christian Indians live.”28

Unlike Christiantown and Mashpee, where common Indians used the Church to battle local sachems for control of the land, in Aquinnah on Martha’s Vineyard, the local leader, Mittark, used it to resist incursions by a more powerful sachem. During the 1660s, Wamsutta (or Alexander), successor to Massasoit as the paramount Wampanoag sachem, began to issue one land deed after another in communities that paid him tribute, including Aquinnah. Just after these deeds began to appear, Mittark and then his people suddenly became enthusiastic converts, despite having previously refused to allow Vineyard missionaries to preach in their jurisdiction. Mittark was fully aware that the purchasers would have to secure the approval of proprietor Thomas Mayhew for their deeds to take effect. From a practical standpoint, Mittark’s resistance to the mission only made sense as long as Wamsutta offered protection from outsiders and contained his own wrath. Once Wamsutta became the threat, it was time for Mittark to find a new protector. Mayhew was that man, and conversion was the best way to secure his favor. After Mittark’s conversion, neither Wamsutta nor his successor, Philip, issued another deed for Aquinnah land.29

Aquinnah’s adoption of Christianity did not make it immune to the troubles that plagued neighboring Indian communities. Soon after Mittark’s death in 1683, his son and successor, Josiah Mittark, created a land sale crisis of such proportions that a takeover of his sachemship by the missionary New England Company became necessary.30 In 1687, Josiah Mittark sold his title to the Governor of New York, Thomas Dongan, who, after fending off an innovative Indian attempt to discredit the purchase, moved to divide Aquinnah into a series of plots for sale and lease. The New England Company’s fear that its showcase converts were about to be “scattered up and down the Continent, and returning to the barbarous Customes of their Ancestors,” led it to purchase Dongan’s title for a hefty £550. The Company’s intention, asserted its commissioner Samuel Sewall, was to refuse “to part with one foot of [the land] to Englishmen upon any term” in order to “preserve it Entire for an Indian Plantation; which may become numerous and well ordered.”31 The Aquinnahs were uncertain about these developments. History had taught them to see a Trojan horse in the Company’s plans to lease out some Indian territory to fund Indian schools and poor relief.

Despite such concerns, Company management ultimately strengthened the native community. The Company’s consolidation of Aquinnah’s title eliminated the risk of individual Indians’ selling the land. When Englishmen encroached on the Indians’ lands, the Company hired able lawyers to contest such violations in court. The Company introduced Indians to the practice of charging colonists to graze their livestock at Aquinnah with native, rather than English, shepherds watching over the animals. This enterprise allowed the Aquinnahs to raise money from their territory without selling it or leasing it out. The Company also encouraged the Indians to form a governing body to distribute shares of grazing land, and this group became the foundation for an Aquinnah town meeting that exists to this day. Although the Indians resented the Company, it did prevent the sale of Aquinnah land for almost a century, and introduced the Wampanoags to the institutions and land management techniques that they would need to survive as a distinct entity in New England.32

As land-sale crises afflicted one native community after another, Indians began to unseat their sachems and, in the best-documented cases, replace them with assemblies synonymous with the church congregation. Christiantown made governing so difficult for Keteanummin’s successor, Josiah, that in 1702 he stepped down and deeded the praying Indians all of his claims, whereupon the natives formed what they called a “Legall Town meeting” and ordered that all land sales receive the unanimous consent of its members. In essence, their meeting was a politicized church congregation, with ministers, ruling elders, and teachers acting as spokespersons, moderators, and clerks, the laity forming the representatives, and the organization gathering together in the Congregational meetinghouse.33 Similar changes appear to have occurred in other communities, although the information is less abundant. The people of Chappaquiddick broke with their sachem, Jacob Seeknout, in the 1730s, and afterwards fell under the leadership of Samuel and Hepzibath Cogenhew. Samuel was the Baptist minister, Hepzibah was Seeknout’s daughter, and their house was the site of community worship.34

Ives Goddard and Kathleen Bragdon’s careful analysis of a 1749 Wampanoag language petition from Aquinnah to Boston provides further evidence that the Church had become a central Wampanoag political institution. They believe that the document was drawn up in Sunday meeting because its author was the pastor Zachariah Hossueit, and the signatories’ names were clustered by sex, like the gendered seating in church. It is not surprising, given the aforementioned developments in Christiantown and Chappaquiddick, that this same pattern marks at least six other petitions issued during the mid-to late eighteenth century, two from Aquinnah and four from Chappaquiddick.35 Only Sunday worship regularly gathered everyone together where they could discuss common problems under the guidance of church leaders, members of the traditional political elite who were best equipped to draw up petitions because of their facility with written English and acquaintance with English authorities. The Church was a natural political body.

After church leaders oversaw public debate and drew up the Indians’ petitions, they were the figures most likely to bring those documents directly to the attention of colonial officials. In 1763, Mashpee selected its schoolteacher (a position designed to promote religion), Reuben Cogenhew, to travel to London to present the community’s grievances to the King.36 Most years, however, native petitioners trekked only as far as Boston, as in 1763, when two of Mashpee’s three complainants before the Massachusetts Legislature were Cogenhew and minister Solomon Briant.37 The tradition of churchmen’s engaging outside authorities continued well into the nineteenth century. Deacon Isaac Coombs and preacher William Apess led Mashpee’s 1833 movement for self-rule, and Deacon Simon Johnson of Aquinnah was said to have left Martha’s Vineyard only three times in his lifetime between 1794 and 1875, including two journeys to Boston to deliver anti-liquor petitions to the General Court.38

The churchmen’s messages consistently referred to the common faith of all New Englanders and charged that whites failed to live up to what they preached.39 In 1700, Simon Popmonet’s remonstrance against debt peonage chided Boston that the “inhabitants of Mashpee” were “a people that do own the Great Jehovah and His Son our Lord, Jesus Christ.”40 In the mid-eighteenth century, Aquinnah contested Boston’s appointment of an Indian pyromaniac and land swindler as one of their magistrates by citing Job 34:30, confident that Massachusetts authorities would know that it warned, “Let not the hypocrite rule.”41 Judah Coquit charged that, whereas the Chappaquiddicks were a praying people, the guardian Boston provided for them, Benjamin Hawes, was hopelessly corrupt and “in a League with the Devil.”42 Nantucket’s natives complained that their English creditors made them chase whales on Sunday, prompting the question, “how can we any ways be like christians when we should be praying to God on the Sabbath day morning when we must be Rowing after whal[e] . . . we should be at rest on that day and do no worldly labor only to do sum holy duties to draw near to god.” It was enough to make them conclude “these English . . . are no ways like christons.”43 In an era of hardening racial attitudes and almost nonexistent Indian economic and military leverage, the Indians had few means other than the language of Christianity to remind the state of its obligations to them.

The influence of Indian church officers extended not only from their ancestry, facility with the written word, and ability to manipulate Christian themes, but from their access to the New England Company’s treasury. Preachers, ruling elders, deacons, and semi-Christian officials such as schoolmasters, magistrates, and town clerks drew annual salaries from the organization, a rare source of steady income. Such compensation was seldom high, but when an individual held multiple offices, he could earn a comfortable allowance.44 For example, throughout his long eighteenth-century career, Zachariah Hossueit worked as a preacher, schoolmaster, town clerk, and magistrate of Aquinnah and Christiantown, earning a salary that reached as high as £100 Massachusetts currency in 1771.45 Unlike his neighbors, whose English creditors forced them to work on colonial ships and farms or in English kitchens, Hossueit was a constant presence at Aquinnah by virtue of his liquidity, and, even if he were to fall behind, he could count on the New England Company for assistance.46 Aquinnahs knew that day in and day out Hossueit would be there to help them build community coalitions and monitor the Indians’ deeds, leases, and lawsuits.47

The fixity, equity, education, and connectedness of New England Company employees made them jacks-of-all trades who managed their communities’ financial, legal, and political affairs, in addition to performing their day jobs. Stable finances made them good credit risks for colonial storeowners, thereby allowing them to purchase goods for the community, as, for example, when Hossueit and magistrate Josiah Ponit bought two thousand nails and shingles for the Gay Head church.48 They loaned money to neighbors in temporary straits, and put up bail for congregants in trouble with the law.49 They served as point men for the distribution of New England Company supplies, such as corn to relieve the effects of a drought, and dividends from rents the Company collected on Indian lands.50 Literacy, steady incomes, and the ability to drum up Company support enabled them aggressively to pursue the Indians’ antagonists through the courts or, in some cases, the halls of government. Hossueit became the undisputed leader of Aquinnah in the 1740s after he defeated Indian Israel Amos’s lawsuit to seize one-quarter of the community’s land. Following the lengthy court battle, Aquinnah extended to Hossueit the right to graze one hundred sheep on the commons in appreciation of how he “stood by us and bore the big[g]est part of the Charge” in the Amos affair.51 In short, Company ties gave church leaders opportunities to make themselves valuable to their neighbors in a variety of capacities.

Throughout the colonial period, the Indians’ ability to adapt their church to meet multiple needs made it the central institution for handling village, tribal, and state affairs. Perhaps the greatest test of the Church’s capacity for mediating interpersonal relations came during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when scores of outsiders married into Wampanoag communities.52 By the end of the American Revolution, New England Indian villages suffered a serious gender imbalance due to the number of men lost to military casualties and seafaring accidents. Native women had little choice but to consider outsiders as potential spouses, and since legal and cultural barriers made whites off-limits, and low-wage employment in port cities put native women in frequent contact with other “people of color,” a disproportionate number of the resulting relationships were with African-Americans. At the turn of the eighteenth century, exogamous unions made up at least one-third of marriages at places such as Aquinnah, and one-half or more in other native communities.

The task of acclimatizing non-natives to community life was charged with tension. Many Indians held racial prejudices against blacks, to which were added the deep and legitimate concerns that whites would deny that the children of exogamous marriages and the communities in which they lived were Indian at all. Furthermore, the newcomers threatened to erode several cherished traditions that served as pillars of Indian identity. Outsiders could not speak native languages, nor would the majority of their children. African-American men, particularly those who had recently won their freedom, were determined to assert their manhood according to dominant American values, which included owning land, participating as free agents in the market, and receiving public recognition as heads-of-household. Their aspirations received little encouragement in native villages where people held land communally and could not sell it without town meeting and state permission, and where the affluent were expected to share their wealth with others, not hoard it. Moreover, Indian women frequently were unwilling to leave public affairs to their husbands, particularly if they were non-native. In 1777, such clashes led Aquinnah’s Tobish Pomit to complain that he was “very much Greefed by one of the new comers the strangers.”53 Seven years later, Aquinnah decided to choose a committee to determine just who the “Proper Proprietors” were.54 Around 1788, the Mashpees declared that they “fear the coming of Negroes and English who have happily planted themselves here . . . that they and their children unless they are removed will get away our Lands & all our Privileges in a short time.”55 In 1823, a lawyer defending African-American Richard Johnson against the charge of murdering an Indian woman countered that Johnson’s Indian accusers were “a peculiar set of people” because “land and rights which they enjoy as a tribe” made “a stranger who comes among them . . . an object of suspicion.”56

The Church did not solve the problem of acculturating outsiders to Wampanoag norms, but Indians did use the meeting as a space where they could be brethren rather than adversaries of the newcomers and their children.57 During the period marked by the Indians’ highest rates of exogamous marriage, one community after another shifted from the Congregationalist to the Baptist church for reasons directly related to the presence of African-Americans. In Aquinnah, one of the factors in this shift was that the Congregationalist pastor, Zachariah Howwoswee Jr., refused to preach in any language but Wampanaog, whereas Baptist preacher Thomas Jeffers conducted services in English.58 The Wampanoag tongue had been in steady decline for decades, but only with the arrival of non-natives and the birth of their children, most of whom spoke English, did the community shift en masse to the Baptist church where the Word was accessible to all.59 The last blow to the native language and the Congregationalist church was the growing number of children raised in English-only homes, particularly the homes of newcomers. However much the Indians cherished their ancestors’ tongue, they went to church to receive the Word and were unwilling to have themselves or their loved ones endure week after week of unintelligible sermons. By 1808, Elisha Cape accurately predicted that Howwoswee’s “Congregational order would soon become extinct. Only a few aged Indians, who do not understand English, attend his meeting, as he preaches in the native language solely.”60

The religious preferences of Aquinnah newcomers also promoted the Baptist schism. During the 1740s Great Awakening, the Baptist church, with its egalitarian themes, plain language, and ecstatic reception of the Holy Spirit, drew in scores of New England blacks and mainland natives such as the Narragansetts and Mohegans who had previously remained outside of orthodox Congregationalism.61 After the Revolution, evangelical churches exploded in popularity among all segments of the population, but especially non-whites. Whaling centers such as Nantucket and New Bedford, where Wampanoags worked and met non-Indian mates, contained a rich array of evangelical Baptist and Methodist meetings plus Quaker and Congregationalist assemblies.62 Baptists and Methodists began actively proselytizing free and enslaved blacks throughout the United States, North and South, winning scores of converts with their accessible language, their radical claim that blacks were the spiritual equals of whites, and in some cases, the charge that slavery was sinful. “Respectable” whites eventually entered the fold and put an end to such leveling rhetoric, but the ironic consequence of their reforms was that blacks broke away to create their own churches where they could highlight the evils of slavery and racial discrimination, and proclaim that justice, including revenge, awaited blacks in the afterlife.63

When African-Americans or their offspring moved into native communities, they brought with them a commitment to evangelical faiths that soon spread to their Wampanoag family members. In 1793, a nonplussed Gideon Hawley reported that the Indians of Herring Creek followed “a Negroe man fanatick, who can neither read nor write, Scolds at a few, who are his attendants every Lord’s day,” and by 1798 Mashpee’s Baptists had ordained as their pastor John Freeman, a man described by Isaac Backus as “a mulatto of about 23 years old.”64 Furious that almost nobody attended his own Congregationalist services, Hawley spewed forth bile against the Baptists, including the charge that they were “principally mongrels.”65 Reportedly, the father-in-law of Aquinnah preacher Thomas Jeffers was half black and “brought up with the Dunkers, in the Baptist way.”66 Jeffers’s contemporary, William Apess, a man of Pequot and African-American ancestry, traveled his own preaching circuit, which ultimately led him to the Mashpee pulpit. His message was consistent with that of other non-white preachers, and appealed to natives, blacks, and their children searching for a voice to protest discrimination and exploitation at white hands. Apess preached that whites, through a process of “murder by inches,” were primarily responsible for Indian landlessness, melancholy, poverty, and alcohol abuse. “Assemble all nations together in your imagination,” wrote Apess, “and then let the whites be seated among them. . . . Now suppose these skins were put together, and each skin had its national crimes written upon it—which skin do you think would have the greatest?”67 All the people of Mashpee, regardless of race, knew the answer, and it strengthened their sense of belonging to the same faith.

Bringing African-Americans and their children into the community church exposed them to a long and living native Christian tradition, inexorably tied to the maintenance of the people in their ancestral territory, and to other Indian communities. For instance, outsiders who married into Aquinnah attended funerals in Christian cemeteries where they saw headstones covered with Wampanoag language epitaphs. They heard stories about the old “Church of the Standing Order” led by ancient Indian ministers who challenged both sachems and Englishmen who tried to rob the people of their natal ground.68 Along the road to Edgartown, a pile of rocks indicated the spot where, in 1657, Thomas Mayhew Jr., last addressed the Indians before he was lost at sea, prompting grander stories about the history of the mission. And contemporary church services made it clear that Christianity linked the Wampanoags to their past and to one another. Mashpee’s Blind Joe Amos made regular appearances at Aquinnah, preaching and presiding over baptisms at the foot of the community’s glistening clay cliffs, where the Indians’ ancient culture hero, Moshup, was said to reside.69 The ancient spirits of place and the Holy Spirit were intimate acquaintances in native homelands.

Given the argument that the Church offered so many benefits, the question naturally arises of why more of the seventeenth-century Christian Indian communities on the Cape and islands failed to survive the colonial period. There is both positive and negative evidence linking the decline of certain native communities, in part, to the woeful states of their churches. The Church, through its dealings with Massachusetts and the New England Company, was the greatest generator of historical documentation for offshore Indian communities. It seems no coincidence that data is woefully scarce for communities on the outer Cape, where distinct native villages ceased to exist by the turn of the eighteenth century.70 Yet there is more than silence on which to hang one’s interpretive hat. Take, for example, the Vineyard’s east-end communities of Nunnepog and Sengekontacket. In 1690, a “sore fever” blasted these communities. Three-quarters of the fever’s more than one hundred adult victims ranked among the most pious Indians, prompting a “Great Decay of Religion.” Moreover, the Nunnepogs’ meetinghouse burned down and the pastorate went unfilled for many years, thus giving disaffected Christians additional reasons to miss the Sunday service with all its concomitant political functions.71 Lacking adequate church leadership, Nunnepog and Sengekontacket addressed their land-sale problems not by unseating their respective sachems and replacing them with church or town meeting government, but by demanding fee simple title to individual plots, the same strategy followed by mainland communities such as Natick. It was a tragic choice. Once native communities divided their ground into individually owned tracts, it was only a matter of time before the English took possession. Like the Indians of Natick, whose church experienced a precipitous decline in the early eighteenth century and whose church leaders played a limited role in civic government, the Nunnepog and Sengekontacket communities had all but disintegrated by the time of the Revolution.72 Of course, the Church’s demise was symptomatic, the byproduct of an uncontrollable disease. And the east-end communities’ proximity to Edgartown, the center of the Vineyard’s English population, meant that they faced greater pressure from creditors and potential land purchasers to part with their territory. Nonetheless, the Church’s weakness closed off the options that helped natives in places such as Mashpee, Aquinnah, and even nearby Chappaquiddick cope with similar dilemmas.

No Indian community halted English encroachment on its territory, jurisdiction, or social and cultural practices, but those who had stable churches, whose officers dominated village government, and who successfully lobbied the New England Company for fiscal and legal support, were the best at damage control. This story has been overlooked because the decline of the Natick church in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, followed by the Indians’ rampant land loss, exposure to disease, and demoralization, has become symbolic of church history for all of native New England.73 To a degree, such neglect is warranted since, indeed, most praying communities collapsed during the eighteenth century, not only those on the mainland but those on the Cape and islands as well.74 Yet some did not. In the late nineteenth century, Aquinnah, Christiantown, Chappaquiddick, Mashpee, and Herring Pond were still distinct Indian places, and Aquinnah and Mashpee remain alive and well today. Their persistence derives in no small part from their historic commitment to the Church, which mediated between them and a dangerous world in which they exercised little strength. Early missionaries to the Indians declared that they wanted the Church “to be all things to all men,” and in certain communities on Cape Cod and the islands it certainly became that, but mostly because the Indians adapted it successfully in unanticipated and multiple ways to their ever-pressing needs. The Indians transformed the Church from a colonial imposition to a Wampanoag institution that served as a vigorous bulwark for Indian interests and culture.


1. All quotes and the majority of data for this account are from “Report of a Committee on the State of the Indians in Mashpee and Part Adjacent,” Massachusetts Historical Society, Collections, 2d ser., 3 (1815): 12–17 (hereafter MHS Collections). The “Great Sacrament” quote is from Gideon Hawley, Diary, 1757–1767, entry for September 11, 1757, Massachusetts Historical Society (hereafter MHS).

2. For an earlier literature skeptical of missionaries’ intentions and results, see Francis Jennings, “Goals and Functions of Puritan Missions to the Indians,” Ethnohistory 18 (1971): 197–212; Neal Salisbury, “Red Puritans: The ‘Praying Indians’ of Massachusetts Bay and John Eliot,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser., 31 (1974): 27–54 (hereafter WMQ); Kenneth M. Morrison, “‘That Art of Coyning Christians’: John Eliot and the Praying Indians of Massachusetts,” Ethnohistory 21 (1974): 77–92. Salisbury revisits and revises his earlier work in, “‘I Loved the Place of my Dwelling’: Puritan Missionaries and Native Americans in Seventeenth-Century New England,” in Carla Gardina Prestana and Sharon V. Salinger, eds., Inequality in Early America (Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, 1999), 111–33. For the new emphasis on missions as temporary cloisters, see James Axtell, The Invasion Within: The Contest of Cultures in Colonial North America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985); Robert James Naeher, “Dialogue in the Wilderness: John Eliot and the Indian Exploration of Puritianism as a Source of Meaning, Comfort, and Ethnic Survival,” New England Quarterly 62 (1989): 346–68 (hereafter NEQ); Harold W. Van Lonkhuyzen, “A Reappraisal of the Praying Indians: Acculturation, Conversion, and Identity at Natick, Massachusetts, 1646–1730,” NEQ 63 (1990): 396–428; Daniel Mandell, “‘To Live More Like My Christian English Neighbors’: Natick Indians in the Eighteenth Century,” WMQ 48 (1991): 552–79; Dane Morrison, A Praying People: Massachusett Acculturation and the Failure of the Puritan Mission, 1600–1690 (New York: Peter Land, 1995),; Mandell, Behind the Frontier: Indians in Eighteenth-Century Eastern Massachusetts (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1996); Jean M. O’Brien, Dispossession by Degrees: Indian Land and Identity in Natick, Massachusetts, 1650–1790 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997); and Richard W. Cogley, John Eliot’s Mission to the Indians Before King Philip’s War (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999). More compatible with the themes emphasized here is John Webster Grant, Moon of Wintertime, Missionaries and the Indians of Canada in Encounter since 1534 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1984).

3. Kathleen Bragdon, “Native Christianity in 18th Century Massachusetts: Ritual as Cultural Reaffirmation,” in Barry Gough and Christie Laird, eds., New Dimensions in Ethnohistory: Papers of the Second Laurier Conference on Ethnohistory and Ethnology (Hull, Quebec: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 1991), 119–26; Bragdon, “Language, Folk History, and Indian Identity on Martha’s Vineyard,” in Anne Elizabeth Yentsch and Mary C. Beaudry, eds., The Art and Mystery of Historical Archaeology: Essays in Honor of James Deetz (Boca Raton, Fla.: CRC Press, 1992), 331–42; James Ronda, “Generations of Faith: The Christian Indians of Martha’s Vineyard,” WMQ 38 (1981): 369–94.

4. Daniel Gookin, “Historical Collections of the Indians in New England,” MHS Collections, 1st ser., 1 (1792): 205; “Thomas Mayhew, Sr., to the Commissioners of the United Colonies, August 23, 1671,” in John W. Ford, ed., Some Correspondence between the Governors and Treasurers of the New England Company in London and the Commissioners of the United Colonies (London: Spottiswoode and Co., 1896), 40.

5. Richard Bourne to the Commissioners of the New England Company, September 1, 1669, New England Company Manuscripts, No. 7957, p. 1, Guildhall Library, Corporation of London, U.K. (hereafter cited NE Co. MS).

6. John Eliot, A Brief Narrative of the Progress of the Gospel Among the Indians of New England [1670], ed. W. T. R. Marvin (Boston, 1868), 20–21; Eliot, “Account of the Indian Churches in New England (1673),” MHS Collections, 1st ser., 10 (1809): 124–29; Matthew Mayhew, The Conquests and Triumphs of Grace: Being a Brief Narrative of the Success which the Gospel hath had among the Indians of Martha’s Vineyard (and the Places adjacent) in New-England (London, 1695), 37.

7. Gookin, “Historical Collections,” 180–201, 205. For a general discussion of the Mayhew mission, see David J. Silverman, “Conditions for Coexistence, Climates for Collapse: The Challenges of Indian Life on Martha’s Vineyard, 1524–1871” (Ph.D. diss., Princeton University, 2000), chaps. 2–3.

8. Silverman, “Conditions for Coexistence, Climates for Collapse,” 163–65.

9. M. Mayhew, Conquests and Triumphs of Grace, 42–43.

10. The magistrates were Mittark (Aquinnah sachem), Japheth Hannit (son of “petty sachem” Pammehannit), Tawanquatuck (Nunnepog sachem), Abel Wauwompuhque Sr. (brother of Mittark), Ekoochuck (son-in-law of Mittark), and William Lay (son of “a noted Indian called Panunnut”). The church officials were Momanaquem (preacher; son of Aquinnah sachem Annawantoohque), John Nahosoo (ruling elder; son-in-law of Cheeschamog, a “petty sachem” of Marthas Vineyard), Wunnanuahkomun (preacher; son-in-law of Cheeschamog), Jannawanit (minister; brother of Pammehannit), Jonathan Amos (deacon and preacher; son-in-law of sachem Myoxeo), Elisha Paanout (preacher; nephew of Mittark), Joash Panu (pastor; grandson of Mittark), Abel Wauwompuhque Jr. (deacon; nephew of Mittark), John Amanhut, (preacher; grandson of a mainland sachem), Wobamog (preacher; Sengekontacket sachem), and Panuppaqua (preacher; brother of William Lay and son of the “noted” Panunnut). All of the above information is contained within Experience Mayhew, Indian Converts: Or, Some Account of the Lives and Dying Speeches of a considerable Number of the Christianized INDIANS of Martha’s Vineyard, in New-England (London, 1727). However, the high status of several church officials only becomes clear by cross-checking Indian Converts against other records. Kequish, who was paid as a teacher and schoolmaster in 1662, and Sam Mackakunit, who preached at Nunnepog, were both related to Towtoowee, sachem of the Kophiggon area of Nashuakemuck (modern Chilmark). See Nathaniel B. Shurtleff and David Pulsifer, eds., Records of the Colony of New Plymouth in New England, 12 vols. (Boston: Press of W. White, 1855–1861), 10:277; Dukes County Deeds, 1:93–94, Dukes County Registry of Deeds, Dukes County Courthouse, Edgartown, Mass. (hereafter DCD); Farm Neck Proprietors Records, 1:320, 322, Dukes County Registry of Deeds; and Charles E. Banks, History of Martha’s Vineyard, Dukes County, Massachusetts, 3 vols. (Boston: George H. Dean, 1911), 2:Chilmark:14–15. Nanosco, brother of Momanaquem and grandson of Annowantooque, was paid as a teacher by the New England Company in 1662. See Records of New Plymouth, 10:277; DCD, 1:257; E. Mayhew, Indian Converts, 12, 284. Christiantown preacher Joel Sims was the son of Pockqsimme, or Poxim, a Christiantown founder and one of seven Indians who approved the paramount Wampanoag sachem Wamsutta’s 1661 sale of Nashaquitsa land. See Indian Converts, 73; DCD, 1:357, 3:12. And Christiantown pastor Hosea Manhut was son of Wannamanhut, the Massachusett-born Takemmy sachem. See Indian Converts, 207; Ives Goddard and Kathleen J. Bragdon, eds. Native Writings in Massachusett, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1988), 1:159–61; Suffolk Files #12248, Massachusetts State Archives, Boston, Mass.

11. DCD, 6:369–73; Goddard and Bragdon, eds., Native Writings, 1:82–89. The counselors, their offices, and pertinent relatives were as follows: Yonohummuh—no supporting data; Samuel Coomes—magistrate and son of Hiacoomes (E. Mayhew, Indian Converts, 91–93); Abel Wauwompuhque—magistrate and brother of Mittark (Indian Converts, 67, 98); Wompamog (or Wobamog), alias Mr. Sam—Sengekontacket sachem and preacher (Indian Converts, 74); Akoochuck—magistrate and Mittark’s son-in-law (Indian Converts, 101–2); John Momonaquem—east-end preacher and son of Nashuakemuck minister Momonaquem (Indian Converts, 12, 140); Wuttinomanomin—magistrate and Nashuakemuck deacon (Indian Converts, 31–33); Nashcompait—no office, but one of Aquinnah’s first converts (Indian Converts, 100); Elisha—on New England Company dole in 1710–1711 for unspecified service (New England Company Ledger, p. 25, MHS); Wuttahhonnompisin—early Aquinnah convert (Indian Converts, 131–32).

12. Cotton Mather, Magnalia Christi Americana, or, The Ecclesiastical History of New England, From Its First Planting, in the Year 1620, Unto the Year of Our Lord 1698, 2 vols. (1702; repr. Boston, 1853), 2:440–42; E. Mayhew, Indian Converts, 44–45, 129, 135–36; M. Mayhew, Conquests and Triumphs of Grace, 46 (quote).

13. On Mayhew’s career, see Banks, The History of Martha’s Vineyard, vol. 1, chaps. 5–14, and 19; Lloyd C. M. Hare, Thomas Mayhew: Patriarch to the Indians, 1593–1682 (New York, 1932); Margery Ruth Johnson, “The Mayhew Mission to the Indians, 1643–1806” (Ph.D. diss., Clark University, 1966); Neal Salisbury, “Missionary as Colonist,” in William Cowan, ed., Papers of the 6th Algonquian Conference (Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1974), 253–73.

14. “Thomas Mayhew, Sr., to John Winthrop, Jr., 7 December 1675,” MHS Collections, 4th ser., 7 (1865): 43.

15. More generally on the islands during the war years, see Silverman, “Conditions for Coexistence, Climates for Collapse,” chap. 4.

16. Records of the Colony of New Plymouth, 5:66–67, 70–72 (quote), 177–78.

17. Len Travers, ed., “The Missionary Journal of John Cotton, Jr., 1666–1678,” Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society 109 (1998): 97.

18. Records of the Colony of New Plymouth, 5:201, 202, 224–25.

19. M. Mayhew, Conquests and Triumphs of Grace, 37; John Cotton Jr., to Increase Mather, March 23, 1693, Mugar Library of Boston University Special Collections (transcription courtesy of Sheila McIntyre and Len Travers), and typescript at the New York Historical Society, New York City; Travers, ed., “Missionary Journal of John Cotton, Jr.,” post-1676 entries; Cotton Mather, A Brief Account of the Evangelical Work among the Christianized Indians of New England, appended to his Just Commemorations. The Death of Good Men, Considered (Boston, 1715), 53; E. Mayhew, Indian Converts, 161; E. Mayhew, “A Brief Journal of my visitation of the Pequot & Mohegin Indians,” in Ford, ed., Some Correspondence, no; NE Co. MS, No. 7953, p. 12.

20. Increase Mather, A Brief Relation of the State of New England (London, 1689), in William H. Whitmore, ed., The Andros Tracts: Being a Collection of Pamphlets and Official Papers, 3 vols. (Boston: The Prince Society, 1868–1874), 2:165–66, 168.

21. M. Mayhew, Conquests and Triumphs of Grace, 37; John Cotton Jr., to Increase Mather, March 23, 1693, Mugar Library; Grindal Rawson and Samuel Danforth, “Account of an Indian Visitation, A.D. 1698,” MHS Collections, 1st ser., 10 (1809): 129–30; Cotton Mather, “Concerning the Essays that are made, for the Propagation of Religion among the Indians, in the Massachuset Province of New England,” appendix to his Bonifacius: An Essay upon the Good, that is to he Devised and Designed, by Those Who Desire to Answer the Great End of Life, and to do Good While They Live (Boston, 1710), 195–96.

22. “A Conference with an Indian of New England, December, 1708,” NE Co. MS, No. 7957, p. 3 (quote); John Cotton to Increase Mather, March 23, 1693, Mugar Library. For more on the refugee communities, see Thomas Weston, History of the Town of Middleboro, Massachusetts (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, and Co., 1906), 13, 18, 582 (map), 583; Hugo A. Dubuque, Fall River Indian Reservation (Fall River, Mass., privately printed, 1907), 3–4, 10, 61; Frank G. Speck, Territorial Subdivisions of the Wampanoag, Massachusett, and Nauset Indians, Indian Notes and Monographs No. 44 (New York: Heye Foundation, 1928), 180; Laurie Weinstein, “‘We’re Still Living on Our Traditional Homeland’: The Wampanoag Legacy in New England,” in Frank W. Porter III, ed., Strategies for Survival: American Indians in the Eastern United States, Contributions in Ethnic Studies 15 (Westport, Conn.: Bergin and Garvey, 1986), 94–95; Goddard and Bragdon, eds., Native Writings, 1:13.

23. Cotton Mather, A Brief Account of the Evangelical Work among the Christianized Indians of New England, appended to his Just Commemorations, 49.

24. Experience Mayhew to Roland Cotton, July 1699, Misc. Bound Manuscripts, MHS.

25. Gookin, “Historical Collections,” 99; John Cotton Jr., to Increase Mather, March 23, 1693, Mugar Library; Rawson and Danforth, “Account of an Indian Visitation,” 129–34.

26. The content of the following two pages is developed in Silverman, “Deposing the Sachem to Defend the Sachemship: Land Sales and Native Political Structure on Martha’s Vineyard, 1680–1740,” Explorations in Early American Culture 5 (2001): 9–44.

27. On the Takemmy Indians’ contests with Keteanummin, see Silverman, “Conditions for Coexistence, Climates for Collapse,” 105–8, 231–36. The above quotes are from “Testimony of Joseph Merry, 3 March 1688/89,” Misc. Bound Manuscripts, MHS; and DCD, 1:378.

28. Jack Campisi, The Mashpee Indians: Tribe on Trial (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1991), 78, 80; Francis G. Hutchins, Mashpee: The Story of Cape Cod’s Indian Town (West Franklin, N.H.: Amarta Press, 1979), 46–51, 60–61; Records of the Colony of New Plymouth, 6:159–60 (“perpetually . . . ”); Goddard and Bragdon, eds. Native Writings, 1:372–73 (“as long . . . ”). Mashpee’s troubles can be traced in Mandell; Behind the Frontier.

29. Silverman, “Conditions for Coexistence, Climates for Collapse,” 99–101.

30. E. Mayhew, Indian Converts, 21.

31. “New England Company Governor Sir William Ashust to Governor Nicholson, 15 January 1712,” in Ford, ed., Some Correspondence, 94 (“scattered . . . ”); NE Co. MS, No. 7955/1, p. 38 (“to part . . . ”).

32. More generally on the contest for Aquinnah, see Silverman, “Conditions for Coexistence, Climates for Collapse,” 246–59. On the evolution of Aquinnah government, see Gloria Levitas, “No Boundary is a Boundary: Conflict and Change in a New England Indian Community” (Ph.D. diss., Rutgers University, 1980).

33. Silverman, “Conditions for Coexistence, Climates for Collapse,” 220–21, 237–39.

34. Silverman, “Conditions for Coexistence, Climates for Collapse,” 241–48.

35. Goddard and Bragdon, eds., Native Writings, 1:22; Massachusetts Archives Series, 31:551, 32:356, 33:470, 33:488, 33:444–46, 33:470–71, Massachusetts State Archives.

36. Hutchins, Mashpee, 73; Mandell, Behind the Frontier, 157.

37. Hawley Journal and Letters, entry for June 23, 1763, Congregational Library, Boston, Mass.

38. Vineyard Gazette, April 22, 1847, p. 2. Microfilm available at Edgartown Public Library, Edgartown, Mass.; Harper’s New Monthly Magazine 124 (September 1860): 453.

39. For excellent studies illustrating how Indians used Christian themes to charge whites with hypocrisy, see Barry O’Connell’s introduction to On Our Own Ground, The Complete Writings of William Apess, a Pequot. (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1992), xiii–lxxvii; Bernd C. Peyer, The Tutor’d Mind: Indian Missionary-Writers in Antebellum America (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1997); Laura K. Arnold, “Crossing Cultures: Algonquian Indians and the Invention of New England” (Ph.D. diss., University of California, Los Angeles, 1995), chaps. 4–5; and David Murray, Forked Tongues: Speech, Writing, and Representation in North American Indian Texts (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1991), chap. 4.

40. Quoted in Hutchins, Mashpee, 63.

41. Goddard and Bragdon, eds., Native Writings, 1:224–25.

42. Dukes County Inferior Court of Common Pleas, March 28, 1727, Miscellaneous Bound Manuscripts, MHS (quote); Dukes County Court of Common Pleas, Records, 1722–367, p. 662, Dukes County Superior Court, Dukes County Courthouse (hereafter DCCCP); Suffolk Files #29178, Massachusetts State Archives.

43. Quoted in Alexander Starbuck, The History of Nantucket, County, Island and Town, Including the Genealogies of the First Settlers (Boston: C. E. Goodspeed and Co., 1924), 154.

44. In 1771, Indian ministers earned between £69 and £95 Massachusetts currency, teachers between £12 and £24, justices about £2, and those hosting worship in their houses between £2 and £4. See Corporation for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England, Records, Box 1, New England Historic and Genealogical Society, (hereafter CPGNE).

45. CPGNE, Box 1, December entries, Box 2, October 8, 1757; Memorial of Zachariah Mayhew, October 1, 1759, Miscellaneous Bound Manuscripts, MHS; Indian Accounts at Martha’s Vineyard for the year 1771, Miscellaneous Bound Manuscripts, MHS.

46. In 1727 the Company granted Nantucket Indian minister Zachariah Hoit £10 to keep him from “being forced to go afishing.” See NE Co. MS, No. 7953, p. 79 (verso).

47. On Hossueit’s career, see Silverman, “Conditions for Coexistence, Climates for Collapse,” chap. 6.

48. John Allen Account Book, 1780–1820 [the actual dates are 1730–1759], p. 21, Martha’s Vineyard Historical Society, Edgartown, Mass. Ponit (also spelled Pomit) is listed as a Company employee in the December entries for 1733–1738 and 1740, Box 1, CPGNE. See also Goddard and Bragdon, eds., Native Writings, 1:66–69. When Martha’s Vineyard store owner Robert Cathcart died in 1718, his seven non-desperate debtors with New England Company salaries carried balances averaging £4 6s. 4d., while his 49 non-desperate debtors carried debts averaging 17s. 15d. Yet New England Company employees made up only 3 of 73 desperate debtors. See Dukes County Probate, Records, 1:102, Dukes County Court of Probate, Dukes County Courthouse.

49. DCCCP, 1730–1755, pp. 811, 835.

50. October 9, 1762, Box 2, CPGNE.

51. Zachariah Hossueit Papers, 1763, Mr 24=N28, #3306–8, John Carter Brown Library, Providence, R.I. (hereafter ZHP). My thanks to Michael Fickes for drawing my attention to this source.

52. The following discussion draws largely from Silverman, “Conditions for Coexistence, Climates for Collapse,” chap. 8. See also Mandell, Behind the Frontier, chaps. 5–6; Mandell, “Shifting Boundaries of Race and Ethnicity: Indian-Black Intermarriage in Southern New England, 1760–1880,” Journal of American History 85 (1998–1999): 468–69; Russell Lawrence Barsh, “‘Colored’ Seamen in the New England Whaling Industry: An Afro-Indian Consortium,” in James F. Brooks, ed., Confounding the Color Line: The Indian-Black Experience in North America (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2002), 76–107; O’Brien, Dispossession by Degrees, chap. 5; Thomas L. Doughton, “Unseen Neighbors: Native Americans of Central Massachusetts, a People Who Had Vanished,” in Colin G. Calloway, ed., After King Philip’s War: Presence and Persistence in Indian New England (Hanover: University Press of New England, 1997), 207–30; Doughton, “Red Men, Women, and Children in Chains: Enslaved Indians in Eighteenth-Century New England,” paper presented at the Fourth Annual Meeting of the Omohundro Institute for Early American History and Culture, Worcester, Mass., June 1998 (my thanks to Professor Doughton for permitting me to cite his unpublished work); John Wood Sweet, “Bodies Politic: Colonialism, Race, and the Emergence of the American North. Rhode Island, 1730–1830” (Ph.D. diss., Princeton University, 1995); Ruth Wallis Herndon and Ella Wilcox Sekatau, “The Right to a Name: The Narragansett People and Rhode Island Officials in the Revolutionary Era,” Ethnohistory 44 (1997), 433–62; Herndon, “Racialization and Feminization of Poverty in Early America: Indian Women as ‘the poor of the town’ in Eighteenth-Century Rhode Island,” in Martin Daunton and Rick Halpern, eds., Empire and Others: British Encounters with Indigenous Peoples (London: UCL Press, 1999), 186–203.

53. File 1777, May 12–August 28, ZHP.

54. File 1784, April 16–22, ZHP.

55. Petition and Address of the Indians of Mashpee, Hawley Journal and Letters, Congregational Library.

56. Cited in Levitas, “No Boundary is a Boundary,” 184.

57. On persisting disputes, see Ann Marie Plane and Gregory Button, “The Massachusetts Indian Enfranchisement Act: Ethnic Contest in Historical Context, 1849–1869,” Ethnohistory 40 (1993).

58. Silverman, “Conditions for Coexistence, Climates for Collapse,” 315–16, 398–99.

59. Silverman, “Losing the Language: The Decline of Algonquian Tongues and the Challenge of Indian Identity in Southern New England,” in John Nicholls, ed., Papers of the Thirty-First Algonquian Conference (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2000), 346–66.

60. Elisha Cape to Jedidah Morse, July 22, 1808, Miscellaneous Bound Manuscripts, MHS.

61. William Dillon Pierson, Black Yankees: The Development of an Afro-American Subculture in Eighteenth-Century New England (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1988), chap. 6; William S. Simmons, “Red Yankees: Narragansett Conversion in the Great Awakening,” American Ethnologist 10 (1983): 253–71; Simmons, “The Great Awakening and Indian Conversion in Southern New England,” in William Cowan, ed., Papers of the Tenth Algonquian Conference (Ottawa: Carleton University, 1979), 25–36; Erik R. Seeman, “‘Justice Must Take Plase’: Three African Americans Speak of Religion in Eighteenth-Century New England,” WMQ 56 (1999): 393–414.

62. Edward Byers, The Nation of Nantucket: Society and Politics in an Early American Commercial Center, 1660–1820 (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1987), chap. 5; Thomas Walcut Papers, Folder 5, Item 12, MHS.

63. Sylvia R. Frey, Water from the Rock: Black Resistance in a Revolutionary Age (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1991), chaps. 8–9; Nathan O. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1989), 102–13.

64. Hawley, Account of the Number of Indian Houses, July 1, 1793, Houghton Library, Harvard University (“fanatick”); Isaac Backus, The Diary of Isaac Backus, 1741–1806, ed. William G. McLoughlin, 3 vols. (Providence, R.I.: Brown University Press, 1979), 1431 (“mulatto”). Thanks to Brian Carroll for calling my attention to the latter entry. For more on Freeman, see Hutchins, Mashpee, 98–99, 102.

65. Hawley to James Freeman, March 1803, Hawley Letters, MHS.

66. Frederick Baylies, “The Names & Ages of the Indians on Martha’s Vineyard taken about the 1st of Jan, 1823,” MSSA/S53/Folder 1HA, p. 9, NEHGS; Hawley to Jedidah Morse, Undated, Hawley Journal and Letters, Congregational Library (quote).

67. Apess, On Our Own Ground, 157.

68. On the role of historic storytelling in native communities, see William S. Simmons, Spirit of the New England Tribes: Indian History and Folklore, 1620–1984 (Hanover: University Press of New England, 1986); and Bragdon, “Language, Folk History, and Indian Identity.”

69. Francis Parkman, Report of a Visit of Enquiry at Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard & to the Narragansett Indians, October 29, 1835, Andrews-Eliot Collection, MHS; Dr. Albert C. Koch, Journey Through a Part of the United States, trans, and ed. Ernst A. Stadler (Carbondale and Edwardsville, Ill.: Southern Illinois Press, 1972), 20.

70. Nantucket is an exception. The comparative lack of documentation about its Indians’ Congregationalist churches stems from the predominantly Baptist and, later, Quaker faiths of the island’s colonists and the subsequent lack of regular New England Company-sponsored missionary activity. Moreover, the decline of distinct Indian communities on Nantucket clearly stemmed from a 1763–1764 yellow fever epidemic that carried away two-thirds of the native population, especially adults.

71. E. Mayhew, Indian Converts, 116–17, 119.

72. Mandell, “To Live More Like My Christian English Neighbors,” 571.

73. O’Brien, Dispossession by Degrees; Van Lunkhuyzen, “Reappraisal”; Mandell, “To Live More Like My Christian English Neighbors.”

74. Mandell, Behind the Frontier.