Two Northeast Indian communities with similar histories of
colonization accepted Congregational and Moravian missionaries,
respectively, within five years of one another: the Mohicans of
Stockbridge, Massachusetts (1735), and Shekomeko, in Dutchess
County, New York (1740). In To Live upon Hope, Rachel
Wheeler explores the question of what "missionary Christianity"
became in the hands of these two native communities.
The Mohicans of Stockbridge and Shekomeko drew different
conclusions from their experiences with colonial powers. Both tried
to preserve what they deemed core elements of Mohican culture. The
Indians of Stockbridge believed education in English cultural ways
was essential to their survival and cast their acceptance of the
mission project as a means of preserving their historic roles as
cultural intermediaries. The Mohicans of Shekomeko, by contrast,
sought new sources of spiritual power that might be accessed in
order to combat the ills that came with colonization, such as
alcohol and disease.
Through extensive research, especially in the Moravian records
of day-to-day life, Wheeler offers an understanding of the lived
experience of Mohican communities under colonialism. She
complicates the understanding of eighteenth-century American
Christianity by demonstrating that mission programs were not always
driven by the destruction of indigenous culture and the advancement
of imperial projects. To Live upon Hope challenges the
prevailing view of accommodation or resistance as the two poles of
Indian responses to European colonization. Colonialism placed
severe strains on native peoples, Wheeler finds, yet Indians also
exercised a level of agency and creativity that aided in their
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