To Live upon Hope

To Live upon Hope: Mohicans and Missionaries in the Eighteenth-Century Northeast

Rachel Wheeler
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    To Live upon Hope
    Book Description:

    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 survival.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6348-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Maps and Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Chapter One Introduction: Indian and Christian
    (pp. 1-14)

    In April 1803, the Stockbridge Mohican¹ chief sachem, Hendrick Aupaumut, delivered a speech to a community of refugee Delaware Indians that had recently settled along the White River in Indiana Territory. Aupaumut recounted for the gathered Delawares how the Mohicans had been introduced to Christianity nearly seventy years earlier. In 1734, the Muhheakunnuk (as they called themselves) received word that Massachusetts officials were eager to send a minister of the gospel. Two hundred tribesmen gathered to debate whether to accept the offer. Although some voiced objections, the result of the council, reported Aupaumut, “was this: not to reject the offer...

  6. Part I. Hope

    • Chapter Two The River God and the Lieutenant
      (pp. 17-26)

      On April 25, 1724, in exchange for £460, three barrels of cider and thirty quarts of rum, Umpachenee, Konkapot, and nineteen other Housatonic- Mohican men conveyed a tract of land along the Housatonic River to John Stoddard and other members of the “settling committee” appointed by the Massachusetts government to purchase lands for the creation of two new townships.¹ This deed was not the first to convey Housatonic-Mohican lands into English hands, but it is significant because it records the first known meeting of the principal figures in the founding of the Stockbridge mission a decade later.² Beginning our story...

    • Chapter Three Covenants, Contracts, and the Founding of Stockbridge
      (pp. 27-64)

      It is fitting that the story of the Massachusetts mission to the Housatonic Mohican Indians begins with a deed. New Englanders thought in terms of numbers, contracts, and covenants, whether the commodity was acres or souls. The 1724 deed recorded the exchange of Housatonic lands (lands that had already been patented out to potential settlers) for cash and trade goods: acres, pounds, barrels, and a list of Indian names. The sources created a decade later recording the beginnings of the mission were in many respects not so different from that deed. The body of sources can be read as a...

  7. Part II. Renewal

    • Chapter Four The Chief and the Orator
      (pp. 67-79)

      Shabash and Tschoop had good reason to be angry.¹ The two Mohican men had come to New York City in the summer of 1740 hoping to gain satisfaction from the governor for Shabash’s ancestral lands, now claimed by a group known as the Little Nine Partners (of which the governor was one) and increasingly overrun by settlers. Since at least the 1680s, Shabash’s family had been the recognized owners of a large tract of land in what New Yorkers had begun to call Duchess County. Included in the tract was Shabash and Tschoop’s home village of Shekomeko. By this point,...

    • Chapter Five Moravian Missionaries of the Blood
      (pp. 80-104)

      When Tschoop—baptized as Johannes—looked back on Rauch’s arrival, he registered his surprise that a white man would calmly lie down and sleep: “When he had finished his discourse, he lay down upon a board, fatigued by the journey, and fell into a sound sleep. I then thought, what kind of man is this? There he lies and sleeps. I might kill him and throw him out into the wood, and who would regard it? But this gives him no concern.”¹ In another version of this encounter, Tschoop threatened to kill Rauch, to which Rauch responded, “I trust in...

    • Chapter Six Mohican Men and Jesus as Manitou
      (pp. 105-132)

      In recalling his first perception of Jesus’ blood, Johannes recalled that before, he had been “as cold as ice and dead as a stone, but the blood of our blessed maker has melted me and made me burn.” Now, he wrote, “I find it so that one can do everything, if only the savior is merciful.”¹ Throughout the rest of his life, Johannes attempted to persuade others of the power of Jesus’ blood, as when one woman visited and promised that she would turn to Jesus as soon as she had a good heart. Johannes retorted, “You want to walk...

  8. Part III. Preservation

    • Chapter Seven The Village Matriarch and the Young Mother
      (pp. 135-144)

      Six months after overseeing the baptism of the first Mohicans, Moravian leader Ludwig von Zinzendorf arrived in Shekomeko to check on the progress of the mission. The mercurial Count exclaimed excitedly about the “perfect palace of bark” constructed for his stay and then, a moment later, lamented that the Mohicans were “given to excessive drinking,” yet “susceptible of good impressions.” During the course of his visit, he and missionary Christian Rauch drew up a list of resolutions for the mission, including “to organize our Mohicans into a congregation,” “to appoint native assistants in the infant congregation,” and “to confer with...

    • Chapter Eight Mohican Women and the Community of the Blood
      (pp. 145-172)

      The stories of Sarah and Rachel capture both the powerlessness and the empowerment experienced by many Indian women of Shekomeko and surrounding communities who sought help from the Moravian Savior. They demonstrate the spiritual creativity of native Christians, who enlisted new sources of spiritual power to strengthen the bonds of family and community and the ways that encroaching colonialism challenged the efficacy of tradition to sustain self, family, and community. Sarah followed her husband to baptism, perhaps hoping that the power of Jesus’ blood would serve women’s spiritual needs as well as men’s. Childless from her first marriage, Rachel turned...

  9. Part IV. Persecution

    • Chapter Nine The Dying Chief and the Accidental Missionary
      (pp. 175-186)

      August 1751 was a busy month in Stockbridge. Umpachenee had been ailing since the spring, and a constant stream of visitors arrived to pay their regards to the dying leader. Among the visitors were Moravian missionaries and several Indian residents of Pachgatgoch. The Stockbridge pulpit had been empty since John Sergeant’s death two years earlier. A new missionary was to be installed: the famed Jonathan Edwards was officially to assume leadership of the mission. Like Sergeant’s ordination at Deerfield sixteen years earlier, Edwards’s installation became an occasion for official diplomatic business as well: a party of Massachusetts officials arrived in...

    • Chapter Ten Indian and White Bodies Politic at Stockbridge
      (pp. 187-222)

      The events of that August in 1751 marked the end of one era and the beginning of another. The years leading up to Umpachenee’s death saw the birth of a new community that came to be known as the Stockbridge Indians. This community, composed of settlers from Mohican, Housatonic, and Shawnee villages, laid claim to the mantle of Mohican identity even as they increasingly lived in English-style houses and engaged in English-style husbandry. Where once Mohicans had played a key role as brokers in the fur and wampum trade, they were now established as traders in culture. Stockbridge residents studied...

  10. Conclusion

    • Chapter Eleven Irony and Identity
      (pp. 225-232)

      By the 1760s, the land between the Hudson and Housatonic River Valleys was no longer the land of the Mohicans. English, Dutch, and German colonists arranged themselves into villages, towns, and counties where Mohicans had once hunted, fished, and farmed, raised their families, lived and died. Some things, however, had not changed. Disease, white land hunger, and alcohol continued to plague the remaining Mohican communities. The hopes that had brought Mohicans and missionaries together had proved illusory. Ebenezer Poohpoonuc’s dream that worship of the Christian God would enable Mohicans to “greatly increase and multiply” like the English had not been...

    • Chapter Twelve The Cooper and the Sachem
      (pp. 233-244)

      The lives of individual men and women form the heart of this book: Umpachenee, Shabash and Tschoop, Sarah and Rachel, John Stoddard and Jonathan Edwards: their stories put a human face on the familiar narrative of European colonization and Indian displacement. Their lives also complicate that narrative, prompting us to rethink the role of religion in the encounter of Indian and European. The focus on the Mohican communities of Stockbridge and Shekomeko allows for an in-depth look at two very different mission projects. From the midst of the stories, however, it is sometimes difficult to step back to see the...

    • Chapter Thirteen Epilogue: Real and Ideal Indians
      (pp. 245-250)

      Aupaumut’s message of pluralism and tolerance delivered to the Seneca Prophet’s messengers is not quite the end of the story. Before his death, Aupaumut despaired that perhaps his people’s chosen path of cultural mediation could not ensure their survival as an independent community within the American republic, as he had so fervently hoped. Revolutionary promises of liberty and democracy had proved not to apply to Indian peoples. For the most part, tribal and colonial peoples had settled into essentialized definitions of identity that affirmed a vast chasm between Indian and white. Something of Aupaumut’s despair survives in a remarkable address...

  11. Abbreviations
    (pp. 251-254)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 255-308)
  13. Index
    (pp. 309-316)