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Samson Occom, Petition, to the Connecticut General Assembly, 1785

ms-number: 785340

abstract: Occom writes on behalf of five other signatories representing Mohegan and Niantic Indians, to express dismay over restrictive fishing prohibitions and to petition for their removal.

handwriting: Occom's hand is clear and legible.

paper: Single sheet is in fair condition, with moderate-to-heavy creasing, staining and wear that leads to a slight loss of text.

ink: Brown ink is somewhat faded.

noteworthy: This document appears to be a draft. An editor, likely 19th-century, has amended spellings, puncuation, etc., in dark ink. These edits occasionally obscure Occom's hand; however, the transcriber has attempted to ignore them whenever possible. The same editor has added the note "1785 by Occom &c" after the trailer; this note has not been included in the transcription.

signature: There are six signatures, all in Occom’s hand.

Modernized Version -- deletions removed; additions added in; modern spelling and capitalization added; unfamiliar abbreviations expanded.

To the most Honourable general Assembly of Connecticut Convened
at Hartford, in may, in the Year of our Common Lord and
Saviour Jesus Christ one Thousand Seven Hundred Eighty
and five
Your Steady, close and Faithful Friends the Tribe
of Mohegan
, and the Tribe of Niantic send
greeting. —
 Sincere Friends and Brethren May Talk freely
together without offence. Such we Conclude, the English
of Connecticut, and Mohegans, and Niantics are —
Your Excellencies may well remember, that we Sent
a Memorial to the General Assembly, held at New Haven
last October, requesting, not a privilege, which we
never had before, But a Protection in in our Natural
privileges, which the King of Heaven Gave to our fore
fathers and to their Children forever, — When we received
an answer or Grant to our Petition, we were all amazed
and astonished beyond measure, What? only
half a seine allowed to M[illegible][guess: o]nooya[illegible][guess: u]hegunnewuck, from
the best Friends to the least Friends — We are ready to Con
clude, that the meaning must be, that in Time to Come
we must not have only one canoe, one Bow, one Hook
and Line, amongst two Tribes, and we must have
Taxes imposed upon us also, etc. etc. — whilst the Kings
Of England had authority over here they ordered no Such
things upon us[illegible][guess: , —] alas where are we — if we were Slaves
under Tyrants, we must submit; if we were Cap
tives we must be Silent and if we were Strangers we
must be Contented, — or if we had forfeited our Privile[illegible] at your Hands by any of our agreements we should have nothing to Say whenever we went to war against
your and our Enemies, one Bow, and [illegible] Hatchet would
not do, for two Tribes — And what will the Various Tri[gap: hole][guess: be][gap: worn_edge][guess: s]
of Indians, of this boundless Continent Say, when they
hear of this restraint of Fishing upon us[illegible][guess: ;] will they
not all Cry out mmauh, mmauh, these are the good
that the Mohegans ever gloried and boasted of — Certainly
We can not Hunt [illegible][guess: to] the Public by fishing we never had more than
two seines in Mohegan and two in Niantic and
and many Times not one in Mohegan for [illegible][guess: 10] or 15 years together

and we fish but very little in the season —
We Conclude Your Excellencies must have
mist[illegible][guess: ook] our request[illegible] — And therefore we earnestly
Pray again, that the Honorable Assembly would Protect
us in our Natural privileges, that none may forbid
hinder, or restrain us from fishing in any of the where
we use to fish heretofore[illegible] — This is the earnest Reques[gap: worn_edge][guess: t]
and petition of

your approved and True Friends
Samson Occom
Henry Quaquaquid
Robert Ashpo
Phillip Cuish
Joseph Upp[illegible][guess: uc]quiyantu[illegible][guess: p]
Isaac Upp[illegible][guess: uc]qui[illegible][guess: y]antup
Petition to the
Connecticut Assembly

Occom, Samson

Samson Occom was a Mohegan leader and ordained Presbyterian minister. Occom began his public career in 1742, when he was chosen as a tribal counselor to Ben Uncas II. The following year, he sought out Eleazar Wheelock, a young Anglo-American minister in Lebanon, CT, in hopes of obtaining some education and becoming a teacher at Mohegan. Wheelock agreed to take on Occom as a student, and though Occom had anticipated staying for a few weeks or months, he remained with Wheelock for four years. Occom’s academic success inspired Wheelock to open Moor’s Indian Charity School in 1754, a project which gave him the financial and political capital to establish Dartmouth College in 1769. After his time with Wheelock, Occom embarked on a 12-year mission to the Montauk of Long Island (1749-1761). He married a Montauk woman, Mary Fowler, and served as both teacher and missionary to the Montauk and nearby Shinnecock, although he was grievously underpaid for his services. Occom conducted two brief missions to the Oneida in 1761 and 1762 before embarking on one of the defining journeys of his career: a fundraising tour of Great Britain that lasted from 1765 to 1768. During this journey, undertaken on behalf of Moor’s Indian Charity School, Occom raised £12,000 (an enormous and unanticpated amount that translates roughly to more than two-million dollars), and won wide acclaim for his preaching and comportment. Upon his return to Mohegan in 1768, Occom discovered that Wheelock had failed to adequately care for his family while he was gone. Additionally, despite the vast sums of money that he had raised, Occom found himself unemployed. Wheelock tried to find Occom a missionary position, but Occom was in poor health and disinclined to leave his family again after seeing the treatment with which they had met while he was in Britain. Occom and Wheelock’s relationship continued to sour as it became apparent to Occom that the money he had labored to raise would be going towards infrastructure at Dartmouth College, Wheelock’s new project, rather than the education of Native Americans. After the dissolution of his relationship with Wheelock, Occom became increasingly focused on the needs of the Mohegan community and increasingly vocal in criticizing Anglo-Americans’ un-Christian treatment of Native Americans. In September of 1772, he delivered his famous “Sermon on the Execution of Moses Paul,” which took Anglo-American spiritual hypocrisy as one of its major themes, and which went into four printings before the end of the year. In 1773, Occom became further disillusioned when the Mason Land Case was decided in favor of the Colony of Connecticut. The details of the Mason Case are complicated, but to summarize: the Colony of Connecticut had gained control of Mohegan land early in the 18th century under very suspect circumstances, and successfully fended off the Mohegan’s 70-year-long legal challenge. The conclusion of the case came as a blow to the Mohegans, and further convinced Occom of Anglo-American corruption. Along with David Fowler (Montauk Tribe), Occom's brother-in-law, and Joseph Johnson (Mohegan), Occom's son-in-law, Occom helped found Brothertown, an Indian tribe formed from the Christian Mohegans, Pequots, Narragansetts, Montauks, Tunxis, and Niantics. They eventually settled in Oneida country in upstate New York. Occom moved there with his family in 1789, spending the remaining years of his life serving as a minster to the Brothertown, Stockbridge, and Mohegan Indians. Harried by corrupt land agents, the Brothertown and Stockbridge groups relocated to the eastern shore of Lake Winnebago, though Occom died in 1792 before he could remove himself and his family there. Occom's writings and legacy have made him one of the best known and most eminent Native Americans of the 18th century and beyond.

Quaquaquid, Henry

Henry Quaquaquid was a Mohegan Indian who was active in both political and religious tribal affairs. In 1742 he, as a counselor, signed a petition that declared John Uncas as the rightful successor of Sachem Mahomet; however, the following year Quaquaquid, along with Occom and nine other counselors, signed Ben Uncas’s counter proclamation. As supporters of Ben Uncas, Occom and Quaquaquid lived in Ben’s Town rather than John’s Town, the home of the Ashpos. Nonetheless, they eventually changed their minds and joined the Ashpos in an effort to counteract tribal corruption and disunion. Around 1760, Ben Uncas III claimed that the rival faction had established Quaquaquid as sachem. Quaquaquid was also involved in the Mason case and acted as a messenger. He sought to protect the Mohegans’ native rights, and in 1785 signed a petition, along with Occom and four others, to the Connecticut General Assembly asking for unrestricted fishing privileges. In 1789, Quaquaquid and Robert Ashpo appealed to the Connecticut Assembly again seeking aid, and as in the original petition, stressed their friendship. Additionally, Quaquaquid often accompanied Occom during his missionary tours, such as those of 1757 and 1785. He also acted as a deacon, possibly at a church that Occom established in Mohegan. Quaquaquid did not move to Brothertown, but remained in Mohegan with his family.

Ashpo, Robert

Robert Ashpo was the brother of Samuel Ashpo, the influential Mohegan preacher. They were born into a powerful Mohegan family, considered equal to the Uncas line, and Robert became a tribal leader. We have no specific evidence of his education or conversion. But he was one of the signers of at least three important petitions that were submitted to the Connecticut General Assembly. The first, entitled "Appeal of the Mohegan Indians agst the Colony of Connecticut & Others" is dated July 23, 1746; Ashpo was one of over 80 signatories. The second was written by Occom in 1785 on behalf of five other signatories: Henry Quaquaquid and Robert Ashpo of the Mohegan Tribe and Phillip Cuish, Joseph Uppuiquiyantup, Isaac Uppuiquiyantup of the Niantics, expressing their dismay over restrictive fishing prohibitions (manuscript 785340). The third from May 14, 1789 is signed by Ashpo and Henry Quaquaquid, and using the metaphor of the "dish," complains bitterly about the loss of Mohegan territory and asks the Assembly to divide the "common dish" of the Tribe into individual dishes so each may do "as he pleases." These petitions invoke Tribal sovereignty, show collaboration between tribal leaders, and also employ the rhetoric of "improvement" to save their lands. Occom and Joseph Johnson record Ashpo's speaking and leadership at several meetings at Mohegan and elsewhere in the 1770s and 1780s. Ashpo did not move to Brothertown and remained in Mohegan.

Cuish, Phillip
Uppucquiyantup, Joseph
Uppucquiyantup, Isaac
HomeSamson Occom, Petition, to the Connecticut General Assembly, 1785
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