abstract: The New Stockbridge Indians testify to their faith in the Christian religion and request that Occom become their pastor.
handwriting: Handwriting is possibly that of Joseph Johnson; it is small yet mostly legible. Letter case, especially with regard to the letter "S" is difficult to discern.
paper: Heavily creased sheet of paper has been treated with silk overlay. This repair work is beginning to age, particularly on the verso. Separated creases lead to some loss of text.
ink: Brown ink is slightly obscured by the silk overlay.
noteworthy: Letter is a contemporary copy. On the bottom left of one verso, the word "Call" appears to be written in Occom's hand. On one verso, written in pencil underneath the trailer is the note: "Ind. Miſ. This is a copy of the call to Occom 1787 Original in C.H.S."
signature: There are nine signatories, yet the signatures are all in the same hand.
Modernized Version -- deletions removed; additions added in; modern spelling and capitalization added; unfamiliar abbreviations expanded.
you — our opinions desires and views of the Christian Religion.
we believe that there is but one, the only true and living God, And
that he is the Maker and preserver of our lives, and upholder of the
Same — that he has Send his only begotten Son into this world, to be the
Saviour of mankind, and we believe that this God has brought us up
into this wilderness — where we might begin to Serve him in Sincerity
and in truth — Further we believe that this God has raised you u[gap: tear][guess: p]
and have kept you alive until this time. and that he has Send you up
as an ambassador into this wilderness upon this purpose that you might
be the first instrument or means to Stir up you own Nation — to try embrace
His whole Religion. And the, reasons why we have such thoughts because we have
felt a great weight of your errand — And in coming such a manner, and
from such a quarter — as we did not expect — when we look back, and
Consider, what poor progress the Religion of Jesus Christ, has made
amongst the Natives of this Continent notwithstanding of the great
pains, that have taken with them in some Places the Indians appeared
well and promising, but soon decay. — and now it looks very dark
upon us, all helps from abroad are gone — and we are now brought to
look about [gap: tear][guess: and] consider of our Situation and we bel[gap: tear][guess: ieve] that
this will be the last. that God will make a trial with us — if this w[gap: tear]
not set us to contrive for our own souls — God will leaves us to our
own destruction — These and other considerations induce us — to believe
that God does require from our own hands — to contrive — and to
try to begin to support and maintain Religion among us — we
therefore, a Number of us cheerfully agreed to begin to pursue
what we believe to be our Duty since we have felt and ex‐
‐perience the great goodness of God — for raising and fitting one of
our own colour — to be instrumental to build up the cause and
the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ — we therefore feel in duty
[gap: tear][guess: boun]d to come to request you to come and settle with us — and to
take the charge over us — and to die with us. in Conjunction with
Brothertown if it be agreeable to them. so that we may enjoy all the
privileges and ordinances of the Gospel which our Saviour has
left us in his word — So we the subscribers wittingly to begin with
twenty shillings — in first year and so in proportion that we
shall increase in Number and substance — 'til we shall be
able to support you fully — so we done at present what we
feel to be our duty and the rest we will submit to Gods will
and pleasure —
Samuel Pa[illegible][guess: uphaun]hum
David N[illegible][guess: aun]annuknuck
Hendrick Aupaumut, most likely a descendant of the Mohawk chief Hendrick, was a Mahican Indian who was born in Stockbridge, Massachusetts in 1757. He was educated by the Moravians and became very involved in tribal affairs and relations with the United States. Along with other Stockbridge Indians, Aupaumut fought as part of Captain William Goodrich’s company in the Revolutionary War, rising to captain in 1778. In 1777, when Joseph Quanaukaunt became sachem, Aupaumut became a member of his council along with Peter Pohqunnoppeet and John Konkapot. He also became close friends with Samson Occom and would often host the preacher or translate his sermons when the latter visited New Stockbridge, to where the Stockbridges moved in the mid 1780s. In 1787 he was one of nine Indians to write to Occom declaring their faith and asking Occom to become their minster. He was also one of the Indians to sign the proclamation that Occom, Pohqunnooppeet, and David Fowler carried during their tour to raise funds to support Occom as their pastor. By the 1790s, Aupaumut was acting as an agent for the United States. He helped the government combat Tecumseh and his brother Elskwatawa, and he fought under General Harrison in the War of 1812. Both conflicts interrupted the various land deals between tribes, as well as treaties and other negotiations, in which he was involved. Although he encouraged Indians to convert to Christianity and learn English, Aupaumut opposed leasing land to whites. Occom and Aupaumut agreed that the Stockbridges must move west to escape the influence of outside cultures, and to preserve their Christianity. In the 1820s, Aupaumut led land deals with Wisconsin tribes, and he finally moved west in 1829 along with the remainder of the Stockbridge tribe.
Sir Peter Pauquunnuppeet (there are several variant spellings), a son of an Indian deacon by the same name, was a Stockbridge Mohican Indian and student of Eleazar Wheelock, who studied at Moor’s Indian Charity School from 1771 until 1775, and graduated from Dartmouth College in 1780. Together with Daniel Simon, class of 1777, and Lewis Vincent, class of 1781, he was one of the three Indian students to graduate before the turn of the century, and they became the last native graduates until 1835. The “Sir” that precedes Pohquonnoppeet’s forename originated from his status as a senior in school, and remained a part of his name for the rest of his life. After graduating, Pauquunnuppeet returned to Stockbridge, where he taught school and was involved in tribal affairs. Joseph Quanaukaunt (Quinney) became sachem in 1777, and along with Hendrick Aupaumut and John Konkapot, Pauquunnuppeet was a member of the his council. Pauquunnuppeet was also influential in the Brothertown movement and the founding of New Stockbridge six miles from Brothertown, New York. In 1785, when Americans in New York were driving the Oneidas to cede land that bordered Pennsylvania, Pauquunnuppeet represented the Stockbridge Indians in what became the Treaty of Herkimer. Pauquunnuppeet had an influential friendship with Samson Occom. Occom recorded many occasions in his diary during his missionary tours of 1785-1787 when Peter hosted him, and noted a few instances when they traveled together. Often during Occom’s visits to New Stockbridge Captain Hendrick and Pauquunnuppeet would translate his sermons for those who could not understand English. The Stockbridge Indians favored Occom over the white missionary John Sergeant, Jr., and on August 29, 1787 Pauquunnuppeet was one of nine Indians to write to Occom declaring their devotion and inviting Occom to become their minister. However, the tribe had no means by which to pay Occom, and so, in the winter of 1787 Pauquunnuppeet, Occom, and David Fowler embarked on a fundraising journey through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. They were not, however, able to raise as much money as they had sought to collect. Pauquunnuppeet’s strong presence within the tribe may have led to his death, although the precise date and circumstances of his decease is unknown. Sectionalism within New Stockbridge was growing due to the friction between those who supported Occom and those who preferred Sergeant, Jr. as their minister. The politics of Brothertown as an independent entity contributed to the tension. Finally, when Hendrick Aupaumet rose to the position of chief, Pauquunnuppeet became the leader of a rival faction. It has been suggested that Pauquunnuppeet’s increasing authority provoked his enemies to poison him.
Joseph Johnson was a Mohegan who studied at Moor’s Indian Charity School and became one of the most important organizers of the Brothertown Movement (a composite tribe composed of Christian members of seven Southern New England Algonquian settlements). He was a prolific writer and his papers are relatively well-preserved. Johnson’s writing is especially noteworthy for his skillful use of Biblical allusion and his awareness of the contradiction that he, as an educated Native American, presented to white colonists. Johnson arrived at Moor’s in 1758, when he was seven years old, and studied there until 1766, when he became David Fowler’s usher at Kanawalohale. He continued teaching in Oneida territory until the end of 1768, when Samuel Kirkland sent him home in disgrace for drunkeness and bad behavior. After a stint teaching at Providence, Rhode Island, and working on a whaling ship, Johnson returned to Mohegan in 1771 and became a zealous Christian. He opened a school at Farmington, CT, in 1772, for which he seems to have received some minimal support from the New England Company. From his base at Farmington, he began organizing Southern New England Algonquians for the Brothertown project. The goal was to purchase land from the Oneidas, the most Christianized of the Six Nations, and form a Christian Indian town incorporating Algonquian and Anglo-American elements. Johnson spent the rest of his short life garnering necessary support and legal clearance for the Brothertown project. Johnson died sometime between June 10, 1776 and May 1777, at 25 or 26 years old, six or seven years before Brothertown was definitively established in 1783. He was married to Tabitha Occom, one of Samson Occom’s daughters. She lived at Mohegan with their children even after Brothertown’s founding, and none of their children settled at Brothertown permanently. Like most of Wheelock’s successful Native American students, Johnson found that he could not satisfy his teacher's contradictory standards for Native Americans. Although Johnson's 1768 dismissal created a hiatus in their relationship, Johnson reopened contact with Wheelock after his re-conversion to a degree that other former students, such as Samson Occom, David Fowler, and Hezekiah Calvin, never did.
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.