Brothertown Tribe

The Occom Circle

Brothertown Tribe

Name (variant)

Eeyamquittoowauconnuck; New England Indians


Brothertown, NY


The Brothertown Nation of Indians was a composite tribe of Southern New England Algonquians that was organized largely by alumni of Moor’s Indian Charity School. Four of the most important organizers were Samson Occom, Joseph Johnson, David Fowler, and Jacob Fowler. The Brothertown Indians lived on land purchased from the Oneidas beginning 1783 until 1831, when the Brothertown Indians moved on to Green Bay, Wisconsin. Brothertown, NY, should not be confused with Brotherton, NJ (sometimes spelled Brothertown), a Christian Indian settlement that John Brainerd established in 1758. The idea of relocating to central New York became increasingly popular in 18th-century New England as Indian tribes saw colonists take more and more of their land. Joseph Johnson began taking definitive steps to organize a migration in the 1770s. Despite reluctance from New England Indians and colonial authorities, Johnson was able to secure a tract of land from the Oneidas -- largely believed to be the most Christian of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Six Nations -- and organize a composite tribe from members of seven New England Indian settlements: Niantic, Montauk, Mohegan, Charlestown (Narragansett), Groton (Pequot), Stonington (Pequot), and Farmington (Tuxnis). The first migrants moved to Oneida territory in 1775, just in time to be displaced by the Revolution. Joseph Johnson died in 1776 or 1777 at the age of 25. Nevertheless, the Brothertown tribe made a second attempt after the war, this time with considerably more government support. In 1783, the first 50 settlers arrived in Brothertown. A hundred more followed in 1784, along with the Stockbridge Indians of Massachusetts, a Mahican group. It is important to remember that the Brothertown movement was by no means a mass migration: most New England Algonquians elected to remain. Brothertown’s leaders drew on Algonquian and Anglo-American influences to regulate their town, including policies based on a Connecticut law book and a community ethic emphasizing a communal decision-making process and care for the elderly. However, Brothertown was not a politically tranquil place. In addition to internecine struggles, the Brothertown Indians faced pressure from the Oneidas, who in 1786 tried to renegotiate their treaties with the Brothertown and Stockbridge Indians to alleviate demands on land driven by Anglo-Americans in the area. While the Brothertown Indians were able to defend their claim to the land in court, the fact of the matter was that land was becoming scarce. As early as 1791, the Stockbridge Indians began exploring the possibility of moving to the Midwest, and the Brothertown Indians followed suit in 1809. After a series of failed land deals, in 1831 the Brothertown Indians, Stockbridge Indians, and Munsee Indians (a subtribe of the Delaware) were awarded a tract of land in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Brothertown Nation is still based in Wisconsin and is currently struggling to obtain federal recognition.


Bureau of Indian Affairs. “Proposed Finding Against Acknowledgement of The Brothertown Indian Nation (Petitioner #67).” Aug 17, 2009. Accessed 10/11/12 via Google. Fisher, Linford D. The Indian Great Awakening: Religion and the Shaping of Native Cultures in Early America. New York: Oxford University Press 2012. Love, W. DeLoss, Jr. Samson Occom and the Christian Indians of New England. Boston: The Pilgrim Press 1899. Silverman, David J. Red Brethren: The Brothertown and Stockbridge Indians and the Problem of Race in Early America. Ithaca: Cornell University Press 2010.

General note

There is ample scholarship on Brothertown. The following sources are excellent: Brooks, Joanna. The Collected Writings of Samson Occom, Mohegan: Leadership and Literacy in Eighteenth-Century Native America. Oxford 2006. Jarvis, Brad D. E. The Brothertown Nation of Indians: Land Ownership and Nationalism in Early America, 1740-1840. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press 2010. Johnson, Joseph. To Do Good to My Indian Brethren: The Writings of Joseph Johnson, 1751-1776. Murray, Laura J, ed. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press 1998. Wyss, Hilary. Writing Indians: Literacy, Christianity, and Native Community in Early America. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press 2000.