April 25, 2009

Praying towns in After the Mayflower

Continuing the discussion of After the Mayflower, the first episode of PBS's We Shall Remain series:

  • The English made one serious attempt to convert the heathens to Christianity. In 1651, John Eliot established a "praying town" in Natick, Massachusetts. Several other "praying towns" were set up subsequently. The English would guarantee the Indians' safety if they gave up their old ways, assimilated, and became Christians.

  • These are the same Indians whom the "Natick Redmen" supposedly honor with their nickname and mascot. So the "tame" Indians who submitted to brainwashing and spiritual death are good enough to "honor." And the "wild" heathen Indians aren't.

    I'd be impressed if Redmen supporters said they were honoring King Philip for fighting their pseudo-Christian ancestors. But that's not what they're saying. They're "honoring" the Indians who proved the white man's superiority by adopting his ways. Some honor.

  • The Indians couldn't just proclaim their belief in the Christian God--like most Christians do. They had to relate their conversion experiences and convince the English that they were sincere. One Indian was quoted as saying something like, "I'm angry with myself. I loathe myself for praying to many gods."

  • Is this the first recorded case of Euro-Americans inducing feelings of depression and self-hatred in Indians? Could be. No wonder Indians eventually turned to such palliatives as substance abuse and suicide.

    So even back then, the cultural assault was clear. The English intentionally tried to destroy the Indians physically, mentally, and spiritually. If you don't know the United Nations' definition of genocide, this fits it like a glove.

    For more on the subject, see Pequot Massacre in After the Mayflower and Quality of After the Mayflower.

    Below:  He died so that Indians could die and join him, or something. (Sorry, I'm a little unclear on how killing Indians fits in with Christian theology.)

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