Fire and Chain
Fire and Chain
Samson Occom’s Letters, Anglo-American Missions, and Haudenosaunee Eloquence
Chapter 2 analyzes competing aesthetic traditions in the copious letters, journals, and tracts produced by missionaries to the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois; Six Nations) Confederacy in the second half of the eighteenth century. In their interactions with missionaries, Haudenosaunee nations adhered powerfully to aesthetic conventions developed over centuries. A Haudenosaunee-specific understanding of form and eloquence determined how missionaries who worked among them circulated and produced texts and shaped the outcomes of their work. Congregationalist minister and founder of Moor’s Indian Charity School Eleazar Wheelock refused to engage the ethical imperatives of Haudenosaunee eloquence and eventually gave up on his design to convert the Six Nations, despite the insistence of his missionaries Samuel Kirkland and Joseph Johnson on keeping with Haudenosaunee conventions. Meanwhile, Mohegan minister Samson Occom incorporated into English letters Haudenosaunee imagery designed to clarify relations and bring people together, in a remarkable layering of literary traditions.
Keywords: Haudenosaunee Confederacy, Iroquois Confederacy, Occom, Samson, Wheelock, Eleazar, Kirkland, Samuel, Johnson, Joseph, Anglo-American missions, Eighteenth-century letters and letter-writing, Peacemaker Epic, Great Law of Peace, Wampum
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