Renewing Homeland and Place: Algonquians, Christianity, and Community in Southern New England, 1700-1790

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Rice, Alanna
Algonquians , Christianity , Colonization , Land and Community , New England, Eighteenth Century , First Great Awakening
“Renewing Homeland and Place” explores the complex intertwining of evangelical Christianity and notions of place and homeland in Algonquian communities in southern New England during the eighteenth century. In particular, this dissertation examines the participation of Algonquian men and women in the Protestant evangelical revivals known generally as the “First Great Awakening,” the adoption of New Light beliefs and practices within Algonquian communities, and the ways in which the Christian faith shaped and informed Algonquian understandings of place and community, and the protection of their lands. Mohegan, Pequot, Niantic, Narragansett, and Montaukett people living in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and on Long Island (New York) struggled continually throughout the eighteenth century to protect their land, resources, and livelihoods from colonial encroachment and dispossession. Christianity provided many Algonquians with beliefs, practices, and rituals that renewed, rather than erased, the spiritual and sustaining values they attached to their lands and that strengthened, rather than diminished, the kinship ties and sense of community that linked their settlements together. Equally as significant, the adoption of Christian beliefs and practices brought to the surface the dynamic and contested nature of community and place, and the varying ways in which Algonquians responded to colonization. As a number of Algonquians attended formal schools, assumed roles as ministers and teachers within their own settlements and among the Haudenosaunee in New York, and formed their own churches, they disagreed within their communities over issues of land use and political authority, and between their communities over the best response to the infringements they continued to suffer. By the 1770s a number of Christian leaders began to consider relocation to Oneida lands in New York as a solution to the land loss and impoverishment they faced in New England. While many Algonquians left their coastal homelands for central New York in the 1780s to form the Christian community of Brotherton, a number of Christians remained behind, highlighting the varying paths of adaptation and survival that Natives tread by the end of the century.
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