Two Sides Of A Coin In Colonial America

2265 words - 9 pages

Picture it, freedom reigning in the hearts of citizens of a new nation, America. A new world has opened up to the people with new freedoms. They all have clean slates, both body and mind. For the Americans, English and Natives alike, come new opportunities and struggles. As in all cultures there are two sides of the metaphorical coin, in this case an Englishmen by the name of Benjamin Franklin and a Native American named Samsom Occum and the lives they lived with their individual similarities and differences.
Animal skin drums beat out rhythms around a fire as a young Samsom Occum sits at his elders’ feet, as do other children of the Mohegan tribe. Occum was born in 1723 to what he described as “Heathenistic” parents near the town of New London in Connecticut who raised him in “Heathenism” (Belasco 2). Around the time Occum was brought into this world the established English were influencing the Mohegan tribe in more ways than one, such as the way they treated their elders, alcohol consumption, and other cultural customs (Eden), as well as the ever-shrinking territory the tribe once traveled and the diseases that the Europeans brought with them which the Indians had no immunity for greatly diminished the population of many different tribes of the time (Belasco 2). As a Native American, his tribe relied on hunting, fishing, and foraging for food and, being a nomadic tribe they moved when they ran out of wood and resources in an area. Some Europeans would venture out to the tribes and try to teach the students the English alphabet, known as “letters” to the Native Americans. The next one finds in his short autobiography and other resources available is that he was converted to Christianity during the Great Awakening, 1735-45, at the age of sixteen by men he called “Extraordinary Ministers”. This caused him to have a desire to read and write, he even went on to buy his own textbook of the time for children so he could learn. By help of Wheelock and the petition of his mother, Samsom went on to become the first student of the college-preparatory school founded by Eleazer Wheelock where he stayed for four years until Occum had to halt his education because his eyesight began to fade and his health was deteriorating, nevertheless, he became both activist and minister for the Indians (Belasco 2). A short time later, Occum moved to Long island where he married a woman, Mary Fowler, of the Montauk tribe with whom he had ten children with over the course of their lives, and Occum acted as a lone teacher and pastor while among the tribe for about ten years. In his autobiography, he goes on to discuss how he went about conducting his classes as a schoolmaster. Though he had a higher standing in the tribe area, he only lived in a wigwam, moved with the tribe where he had to till and plant his own land, and was able to own a horse and cow, though he had troubles with owning horses in general.
Occum wanted to give his family more and make a better living...

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