William Apess and the Mashpee Revolt
Growing up in multiple homes and struggling with alcoholism would have dampened the spirit of any man, but William Apess used his misfortunes to strengthen his will to fight for what he believed in. His Pequot ancestry and their demise as an Indian nation, along with his Christian beliefs led him to unprecedented territory in the struggle for the proper treatment and equality of all people. His most notable accomplishment involving the Mashpee revolution places him at the top of the elite in oratory and literary protesting.
The Pequot tribe inhabited most of Southeastern Connecticut when the colonists arrived to the new world. The Pequot were among the most feared tribes in Southern New England in relation to the colonists. Actually, the name “Pequot” is of Algonquian descent and translates to mean “destroyers”. As the Pequot were migrating westward continuous altercations with the colonists arose. One incident in particular led to the murder of an English man believed to be a traitor by the Pequot. John Endicott, of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, organized an attack against the Pequot in retaliation for the murder of the alleged traitor, John Oldham. On May 26, 1637 the Pequot were attacked by some colonists as well as the Pequot former tribesmen the Mohegan and Uncas. Nearly all the Pequot villages were burned and nearly all of the Pequot were killed. Some small groups did escape but most were found and either murdered or sold into slavery to other Indian nations as well as residents of the West Indies. After the “Pequot War”, the Pequot name was all but eliminated giving way to the Mohegan. The pride of the Pequot people and their immense hatred of the Mohegan tribe were very prevalent then and are to this day among the very few who trace their ancestry back to the Pequot nation. There are only believed to be about fifty Pequot Indians left and their hatred for the Mohegan in present time gives some insight to the attitudes that Apess was introduced to during his short time among the tribe.
Although Apess only lived among the remaining Pequot for five years, he was undoubtedly influenced by their history and views of the white man. After his alcoholic grandmother beat him he was graciously taken in by the Furman family. Eventually he was legally an indentured servant of the Furmans. While living with the Furmans, Apess was introduced to the idea of Christianity for the first time. Apess was living among white people and began to think and act like white people, which proved to be detrimental to his stay with the Furmans. Apess states in “Son of the Forest”, his autobiography, that he regularly contemplated running away because that was common thought of young white boys at the time. Mr. Furman did not view Apess as an equal and preceded to sale his servitude to a prominent family known as the Hillhouses. Apess realizes he looked down upon by the whites when he is sold by Mr. Furman. Apess plainly...