Since the beginning of time, we have known our great Nation, the United States, to be full of great stories. It is known as the land of the free and opportunity, this is only possible because the great people before us have sacrificed and made what were only dreams to make this country what it is today. When indigenous people inhabited this land, they were the people who worked and walked on the land that we now call America and without them, many great things could not have been accomplished.
In last week’s reading, we focused on learning about many different people of history, of those I chose to focus on two indigenous people, Red Jacket, and Samson Occom. These two characters had a wide and diverse opinion on Christianity and many other subjects but on many other subjects, they also were similar in belief. Each man’s response to Christianity reveals his view of the relationship of culture and religion; as seen in Red Jacket’s autobiography, he rejects Christianity and sees it as a cultural bond.
Red Jackets’ stance on this belief is that each culture‘s religion is good for its own people. His belief on this thought is portrayed in his response letter to the missionary Jacob cram on his sermon that was addressed at Buffalo Creek, New York. Red Jacket writes; “Brother: We do not wish to destroy your religion, or take it from you. We only want to enjoy our own” (231). In this short and simple text, Red Jacket’s views Christianity as a white man’s religion and his own religion belonging to the Seneca.
Samson Occom, in contrast, sees the religion Christianity as an exceeding culture. Even after Samson Occom’s conversion to Christianity, he maintained cultural ties to his Indian ancestry by assisting in Indian affairs. In his text he makes known his want to instruct and an evangelize his fellow Indians, “By this time I just began to Read in the New Testament without Spelling,-and I had a Stronger Desire Still to Learn to read the Word of God, and at the Same Time had an uncommon Pity and Compassion to my Poor Brethren According to the Flesh. I used to wish I was capable of Instructing my poor Kindred. I used to Think, if I Could once Learn to Read I would Instruct the poor Children in Reading,-and used frequently to talk with our fellow Indians Concerning religion.”(225).
Both Red Jacket and Samson Occom’s perspectives on Indian-colonial relations, religions, and way of living differed on the knowledge and belief’s that each man had experienced. Occom’s experience with the Christian religion was introduced to him at the young age of 16 while Red Jacket was introduced to the religion in his later years.
From the very beginning, the Seneca tribe was split between Christian and pagan religions, resulting in Red Jackets distain of the religion and despised the attempts to convert his people to the ‘white man’s’ religion. The tone in which his autobiography is written, I feel, does not tell his true emotions to the fullest. I believe that he saw a religious culture that would be, and was the downfall of his peoples cultural.
Samson Occom’s autobiography I feel portrayed his emotions concerning Christianity and his belief that Christianity was a needed step for his people. Occom carried out this belief through his life’s work of teaching and leading.
Despite the contrasting differences shown in Red Jacket’s and Samson Occom’s lifestyles and beliefs, these two men lived their lives for their people and doing what they deemed best for them.