Diplomatic Conversions: Recovering Sachem Influence in Seventeenth-century New England Missionary Writings

Marie Balsley Taylor, Purdue University


This dissertation focuses on the role that seventeenth-century Algonquian leaders, or sachems, played in shaping the writing of early New England Protestant missionaries. The sachem was often the first figure with whom English arrivals came into contact, he or she played a fundamental role in forming missionary conceptions and beliefs about indigenous people. By synthesizing historical, anthropological, and theological sources with close readings of tracts, letters, sermons and other documents, I argue that English Protestant interpretations of indigenous diplomatic practices often served as the central means by which early missionaries determined and articulated the success or failure of their proselytization attempts. With a focus on English Protestants like Roger Williams, John Eliot, Daniel Gookin, and the Quaker missionaries, and on their relationship with specific converts, like the Pequot sachem Wequash and the Massachusett sachems Cutshamekin and Josias Wompatuck, my dissertation offers a new approach to several important Early American literary texts by reading them as sites of cross-cultural negotiation rather than the product of Protestant missionary imposition.




Bross, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Religious history|American literature|Native American studies

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