Born in a wigwam on Mohegan land, Samson Occum (1723-1792)
was one of the first ordained Christian Indian ministers. Occum's
popularity as an eloquent teacher and spiritual leader grew with
Indians over a large part of New England. To accommodate this
interest, he decided to form a New England Christian Indian
School. The church sent him to England to raise funds, where he
collected eleven thousand pounds from wealthy patrons, such as
the Earl of Dartmouth and King George. When he returned
however, he found his family destitute and his school moved to
Hanover, New Hampshire, where it became Dartmouth College.
This disappointment was followed by the Connecticut Colony's
ruling that the Mohegans would not be compensated for land
they sold to the colony. The colony then backed an unpopular
candidate for Mohegan Sachemship. This led the Mohegans to
decide that no Sachem was better than a colonial puppet. With
the Tribe increasingly penniless and powerless, Occum accepted
an invitation for his group to resettle with the upstate New York Oneida.
He hoped their new home in Brothertown, New York would free them
from additional disappointment. His legacy for the Mohegan
people who remained in Connecticut was a reputation for being
Christianized, which helped them avoid later relocation.
The people who accompanied Samson Occum to Brothertown inscribed this box with symbols of their journey and dispatched it to Lucy Occum back in Connecticut.
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