Essay Example on Book Response Indian Great Awakening In his Book

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Book Response Indian Great Awakening In his book Indian Great Awakening Religion and the Shaping of Native Cultures in Early America historian Linford Fisher seeks to alter people's understanding of Native American experiences in the light of the Great Awakening Fisher s study opens with an interesting archeological discovery made in 1990 Archeologists unearthed a grave of a Pequot girl who was buried with a Bible page and a bear paw The page fragment which preserved a verse from Psalms 98 of the King James Version Bible celebrated salvation that was shown to a heathen 8 To Fisher the discovery shows the complex nature of Native Americans religious world in New England in the 18th century The Indian Great Awakening refers to a period when Native Indians living in the New England during the 18th century converted to Christianity in high masses Fisher faults the assumption that the natives wholeheartedly and happily embraced the religion brought by the White colonials According to Fisher the Natives response to the Great Awakening was majorly driven by the desire to meet their temporal and pragmatic needs rather than prioritizing their spiritual needs 7 Although embracing of the new religion may lead to dilution of their own beliefs the natives saw such acceptance as the only way of opening new opportunities and enhancing peaceful correlation with the White colonialists

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The social political situation that the Indians found themselves in creating the need to trade with caution when dealing with the new White neighbors Strategic conversion to the new religion was one of the ways the in which Natives could guarantee their survival For instance they saw their conversion to the new faith as the only way of retaining their land which was critical for their living Therefore in this view Fisher claims that the conversion of the Native Americans to Christianity was not by pure will but rather was provisional and more practical 8 As a way of demonstrating the diversity that existed within the Indian community Fisher discusses the various responses of the Natives to the new religion According to the author the reactions evolved from first rejecting it to adoption and strategic conversion Fisher notes that the Natives often found the Christian ideas education and practices brought by the missionaries useful and interesting However the realities of colonialism and concern to retain the native land as well as persevering the sovereignty and autonomy of the communities almost always filtered these interests and usefulness of the religion 7 Missionaries used education as an important tool to capture the minds of the native Indians For instance Fisher notes that the missionaries used education as a way of producing literate and Christianized Indians 51 On the face of it the Natives welcomed the educational opportunities brought by the white colonialists As they embraced the new education they ended up converting to Christianity in large numbers With time the reality which was more complex than what was assumed started to unfold The skills that the native Indians learned from the white missionaries were later used to fight for their rights 



For instance the Natives would then start demanding native teachers and build their schools The prospects of the education brought by the colonists were major asset that led to the arousal of Indian s interests in Christianity In this view it can be argued that the natives did not view Christian in totality but rather as a way of gaining an education which they regarded as an interesting and a good thing The access to amenities provided by the missionaries such as education clothing and food were mostly accompanied by the need to profess the Christian faith 73 According to Fisher economic realities also played an important role in shaping the engagement between the Indians and English Colonists The whites were keen on using indebtedness as a way of manipulating the natives For example the whites introduced liquor to the Indians 33 Once the residents were used to it they ended up selling parts of their lands as a way of raising enough money to settle the growing debts owed to the white liquor sellers The loss of land was seen as a significant threat to the survival of the natives Thus they ended up considering converting and adapting to the Christian ways of white colonies The issue of churches was also problematic more than it may be assumed According to Fisher the Natives association with the White missionary churches was largely driven by their desire to improve social standing 104 In this light Fisher notes that the natives response can be described as being an affiliation as opposed to conversion 86 Fisher does not however provide ethnographic data explaining the practices and beliefs of the Indians It would be more useful to readers to if information on whether the Indian beliefs allowed some form of flexibility which would allow Christianity to be incorporated Conclusion Fisher provides a new framework that seeks to change the understanding of religious conversion among the Native Indians in the light of the Great Awakening The author manages to problematize the conversion of the Indians to Christianity during the 18th century According to Fisher the Indians did not look at Christianity in a total view but rather as a way of guaranteeing their survival


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