"What Change Hath God Wrought?": How Gender And The Environment Shaped New England Praying Town Identity And Created A Christian Indian Elect
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By the 1780s, Christian Indians from praying towns throughout Southern New England accepted an invitation to reside amongst fellow Christianized Oneida in upstate New York. While all parties agreed to live as one "body" with "one head, one heart, one blood," tensions quickly arose between these Christian Indians. While the joint communities of Brothertown, New Stockbridge, and Oneida were intended by the inhabitants to be a place where Christianized natives could form a strong unifying force against Anglo land encroachment, conflict emerged over how to live the proper Christian Indian existence. The two most prominent sources of disagreement between these groups centered on differing notions of gender roles within the communities and each groups' relationship to the environment. This thesis investigates the evolution of these communities' gender and environmental relations in order to understand their individual claims to Christian Indian superiority. Travel accounts and correspondence of Indian and white missionaries, writings from Christian Indians themselves, and diaries of colonists are analyzed along with land records, maps of environs, and secondary anthropological and environmental studies in order to arrive a more clear understanding of the ramifications of conversion for native culture, inter-tribal relations, and natives' environments. It is the goal of this thesis to bring to light the gender and environmental complexities inherent in the construction of eighteenth-century Christian Indian identity.